Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blog Book Tour Guide by Morgan Mandel

Have you ever done a Blog Book Tour? Do you know how to do one? I've done one, will be doing another soon, and have followed many. They're a valuable tool in the promotion arsenal of your book.

If you like conferences, consider Spring Fling 2012, where my workshop, Blog Book Tour Guide,  is but one of the many informative workshops to be presented.

Check out Monday's post by June for full details on how to register and what the headliners are.
We'll be telling you more later.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, August 29, 2011

Get Ready for Spring!

For Spring Fling 2012, that is. Early registration is right around the corner! Don't miss out on this fantastic conference.

Here is the information:

Chicago-North Romance Writers of America
April 27-28, 2012
Hoffman Estates, IL

Early Registration opens September 1, 2011

New York Times best-selling authors:
Sherrilyn Kenyon
Mary Balogh
Simone Elkeles

*Over 30 workshops, many presented by NY Times bestsellers, RITA award winners and multi-published authors.
*5 Publisher spotlights

Martin Biro-Kensington Publishing
Tera Kleinfelter-Samhain Publishing
Megan Long-Harlequin
Shauna Summers-Ballantine Bantam Dell
Tessa Woodward-Avon Publishing

Ginger Clark-Curtis Brown LTD
Cori Deyoe-3 Seas Literary Agency
Scott Eagan-Greyhaus Literary Agency
Sara Megibow-Nelson Literary Agency
Paige Wheeler-Folio Literary Management, LLC.

*Agent/editor appointments provided on a first registered first served basis.
*Agents and editors subject to change.

Early registration from September 1-October 31, 2011.
RWA members: $164
Non-RWA members: $174

Regular Registration opens November 1, 2011
RWA members: $184
Non-RWA members: $184

For more information about Spring Fling 2012 and to register for the conference please visit:

Questions? Contact us at:


Hope so see you there!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Life Experiences by DL Larson

I love trying new things. I rode an elephant once just to see what it was like and realized I wouldn't want to ride one for transportation purposes. I've held snakes and 'gators, and ridden the fastest roller coaster Harry Potter had to offer. I've been in a race car that zoomed around the track at neck straining speed. This summer I tried something new as well. I rode a segway. I rode a segway on a hilly, curvy path and wondered if I should have my head examined for being so reckless with my life.

On a segway, I am the only one in control. There is no other driver, no one else running the controls, no professional standing by to save me. It was just me and this vertical monster that seemed intent on throwing me off backwards. The instuctor did say, "don't jump off, you'll hurt yourself." Staying on felt just as threatening.

Riding a segway is much like learning to ride a bike. I tried too hard. I clutched the handles too tight, but it doesn't steer or make the machine go. I stood too straight, I bent my knees too much. I learned to lean and was surprised the machine went where I aimed. If I leaned backwards, yep, it moved in that direction as well. I tried not to do that too often! I learned pressure from my feet made it go fast or slow. No pedals like in a car, only my feet guiding me around and up and down the path.

By the time my thirty minute ride was over, I was exhausted, in a good way. I had used muscles that don't normally get a work-out. I visualized one of my characters being forced to ride a segway and smiled at how humorous the scene could be. More imporantly I learned about maneuverability and a serious study of muscle control I hadn't thought about in a long time. Both good things to have for future stories.

Riding a segway was a thrilling experience and one I might try again. How about you? Have you tried anything new and different lately? Perhaps for research or just for fun. Tell us about it!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's Your Tagline?

One of the egroups I belong to was discussing taglines and their importance. They're those little phrases or sentences, sometimes two, that give a reader a sense of your author style.

My first was  Fast-paced, poignant suspense.
My website now says Offering Diversity and Versatility.

I'm not sure which I'll keep, or if I'll change it again. It would be easier if I stuck to one style, but I kind of skip around from mystery, to romantic comedy, to romantic suspense, and now to thriller in the genres of my books.

What about you? What's your tagline? Or, don't you have one? Or, maybe you really like someone else's. Let us know.

