Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book Time vs. Real Time

Sometimes I wish I could live in a book. Wouldn't it be fun to explore new worlds, be another person for a while, or simple escape to another place for a period of time?

What I'd really like to do is be able to live on book time. Especially during the work week. In the real world, there's real time. I spend eight hours a day at my job. (Which is really stressful lately.) These days, those hours seem to drag. Not only that, but it leaves me with no time to do other things: like spend time with family and friends, write, promote, relax. And soon basketball season will be starting, which will take up even more time.

Book time is different, though. We don't want to bore our readers with the mundane details of everyday life. But rather since we want to keep the story moving along, and most importantly keep our hero and heroine together as much as possible, authors use phrases like, "The work day seemed to drag." or "Five hours of shelving books at the library passed quickly." or "Her mind wandered, and before she knew it, it was time to go home." or even "The days flew by so quickly, before he knew it, it was Christmas."

Ah, yes, making use of book time in the real world would be lovely. We can make hours, days, and even months fly by with just a few well placed words.

But alas, we live in the real world, and on that note, I need to get going, because I have a million things to do that I can't accomplish with one sentence.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trying Something New by DL Larson

The old adage, "if you want to stay healthy, expand your mind and try something new," is not only good advice, but can be fun as well. I ventured out of my comfort zone and took a two hour class on video game making. What a hoot! No wonder the young people of today are so addicted to their electronic toys.

The instructor is a high school teacher who teaches marketing and business classes. She pretty much ditched her books and turned her classes into real life situations in order for kids to apply what she teaches. Our video class was a watered down version of her class, but I came away with a better understanding of what makes a video game.

Guess what I discovered? Video making is not much different than book writing. Layer after layer is applied to the concept - whatever concept one has in mind. Miss Jenny kept saying, "in the event ..." and she would further explain we first had to build a room for the action to take place. Easy concept indeed. "In the event ..." something might happen, action and reaction concepts were explained. Individually we built a room, we clothed our sprites, which are little objects running around the screen or room created. My sprites were pieces of fruit and I decided how fast they would move, what would happen if they bumped into the wall or another bit of fruit. I had control, I made what was happening on the screen happen!

We added sounds, color, background, all tools we use in writing. Unfortunately, there was no scents to add, probably a good thing. But someday, somewhere, a gamer will realize one of our strongest senses, the sense of smell, is not being utilized in video games and a new revolution in gaming will begin.

I compared my video game building right up there with my basket weaving experience. It takes time to create something someone else might be interested in. Writing books is not easy and deserves our time and effort to get it just right as well.

I feel rather proud I succeeded in finishing my video game. I'm sure professionals would laugh at my attempt, but I also learned to appreciate a new venue. Right now, I'm wondering how to build another room. If I was writing a story, I would simply create the condept of another room, but in video making, "In the event..." my objects want to leave and enter another realm has me stumped.

But I'm learning ...

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Can the Circle be Broken?

My husband and I decided to expand on the broadband experience by installing a router so we could be hooked up via wireless to his much faster cable, rather than the DSL I'd been using.

Everything started out fine. The installer came at the right time, hooked up the cable to the router, plus the phone service so we could get their discount, and the laptop computers easily connected to the new router, with a much faster speed than through the DSL.

Then I asked him to connect my other desktop through the router. It had a wireless card, so I figured it was worth a try. He tried, but since the new network didn't come up, he suggested perhaps my card was not strong enough, and he left.

Not wanting to give up I called Dell yesterday. I did the remote access thing with a very nice technician, but bottom line, he couldn't tell why it didn't work, and he ordered a new card, since my computer was under extended warranty. Someone came out this morning, installed the card, but the network still wouldn't come up, and he was afraid to go further, since he was only supposed to put in the card.

Still not wanting to give up, I called the cable provider. After spending too much time with them with no solution, I was informed I'd have to pay extra for router issues, since they'd supplied the router free and it wasn't really part of their services.

So, am I stuck with the slow DSL service on the desktop, unless I want to pay extra to them to hike up the speed, or can I somehow get the router to work for it? Can the Circle be Broken?

If you know how, let me know. If I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Morgan Mandel

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Amazon vs. Tradition by DL Larson

I have been trying to get the attention of an agent for more than two years now, or even a publisher. I'm old school in most things, so I've stuck with the tradtional way of publishing my work. Frankly, I'm tired of the run-around by tradtional houses. I'm tired of being polite and waiting my turn - for months - only to receive a letter at how interesting my work is, but it's just not what they are looking for at this time. Six weeks ago I received an email from an agent, that yes, they had received my material and everything looked good and they would get back to me as soon as possible; the waiting time might be five months from this message.

Five months! I checked my records and realized it had taken them one month to respond to my query. So basically I have another three months to wonder if they have forgotten about my work, lost it or changed their policy and chose not to respond at all and simply deleted it. In three months, I'll have to decide what to do. I have the choice of looking, searching for another possible match for my book and begin the tedious process again, or I can go another route altogether.

