Thursday, June 30, 2011

Catch 22s in Publishing

This is the CATCH 22 of being a published author; years ago, I felt no one could possibly understand the problems and bumps in the road a PUBLISHED author must face. What's HE got to complain about, after all he has one loaf of bread under his arm, and yet he is complaining he has no bread. Who wants to hear it?

With more and more authors now being published with indie publishing and the advent of the Kindle platform, more authors who are published are experiencding such round robins as --"You gotta get out there and market your books" but you can't be so foolish as to get out there and say anything positive about your own work."

This is the crucible. You are responsible for any and all that goes wrong with the book in traditional publishing, but you HAD no control over all the most important decisions from cover art concept to title to ad copy, PR, marketing, etc. But if and when the book TANKS, guess whose ""WRITING" is the problem? The 'true' cause of the failure to 'communicate'?

Then you go Indoe Author and YOU are responsible for all those same decisions, and the book TANKS -- guess who is all out willing to take the responsibility for the causes of the "tanking"? With the freedom of Indie Authorship comes responsibility and accountability. Down to editing, rewriting, all of it.

At the same time, there is a PERVASIVE view that unlike a carpenter or archetect or painter or sculptor, a WRITER has NO BUSINESS liking his own work out lout and in public, that for some damn reason we have to keep it under our beds, this idea that we actually love what we have spent years crafting...what our hands and minds have wrought. That we should have no opinion on our own works anymore than a Hollywood actor ought have a political view, that 'How Dare We be so presumptous! O r that we dare love our 'children' and show any PDA (public display of affection). Or that we dare pound home the fact that we had a BALL writing this last one, or that we dare think it is our BEST work, or that we extremely DARE call it our most literary attempt. Our greatest most ambitious work.  Our most challenging work.

Actors are asked how they feel about a role they played and it is OK for Matt Damon to say that while the Bourne Identiy earned him more recognition and money than did Good Will Hunting, that the part he played in the film he co-wrote is his best work. It is OK for a cosmotologist to go on and on about what a fantastic job she did on someone's hair or nails, but GOD FORBID (for a pervasive number of idgits) that an author dare have a single word of praise for his own work, his own efforts, his blood, sweat, tears, and years of honing his or her skills in a culture that heaps praise and huge amounts of money on silly, insipid celebrity books.

I wrote and rewrote Children of Salem so many times it was rejected by every major publisher in New York twice and thrice in various drafts. I kid you not. I was so devoted to this story that I rewrote it countless times over a 30 year period, but I can get stoned at any time should I say, "This is, of all my books, my most literary work, my most amitious work, one that challenges the reader on every page." No good, BSP, but nowadays it is Kosher to lay out fifty bucks to have the same book reviewed by ten people on Amazon? It is OK to hear it from a paid lacky reviewer but not OK if I believe this aloud?

When I do get attacked, being a Scorpio, I generally sting back. I got into it with one group for a long time because I dared describe some readers, some reviewers, and even some editors as "hack readers" citing the fact that so many are so ready with the phrase "hack writers". Man did I catch hell. More recently, I used the term 'short-sighted readers' who just do not GET what I am doing and man, you'd think I was plotting the demise of the Pope. But when we pay reviewers to review our books, what does that make of the reviewer? Hack writers were called that because they wrote FAST in order to get paid per word fast. If that practice made writers 'hacks' then what does this new practice make of reviewers?

In short, so many goofy people online you have to ignore and just plow the rows you are cultivating, and to hell with short-sighted people and hacks or TROLLS of any sort. Like the sort who take exception to what you choose to place on YOUR facebook wall, for example. Exasperating to run into anyone with such temerity in the real world much less online. Then you have the trolls who devalue your writing based on the price you are willing to sell it for! The same book at 25 bucks is the same book at 99c.

Rob Walker
Children of Salem, Titanic 2012, Dead On, Dead on Writing

Sharing Big Moments by DL Larson

It's been a whirlwind for the Larson's this week. We are a close-knit family with a wide range of interests and hobbies, as well as commitments. I feel our calendar is not big enough to accommodate all that is happening. On my work side, Summer Reading has started and the high energy level at our library has taken on new meaning with our theme, "Feel The Beat In Books!" We sing, shout, stomp through the day and end with our Teen Advisory Board making ready for a Karaoke Contest. Good fun, but exhausting. But all that is daytime stuff. One of our BIG items to brag about happened on the softball field.

My nine year old granddaugther, Alex, made an UNassisted triple play! To say there was cheering is similar to saying fireworks pop. She still doesn't understand the rarity of her actions. She is tickled she caught the line drive to third base. Her grin was precious, but she only had a split second before both sides of coaches began hollering, "go back, go back," and "Tag her, tag her." Alex chose to do both. She went back to third base and tagged the bag, then turned and chased down the runner coming at her. It was all over in a heartbeat. The memory, I hope, will last a lifetime.

The other outstanding news is our son and his family have purchased a new home. It's taken six months of scrambling through financial dealings of paperwork, assessments and more paperwork with several detours along the way. It's time to celebrate! They will be leaving our home and moving into their own this weekend. Packing and moving has already started. It's thrilling to watch their excitement, note the touch of fear in their eyes and nod in understanding at such a step. I will have to travel a dozen miles to get a baby hug now. A bittersweet move indeed.

So how does all this have to do with writing, you might ask. The best writing I've written or read come from the emotions of the characters in any story. When meaningful things happen in my family, I tuck the emotions away to examine later and question their power. Drawing from personal experience is a strong asset for a writer. I enjoy cataloguing emotions whether they be from exhaustion, hilarity or life's big changes. The exhaustion of working with teens is certainly different than staying up with a fussy baby all night. Being turned down for a house loan and experiencing the dissapointment firsthand is devastating. Then to be a part of the hallelujah of a loan accepted puts everyone back on the pinacle of joy. Hanging on to that roller coaster of emotions, then converting it into a WIP is priceless.
Ordinary life becomes the training field for future stories yet to be told.