Morgan Mandel

If you like romantic suspense,
Killer Career is 99 cents
on Kindle and Smashwords.
Also available in print at
Amazon and other vendors.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Proud to Be a Book Nerd

I'm a book nerd and I'm proud of it. I love to read. Most writers probably do, as long as they can find the time. Summer vacation is a great time for me to read. This summer, I read about forty books. When I told my hubby that, he said, "You're such a nerd. I don't think I've read forty books in my life." Which makes me sad. I mean, that would only work out to be less than one book a year for him.

But, I guess some people don't like to read. I am not one of those people.

Recently I discovered the House of Night series. (You know me, I'm the vampire girl!) I checked out seven of the books in the series from the library. So, basically that gave me three weeks to read them. It's been a week...I only have one and a half left to read. (And I'll more than likely finish those today and tomorrow.) And I'm sad because the new one in the series doesn't come out until October.

When I know a new book in a series or from a favorite author is coming out, I'll write the release date in my planner. If it's a book I want to buy, I head to the book store that day. If it's not a book I'm planning on buying (or if I'm waiting for the paperback version instead of the hardcover to add to my collection), I'll get my name on the reserve list at the library before the book is released so I'm first in line to check it out when it comes out.

My friends and I share book suggestions and then talk about the books we read. Not as a formal book club (Although we've done that, too.), but just in the course of general conversation.

I have a personal library of well over a thousand books, and it's still growing.

There are books I read over and over again because they're so dang good.

The library and book stores (If you can find a brick and mortar one around these days.) are two of my favorite places to visit.

See? I'm a total book nerd. And I love it!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Life by Margot Justes

One little word-life-holds the very essence of everything we know, we feel and we endure.

There is a song, can't remember the name, but heard it recently sung by Nana Mouskouri, "the pleasures of love last but for a moment, the regrets of love last a lifetime." Very romantic indeed and also very true.

That pronouncement applies to life and how we live it, the regrets we share, the things we wish we'd done and the things we're afraid to do. Yikes, I'm becoming maudlin.

As we age, I think some of us are more prone on taking a chance on life and adventure. Our time becomes shorter, moving forward we realize the future as we know it now, is more limited.

No, I'm not going to take up downhill skiing, tried it once in my youth and hugged every tree and post I slid by; nor will I take up extreme anything, I'm perfectly comfortable on terra firma.

I'm more into introspective growth, to become more patient, travel to places that may not be considered safe, but are filled with history and survival against great odds. I might actually learn something and become more tolerant of others.

My bucket list is growing, there is Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Aqaba, Jordan, passage through the Suez Canal and of course Alexandria, Egypt.

My visit to Alexandria and Cairo this year was cancelled, however Israel is still in place.

I may even take up snorkeling...nope...tried it once, and couldn't see anything, my goggles kept fogging up and I swallowed what seemed to feel like gallons of salty water.

Maybe after all, I'm not the adventurous type.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Well-Read Detective or Protagonist

You're reading a suspense novel, a mystery, a police procedural, perhaps a noir P.I. novel and in the midst of action and gunplay, your hero, typically the guy who has been investigating the mystery or murder takes a moment to quote Shakespeare. Or he thinks the moment he is in is surreal or it recalls to mind something Einstein or Locke said in a manifesto on the human response to fear. Or as a knife slashes through your lady detective's wrists as a killer attempts to kill her, and she takes a moment to reminisce about a childhood reading of Winnie the Pooh that might this moment save her life, or at least allow her to die in peace.

What is wrong with this picture?
Of course it is very like the moment in a film when at one instant a meteor is racing toward our hero and heroine but they have to work out their relationship problems before it strikes, yet it is hurtling at them at the same moment they decide to open their hearts and hands and hug and kiss when in fact there's NO TIME for that right now!