So my question is, why oh why is the publishing world in such an uproar over Amazon taking over their business? They are not doing a very good job. Frankly they have been stuck in the same, slow, nonproductive methods for a long time and panicked when another business developed a better way of doing things. The publishing houses still refuse to turn from their slow-poke ways.

Amazon reminds me of Wal-mart in so many ways. I live in a small town, surrounded by other small towns. There are two huge Wal-marts within thirty minutes of my home. Between me and the Big W, most of the mom and pop stores have dried up. The grocery stores in most small towns have gone under, as well as the pharmacies, hardware stores and clothing stores. They simply can't compete with the big store. Amazon has done the same thing in the publishing world.

I always tell my kids there are two kinds of people in this world: learners and nonlearners. I'm betting the publishing world is on one side of that equation and Amazon is on the other. It is also the first time there is no "middle man" between authors and readers. Direct connect is a new concept for writers; perhaps that is why it has taken me this long to step out of line that feels like a slush pile and realize I too can do this on my own.

I'm terrified in a giddy kind of way to take this step, but it's time. I've waited around for a train that is not coming. I need to move on.

Any advice?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Romance Writers, Want a Reasonably Priced Conference? Spring Fling Early Registration Closes Oct 31

If you can't afford going to RWA National's Conference or just like going to writing conferences, you may wish to consider going to this one, very reasonably priced, with Editors, Agents, Bestselling Authors, and tons of workshops. I'm not just saying that because I'm doing a workshop there on Blog Book Tours.(G)

** Permission to Forward Granted and Encouraged **

April 27-28, 2012
Hoffman Estates, IL

Chicago-North Romance Writers of America is pleased to announce the
line-up of headlining speakers, editors and agents for the 2012 Spring
Fling Writers' Conference:

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

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

Amy Alessio, Sarah M. Anderson, Mary Balogh, Barbara Binns, Sherrill
Bodine, Laurie Brown, Wendy Byrne, Ginger Clark, Gretchen Craig,
Dyanne Davis, Scott Eagan, Simone Elkeles, Barbara Caridad Ferrer,
Susan Gibberman, Blythe Gifford, Ruth Kaufman, Megan Kelly, Keena
Kincaid, Maureen Lang, Carrie Lofty, Lindsay Longford, Morgan Mandel,
Sara Megibow, Susan Meier, Courtney Milan, Allie Pleiter, Terese daly
Ramin, Tiffany Reisz, Patricia Rosemoor, Denise Swanson, Julie
Wachowski, Margaret Watson, Sheri Lewis Wohl

Perfect your pitch the day before your agent/editor appointment.

Bring a love scene--no matter how sweet or steamy--for small group critique.

Avon (Tessa Woodward)
Ballantine Bantam Dell (Shauna Summers)
Kensington (Martin Biro)
Samhain (Tera Kleinfelter)
Sourcebooks (Danielle Jackson)

Chicago-North RWA Member: $144
RWA Member: $164
Non-RWA Member: $174

For more information about Spring Fling 2012 and to register, please

For more information about Chicago-North Romance Writers of America,
please visit:

Questions? Contact us at:

If you do show up and you see me around, please say hello!

Morgan Mandel

Killer Career is 99 cents on
Kindle and Smashwords, also
in print for $13.95.

Forever Young-Blessing or
Curse is almost ready.

Two Wrongs will soon be
re-released on Kindle and

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just Perfect by June Sproat

My YA short story, Just Perfect, is out on Kindle. Here is the back cover blurb…

Caroline Jane Edmonds, CJ to her friends and family, has the perfect summer planned. She calls it the TSL summer: tanning, swimming and love, and not necessarily in that order. As a matter of fact, she’ll take it in any order, just as long as it comes.

When the first day of summer rolls around, CJ’s on top of the world. But that world gets pulled out from beneath her feet when her father decides, without consulting CJ at all, that she needs a summer job. He even picks out the job: working at the miniature golf course and driving range for the park district where he is the director. Now all she has to do is combine her ideal summer plans into her new job and she’ll have a hole in one, otherwise her whole summer will be way below par.

Perfect, just perfect!

Have a great week!



Sunday, October 16, 2011


Other than an addiction to "Star Wars" in which entire story lines revolve around cloning, I've never given it a whole lot of thought. It was interesting when Dolly (Wasn't that the name of the cloned sheep?) came about. But the idea of trying to clone humans seems creepy and macabre.

However, lately, I've given it some more thought. Not seriously. Not that I think ethically it's okay. Not in any real sense. But rather, I have so much to do and not nearly enough time to do it that I thought if there were more of me, things might get done.

I could use a clone (or two or three) at work. To help keep up with paperwork, planning, and supervision.

I could use a clone at home to make sure the house gets cleaned: really cleaned, not just the 'wipe down the bathrooms on the weekend so they're not gross' kind of cleaning. The windows need to be washed, the yard needs to be cut down, the ceiling fans and the baseboards and the crown molding need to be dusted...