Where do you draw your wealth of emotions from? Is it from reading good books and learning from that? Perhaps from your family or work place? How do you keep your emotions fresh in your stories?

Please share your ideas with us!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fast Food, Fast Writing

You know how one thing makes you think of something else? Well, doing research on the history of fast food got me to thinking about how much our habits can affect our writing, for good or for bad. (I'll let you know when the story comes out; subbing to Artisans in Miniature (AIM) Magazine. )

With thousands of new books coming out every year with the surge in Kindle and other eBook formats, the writer might be tempted to think: write fast, fast, faster, or I'll be left behind! But technology goes at warp speed, regardless of how adept we are at keeping up. In this case, faster does not always mean better.

While some writers can churn out a novel in six months, a year, 18 months, or even a lightning-paced three months or less, others feel more comfortable working at a slower pace. The best book often is not the one churned out at rocket speed, but slow doesn't mean working slower than a turtle, either.

There are times when tweaking will improve the story once the basics have been achieved, yet even then, there comes a time when you have to say, yes, it is as done as I can make it, and then move on.

Make it the best novel or story you can. Get feedback, make corrections and submit it. Leaving it sit in your computer is about as bad as that greasy fast food burger sitting in your stomach. (I'll have the fish instead.)

By getting that manuscript as good as you can and submitting it, you resist the urge to make even more corrections and the endless cycle of fixing, doubting and fearing it will never be good enough.

Once you get feedback, again good or bad, depending upon your view from other sources, you then know just where you stand and the next step to take. And that is a good thing, right?

* So what's your take: do you prefer fast food or slow-cooked - fast writing or slow?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kindle Update! By June Sproat

This past week has been a bit crazy for me. We lost power for four days due to the bad Illinois storms. I think we would have gotten power sooner if ComEd decided to come and fix the line that was pulled down by a tree, but I digress.

I wanted to update Acme readers to the status of my Kindle book Ordinary Me. I announced that I was putting the book on kindle last year and truly I am amazed at what has transpired.

In the past month alone, the sales of my ebook have more than doubled. Here is a screen shot.

What was more amazing was watching my book bounce around in the top 100 list! How cool is that. At one point it was #64! I'm at 86 this morning.

Yes, it is fun to make money, but what is way more exciting than that is the fact that hundreds of people are reading my book! That alone is total motivation to get the next one done.

Have a great week!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Checking In with Those Goals

Since we're a couple of weeks into Summer Vacation (although by our recent weather it's been hard to tell) I thought I'd check in with my goal list.

Here's the list I posted a couple of weeks ago...

Writing-wise I have several goals I'm aiming for:
*Finish my WIP, "This Feels Like Home", the third mss in my 'series' with TWRP. It's about 2/3 done.
*Write a short story for a new series at TWRP's Champagne line. I have a rough (REALLY rough) outline and about 10 pages so far.
*Update some links on my web-site.
*Think through and begin work on the PR campaign for A Christmas to Remember, coming this winter from TWRP. This will be my first digital only release, so it will be a new experience for me.

In the non-writing world, I also have a few goals:
*Finish the summer reading program I signed up for at my local library. I figured I'm going to be doing a ton of reading anyway, I might as well earn some prizes for it!
*Select a new recipe to try once a week.
*Spend time out and about each week out and about just because it's summer and I don't have anyplace else to go.
*Get caught up on a couple years' worth of vacation scrapbooking.
*Spend time with family and friends. To that end, we're out of town this weekend in Missouri traveling and visiting with friends.
*Do some organizing in the basement.
*Get back into a workout routine. The sooner the better.

I'd have to say in the grand scheme of far so good.
-I've written 27 pages so far on my WIP.
-I've updated things on my web-site. Still working on links, as there seems to be a 'glitch' somewhere. I'm thinking it may be another IE9 issue. Ugh.
-I ordered postcards and set up a guest blog for my upcoming release.
-I only have two Shakespeare movies to watch and I'm done with the summer reading program. (Way ahead of schedule since it goes through the end of July!)
-We've taken one vacation so far and are heading out this coming weekend for another.
-And I've started working out again.
-I haven't tried any new recipes yet, but I did bring an old one out of the box...the hubby loved it!

So, like I said...I think I'm off to a good start. And there's lots of summer left.

How are your goals coming along?

And just for fun, for those who haven't already seen's my new cover! I'm loving it!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

What To Do With Too Many Words by DL Larson

Long ago, in a decade far past, an editor told me I had way too many words in my book. I didn't understand what she meant, but I trusted her expertise in the publishing business and I did exactly what she told me to do. It took another year to complete her request, but I divided one book into two. I learned a valuable lesson; publishers have a serious mindset on how many words they are willing to put in a book. I had never thought in terms of size and money before then. Foolish of me, I know.

Most publishing houses consider a novel worth 80,000 to 120,000 words. Not many are willing to publish beyond the normal size for a fictional book. I had grown up reading fat, detailed descriptive books and thought that was the norm. I hadn't realized the fad had changed to streamline wording with action, action, action to get the reader involved quickly.

I learned historical family sagas were no longer popular, but series were on the rise. Secretly I thought publishers were playing words games with each other, because, in my mind, a saga was pretty much a series. Series had become the new buzz word and saga had grown grey hair and was considered out-dated, which many times equated to the writer being out of touch with the publishing world if the word saga was mentioned within the query.

Regardless of what popular term is used, having too many words in a book can become a burden. To scoot around this pitfall, consider breaking your story into segments that could possibly become a series rather than one book. YA authors use this technique and have kids eagerly waiting for the next installment. Some of the endings are so abrupt I feel a bit cheated, but the writer in me kicks in and I understand how clever the author was stopping at a small pinacle with another larger obstacle looming ahead for the character to accomplish. Cliffhanger is what they used to be called. Undoubtedly that is an archaic term and __________ (please fill in your preference) is what they are called now.

Whether writing a single title or a series, word count is important. Before your book is ready for an editing session, consider your options if your work is action packed, but word heavy. Maybe you have more than you realize. In series, less is more. One large book versus two or three smaller ones could be an exciting discovery.