Some readers detest any internal monologue of the sort that takes a detective to a literary allusion or a psychological questioning of his own steps or motives. Other readers are not in the least bothered by such intrusions as the first readers call them. Still other readers look for the thoughtfulness of the lead characters, their flashback moments, their literary or otherwise allusions to books, philosophers, geniuses. Certainly Sherlock Holmes was a well-read detective, as was Charlie Chan who quoted Confucius ad nauseous. I am sure you can think of a well-read detective. Some readers LOVE a well-read lead who is not shy about quoting well-known and not so well-known experts and geniuses from all walks of life, even pop culture as in Tom Waits, Gordon Lightfoot, or Lady Gaga for example.

So what is a writer to do?
For one, go lightly and go wisely. Being too heavy-handed with literary allusions and asides that involve philosophical points of view, impressive nuggets of information from experts, no matter how apropos will kill any effect you had hoped to make. But is this advice not true of any element in your story?  I personally like my detectives to be keenly aware of their environment which includes pop culture and history and the major events in evolution of the species, but I don't want to force any of it in or hit anyone over the head with it, or make speeches or attempt to send a Western Union message in my fiction.

That said, my longest running suspense character in eleven books, Dr. Jessica Coran is a very well-read person both in her field and in literature and history; in fact she knows everything I know of literature and history, as well as all I have learned of forensics over the years and police protocol. She is a fully-realized, well-rounded person/character. She is prone to self-analysis, self-doubt, and she is very much a strong character with flaws, and she sees the connections between and among things, and in making connections she is going to use metaphorical language, similes, allusions to others, her teacher Dr. Asa Holcraft and his writings, as well as the words of some geniuses in various fields of study and history. However, I do it with a light hand, and I execute it as seamlessly as possible, and somehow it works for me--my first reader--and for many many fans of Dr. Jessica Coran.

How about your detective or P.I. or even your amateur sleuth or beat cop? How much does he or she allude to literary figures, events, books, stories, and quotes by Mark Twain or another humorist, or the lyrics of a Kris Kristopherson or Tom Waits?

I hope you'll leave word here in comments about your detective or lead, whether or not your protagonist is meant to be well-read or not so well-read.

Robert W. Walker (Rob)

What's Your Reading Level? by DL Larson

I'm sure you've heard the saying, if you want to be a better writer, you must read, read, read! So, do you? Do you invest the time to read more than the daily newspaper or an occasional magazine? Carving time out of a busy day is not easy, but it is beneficial in honing your craft. Reading a variety of genres may be the most productive of all.

As a writer, I know it is difficult to read a story without critiquing it along the way. Editing, revising and chewing up words is what we do, what we thrive on and it is a teeny bit rewarding to rearrange and do a little cleaning in someone else's house, er book. We may even stumble upon one of our own thoughts that need revising. It's the risk we take each time we read a book. Perhaps that is the biggest challenge of all, comparing our story to the one we are reading. How does the cadence of our story stand up to the one already published? How is it different?

Another problem I became aware of is to not fall into the pit of reading only the same type of book I write. All too easily I could become a ghost writer. With little effort I could start writing just as the author I was reading. BEWARE the DANGER of that! Reading does not mean losing your own voice. Diversifying your reading does many things, mainly it opens your mind to other styles of writing while your creative side rests and/or absorbs new techniques. And it is always refreshing after a rest to dive back into your own WIP.

Finding time to read is difficult, but I value my reading time and force it into my day. In the evenings, I start out reading between commercials and soon discover my book is more interesting than what's on TV. I read when I eat breakfast, I try to read before bedtime. I read in the car, not while driving, but I know others who listen to audio while in route to work. I read when I'm stuck in my own plot! I need to step away for whatever reason and think about something else. Reading has always proven to be the balsam I needed before continuing with my writing.

In the last few weeks I've read several genres: 1) Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo; 2) Titan's Curse, by Rick Riordan; and 3) Code Talker, by Joseph Bruchac. I've enjoyed each for different reasons, the inspirational was - well, inspiring; the juvenille fiction was action packed, and Code Talker, a young Adult fiction, is chucked full of wonderful characters facing conflict during WWII. None were what I write: historical or sci-fi romance. And I feel I'm better for it. I've absorbed fresh ways of story-telling and I now have new ideas in my writing tool kit.