I could use a clone for my writing career. I have a novella coming out in a couple of weeks (Yikes.) and have a ton of blogs to write for my tour. I haven't actually done any new writing in ages. And I can't keep up with fellow authors who have blog posts. It would be nice to be able to connect with them.

Yes, a clone or two or three of me would be awfully nice right now. Just to help me keep up and get back on track.

Until next week,

Happy Reading!


Friday, October 14, 2011

Update of WRITERLY MUSINGS by Rob Walker

                For some occupations, most in fact, not knowin’ where you’re goin’ from the outset of a project is the kiss of death. Organize, outline, plan, storyboard it…all necessary for many forms of writing as well but a novel?  Not entirely true, no, and in fact even now, writing this blog, I dunno where I’m going until I get there. An old saying has it that “I don’t know what I think until I see what I say.”  With writers in general, I suspect that is true.

                Another thing about writers, as with any artistic types, there’s constant self-analysis and self-criticisms of our work; if reviewers only knew. They don’t have to tear us down; we do a fine job of doing that number on ourselves.

                Another issue about writers is the notion that for money, even fast money without any hope of returns on that money, as in pay for hire, we will never say no.  In general, I subscribe to the never say no to a writing job or an editing job or any job that pays you for putting words on paper, or helping someone else to do so as in ghost writing.  But there are limits after all.  The term pay for hire is a circumstance wherein an editor or publisher wishes to pay you a flat fee to write it and go away.

                Let us say one or two thousand for a writing job and you are never to darken their door again. You have no rights to the work. You were hired to write it for another.  Yet it is to be a book on shelves in bookstores.  It may or may not have your name on it. Most of the Idiot Books, those reference works like The Fool’s Guide to whatever are done as pay per hire.  I say if you really need the money, go for it, but as a general rule, try to avoid such deals.

                When you are hired to do a ghost writing job, it’s about take the money and don’t expect or pursue any additional funds. When you edit someone else’s work it remains their work, not yours, and you should expect no more funds accruing to you unless you have worked out a contract that stipulates this down to the percentages. Else all you can expect—if that—is a mention in the acknowledgments.

                Now getting down to when an editor gives you a green light on a spec manuscript. If you are given a go-ahead based on a spec script (speculation), the nature of the beast is no money changes hands until which time spec becomes contracted script.  If you are lucky enough to have a correspondence or any sort of relationship with an editor, and you are talking about ideas with said editor, you don’t own ideas, and anyone can take up that idea and run with it, so you want to do your best to convince an editor that this idea is not only great but that you are the perfect person to write it.  When an editor in a publishing house asks you if you can write such and such a book, THEN I go by you never say no to an editor RULE. Besides, I LOVE a challenge.

                Once way back in early 80s, I was turned down by an editor I had worked with on a previous couple of books.  I was amazed at the rejection of this work. I got on the phone and got Jane, and I pushed her on giving me some real reasons as to why it was rejected, something other than the vague generalities in the letter.  She said, “It’s too short; we’ve moved from doing 60 thousand words to 80 thousand, and we’re up to our eyeballs in mysteries. We are in need of horror.”

                I shot back without hesitation, “Give me a contract and I’ll add a monster and 20.000 words!”

                Jane said, over the phone, “Yes, okay, I’ll put the contract in the mail. Go to work!”

                That is the exception, but I have also had editors contact me to ask if I could run with an idea the house was kicking over for a series. After two or three sentences on the idea, I stop listening and say, “I can do it, sure!”  My four-book Decoy Series came of that.  My Instinct Series came about the opposite way—I proposed it as a series idea to an editor who fell in love with the concept.  Same with my Ransom series.

                I’ll leave it at that this week as I am quite busy working on bringing about my WIP, and recently was challenged by the editor of an upcoming anthology that will have a Titanic Anniversary Theme to write a ‘titanic’ story for it. I was recommended to the editor by someone who had read my last Kindle title which no editor would touch at 150,000 words, two-books entwined and defying categorization or pigeon-holing. Thus far, I have 44 titles on Kindle. A little something for every taste.  My next will be entitled BISMACK 2013 but it will be more in keeping with 80,000 words.

Rob Walker
also at Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Plaxo, LinkedIn, DL, MMA, and more

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Family Reading Night by DL Larson

Many schools and libraries host a Family Reading Night each year. Our local PTA is having a family reading night the last Friday in October. This year business owners have been asked to be the readers. I too, as the children's librarian, have been asked to join in on the fun. I already have my books selected, contemplating my Halloween costume and I'm toying with the idea of a small craft to go with one of my stories.