How do you deal with word count? Have you considered a series over a single title? Share with us today.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why I Won't Read A Book by Morgan Mandel

Why I Won't Read a Book - These are some, but not all of my reasons for not reading a book.

1. Too much description - I like the basics, such as a general idea of a character's appearance, or habits, or surroundings. If I'm inundated with details about every little aspect of locale and its history, I'll put up with it for a while, but if it continues, I'll stop reading and go onto a book that flows for me.

2. Details I don't want to read - This is a delicate and highly subjective subject. Since I'm being honest, I have to include my own take on the matter. I don't like reading books dwelling on every little detail of a person's sex life or acts. As I mentioned, this is subjective, and I know many will disagree. I respect their right to do so. Many books sell because sex sells. Many readers look forward to such scenes, but I find them boring if they keep going on and on for infinite pages. I get the picture. I know how it works. I don't need the minutiae. That's not saying I expect characters to abstain. I just don't want certain aspects to take over the book.

3. Political or religious views I don't agree with - Again, I respect every person's right to not have the same standards or beliefs as I do. However, if an author tries to cram their standards down on me, I won't put up with it. Exceptions are if what a character says or does in a book makes sense within the framework of his own conscience or life experience and the author has done a good job explaining the reasons. Then I might continue reading.

4. Sloppy editing - Almost every book will have one or two errors, but when they multiply and become so obvious they get in the way of the story, it's too irritating to put up with.

5. Character names - Certain character names will turn me off, no matter how well written a book may seem. I can usually tell this on the first page, and won't even buy the book. I like names that are easy to read, not ones I can't pronounce out loud.

6. Too much backstory right away - I get irritated if at the beginning of a book the author throws in all kinds of explanations or events which happened before. Hints are better. However, if backstory is included later in a book I can handle it better.
7. An author's past writing history - If I've been disappointed by an author before, either because of the quality of a book, or an ending I particularly hated, I'll think real hard before deciding whether or not to read another book by that person. Usually, I won't, unless the first few pages really entice me.

8. A boring topic - This is obviously subjective, but that's okay, because I'm giving my reasons, which may be different than yours. I'm tired of books or movies about people doing daring heists. I just don't care about them. That's only one example of what bores me.

These are only a smidgeon of my reasons. Do you share any of them? Or, maybe you disagree. Share with us your reasons for not reading certain books.

Morgan Mandel

Morgan's Romantic Suspense,
Print link - Killer Career
Other links -
Kindle and Smashwords.

Coming Soon - Forever Young-
Blessing or Curse

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An Interesting Interview

So I was listening to one of the morning shows yesterday and an interview with the former mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, caught my attention. He had just written a book about his experiences during Katrina threaded with a post analysis of the disaster, an event and period of our history of which just about everyone in the world has some memory. Images of people stranded on roofs and those held hostage in the Superdome are seared in our collective memory, and now with the internet, seared in the digital memory of history.

It was an interesting interview for many reasons, and given his fame as the mayor of New Orleans at such a dramatic time, and given the bad press that the administration at the time received, it wasn’t surprising that a book was written about it nor was it surprising that it was receiving national media attention. What was surprising - at least to me - was that at the end of the interview, he quickly added that he published it through Create Space and it was available through Amazon.

His reasons for choosing CreateSpace are clarified in an interveiw published on USAToday at the following link:

Here's the paragraph that is most telling:

The book covers the first 30 days after the storm. The outspoken Nagin says he chose to self-publish on CreateSpace, a division of, after contacts with publishers left him worried about the editing process, feeling uncertain "that my voice would come out at the end of the day."

Just goes to show us that if the subject is notable enough and the author famous enough, even a self-published book can receive national attention. But it also shows that more and more writers are choosing non-traditional publishing paths to have more control over the process, especially when it comes to preserving their voice.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary...

Now that summer (finally) seems to be here for real, I was able to get out in my garden this past week and do some well-needed clean up. You know the drill. Weeds needed to be pulled or chemically sprayed, bushes needed to be trimmed, overgrowth needed to be eliminated...all of those maintenance type things.

Of course while I worked, I began thinking of the inevitable writing comparisons.

Let's start with the weeds. I guess this is fairly obvious. These are the things that just don't belong in my writing and they need to be yanked out of there immediately, if not sooner. I guess it would be words like: that, saw, felt, watched, thought, knew, realized, etc. etc.

Then let's move on to trimming. This would be spots where I've used three dozen words and three would be sufficient. Getting rid of those prepositional phrases at the end of sentences: to her, at him, for her, etc. Things like 'seemed to', 'tried to', and 'began to' need to be replaced with simple past tense verbs. And even cutting back on the backstory to really get the plot moving forward.

And finally, ah yes, there's the overgrowth. When I first started my backyard garden, I was so thrilled to actually have things growing instead of a vast expanse of lawn I let things sprout up pretty much where ever. As long as it wasn't a weed (Okay, caught me...I even kept some of those if they had a pretty flower on them.) I let it grow. Now that the garden is 'mature', I have things growing in places where things don't need to be. Don't get me wrong, I still love the flowers. They just don't belong in certain spots (overgrowing the path, blocking the stepping stones, pushing their way through the grate of the fire pit, etc.). After all, I want my backyard to look like a garden, not a jungle. Sometimes I move them to a more sensible location, and other times, no matter how beautiful they are...I yank them out, because they just don't belong. The same goes for writing. Some things just don't belong in a particular chapter, section, or even story. Sometimes, they can be cut from one place and used in another. Other times, no matter how beautifully I've written a just doesn't belong...and it needs to go.

Writing, like gardening, requires time, nurturing, care, and attention to detail. But when all is said and done, the end result is beautiful.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


P.S. For a peek at the cover of A Christmas to Remember, (coming this holiday season) be sure to hop on over to my web-site.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Back to Mykonos by Margot Justes

Yesterday and today I listened to singer Nana Mouskouri and the music brought back many memories of Greece. I will be back in Mykonos in October and this time plan to spend the whole day seeing what I missed last time, because I went to Delos instead.