So how about you? What's your reading level? Are you reading enough? What are you reading this week? Share with us here at Acme Authors.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Name Your Group Blog(s), Or Others

Today, I'm inviting everyone to leave links for your group blog, your own or others. There are many great ones out there, and we need to get the word out.

I'll start with mine -
Acme Authors Link - - where I blog every Wednesday -
A great group of romance and mystery authors sharing experiences as authors in our genres and writing tips in general.

Make Mine Mystery - -
As the name implies, we're mystery authors. Our posts reflect that, as well as observations on the writing craft.

The Blood-Red Pencil -
A group of editors and authors, who share tips on writing and editing.

All of my group blogs also host guests on occasion.

Those are mine. What are yours?

Morgan Mandel
 Morgan Mandel's current romantic
suspense, Killer Career, is 99 cents on
Kindle and Smashwords.

Her debut mystery, Two Wrongs,
will soon be re-released on Kindle
and Smashwords starting at
99 cents.

Soon to come - A thriller -
Forever Young-Blessing or

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

My bread-winning profession is in the arena of Information Technology or IT. I love it and am fortunate to have a day-job that I greatly enjoy. Writing is a passion for me and I'm quite content to keep both of these flames alive. I don't see myself choosing between the two.

I receive a plethora of technology newsletters, eagerly lapping up all the different news and information on the latest and next great thing in techology, as well as all the information on the evils of hackers and the like.

So, I was both pleasantly suprised and dismayed at an article in PCWorld online with the title - How To Pubilsh Your Own Amazon Kindle Ebook.

Pleasantly surprised because both IT and writing are important in my life; dismayed because just because you can self-publish, doesn't mean you are ready to publish. I continued to be pleasantly surprised because the author of the article did a nice job delineating the steps and further noted that professional consulting was also available, especially if you are new to the writing gig.

The one thing that an editorial process, something publishing houses typically provide, promotes is a series of checks and balances so that the written product in the end is entertaining or of value to the person purchasing it. One of the worst experiences for a writer is to have his or her first book fall flat on its face with the reading audience and then have his or her name associated forever with bad reviews. Readers and reviewers alike are not shy about letting everyone know the flaws they find with a book and its author.

Where I see this Grand Canyon of an opening into the world of self-publishing most useful is with niche ideas and niche markets. I'm not saying that others can't be just as successful but there are many well-written, well-researched works that can't find a publishing home because the publisher considers the appeal to readers too small for the amount of money and time it must committ to bring the book to fruition within the context of the typical book-publising model.

Imagine a parent whose child has a rare illness and said parent does a massive amount of research and documents her experience with caring for her child. Imagine that she starts a support group and reaches out to the rest of the world and discovers that hundreds of other parents have children with the same disease. In the end perhaps she discovers more than 2,000 other families struggling with what she is experiencing. Given her now vast knowledge of the subject and her skills at bringing people together, these other families turn to her for information and advice. A traditional publisher would consider even 2,000 a very small audience and not want to invest time or money on the project, but self-publishing would allow this mother to share the information she tirelessly worked to collect and digest while at the same time covering her costs and maybe even making a profit.

The article can be found at:

One final note - don't confuse self-publshing with small-press publishing. Small presses are just that - small presses. They typically have editors and other staff that the larger publishers have and sometimes your book is more cared for by the smaller publishers. The larger publishers, often called publishing houses because of their many imprints or the fact that they goobled up another publisher, sometimes focus more on their best-selling authors with little or no attention and promotion dollars going to the rest of their authors.

Did I mention that writing and publishing is a frenetic and somewhat crazy business?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Looking back and Looking Ahead

Well, the time has come. Summer vacation (for me)is officially over. It always seems to fly by so quickly. With the cool start in June, the wicked hot of July, and some medical issues I had, this year's break seemed to go even faster than usual.