Authors, if you are looking for recognition, this is a great opportunity to do a community service and spread public relations. Don't confine yourself to your own community, call around to see if neighboring towns are hosting a reading night and then offer to help. Even if the books are already selected, what a compliment to be acknowledged as a local or state author giving your time to be a part of the event. If the selections haven't been chosen, what an opportunity to read a portion of your own, published or not. As an added draw, have a comment box, idea box, "how does it end" box. The last ten minutes of the evening you could read these aloud. Folks love hearing what other people wrote.

As I read this week's blogs, I realized something wonderful and worrisome. As writers we visit many blog sites and that's great, but writers as a rule tend to be a tad introverted in "real" company and I hope we are not substituting internet connections over up-close and personal opportunities ... like volunteering to be a reader at the local family reading night, book club, or school visit. If you haven't gotten out there to mingle with readers in awhile, maybe it's time to make an adjustment in your promotional techniques.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Link Us To Your Blog(s)

I keep hearing that even though popular networks such as Facebook and Twitter exist, blogs are still an excellent way to gain followers for whatever you wish to market, including books. That being the case, I thought we could share blog links and, if you'd like, also mention something about your blog(s).

If some of you are like me, you probably contribute to more than one of them, so let's keep it to four for each person. After that, I'm afraid our readers may get glassy eyed.

Here are mine:

Double M's Take on Books, Blogs, Dogs, Networking & Life -
My personal blog about what the title says. I also hosts guests from time to time. This used to be a daily blog, but now I try to get a blog in once a week, since I've been busy working on my Forever Young-Blessing or Curse manuscript.

Acme Authors Link -
My group blog, where I post every Wednesday. The members here write romances and mysteries. We post writing tips and share our writing lives, and at times host guests.

Make Mine Mystery - - My posting days are the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month, but lately I've also been doing all the Mondays, since we're short a few members.
As you can guess from the title, our members all write mysteries and our focus is on that genre. At times we host guests.

The Blood-Red Pencil - - My posting days are the 1st and 2nd Tuesday of the month. This blog is comprised mainly of freelance editors and some authors like myself. We offer editing and writing tips and also host guests occasionally.

Your turn. Tell us about your blogs and don't forget to include the links.

Morgan Mandel

Make Mine Mystery

Acme Authors Link

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ripped From the Headlines

Study after study continues to document the decline in the English proficiency of the American high school graduate, which greatly undermines their chances for success in college and in the workforce.

Shocking? Yes. Sad? Absolutely. Meant to be? Absolutely not.

As our educational status in the world slips further and further, we need to ask ourselves what is the cost of not doing anything about this. A number of educational leaders, to include writers and entertainment icons, have taken up the pen, and perhaps even the sword, to turn the tide on this shameful situation. For any child in this great country to not be able to read and write at a fundamental level is inexcusable.

So, what’s being done?

Before I talk about what’s being done, let’s examine - albeit superficially - one of the causes of poor performance in English proficiency in the United States.

Reading - or more precisely - not reading enough is a primary cause.

School days are packed with all sorts of mandatory curricula these days that I’m sure the overwhelming nature of it gives teachers, parents - and students - headaches. I know some teachers still manage to make learning fun in the classroom but I suspect that reading is more of a chore these days for all concerned than when I was growing up.

I loved to read. I escaped to all kinds of worlds and places through reading. Of course, I didn’t have hundreds of cable channels, video games or a personal computer when I was growing up. Reading was my entertainment. Oh I loved to watch TV. It’s just that when there’s only one set in the house, only 3-5 channels, and no remote control, why bother? It was much easier to pick up a book and escape. Now there are televisions in every room! I’m actually downsizing on these in my home and setting up comfortable reading and writing areas.

Which brings me to solutions.

Remove televisions, or at least reduce time spent in front of them. The brain develops differently when exposed only to stimulation from televisions and other electronics. This needs to be balanced with reading and writing.

I truly believe that those of us who write, especially fiction and poetry, have a passion to do so. We’re excited every time we craft a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter and even if we’re rejected along the way - as many of us are - we can’t stop.

So just where did that passion come from and why aren’t we as a society firing up that same passion in the generations behind us?

Oh, it would be ever so easy to blame the teachers, but it’s not them. True, successful writers and other professionals often site a teacher or a coach as having inspired them along the way, but that’s only part of it. I believe that one of the most important locations for children to embrace reading and writing is in the home. Parents have much more influence over how their children develop than they accept responsibility for. Simply put - Monkey see, Monkey do. At the risk of insulting Monkeys who are very smart indeed, our children really do learn in their formative years from us, their parents, by mimicking what we do.

James Patterson is a strong supporter of encouraging children to read and has a website which he heavily promotes. Additional sites to motivate children to read are mentioned in an article in USAToday about James Patterson's efforts to engage children in reading. Here’s the link:

So, what can we do as writers? After all, we need a continual supply of readers to sell more books!

We can follow James Patterson’s lead by reaching out to all levels of students and engage them in the reading process. We may not be able to reach as far as he does but if each of us touches just one student, then English proficiency will improve exponentially as they in turn touch others.