I thought I'd share a few memories with you. I did post this blog before, but it has been a while. So here it goes, fond memories of Mykonos.

The water lapping the shore, the beaches along the coast primed for tourists, the cafes and restaurants all facing the deep blue water, the caress of a gentle breeze, the radiant sun warming your soul; all is well with the world. At least the world of Mykonos.

I only spent about three very short hours in Mykonos, but they were memorable hours. I walked the length of the beach in the center of town and of course stopped in the obligatory shops, just because you have to stop, it's the touristy thing to do, and never let it be said I'm not a tourist. Nor were the cafes neglected, just in case there were any questions about my coffee addiction, I happen to love Greek coffee, sweet. Very sweet.

It has been said that Mykonos is one of the most beautiful islands of the Cyclades.
It's history is vague, but somewhere around 1207 and 1390 the island was ceded to the Ghisi family, there is also mention that at some point in time the inhabitants turned to piracy. By the 18th century the island established an economic presence and today tourists provide a great deal of economic prosperity.

There is more to the rich and vibrant island, but I'm only writing a blog, among the treasures are some 400 churches, the most renowned among them is the Virgin Paraportiani, and of course the famous Windmills, as they beckon the ferries, boats, ships and anything else floating in the water. Up close and personal they are huge and oddly welcoming.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why Writers Should Embrace Amazon-Kindle

Recently heard around the virtual water cooler someone complaining that Amazon/Kindle cheats its authors. How? They drop your ebook price without telling you; they do it when their bot (function of the hunter robot) finds you have reduced the price and are selling it elsewhere.

Not to quibble...OK, to quibble... LOOK at it this way when thinking that Amazon is out to rob you of YOUR royalties. First off, no one ever in life -- at least not since the advent of the Kindle -- ever, ever offered an author as sweet a deal as 35% on every unit sold PLUS worldwide distribution on a platform you do not have to pay a dime for.

I know some small presses have offered sweet deals of 50-50, 40-60. 30-70 but typically such deals earn you zip and typically the percentage is weighted in the favor of the publisher who is going to send you royalty statement six months down the road to tell you that you have earned out nada, zip because all your heavy hardcover books set at 25 bucks did not actually sell so much as they shipped....and shipped BACK -- returns. Or you were selling a 15 or 16 dollar book and your realized a royalty after six months of $63 -- enough to buy that tuna sandwich you'd been eyeing for those six weeks and splurge on a day at the movies.

With kindle the number of returns is negligible, you do not wait six weeks to a year to see sales figures (in fact, these are not ROYALTIES but sales figures). We have this archaic notion that royalties--something owed us for months--is the proper term here, but NO....this is not an Advance Against Royalties circumstance and never was.

I thank God I can sell a book today at 99c and 1.99 and realize 35% on each sale. I respect Amazon's reasoning that if a book is going to be priced that low, for THEM to make any sort of pennies on it, that the 35-65 split has to kick in. If I do not wish to play that game, I do not lower the price. I have NEVER in 45 titles up on Kindle EVER had Kindle lower a single book price on me. Why is that not happening to me but happening to other now distraught authors?

Think about it. I control the pricing on all those books. I do not have these books on Smashwords or B&N for a lesser price. I understood from the get go that if I place one of my books in any other ebook store for a lower price that Amazon will find me (bot me) and drop my ebook price to the same or lower on Kindle. I never had any problem with that, and in fact decided from the get-go to associate myself so closely with Kindle-Amazon, to be a real partner, that my books are Kindle Exclusive and Kindle App friendly. I also put no restrictions on my books--lending or otherwise.

Earlier I had about 13 or 14 titles with Fictionwise. I got those rights back. There may be a title here or there still up for sale somewhere else but in the main as no other ebook stores are reducing my prices, only one doing so is me, myself, and I. I drop first in a series to 99c or 1.99 and place the other ten or five or four up at a price that will garner the 70% to me.

Now when in life has any author on the planet ever gotten a sweeter deal than 70 percent of each unit sold, a platform/display space/ worldwide distribution/the functionality to create buzz/timely payment/bookkeeping at no extra cost (and even if there are hidden costs, you are still the recipient of the BEST deal a Publisher has ever offered an Author in the history of book-making?

DoEs It MaKe SeNsE?
I feel as though I have my cake and can eat it too.

Just dropped my Vampire Dreams down to 99c....first in a four-book series, and all the other three are above 2.99 -- so I see the 99c as enticement and investment to get all four selling well. I JUST made this drop in price yesterday and I was something like 37,000 in store NOWHERE with the title, but today, WOW...I am now #71 in some category in top 100 and 17,000 something in store paid.

Now my job is to get the word out that for a "limited time ONLY" this book is up for sale at 99c. The terms "" REALLY seem to have an effect as I have dropped other books to 99c without the fanfare or the TERMS of Sale, and people, it would seem, have a Pavlovian response to those simple words-- Sale, Limited Time Only.

Anyhow, onward and upward. My next duty is to spread the word of its now being #61 on said list. Need to go back to check that list....was it horror or suspense or urban fantasy....I think horror but unsure. I got to excited, I dropped my teeth -- and I do not even have dentures (yet).

Please leave a comment; love to hear from you. What has been your experience in this area? How do you feel about amazon? about ebooks, ePricing?

RoboWriter Rob Walker
Vampire Dreams. Brain Stem, Floaters

Time's Ticking! by DL Larson

With so many demands on each of us, it becomes challenging to find the time to write. I carve out snippets of time by using the timer on my stove. I gather whatever I will be working on for the time alloted, set the timer, usually for 90 minutes and begin.

Over time, I realized if I want to have time to write, I need to make it a priority. So when the timer is ticking, I don't search the net, I don't answer the phone, I ignore folks hollering my name - unless it sounds/smells as if the house is on fire. (so far that has never been the case!) I don't go change the laundry from the washer to the dryer. I write! I edit. I research. I do writer stuff only.