At the beginning, I set some goals, and looking back, I've done a decent job of getting to some of them, even with the life intrusions I encountered along the way.

The biggest thing I accomplished was finishing my WIP and submitting it to my editor at Wild Rose. Now it's time to wait with fingers and toes crossed and hope she offers a contract!

I tossed around some ideas for a novella to fit a new series at my publisher. Didn't get around to doing any actual writing, but I do have lots of ideas spinning in my head, so that's a good start.

I finished the adult summer reading program at the library. I didn't win any of the major prizes, but it was fun to fill in my log and turn it in as I finished each section. Outside of the program, I did a ton (I'm estimating well over 20 books) of reading this summer, which is always a good thing!

I finished some scrapbooking projects I was way behind on.

And, I fiddled with my web-site and changed the background on it.

So, all in all, despite the curve balls life threw me this summer, I feel like I accomplished a lot.

Looking ahead, I hope I can continue writing, even when I'm back at work full time. I'd really like to get working on that novella. It's a different concept than I usually write, so it will be a fun challenge.

And summer's not quite over yet, just the sleeping in and having no schedule to adhere to part. There's still plenty of warm weather and sunshine to enjoy in the days ahead.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Procrastination and Editing by Margot Justes

Editing a manuscript is not for the faint of heart. I've been working on my novella for the last two weeks and barely finished ten pages.

This weekend is free and I planned to spend it in my office, but I decided to bake bread instead. The last time oven I turned the oven was in December. That should tell you how often I use it. Anything to delay the editing. It's called procrastination and I'm really, really good at it.

I turned the oven on, and nothing happened, it's on the fritz. Drat. I can't bake in a cold oven, no freshly baked bread for breakfast.

Next, I did the laundry, made pasta sauce, grated cheese to go with the pasta, in the process I drank a pot of coffee and cleaned my office. Now I'm tired and out of things I'm willing to do. A Fire Within awaits, got it back from the editor and have to finish it.

Oh wait, the cat needs fresh water and food, have to go downstairs and feed kitty.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review A Best Seller! by DL Larson

A good friend gave me the best seller by Todd Burpo for my birthday. The title is, "Heaven is for Real." Over a million copies have been sold. Most would consider this a nonfiction, inspirational book full of unexpected delight. Three year old Colton grew sick and underwent emergency surgery due to a ruptured appendix. He struggled for survival. As a parent I connected immediately with the young parents fearing for the well-being of their child. Colton recovered and is now a healthy boy of eleven. The circumstances I just mentioned are not the heart of the story, merely the setting where the story begins. It is after the recovery, many months afterward when Colton shares his experience in heaven. He doesn't doubt what he saw, he doesn't wonder if he hallucinated, he believes in heaven because he visited there.

Listening to Colton's story unfold as he reveals things he couldn't possibly know would melt the most cynical among us. He knew where his parents were during his surgery. He saw them, he says. He talked to family members he never met, he described heaven with child-like wonder, spoke of things that are mentioned in the Bible, but he revealed their beauty as if he had witnessed it personally. He said he sat on Jesus' lap.

Todd Burpo does a pretty good job retelling his story. He struggles at the beginning, using reflection to get the story going. The reader quickly understands Burpo has trouble coping with his son's revelations of heaven. Burpo, a minister, is shocked to hear stories of heaven from his son. He believes in heaven, but the intimacy of Colton's descriptions leave him speechless. His son has become the expert and he the student. It is a nice reversal role and Burpo does a good job in describing his dumbfoundedness in what Colton shares with him.

Burpo wrote a compelling story and I highly recommend this book. It's a quick read that will leave you feeling hopeful for mankind, at least I felt better after reading it.

If you have had a chance to read, "Heaven is for real," share with us your views. Perhaps you have a recommendation of another book, as well. We'd love to hear from you.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tell Us About Your Book

We haven't done this for a while, so here goes. If you have a book already out or to be released, please tell us what it's about, but make it short, as if you were giving an elevator pitch. Also, please leave one buy link.