If you need further motivation, just remember that the youth of today will be our medical and old-age home caretakers of tomorrow. Education, not just English proficiency is all of our responsibility. As another saying goes, "You get what you pay for!" The education of all of our children in this great country is an investment worthy of our time and money.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Left handed creativeness

I never minded being left handed. Sure, it means I’m different, but in a good way. I’m creative; at least I think I am.

When it comes to writing, being lefty isn’t so bad, unless of course I need to write in a spiral notebook. Can I just ask how hard would it be for Mead or Staples to make left handed notebooks? Really isn’t just about putting the spiral metal thingy on the other side of the paper?

To be honest, they do make left handed products – for about triple the price! Why? Why do we have to be penalized because we seek comfort? If the writing is just for me, I turn the notebook upside down. No skin off my nose. But when I was in school I had to turn the paper in and the nuns, (yes I went to Catholic grade school which was a challenge in itself,) would not accept this.

Maybe that is where my creative juices really came from. Trying to find ways to make the world’s regular everyday common objects work for me sometimes took a bit of ingenuity. I was always thinking how to make things work for me. Now I just carry that over to my stories. How can I make things work for them? How can I move the plot forward? Always thinking, that is what makes me creative, even if it’s in a right handed world.

Have a great week!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beautiful Weather and Motivation

It's another gorgeous fall day outside. Today in my part of the Midwest temperatures are expected to be almost 80. If the trees weren't already displaying their beautiful autumn attire, I might think it's still summer.

My hubby and I are going to head to our favorite nature sanctuary for a walk. Yesterday we took the convertible for a drive.

And that's the 'trouble' with these beautiful fall days. I have no desire to be inside for any length of time. Problem is, I have lots of indoor things I need to do: cleaning, writing, finishing a slide show I'm making...but I have zero motivation.

Some of these things can wait. Others I have a deadline for and will need to get to them sooner rather than later.

But for today...

...I'm heading outdoors.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Voices by Margot Justes

People often ask where do writers get their ideas? It seems intriguing to come up with a scene, develop characters, plot out the story, bleed repeatedly over every page and finally have a final product.

As the saying goes-truth is stranger than fiction-how many times do we hear a news story and say "I never would have thought of that, or seriously, someone did what?" Talk about suspending your disbelief-just pick up the paper or listen to the news, fiction has nothing on real life.

I don't think I'm the only writer out there in fiction-land that hears voices in my head, and listens as characters hold their own conversations, and clamor for their own stories.

I find it entertaining, and at the same time somewhat of a challenge, because at the most inopportune times they pop in and hold a conversation. That is how a premise for my new novella came about. The secondary characters from A Fire Within demanded their own story, and they will get it.

I don't even have a working title yet, but there have been so many stories about art recently that I won't have a problem selecting what kind of fraud, theft, or forgery I want to write about. The best part, it may be another joint venture with Amy Alessio and Mary Welk, set around Halloween 2012.

I wonder how many of us hear those voices that refuse to remain silent, and wind up in a story.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, October 7, 2011

That Witch Bears Repeating by Rob Walker

GREATEST SECRETS of Commercial Fiction Writers Revealed for Your Use

                                                       by Robert W. Walker

Using a brief excerpt from chapter 3 of Children of Salem, I intend to point out key decisions a writer makes as he works.  This article is intended to instruct new writers and remind veterans how we do what we do when we do it.

            First use time and setting like teletype to get right to the setting as in below…

            At the parsonage door in Salem Village, 1:20AM, March 7, 1692

            Second use establishing shots to nail the character down fast…

            A stocky, short man, nonetheless Reverend Samuel Parris felt the walls of the small parish home—his property by way of contractual agreement with his flock—closing in on him.

Notice the helpful use of dashes to set off and emphasize material in a complex sentence.

              The stairwell proved so tight that Parris could hardly make it up the narrow passage to his daughter’s room, where he looked in on little Betty, who’d been battling a fever—symptoms of an ague so often seen in little ones.  Betty slept fitfully, as if assailed by nightmares, but at least she slept.  Her cousin, the Reverend’s niece, slept too but in a separate bed in the corner.

            Notice that every sentence is an active one…even the ‘stairwell proved’ something…

He returned to the hearth and pulled a book from the bookcase.  He owned several books, an Old Testament, a New Testament, and a treatise written by Increase Mather on how the godly life must be led.  Parris was, in effect, a man of one book, the Holy Bible.  All else paled in his eyes.  He strove to live by a strict interpretation of Jehovah’s Ten Commandments and the Pentateuch now as never before.

Note the use of props – books in this case and how they help establish Parris.

Parris now took a deep breath and opened his bible to Leviticus, about to read himself into weariness, when he heard a sudden rapping at the parsonage door.

What damned oaf comes at such an hour? Parris mentally shouted.  He approached the door, shouted aloud,  “Who needs what of me now?”  They come to me for all their ills and every petty problem, but do they make my salary?