With this simple concept I discovered several things:
1. I have made writing a priority worth pursuing by making time for it.
2. My actions make others realize how important writing is to me.
3. When I take my writing seriously, others do the same.
4. I actually make progress when I have a good chunk of time to think and write.
5. Progress encourages me to make bigger strides to complete my goal.
6. Reaching my goal seems possible, then attainable, then inevitable!
7. And oh, how I like the sound of that!

Sometimes the biggest hurdle we face as writers, is creating the time to work on our project. I know we have discussed this before at Acme Authors, but each of us struggle with this and it has become an everyday challenge to keep writing.

Please take a moment to share how you find the time to write and create. Are you a morning writer? A train writer? Perhaps you burn the midnight electricity to write. What keeps you in the chair?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mental calisthenics

Can writing prompts inspire you to write a serious story, or are they mere mental calisthenics? Recently the El Paso Writers’ League tried an exercise with about two dozen people attending. As members arrived at the meeting, they drew slips of paper that assigned them to a pair of specific tables in succession. Each table had a card identifying it by topic or genre: mystery, historical, poetry, romance, and fantasy. People had a list of words they were to incorporate into a ten-minute writing exercise in the specified genre. The idea was to spur creativity and to get people thinking outside their normal comfort zones. At the end of the exercise many of us read our masterpieces to the entire group, and then we switched to the second table to start again with another genre.

Lucky me, I started at the history table, and in my mind I became a Confederate soldier. The underlined words were the seven we had to use:

At Gettysburg, I lay bleeding amid an ocean of gray uniforms, my face buried in the weeds. This should be a dream, I thought. The acrid smell of smoke, the deafening cannons, the soft whimpers of the dying for the hard demands of union and justice. We sacrifice our lives for generals’ ego, for our country, for our God, while the enemy in blue dies for all the same reasons. May God damn General Grant. May God damn General Lee.

Is there the beginning of a short story here? Maybe flash fiction reflecting the senselessness of war? We’ll see.  

The second table featured fantasy, too long a reach for me. For ten minutes I wrote of winning big money in the lottery—no gnomes, trolls, magic dragons, or anything without a connection to the physical world we know.

Exercises like this are fun and stimulating. Sometime in between your projects and your daily chores, you might pick up the dictionary and write for ten minutes around the first word you see. Your mental calisthenics might spur you to something new.

--Bob Sanchez

Incidentally, this is stop #7 in my Blog Book Tour. My three novels, When Pigs Fly, Getting Lucky, and Little Mountain, are all available as ebooks and paperbacks, and you can find out more about them at my blog,  Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win an e-copy of your choice of these books, or to win the grand prize of all three signed paperbacks.

Here is my tour schedule.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Listen to the Quiet!

So, I was trying to think of a topic for today and I was struggling for the right one, the one that really resonated with me - at least for today. Nothing! Then I boarded the train for my morning commute. As I was settling in on the train the conductor made an announcement reminding people that this is the second week that the rail line I ride has implemented Quiet Cars and that passengers should remember to be courteous to their fellow passengers in these cars.

Being courteous to one another seems to be fading into the past, so much so that we have to be reminded like school children at recess to mind our manners.

I’m glad that there are now Quiet Cars on the train, even though I’m not sitting in one right now. I’m glad because so many folks seem to have lost the sensitivity of knowing that others are actually around them. From music that blares from cheap and inappropriate head phones to yelling on cell phones, the noise pollution in our lives has exploded.

I’m very fortunate that I have peace and quiet in my own home. I even have places on my property where I’ve landscaped a garden area with a bistro table and chairs where I often sit in the mornings on the weekend or at nights after work with my coffee or wine listening to the birds and watching rabbits and other wild life run around in my peaceful world.

Quietness - an idea whose time has come.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Character Interview by June Sproat

Kate Sterns, the MC from my YA Ordinary Me, stopped by this weekend for a quick visit and I asked her a couple questions for my blog. Here’s the interview….

AA: On behalf of Acme Authors Blog, please welcome Kate Sterns.

Kate: Um, thanks, this is so weird. I have never been interviewed before. Not even when I hit that guy, or rather, he hit me, well not me exactly, but the car I was driving. Anyway, no one interviewed me then, not unless you consider the cops talking to me an interview, ‘cause I certainly didn’t.

AA: O….K… So, now that sophomore year is over, what are your big summer plans?

Kate: Well, first I have to complete a few more driving hours then I’m going to get my license. At least I hope I get my license, but since they didn’t hold the whole moving violation thing against me, I have a good chance, don’t you think?

AA: yes…

Kate: I mean, it wasn’t like it was my fault or anything. I did exactly what my driving teacher told me to do. Well, not exactly. I did turn when he said to, just the wrong way, but that really wasn’t my fault. I was nervous and then I got the whole left and right thing mixed up, which is not uncommon, no matter what my best friend Jody says. And really, what does Jody know. She isn’t even in driver’s ed yet. She has no clue what it’s like under all that pressure. Well she’s going to find out because she is taking it next semester. Do you know she actually asked me that if I have my license by September, which I totally plan on having thank you very much, and since she will already have her permit, she wanted to know if I would let her drive my car to school. I was like “What car? I don’t have a car.” And then she made this funny face and I thought maybe my parents are going to get me a car for my birthday. And when I asked them, they laughed. They just laughed in my face. Can you believe it? My dad just mumbled something about summer job and I never heard the rest because I stuck my ear buds in and planned ways to kill Jody.

AA: Well, yes, thanks for that, Kate, but I have run out of room, er time. Yes we are out of time for the interview. Drop by again if you want!

Have a great week!


Ordinary Me is available on Kindle! $0.99

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Endless Summer the endless days of summer stretch ahead it's time to look forward and figure out what I want to accomplish during the lazy months ahead. For the most part, I do plan on being a little lazy from time to time, but there are many things I'd like to accomplish while the temperatures are warm, the days are long, and nine weeks of vacation are granted.