If you're not an author, maybe you'd like to mention a book you particularly liked or plan to read. Or, just check over what you see here and you might find something you'll like to read.

I'll start with Killer Career, my romantic suspense, about a lawyer whose career change could be a killer. She has no idea her mentor not only writes about murders, but also participates in them. When she learns the law partner she's leaving may mean more to her than she'd thought, it could be too late for both of them.

Available in print at Amazon, ebooks for 99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords.

Now, let's hear about more books!

Morgan Mandel

Monday, August 8, 2011

Popular Highlights, by June Sproat

So, I was checking out my book on Amazon, (oh come on, you would look too if you had a book on Amazon! You know you would.) and saw a very interesting thing. There is a place for Popular Highlights. What are popular highlights you ask, (because I know I would ask so I thought you might too) Well, Popular Highlights are when someone highlights a line from your book on their Kindle.

Now aside from this being super techy and kind of weird that Amazon can tell what you are highlighting, it’s really nice for the author, in this case, me. I get to know what lines the reader thought were important. Maybe they thought they were funny, or maybe they struck a cord. I don’t know why, but it tells me that somehow I touched the reader with my words. (Okay, done being sappy now!!)

Here are two lines from Ordinary Me that were highlighted the most:

"I wish someone had told me life isn’t easy, because it’s totally not. It’s not fair either, in case you wanted to know!”
Highlighted by 12 Kindle users

“I wish someone would have told me my friends wouldn’t be my friends forever. I wouldn’t have told them all that stuff about myself.” — Todd Feldman
Highlighted by 12 Kindle users

If you want to see more, just check out here and scroll down to almost the bottom of the page.

And if you read books on Kindle, let the author know what lines spoke to you by highlighting them.

Have a great week!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Just That Billy Bob

So, this week's main task was editing.

Monday I finally reached my 65,000 word goal and could consider my current WIP 'finished' and move on to edits. Now, when I say I met my word count goal, I mean I managed by the skin of my teeth. I think the official word count at the time was 65,021. Which means there wasn't going to be a lot of wiggle room when it came to editing.

Like I predicted, once I got through eliminating the majority of the that's and just's I lost like 40 to 50 words, dropping me below the required count for a print book at my publishing house. However, once I finished the 'spot' edits, searching for specific words to either eliminate or rewrite, I was able to dig in and do a read-through edit/revision, which upped the word count to a more comfortable, room to wiggle, level. I think I ended up right around 65,500 or so.

Editing and revising is always an interesting process. With this book, I hadn't read through the entire thing along the way. I'd reread certain sections, but hadn't ever started at the beginning and read on to see how everything flowed and to make sure everything was consistent.

The funniest inconsistency became apparent right in chapter one. I hadn't read, or even skimmed, chapter one in a very long time. About a year ago I brought it into my RWA group for a critique. I read, they commented, I fixed and revised and tweaked, and that was that. In chapter one, I named the heroine's brother Billy. In subsequent chapters I've been calling him Bobby. Thus, I had to make a decision: Billy or Bobby. (I ultimately went with Bobby because it was the name I'd spent the most time with.)

After a few more tweaks, edits, revisions, additions, and polishing, I deemed the mss worthy of a query letter. Thursday morning I sent a query and synopsis to my editor at The Wild Rose Press. Now, here's what I love about my publisher. Within ten minutes she had e-mailed me back with a question. I e-mailed her back, and in less than another ten minutes, she had requested the full. (Which I attached immediately.) Later in the day she checked in to let me know she'd received my submission. In a publishing world where a wait time of months is not only common, but expected, this is one of the things I love so much about TWRP.