Note the use of thought and speech above and the interplay. Never create huge blocks of either speech or thought as to do so creates a ‘blowhard’ of your character – a no, no.

Each villager’s tithe to Parris had come slower and slower, until some had stopped altogether, while others paid in pumpkins, squash, oysters, and the occasional lobster.  Worse than ordinary thieves, he thought, one hand on the doorknob, his ear against the wood.

Note in that last sentence how even as he is thinking, he is still in action.

Who could it be at such an ungodly hour?  Another death in the parish?  A sick child who’d wandered from the faith?  These Salem people want courtesy and hard work from me, yet they fail me in miserable fashion.

Again three quick, strong raps on the door.  From the sound of it, a strong man stood on the other side of the stout door.

Note how monologue works to establish Parris above, and directly below in next lines how dialogue does the job. Dialogue is for establishing character and moving the story along or both at once.

“Who is it?” Parris shouted.

“Wakely, sir!  My name is Jeremiah…”

“What?”  The door still separating them.

“My name is Jermiah Wakely—”

“I know no Wakely!” came the muffled response.

Jeremiah wondered if the minister meant to come through the door with a blazing firearm or hot poker.

“I’ve come from Maine, sir.”


“By way of Boston, sir!”


“Have a letter of introduction, Mr. Parris, sir!”

“Letter?  A post this time of night?  Bah!”

“Can you hear me, sir?  Through the door?”

“What letter?”

“From Mather, sir, Reverend Increase Mather.”

This brought on a chill silence.  Finally, Parris replied, “Mather?  Did you say Increase Mather?”

Never above a little symbolism, note the door as symbol of impossible communication between these two, and note below the lantern light that divides Jeremiah’s face, half light, half dark and not lost on Parris. Note also how all such information is conveyed through the character’s senses and thoughts:

“I did, sir!”  Jeremiah cursed the impenetrable door.  He wondered if Parris meant for him to sleep on the porch tonight.  “I’d like to settle my horse, sir, in your barn.”

But Parris’ breath had caught in his lungs.  Can it be true, he wondered, that the greatest theological mind in the colonies has sent me a letter by midnight courier?  Has Mather finally answered my repeated requests for intervention on my behalf?  Ha, the delinquent parish members will be well fined now.

“Will you open the door, Reverend?” shouted Jeremiah.  “Or shall Mr. Mather’s protégé sleep in your barn?”

What if it’s the Devil at my doorstep? Parris asked himself.  This man calling himself Wakely could as well be some evil scratching to get in.  The Devil would know that a letter from Mather would tempt him to make an invitation to cross his threshold.  “Or has God sent this—what’d he call himself?  Protégé?” he muttered aloud.

The pounding continued.  So loud in the silent night that it sounded demonic.

Parris braced himself, lit a lantern, and pulled the door open just a crack, staring out at Jeremiah Wakely, who managed a smile.  Jeremy then extended a letter with a heavy red wax seal reading IM—for Increase Mather.

The lantern glow divided Wakely’s face down the middle; one side lit bright, the other side in total darkness.  The image had a strange, hypnotic hold on his reluctant host.  “You look like a highwayman, Mr. Wakely.”

Below now see the use of elipses and dashes to give the impression confusion on the one hand and the impression of men talking over one another on the other. I learned this from a CAREFUL reading of how it is done in the comic strips!

 “If you are truly from Mather . . . why do you come in at such an hour?  Under darkness?  It’ve been best to come in daylight.”

“A bridge was out,” lied Jeremy.

“I would’ve liked my parishioners to see your coming, to know you are here from Mather, and that Mather backs me against my enaaa . . . those who stand against me here.”

“I don’t know anything about that, sir.  I’m just an apprentice . . . to be apprenticed to you, Mr. Parris, until which time—”

“Apprentice?  I thought you simply a courier?”  He waved the sealed note in his hand.

“You haven’t read it, sir?”

“I assumed…I mean, seeing the seal and Mather’s signature…well…” Parris gritted his teeth and read by the lantern now held by Jeremy, his riding boots squeaking and wet on the porch boards.

There came another daunting silence between them.  Finally, Jeremiah cleared his parched throat and said, “Mr. Parris, I am aware of your worldliness, sir.”

“You are?”

“That you were a merchant in the West Indies—”

“Yes, Barbados, but what has that to do with—”

“—and a seaman before that.  All before becoming an ordained minister at Harvard College.”

“What is your point, man?

“Why that I am…will be honored to work under your tutelage, sir.”  Jeremy worked hard to affect the attitude of a novice scholar.

“Indeed…lucky for both of us,” Parris countered.

“Reverend Mather provided me with a modest outline, sir, of your history.”

“He did?”

“Filled me in, yes.  It’s one reason that Mr. Mather has linked us, you and I as minister and mentor.”


“Protégé, apprentice, sir.”