Writing-wise I have several goals I'm aiming for:
*Finish my WIP, "This Feels Like Home", the third mss in my 'series' with TWRP. It's about 2/3 done.
*Write a short story for a new series at TWRP's Champagne line. I have a rough (REALLY rough) outline and about 10 pages so far.
*Update some links on my web-site.
*Think through and begin work on the PR campaign for A Christmas to Remember, coming this winter from TWRP. This will be my first digital only release, so it will be a new experience for me.

In the non-writing world, I also have a few goals:
*Finish the summer reading program I signed up for at my local library. I figured I'm going to be doing a ton of reading anyway, I might as well earn some prizes for it!
*Select a new recipe to try once a week.
*Spend time out and about each week out and about just because it's summer and I don't have anyplace else to go.
*Get caught up on a couple years' worth of vacation scrapbooking.
*Spend time with family and friends. To that end, we're out of town this weekend in Missouri traveling and visiting with friends.
*Do some organizing in the basement.
*Get back into a workout routine. The sooner the better.

Anything exciting on anyone's plates for summer?

Until next time,


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Being a Tourist by Margot Justes

I often wonder how most people tour a big foreign city. How do they prepare? Is everything left to the tour company, with that extra half day on their own? Or do tourists venture out on their own?

I'll be in Rome in four months and have already selected specific sites I do not want to miss. I've visited Rome but it was many, many years ago and I want a refresher course.

I've selected three walking tours, my favorite way to see a city and not get lost. A map is very handy, if you know how to read one, for me that is a useless effort, I can't read maps, and if on my own, North happens to be wherever I'm facing-not a good thing. However, I'm not afraid to ask a stranger for directions, and I do carry a small city map with me, after being told which way to go and where to turn, I can generally find my way.

A few years ago I was in Berlin with my daughter, she was there to do research, and I had the days to myself. The morning I wondered about the city, and of course I got lost but in the process I discovered some wondrous little side streets, stopped for a delicious cup of coffee and wound up at Check Point Charlie, from there it was an easy walk back to the hotel. I had a terrific time.

I digress, back to Rome, I've selected an afternoon walking tour to get familiar with the city and its monuments, one evening walk, sort of a lover's look at romantic Rome, and of course given Rome's age I'm sure there are a few ghosts and goblins scattered around, and I aim to find them with the help of a guide of course.

The must see stuff I do first and I leave myself some breathing space for the unexpected treasures, a cafe, a sit down on the Spanish Steps, a small neighborhood church, an art gallery, all those delicious incidental discoveries that are so memorable.

Till next time.
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Re-Inventing Oneself as a Writer

There are writers who absolutely write the same book not just twice but many times over, no question of it. Like actors, there are many different types of writers. Some are one-book wonders that have a single title come out of the blue to take top honors, awards, bestseller status, but for most of us, we write one book, two, three, etc. until we find we've written ten, twenty, thirty, etc. Some of us are "serial" writers, our nose to the grindstone not of writing the same book over and over but throwing one adventure after another at the SAME character or ensemble of characters.

I fall into the later category, having created something in the neighborhood of 8 series characters, some of whom have lasted through two books, others eleven, most three and four. My last two novels added on to two series as Titanic 2012 continued my fascination with Inspector Alastair Ransom who had earlier had a trilogy. The book after this was purely for kicks, a horror novel, which continued my desire to work again with my character Dr. Abraham Stroud, archeologist and vampire slayer, a book called Bayou Wulf.

A year ago Ransom and Stroud were both "dead" characters according to the 'rules' of traditional publishing, but as a re-invented author, now an Independent Author thanks to Amazon's Kindle store, I can ressurect Ransom and Stroud and any of six other 'dead series characters'....and so I am re-invented anew as an author interested in continuing otherwise dead series. Kindle allows for this.

Even in content, I have taken on a new author personae beyond that of Indie now with Titanic 2012 complete, I decided to go back to the sea for another seafaring suspense thriller, so am now working on Bismarck 2013, a working title.  You might say I am carving out a new genre -- occult seafaring suspense with science fiction overtones and a good dollop of historical to boot.  OK, not sure what to call these books; perhaps the new label or category should read -- Labeless.

As I am way over-tired, I am goint to let a snippet of Titanic 2012, follwed by a snippet of Bismarck 2013 speak for me here. I am blogging on the "Making of Bismarck 2013  at Dirty Deeds - Advice from a pro  found on Google. Here are the snippets: 




Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 3, 1912

Slippage dust choked them. A fine shower of it fluttered about the men like a million black fairies that insisted on entering them. The dark dust created of itself a ghostly, unruly fog. Yet it was so fine, the two wouldn’t have known it was here had not their helmet lights reflected it. The earth around them groaned and stretched as if disturbed from slumber, just awakening. Tim McAffey, one of the two who’d dared enter to inspect the damage wondered why he’d ever become a miner. Then the floating grave ahead of them settled, and he thought of the bonus promised if he did his job. He thought of home and family and food on the table.

“The day ends with little to show,” said mine superintendent McAffey, frustrated and upset. He knew from experience it’d take days if not a week to get the men comfortable enough about this section of the mine to even begin to clean up the mess where some timbers had given way. “Hell, amounts to a sneeze,” he said to the man beside him.

“Minor inconvenience at best,” agreed O’Toole.


B I S M A R C K 2013

May 5, 1941 aboard the Bismarck, docked in Gotenhafen Bay, Occupied Poland

Adolph Hitler smiled and rocked on his heels, feeling safe, even smug here where the Bismarck had been kept from prying British air patrols—far to the west of where the ship had been built in Hamburg. Here amid multiple land masses, fjords, in the straights between Germany and Sweden.

Hitler felt comfortable here in his 5’10 frame inside his British-made Wellington boots. He smiled and turned his head in all directions from his vantage point on the bridge of the deadliest battleship ever to set sail on the high seas. Her guns were the largest ever assembled on a floating vessel.

Hitler had come aboard with heavy security. There had been yet another recent attempt on his life in Berlin. He had a small army of SS men on all sides of him and four men carrying a crate, a curious wooden crate…something many of the seamen aboard, all lined in rows for the inspection by the Fuehrer, thought interesting. In particular Lt. Commander Ivan Hulsing had noticed the large crate, and he immediately wondered if it had anything to do with the new encryption code machine that Hitler’s top engineers had been working on.

This would make sense. And if so and installed on Bismarck, the admiral and captain of the ship would be deciphering every message sent across the airways between Britain and its allies. Hitler might also ascertain if it was true that the Americans were quietly supplying the British with more than just food and supplies in their so-called humanitarian efforts to back the United Kingdom.

Bismarck was built to lay waste to such foolishness, to destroy anything that dared to move across the North Atlantic. Her guns could hit a row boat fifteen miles off her bow. Ivan Hulsing began to hear the whispers wafting among the rows of sailors lining the deck, all now curious of the box—a wooden crate marked as oranges, ostensibly a gift for Admrial Lutgens whose love for fresh fruit aboard his ship was legendary.

Hitler’s entourage had first come aboard intent on plying directly to the Admiral’s quarters with the crate. Anyone seeing the strain on the faces of the four men carrying the elongated, coffin-sized crate, must imagine it carried more than oranges. Meanwhile, Captain Lindeman and Admiral Lutgens followed Hitler’s men like a pair of puppies in the great leader’s wake. It appeared Hitler, an oddly shaped, small man, which Ivan realized for the first time, was nearly lost in his leather coat—as if it’d been borrowed from a larger man. Hitler had surrounded himself with men selected for the best in Aryan features: blue-eyed, blond-haired six-foot high soldiers in spanking new military uniform and Nazi insignia-emblazoned caps. Alongside such men, the Fuehrer appeared a perfect foil for such men—as Hitler himself was dark-eyed, dark-haired, little-statured man who seemed weak and lost in his uniform by comparison; a man playing at soldier.

And Hitler was intent on getting that crate tucked away in the Admiral’s possession, in the Admiral’s cabin down from the Captain’s quarters. This took the darkly-clad entourage up several flights of stairs and catwalks facing the bridge. Hidden somewhat amid his entrouage, Hitler’s gait was that of a determined ape chasing a female, an ape with a mission fuck over anything daring to get in his path. Determined first to deposit the gift, before anything to do with inspecting the ship or crew.

Once done with the ‘gifting’, this man determined to rule the Earth, would return to inspect Bismarck and the mariners of this mighty ship. Every sailor aboard, including Ivan Hulsing must maintain attention status while awaiting Hitler’s return to inspect the rows upon rows of sailors, two thousand, lining every deck at every level.

THANK you for dropping by and I do hope you will leave a comment in your wake! 
Rob Walker

What's In A Name? by DL Larson

I get so frustrated when I know the answer to a question but can't bring it to mind. Such an experience happened over Memorial Weekend when I heard the poem, In Flanders Fields. Way back in fourth grade, our class memorized said poem and I felt sure I would never forget who wrote it. I know it orginated from a doctor in WWI. His name .... I'm crumpling paper here trying to remember.

Names are important. As writers we have the decision to use our own name, partial name or a pen name. Do we want to be a Mark Twain or George Orwell, both who used pen names, each for different reasons. Or do we want our own name on our books?

Perhaps we want to be like Daniel Handler with his famous children's books. Who, you might ask, is Daniel Handler? As a children's librarian, I do know the answer to this pop quiz. None other than Lemony Snicket. Handler chose to make his character the author of his Series of Unfortunate Events. A rather cool idea and kids love this style of writing.

Then there is the identity hide-out by using initials. Many folks accused me of doing this. I've received notes and emails stating if they had known I was a woman they would never have purchased my book. Wow! That's powerful information. I'm glad I chose to go with DL and not Deb. Except I wasn't trying to hide my femaleness, I was simply trying to get away from an over-used name. DL is a nickname and therefor why I don't use periods behind each letter. Unfortunately that has caused much confusion. I think DL sounds very female, but D.L. has an ambiguous sound so I can understand folks thinking I used initials to hide my true identity.

So have you recalled the author of In Flanders Field?
Is it Eric Blair? Samuel Clemens or John McCrae?

Still not sure? If you don't put Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens together, then you are NOT smarter than a 5th grader! That leaves Eric and John. Hmmm. Eric Blair is the author of Animal Farm and 1984. Does that help? He didn't believe his writing was good enough to use his real name. And I say, Lord, give me strength, if George Orwell didn't feel worthy to use his real name, what am I doing fumbling about trying to put words on paper?

So that leaves John McCrae! If you knew he was the author of In Flanders Field, then you get to go to the head of the class! With a gold star by your name!

Take a moment to share what name you have chosen to use as a writer. Feel free to explain your reasons.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don't Take Your Writing Too Seriously... In Miniature Style II

Don't get me wrong; I do take writing seriously. But one thing about writing: while there are those projects you have to do, writing should also involve the things you love to do.

Yes, I do the serious stuff via writing for newspapers and occasional magazine articles, but along the way I've learned that I can also get paid for my hobby. Talk about a dream!

As a longtime miniatures crafter and dollhouse collector, I enjoy not only sharing my interest in my hobby, but also writing about it. I combined both interests in my latest nonfiction book, IN MINIATURE STYLE II.

The book includes profiles of other collectors, photos of their and my work, plus an assortment of how-to projects. It is available in ebook/pdf, and other formats for the iPad, Nook, Kindle and in print. See photos at link above, or you can preview it at Smashwords.

Writing on Topic
As many fiction writers know, it's usually the nonfiction work that pays the bills, unless you're Stephen King or Danielle Steele, or have been fortunate to hit it big in ebooks and on the Kindle. And while many special interest magazines pay on the lower end of the scale, it's still a good way to get some published clips, make some extra money, and have fun doing it. What's better than writing about your own special interest and getting paid for it?

While not everyone wants to write a how-to book, the fun of doing that is being able to experiment and try out the projects. So right now I am working on a unique project by one of the book's contributors, the fun being my own experimenting to make it in a completely different size. I think it's turning out well!

The funny part is that when someone asks what I'm doing and I say working on a miniature project, I can let them know that I am not goofing off. It is research so I can have my own samples on hand to show off the book contents. Honest.

Buy: Amazon

* Anyone else have any special interests or hobbies they like to write about? Please share!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Boutique Hotel or Chain by Margot Justes

When travelling do you choose the all familiar feeling of a well known hotel chain, or go with something a bit different, an unknown?

In the US, I stay with the familiar, it's home and I want that familiarity in the hotel. I want my expectations to be met. I'm not one for bed & breakfast type of places, I prefer the anonymity of the hotel. I once stayed in a bed & breakfast, and once was enough. I don't find them romantic, I find them intrusive but that is my personal preference. At home, give me a good well known hotel any day of the week.

That being said, in Europe, my preferences change, I choose the boutique hotels, the unknown names. I find them charming, sometimes worn with age, some sporting facelifts, but the essence is the same, they reflect the romance and adventure of the city they live in.

Hotel Lutetia in Paris is one such place, Art Deco meets the Belle Époque, it's at the center of Paris, easy access to most sites and a 40 minute walk to the Rodin Museum.

The Royal Crescent in Bath, England is another such delight. It is part of a small chain of the Von Essen Hotels, each one is unique, old architecturally significant buildings and castles have been converted to magnificent hotels.

Take a chance and look for the unique, not the familiar. Prices vary based on the season, go off season-like airfares, hotels are discounted.

In many cases if you travel to and plan on spending a few days in a major city, you can book a vacation through the airlines. There are some lovely prices included in the hotel and air package, even half day tours to get you acquainted with the city. My favorite way of finding a new hotel is simply to Google hotels in a specific city and do a bit of research on line.

Local transportation is easy and you do not have to speak the language to get around, but learn a few words of the local language, and be careful and aware of your surroundings. Be a vigilant tourist, whether it's at home or anywhere else in the world.

I don't like to take tours ala the 'If this is Tuesday it must be Belgium' premise. (Funny movie by the way.) If I'm going to Paris, London Rome, Berlin, Hong Kong or Venice, any major city, I stay put a few days to get to know the city and its pulse.

Check prices on-line sites like Expedia, (not a big fan) but don't forget to deal directly with the hotel. I e-mailed the Crescent hotel in Bath and got a fantastic price, they had a special off season rate that was unbeatable. Now, I get e-mails from the Von Essen hotels notifying me of other deals. They have a terrific medieval castle in Edinburgh, Scotland I plan to visit soon. Falconry and archery anyone? Never tried either one, but certainly plan to do so in the very near future.

Till next time.
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Mystical, Magical Moments in Creative Writing

OCD perhaps how we writers keep on writing in the face of defeat after defeat. I am reminded of the song lyric, "When my smallest of dreams won't come true..." We are accused of being dreamers and how can we not be just that? Our stock in trade is our dreams, our imaginations, our visions, those voices so demanding within us, in our hearts and in our heads, demanding to be released out into the world, and we visualize it all from the outset to the finish line as one perfect set of characters aligned with a perfect plot in the perfect setting be it aboard a doomed ship, in a wooded dale, in a dark and sinister city of our creation and sifted through the five senses and sometimes the sixth sense of our character(s).

Writing is in effect a huge leap of faith. Think of it, you set out with a single phrase, a single sentence, hoping it will lead to a single paragraph, knowing all the while that you are committing yourself to months, perhaps years of hard labor despite its being a labor of love. What motivates us to put down that first word in the building of yet another novel after the first? How do we ever manage to go on to the second and beyond that?

It really truly helps to thoroughly know your character(s), particularly those who can carry the weight of successive books on their shoulders as they make the new title a good deal easier to get into as you KNOW this ensemble so well from your having lived with them through a previous novel, previous perils and adventures. You get to know them often better than you know any real person.

Still what makes us driven to write and write again, despite the overwhelming odds. "Never tell me the odds, kid," says Han Solo to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. If we were to dwell on the odds of actually completing a novel, and then actually finding anyone who'd care to publish it, and then any audience willing to pay good money for it....would we ever begin?  Is it really about that or is there some deeper, even cosmic reason behnd WHY...why we write?

Frankly, for me, I suspect it is  genetic--yes, all in the heredity of the born storyteller whose gift at birth then is nourished and allowed to flourish. If I could look into a crystal ball not at the future but at the past, would I find my Uncle John there, the great oral storyman looking back at me? What of a grandfather, a great grandfather in the old homeland of Scotland? And before the time of the first men to sit about a campfire and retell events of the hunt?  Something in a story wants telling, needs telling, and needs people like you and me to hear it and hear it well, and to demand it be told well.

Voices out of the past, voices in the present, voices out of the future infiltrate a storyteller's mind and they all demand a hearing, and so it goes...we are OCD about getting all the stories we hear in our heads outside of us and on paper. We have little choice otherwise. The whole damn thing is mystical, and the older a storyteller gets, the more mystical the process becomes.

Robert W. Walker, author of Titanic 2012, Children of Salem, and more...

Stress Gets Heavy! by DL Larson

If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed with juggling all your commitments, consider the story below. I don't know the author, but I wanted to share it with you anyway.

A young woman walked around the room while leading a stress management class. She raised a glass of water and everyone figured she would ask the question, 'half full or half empty?' She fooled them and instead asked, "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers ranged from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance for me. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for awhile and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden, holding stress longer and better each time practiced. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. Pick them up tomorrow."

"Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them go for the moment. Relax! Pick them up later after you've rested. Life is short. Enjoy some stress-free time."

So my thought for today is to relax a bit! Enjoy the beautiful weather with family and friends, this evening! I plan to dine with girlfriends tonight! I plan to leave my stress at home!

If your burdens are anything like mine, they will still be where you placed them when you retreave them! Hopefully, they won't be quite so heavy!

Til next time ~

DL Larson