Of course now the waiting will start as my mss goes through the process of being considered for a contract. But I have no doubt I'll hear from my editor soon to let me know how things are going and what stage of the game we're at. So, keep your fingers crossed and wish me luck!. "This Feels Like Home" would be the third book in my trilogy, following This Time for Always and This Can't Be Love.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fire Museum by Margot Justes

Two weeks ago, we spent the day without power due to a storm that blanketed the area with darkness. About one o'clock Saturday morning the power went out as did the sump pump and an hour later the back-up pump quit. All is now under control.

The weekend before that I spent time with Dina, and we paid a visit to Indianapolis, Indiana. After breakfast at the Hilton, (which was delicious and highly recommended) we opted for a walking tour of the city.

The heat and humidity notwithstanding, Indy is a great city to see on foot. We hiked to Massachusetts Ave and the highly anticipated 'best chocolate in town' shop, it didn't disappoint and the gelato was a welcome surprise in the stifling heat.

There were a couple of art boutiques, where we browsed and a few galleries which unfortunately were closed on Saturdays.

The highlight of the day was a visit to the Indianapolis Fire Museum, an amazing place that opened in 1996 in a remodeled fire station. The fire station dates back to 1872, the building bought by the fire fighters union has been fully restored and also serves as the Union Headquarters.

Guided tours are offered by retired fire fighters. It is a living and breathing memorial to past, present and future fire fighters. I got a tiny glimpse of life in a fire station, beautifully restored, the building has antique fire equipment on display, and 'the Survive Alive program' which teaches children what to do in case of fire. According to the brochure, about 20,000 children participate in the program annually.

A visit to that particular museum in Indianapolis should not be missed. I came away with a better understanding of the demands of the job. Chatting with our guide, I got the sense of the camaraderie that exists within the community and the willingness of that community to help others. It is not just a job, it is a profound calling to help others, and holds immense pride and shared brotherhood.

Evocative memories of those lost in the line of duty and the continuous support of family members were always within reach. The names were carved in the bricks, wall plaques, or simply the fire fighter telling me about comrades who lost their lives in various wars, fires and 09/11.

It was a deeply moving visit.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Writing and Promo Junk, er, Stuff

Once you get over the initial euphoria of finishing a book and getting it published, then comes the necessary part - the promotion. And that means buying stuff: bookmarks, business cards, biz card holders, picture frames, book stands, on and on it seems.

Then somewhere along the way that "other" side kicks in - the need for all kinds of other "junk," er, promotional stuff. That urge kicks in to get your book noticed, anywhere and everywhere. Oh, look, you can get personalized stamps from the post office! Wow, how about personalized playing cards. (You have to look around at pricing on these.)

Add in personalized pencils and pens, notes, notepads, (see Vista Print promo deals), and the list (and costs) never end.

Does it work? Well... who's bought a book because of a pencil or pen they got? Save your money (unless you like the gimmick for signings, etc.)

Granted, bookmarks, postcards, and biz cards are a necessity. But does it mean you have to go into hock to promote?

Some writers find unique ways to promote that can be cost-effective. If you have several books, brochures can be printed at home, as needed. You can print your own business cards in a pinch.

Sometimes you can find some neat things online, too, which can be useful in spreading your name and title around. Plus these can be kind of fun.

How about a crossword puzzle using words from your book and book titles? Or make a simple, easy slideshow using photos related to your book? If you have a video camera and the program to do it, make a book video to put on YouTube.

Another idea using your book cover - make a puzzle from your photo.

Or - hey! - write about your hobby or something you enjoy as a promotional link. (I wrote about my miniatures and the work of others in my book In Miniature Style II. And you can check out my miniatures on my website, too!) The fun part is at shows or signings, I usually bring along a display of miniature items made from the book's patterns.

Some of these ideas, of course, aren't new to most writers, some may be. There are probably other ideas that I haven't found yet, so feel free to share.

Have fun promoting!

* What are your favorite promotional items? What do you like to use in promoting your book/s? Have any unique promotional displays?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Didn't Expect That to Happen by Morgan Mandel

As I've been doing every morning, I slipped on Rascal's leash today and we set out for a neighborhood walk. I enjoy our morning walks, especially when it's summer and the heat hasn't built up yet. Not too many people are out and about around six o'clock, except joggers, walkers, and occasional cars or bicycles, but the birds are already chirping, and the day is waking up.

I crossed the street and went down half a block. That's when it happened. All of a sudden I felt an itch on the back of my leg, another on my arm, one more on the front of my other leg. I also noticed two black spots on Rascal, which were not part of her normal spotty appearance, so I quickly swiped them off.

We'd been attacked by mosquitos. I hadn't anticipated such a possibility, yet I should have seen it coming. Why hadn't I? For one thing, we'd walked unscathed countless times. For another, my mind was elsewhere, enjoying the faint breeze floating by after a particularly scorching day before.

If I'd stopped to think about it, clues of a mosquito invasion were present. We'd had a heavy rainful the evening before, and the atmosphere was cloudy and muggy. Conditions were ripe for bites. I hadn't gotten them before after it had rained so hard my basement got flooded over a week ago, yet I still should have been vigilant to the possibility.

How does this pertain to writing?

It's a challenge to create a character smart enough to not seem like a dunce, yet at the same time unaware of  lurking dangers. After all, we do want our characters to suffer, but not appear they're too dumb to live. How can we do that?

One way is to get your character so focused on an emotion or thought he or she can't think of anything else until it's too late. I was focused on the breeze.

Another, is to give your character a false sense of security, like I had. The danger for bites had been present, but I'd been lulled into thinking it couldn't happen because it hadn't before.

Can you think of other ways? Or maybe, you'd like to mention something that happened to you after you'd been lullafter into a false sense of security.

Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel writes mysteries,
romances, and thrillers. She's a
past president of Chicago-North
RWA, was the Library Liaison
for Midwest MWA, and is an
active blogger and networker.
Her personal blog is at:
and website is http://www/
See her new senior blog at
where a new guest is featured every Thursday.

Her romantic suspense, Killer Career, is 99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords. Her new thriller, Forever Young - Blessing or Curse is targeted for release soon on Kindle and at Smashwords.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Losing a Great Friend

Well, it finally happened. I had to put my 18 year-old West Highland Terrier to sleep. He lasted longer than I expected and even though I knew it was coming, it was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I cried for days. I’m tearing up just writing this.

I remember all the fun times and joy that Rocky the Wonder Dog brought into my life. He was quite a character. I’m sure all pet lovers out there can relate. I still find it fascinating that these beings can come into our lives and make such a difference - a difference that many humans don’t make it our lives. There’s something magical about the love and affection that our pets share with us.

As I’ve shared my loss with others, they’ve shared their losses with me and one thing is clear, even the toughest of us has our heart pierced by the loss of a beloved pet. Even stalwart veterans of military conflicts, including rough and tough Marines have shed a tear through this experience.

One with whom I shared my loss characterized dogs as our angels on earth. I think that’s a fitting tribute to many of our pets and I definitely find it fitting for Rocky. Here’s to being a puppy again in Heaven, Rocky. You will be missed and never forgotten.

All dogs really do go to Heaven.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Happy August 1st! by June Sproat

August holds many different meanings for me as I assume it does for others. When I was a little kid, it meant vacation time because that is when my dad always took his vacation at work. I really never understood that because it was the hottest time of the year. He would do a lot of work around the house, painting the gutters and eves, cleaning windows, all that outdoorsy stuff that needed to be done. We would occasionally throw in a short trip or visit to the museums, but I what I remember mostly is that it was HOT!

So, here we are again, the dog days of summer. Now August holds a different meaning to me. It means back to school time! Once I see the back to school supplies come out I run down the isle and go look at all the lovely school supplies. My kids roll their eyes and pretend they don’t know me, except for the youngest one, she is still young enough to admit to being mine.

Whatever August means to you, whether it’s the end of something or a beginning of a new thing, I hope it is a pleasant time for you.

Have a great week!