Parris’ features took on a menacing look.  He had assumed the letter from Mather a confirmation of his land holdings in Salem Village.  He now placed a pair of rickety old magnifying glasses on his nose so as to truly look at the note—as if searching for what he’d lost in translation.

Jeremy watched his lips move as he read:

After the letter is read look at how a new third character is introduced into the mix.

Parris heaved the heaviest sigh Jeremy had ever seen before muttering, “Where the deuce’ll you sleep?  We have extremely tight quarters here.”

“I can take the stable tonight . . . for now, that is until settled elsewhere.”

Parris hesitated then said, “Don’t be silly.”

“I mean ’till arrangements can be made, I—”

Parris considered this for only a moment before exploding into action, rushing inside, leaving his door swinging open.  “Tituba!” he shouted, rushing into the house, leaving the door wide, waking his servant.  “Wake up!  I want you to prepare a bed in the stable for—”

“For whooo, Massa Reverend?”  The dark woman stared hard at the man in black who stood now warming himself at the fire.  She looked wide-eyed, frightened of Jeremiah.

“For whom?” replied Parris, correcting her English.  “Why for you, for yourself, Tituba.”

It was the first time Jeremiah had heard the woman’s name pronounced, and it was, he thought, rather Shakespearean and melodic:  Ti’shuba.  The strange, dark woman in shadow repeatedly asked, “What?  What I do now?  What?”

“You’re to remove yourself tonight to the barn, to sleep out there.”  Parris pointed to the door.  “Now, out!”

“Out the house?  Now?”

“Hold on, sir,” started Jeremy.  “I don’t wish to displace anyone.”

“She’s a Barbados black, Mr. Ahhh . . . Wakely, or are you blind and deaf?”

“Even so—”

“My servant.  I’ve had her for years.”

“Still, I’m the newcomer here and—”

“Are you questioning my judgment already, young man?”

Aside from dialogue moving the story along and making it immediate, we rely on the five senses, constantly trying to embed at least three appeals to the senses on every page as apparent below:

Samuel Parris had eyes as black as grapes, but no seeds showed in them, not even so much as a twinkle in the lantern light; light which otherwise filled the small rooms here, creating giants of their shadows along with the pinching odor of whale oil.

Tituba did not question her master.  After a furtive glance at Jeremiah, and a look of anger flaring up behind the minister’s back, she trundled out, clutching a single woolen blanket and a straw-tick pillow.  Parris watched her go down the steps into the drifting snow and icy rain.

Take note that what a character says and does is who she is; but characters are also illuminated by what others say and do about them. Note below how Parris sums her up but can we and Jeremiah believe the minister?  All a plan of the author who wishes you to like and dislike and to make judgments of your own about these people made of words.

“There, Mr. Wakefield, now you have a place below the stairwell.”

Jeremy thought to correct him but decided not now.  Instead, he stared at the space below the stairs vacated for him.  It looked large enough for a big dog.  “Still, I need to stable my horse before retiring, sir.”

“Yes, yes, of course, but steer clear of the servant.  She has a dislike for strangers, us ahhh . . . white men who wear the cloth in particular.”

“Is she not civilized?  Christian?”

“Trust me, I’ve done my level best to make her so, however, you can never be sure of the pagan mind.  Most inscrutable.”

“I know nothing is harder than to convert a heathen, sir.”

“Clings to her Barbados superstitions.”

“I see.  I’ll do then as you suggest.” 

“I’ll have the door unlatched for your return.  Again, avoid the woman.”

“As you wish.”

“She is a . . . mischief-maker, Mr. Wakely.  You are forewarned.  Make no small talk with Tituba.”

Note how clearly each character his his/her own voice, and how the exotic name of Tituba is brought out as mysterious just in how Jeremiah wonders at how it is pronounced.

Hearing Parris behind him at the door, Jeremiah repeated the name as it sounded to him, “Ti’shu-ba, yes, to be sure, I’ll not speak with the black woman.”

Note how the end of a scene or chapter should be a drum roll or at least a beat, ending on a note that keeps the reader curious and in anticipation of what is to come next.

So these are the simple and easy to master Secrets of Commercial Fiction Writing, and hopefully, you see there is nothing to it.  But it presupposes rewrites atop rewrites, and getting to know one’s characters inside and out from having lived with them for a long, long time.

So these are my working SECRETS.  All the examples are from Children of Salem and the entire book at an easy price to you can be found at  Or you can read FREE the first 8 chapters at or just chapter one free at my Myspace blog.  Children of Salem is my best selling work at the moment except for Dead On Writing from and

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is It an Infestation or Just Your Imagination? by DL Larson

Our Rookie Reader Adventure Club at the libary is reading "The Spiderwick Chronicles" by Toni DiTerlizzi. We are a group of kindergarteners, first and second graders and having a good time using our imagination. Each has a made a field guide and we add tidbits of research to it each week. We learned a new word this week, infestation! When asked if anyone knew what infestation meant, one little boy commented, "no, but it sure doesn't sound too good." We soon discovered it indeed didn't sound too good when creatures over run an area, cause trouble and disrupt things.

After learning our new word, we went on a field trip throughout the library, looking for fairy, brownie or boggart infestation. We found signs of trouble everywhere! We interviewed our library director who admitted to wondering if we had an infestation. Kids asked questions that were not on our check list. They discovered the tiniest marks on the walls, holes I'd never noticed before and vents bent, ceilings panels mysteriously loosened, and a dozen other conspicuous oddities that have me convinced we have a serious fairy infestation at the Earlville Public Library. We all agreed we don't want to upset them and we will continue on as if they aren't there. No sense borrowing trouble if we don't need to!

So why am I telling you about our Rookie Readers Adventure Club? Because I was inspired by their imagination! As adults, we sometimes struggle kick-starting our brains into thinking of new ideas. Our imagination hides from us and we wonder why we can't find a solution to a plot, or can't start a new project. My best advice after touring our library with our rookie readers, is let the little kid in you come out and play, get into trouble and cause a little havoc! It's great fun!

Beware ~ you may fall victim to an infestation of crazy ideas! Or rather, your imagaination may take you places you never dreamed of going.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Get a Hobby

Forever Young
Blessing or Curse

I'm almost through editing Forever Young-Blessing or Curse, but there's still time to add extra touches. One item I'm kicking around is whether or not to give a hobby to my main character, a 55 year old widow who turns 24.

Should she have one? Will it make her more well rounded?

My main hobbies, which have exploded into consuming occupations are writing and social networking, followed closely by reading. I love acquiring new gadgets, like my iPhone and kindle, but that's not exactly a hobby. I'm not sure if watching DVDs would qualify either. Television watching is out. Though I'd love to do so, I hardly ever find anything worthwhile on TV to watch anymore. 

I took piano lessons for a few years and tried cross stitching. That was almost 30 years ago. Even further in my past, as a child I played the accordion, took tap and ballet lessons, and even went around collecting coins from change, sidewalks and park grounds.

I'm not sure if any of these hobbies would work for my character. Do you have any suggestions? Or maybe you'd just like to share your hobby.

Morgan Mandel

Killer Career is on Kindle and
Smashwords for 99 cents, and
is also in print for $13.95.

Two Wrongs to be re-released

Forever Young-Blessing or Curse
is almost ready for release.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Signs of Fall

I just love living in a place where the seasons change. Which is maybe ironic, because in other aspects of my life...I don't like change much at all. But there's something special about each coming season.

I especially like fall. Last week we went apple picking, so yesterday I cooked up a batch of my mom's home made apple sauce. The house was filled with the heavenly aroma all day. Football season is here. Family vacation up in Door County is fast approaching. Halloween and Thanksgiving are right around the corner.

Fall is such a great season to use in writing. It's so sensory.

The most obvious is sight. The leaves changing colors. Pumpkins with their brilliant orange. Even the steely grey of a cloudy day. Corn stalks and mums abound.

The smells of fall are amazing. Burning leaves. The cinnamon and spice of cooking apples and pumpkins. The damp scent of the air. Turkey cooking in the oven all morning.

Taste follows. Hot apple cider with a touch of caramel and cinnamon. Pumpkin bread and cookies. S'mores around the fire.

Fall has lots of good sounds, as well. The crunch of leaves on the ground. The crackle of an outdoor fire pit. The laughter of children in costumes.

We feel things in fall, too. The bite of the chill in the air. The bumpy texture of Indian corn. The cozy blanket to snuggle under during the football game.

Fall holds an abundance of things to make it come alive: in real life and on the page. What are some of your favorite sensory things about fall?

Until next time,

Happy Writing!


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tidbits by Margot Justes

We often complain how time 'flies' it doesn't just seems as if it does.

Take today for instance, I drank a pot of coffee-nothing unusual there-happens most weekends if I'm home, made some mushroom barley soup, did laundry, all the mundane everyday things that aren't done during the week, and are saved for the weekend.

I sat down at the computer and realized half the day is gone. I don't know where it went, and have very little to show for it, (except of course for the clean laundry and huge pot of soup)but it seems to have flown.

In the meantime, new writing projects are not 'flying', in fact they seem not to be moving forward at all, except the three pages I added to Hotel in Venice and a page to Memories of a Country Long Ago, and the continuous editing of existing projects.

Time has been spent polishing Blood Art and A Hotel in Bath. I regained my rights to A Hotel in Paris and I'm editing that too, as well as writing a new end to A Fire Within.

All in all I can pretty much figure out where the time went, it did fly, but at least I know the manuscript pages.

I have some good news-Amy Alessio, Mary Welk and I will release our 3 novellas in time for Valentine's Day, tentative date is January 1, 2012. This is an old project that has been resurrected, and I'm absolutely delighted at the prospect of working together with Amy and Mary.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris