Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Please welcome Guest Author, Terry Crawford Palardy

For thirty years I worked in classrooms of grade one through eight, both general education and special education, in all content areas. I was blessed with what one of my principals called the “Golden Ticket,” or certification that covered all of that and more. Today’s teachers are not as fortunate: they are asked to narrow their credentials to fewer years, and most recently, to one area of specialization. It’s a little like medicine … very few family doctors, many specialists who seldom meet with or converse with each other. As a result of this narrowing, students as young as eleven may see as many as seven different teachers in a day. This was common at the high school level when I went to school, but is now filtering down to upper elementary grades.

While there, I didn’t sit idly by and watch the changes occurring in my profession; rather, I wrote about them, and noted the repetitive cycle of such changes… phonics to whole language back to phonics; arithmetic to modern math back to basic algorithms… science text books to collaborative experiences back to individual multiple choice standardized tests … because I was there for thirty years, I was able to witness and participate in the full cycle of educational change, from beginning to the extreme opposite and back around to where we had started.

Every three years throughout these changes, I listened as budgets were debated and contracts were negotiated. And I realized that the sways of the economy had a different effect on teachers related directly to whether they were young, or confidently established, or peacefully finishing their careers. And I took note of those differences, and arrived at a rational assessment of how the budget fluctuations impacted public education.

I took these observations and submit them to a professional scholarly journal, the Phi Kappa Phi Forum. I worked as their Education and Academics columnist for a term of three years, and then, by invitation, beyond. When I retired I resurrected those columns and self-published them as a small book, realizing that the cycle would repeat again, and again, and knowing what to expect would help those caught in the maelstrom of change to confidently hang on and move forward. You can read those columns and their chronicle of change in the book titled Teaching Volume I: Education and Academics at the Turn of the Century.

Of course, while all the financial arguments and educational reform requirements were evolving, students were moving through the system with their teachers. One receives only one year of first grade, and one year of second, and so on, regardless of where the budget swings land. And so I wrote a second book, lighter in tone and featuring the teachers and students, the social side of education, and collected those in a book titled Teaching Volume II: Stories Reflecting the Classroom. A little prose, a little poetry, a bit of humor and some of sentiment make those pages lighter reading and a pleasant counterbalance to the serious tone of the first book. Friends who have read them have suggested that they be available to new teachers, to parents sending their oldest child to school for the first time, and to school committee members as required reading. While I’m flattered by the idea, in reality, the likelihood of that happening is slim. But my role in recording the cycle of education and some of the stories is fulfilled. My books are there for the reading, for those who are looking.

If you, as a parent, or taxpayer, or local advocate want to know from the inside what those changes have brought to the classrooms, please look for these two books. They are each available at, and Barnes and Noble online, in print (see links below)

In an effort to make them available to the next generation of teachers, they are also on Kindle for $.99.

Teaching I - Kindle:

Teaching I - Print:


Teaching II - Print:

You can find some of the reviews for these two books on Amazon.

I’m planning to step out of the non-fiction genre for my next book. I’ve been reading and reviewing a number of mystery novelists, in an effort to better ground myself in that genre. To see those reviews, visit me at  I’ll be back to let you know when my school-based murder mystery is close to completion. Meanwhile, please take a look at these first two books … they cost less than a cup of coffee, and offer you so much more!

You Can Visit Terry at:

Find Her Books at:
Also Stop by Her Page at Facebook, Terry's Thoughts and Threads

Please welcome Terry by leaving a comment below.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Everyday Life by Margot Justes

Life seems mundane. You get up, brush your teeth, make
coffee, drink coffee ( a few cups to get started)and generally get ready for
work. After work, you run errands, make dinner, if you have kiddies take care
of their needs and the day is over. You go to bed, get up, and start all over
again. It's hard work.

What does one do to relieve the stress, and provide a form
of necessary escape, albeit it for a brief span of time? I read and write, that
is my escape.

I've raised my kiddies, delight in my grandchildren, but after
I'm done with work, time is essentially my own. I write romance stories, that is my love, escape,
obsession if you will.

Writing allows me to escape the everyday sameness. I can
kill off characters I don't like. I can fall in love with the perfect hero;
he's my creation, therefore he's perfect for me.

I feel a sense of accomplishment when I've finished a story.
A sense of apprehension when I start, and a sense of terror when mid-stream, there
is nowhere to go, and finally a sense of dread I'm on the wrong track. I write-by the seat of my pants-I think-that
is the correct cliché. I get an idea and run with it and see where it takes me.

That to me is the perfect adventure-I don't know where my
characters will wind up. It's a surprise. I like that, and it works for me.

I don't quite get the same sense of nirvana when I read, but
it's a very, very close second. I escape to another world, another period in
time, and I look forward to the happy ending.

I'm reasonably well read, but at this stage in my life I
look to romance and humor for my escape. The perfect get away. There is a reason
romance writing is a multi-billion dollar industry. I'm not alone.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
Hearts & Daggers
A Hotel in Paris

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I've been waiting for over two months for about four buds to flower on a plant in my kitchen, which hasn't bloomed in a few years. My waiting started when I first noticed something small was forming in one spot instead of just new leaves. After investigating, I found more of the same happening.

The buds are getting larger and I can see a small bit of the flowers, as you can tell from the photo on the left. Still, I can't see the entire flowers. I can hardly wait to see what they'll look like.

How does this relate to writing?
A good book will keep the reader waiting and guessing what will happen next.  A good author will not spill the beans too soon, but string the reader along to find out how the character(s) will get out of predicaments and hopefully live happy and fulfilled lives at the end of the book. In the case of a series, the author will need to take care to offer some sort of denouement at the end of each book, yet leave the reader curious about future books in the series.

In my debut mystery novel, Two Wrongs, the two main characters play a waiting game. For both, it's about how to exact revenge. When Danny's sister, Mary Alice, is murdered, he believes he knows who did it and testifies against Kevin. The fact that Kevin is sent to prison isn't enough. He wants Kevin dead for what he did to Mary Alice. Kevin has a very different waiting game, waiting to get out of prison, then planning his own sort of revenge.

What kind of waiting game is in your own book or someone else's that you like?

If you'd like to read Two Wrongs, a tale of vengeance and the healing power of love (yes, there is romance included) you can find it for 99 cents on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and other ereaders.

Monday, February 20, 2012

All that Talk....

One thing I've noticed about book promotion. There's a lot of talking going on.

New book. Buy. See. Sign up, etc.

Everywhere you turn - Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs... it's authors-- promoting to others, yes, but doesn't it seem sometimes like you are promoting to other authors, or talking to yourself?

Authors with backlists have endless promos, some good, some funny, some just never-ending.

Sometimes you stop simply since you feel like you're talking too much. You know, me, me, me.

So, what do you find to be the best promos?

What promos do you like - and admit it, hate?

What turns you off as a reader, or author?

Yes, you can talk. Please speak your mind!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Getting the Word Out by Margot Justes

Our anthology Hearts & Daggers is out on Kindle, and of
course we're happy about it, but we'd love others to be happy about it too. How to get the word out? We did the FB, Twitter, and blog route, but we wanted greater exposure that would not cost an arm and a leg. I think I can safely speak for Amy Alessio and Mary Welk, and say we need our appendages.

We tried something new-at least to me, it was new. We took
advantage of Amazon's Prime program, for 90 days Hearts & Daggers is free to all Amazon Prime members.

We also took advantage of the 'free download'-for 2 days the anthology was free for all Kindle
owners & all the various Kindle compatible apps. I do know that means applications. It does doesn't it?

The numbers are in, we made it to #10 in romantic suspense
and we reached #199 overall. 1700 +copies were downloaded. Granted they were free, but that was a substantial chunk of downloads for us. To make things even better, once the price went back to $2.99 we continued the momentum and the anthology is selling.

Was it worth it? Speaking for myself-absolutely. I think
this is great a way to spread the word, and for mid-list authors word-of-mouth
advertising is crucial.

I even sold a few copies of A Hotel in Paris in paperback. I have my rights back, and will re-release A Hotel in Paris by mid March. The cover is fantastic, and I absolutly love it. I'm making a few changes, but the premise remains the same-it's the first thing I ever put on paper, and A Hotel in Paris is very special to me.

Now that I'm editing it again, the memories of Paris are so vivid that I want to go back for a week, just to say hello. The city was my first love. Paris will always haunt my dreams, and pull me in.
Till next time,
Margot Justes
Hearts & Daggers
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hello from California! by DL Larson

We, my husband and I, left cloudy Chicago for sunny but cool Los Angeles! We will be visiting old friends today and then heading for our real vacation tomorrow where we will arrive in Honolulu.

I hope to spend this vacation practicing writing as a travel journalist. Cruising the islands has been a dream of mine and my husband has all sorts of excursions set up for us at several islands. We will take a few scheduled tours at some places and head out on our own at others. It's bound to be fun, relaxing, and I hope educational for those wondering about the tropics of the United States. Check back next week and I will tell you what we've experienced.

Right now, we're headed for brunch and sunshine and meet up with friends.

Have you ever done travel journaling? If so, share with us your experiences, ideas, ect.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Detour to My Tour Today

Just a short detour to my Blog Book Tour today for my romantic thriller,
Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, where my topic is: Are Your Friends the Same Age As You?

Please stop by at and tell us about your friends.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Power of Words

You have to be living in a cave at this point to not know that Whitney Houston has died, and while it might seem like just another singer taking too many drugs and overdosing to some, it brought back some deep and overwhelmingly sad memories and feelings for me.

The first time I heard Whitney Houston sing was when I was home on emergency leave from my duty station while serving with the US Army in the Republic of South Korea.  My youngest brother, and youngest sibling, was dying of bone cancer – it’s called Ewing’s Sarcoma.  It was, and is, a horrible disease.

Cassette tapes ruled the music media format back then and I went into a store to find some music for my brother to listen to while having his chemo, radiation treatments, and blood transfusions.  I was also looking for something new to take back to South Korea for myself.  There was a significant lag time on new products reaching us back then and I wanted to see who some of the latest musical talents were.  The seeds of the digital age were just beginning to sprout a little back then, and the internet and smarts phone were still waiting for some of their inventors to be born.  Browsing in a music store was the only true way to see what music was available at that time.  

As I was scanning the music racks for all the new singers and bands that had come out while I was away, Whitney Houston’s first “album” caught my eye.  One of the titles – The Greatest Love of All – beckoned me to buy it.  I would listen to that song again and again as I drove to and from picking my brother up for his appointments.  It truly gave me strength and even solace at a time when I desperately needed it.

I struggled deeply with the reality that my brother was dying and the fact that I was 7 ½ months pregnant made it even more poignant. Talk about life and death!  I couldn’t understand why someone so young was going through such a horrible thing. Not that I would wish this disease on anyone, not even those who have caused me great pain in my life, but it just seemed so unfair for it to be happening to someone who had not yet lived his life.

This past weekend, as the airwaves were consumed with her music, I remembered how those songs got me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  I hope they can now do the same for her child.

So, here’s to the songwriters and producers that created those songs back in the1980’s that helped – and still help –  me navigate some difficult times in my life, and here’s to Whitney Houston’s powerful voice that made them touch more than just my ears.

Words really are powerful.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day - a little early...

Today at my other blog, I'm sharing some miniature Valentine items. Stop by and comment to be entered to win a copy of THE KILLER VALENTINE BALL.

What is your favorite Valentine's Day gift?

My friend and I love swapping miniatures, and she makes a great bunch of Valentine's items. Then there's that have-to-have heart filled with real candy from hubby.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Real Life Settings

Howdy Y'all,

Today I'm over at Cathie Dunn's talking about the real life setting for This Can't Be Love! Feel free to hop on over and check out some pictures and say hello!

Here's the link:

Happy Reading!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mary Welk and Hearts & Daggers by Margot Justes

I would like to introduce my second partner in crime, Mary Welk. Just as with Amy Alessio, Mary and I go back a few years. I'm really happy to be working together with two fantastic ladies. Appropriately enough Mary included some pictures of beautiful frames; just a hint her novella is entitled Framed.

Mary posted the first chapter of her novella on

Two years ago Amy Alessio approached Margot Justes and me with a unique idea for a writing project. She suggested we each compose a story that not only highlighted our own protagonists, but also included the main characters of the other two writers. The end result would be a three-novella romantic suspense book based on the theme of Valentine's Day.

Amy's novella would feature Alana O'Neill, bookkeeper for an antiques store called Attic Treasures and the protagonist in several of Amy's short stories. Margot's tale would revolve around Rebecca Standish, a Chicago art gallery owner who first appeared in the anthology Heat of the Moment. As for me, I'd write about Caroline Rhodes, the star player in my 'Rhodes to Murder' mystery series.

My first thought was, this could be fun! Caroline Rhodes survived many a difficult moment in the four mystery novels in which she appeared, but never once had she faced a romantic dilemma. As a recent widow, she’d struggled to overcome feelings of loss in my first novel, A Merry Little Murder. By her fourth appearance in The Scarecrow Murders, she’d come to terms with her new role as a single working woman and had several good friends of the male persuasion. But romance had yet to enter her life; Amy’s novella project could prove the perfect remedy for that problem.

Then reality hit. Spicing up my savvy sleuth’s love life might be fun, but how was I to incorporate Amy’s and Margot’s characters into my story? What did Caroline, an ER nurse in a rural university town, have in common with an antiques store bookkeeper who collected vintage cookbooks and a wealthy proprietor of an upscale Chicago art gallery? Absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, I would have to come up with a plot that included a vital reason for Caroline to meet Alana O’Neill and Rebecca Standish.

After several sleepless nights wracking my brain for an answer, I came up with the idea of Caroline inheriting some questionable paintings from the wife of a former patient. As an expert on art, Rebecca could tell Caroline if her inheritance was worth anything. And as a person familiar with all kinds of antiques, Alana could also shed light on the value of the pictures.

So what kind of paintings would I have my heroine inherit? And what would make them questionable as to worth? Would they be long lost examples of some particular famous artist’s work, or would they be cleverly reproduced but ultimately worthless counterfeits? It was obvious that I’d need to do some research if I wanted to get my facts right, and so I started to dig around on the Internet, surfing websites dedicated to the visual arts and painting. It was while doing so that I stumbled across a site that ultimately changed the entire course of my story.

To say any more would give away a major plot point in FRAMED. What I can tell you is this: you’ll find a clue as to the direction my story took in the pictures accompanying this post.

I can also tell you what Anthony award winning mystery author Julie Hyzy had to say about FRAMED:

FRAMED is at once suspenseful, fun, charming, and touching (and) closes with a great scene that will leave fans impatient for Caroline’s next adventure. Julie Hyzy, New York Times bestselling author of AFFAIRS OF STEAK.

Yes, I had a lot of fun writing this novella. I hope you’ll have as much fun reading it! 

Mary V. Welk, www.marywelk and

Want to know more about HEARTS AND DAGGERS? Check out the following book description from

Cupid’s arrow gives way to Death’s scythe in this trilogy of Valentine’s Day novellas featuring love and murder Midwest style. Antiques mall bookkeeper Alana O’Neill researches events from sixty years ago to discover a murderer during a BLAST FROM THE PAST festival while her teen son resists romance in Amy Alessio’s novella. (15,500 words) Over twenty recipes plus variations from the author’s collection of vintage handwritten recipe boxes. Margot Justes’ A FIRE WITHIN finds rugged firefighter Kirk Adams struggling to keep Rebecca Standish, the love of his life, safe from someone bent on fiery vengeance. (43,500 words) Mary Welk’s FRAMED finds Caroline Rhodes gambling with danger when she falls for a handsome card shark who might be more than just a thief of hearts. (37,000 words) The three adventures interconnect as characters visit and help each other in these latest installments from the authors’ popular series.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
Hearts & Daggers

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Makes You Buy A Book? by DL Larson

Last night I attended a meeting about the pros and cons of publishing on one's own, plus the options of e-book selling. The discussion was lively and extremely informative. Both POD and e-books have a place for marketing, thanks to the pioneers who have shaved a path to give authors more options when it comes to publishing their work.

Toward the end of the meeting the question came up, "what makes folks want to buy a certain book over another?" The answers were plentiful. The genre was a major decision, the font, the price, etc. The top answer was the BOOK COVER!

As writers we understand the appeal of book covers. The writing may be terrific and exciting, but first it has to be noticed. Authors have not always had much control over their book's design, but that has changed plenty in the last few years. POD publishing and e-book publishing have improved the options just as it has left the burden of much of the work on the writer. The cover is usually the author's responsibility to find the cover that works best for their story. Places like Think Stock have thousands of options to pick from. Another option, especially if you as a writer don't have the time or inclination to do this on your own, is to hire a cover artist. After the meeting last night, I'm convinced the expenses involved in hiring an artist will benefit the book in the long run.

With so many options available to the avid reader, the writer must step up to the challenge of having an intriguing hook to catch the reader's attention. An eye-catching cover can do more than blog tours, radio or book signings. That's exciting news for writers. Perhaps our time and money and effort would be better spent on fantastic book covers rather than time away from writing by doing book tours, etc.

The question I'm asking you today as a reader, what catches your attention and what makes you buy a book? Is it the cover? The back blurb? Word of mouth?

Share your thoughts with us!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Give Us Your Book Pitches/Blurbs and Buy Links

Today, we're offering readers a sample of what's available. All you authors, please post a very short elevator type pitch (blurb) about your book and provide a buy link, so everyone can go out and get it. Only one each, please.

I'll start with mine. You knew that was coming. (g)

A 55 year old widow takes a pill to be young again, and may not live to regret it.

Okay, now everyone that's an author jump into the comment section. And everyone that's a reader, get over there too so you can find something to read!

Morgan Mandel

Monday, February 6, 2012

Writing your Valentine's story?

With Valentine's Day around the corner, writing about that special someone came to mind. How do you share your fictional lovers' stories - or not? Do you like your characters spicy or more discreet?

In The Killer Valentine Ball, a blind date becomes far more than Jess expected... a night she'll never forget, for reasons she never could have fathomed... (There's even a little zombie humor in here... heh-heh)

Sunday, February 5, 2012


It's hard to believe it's February here in Chicago. Not only did January go by in the blink of the eye, but the weather is definitely not your typical "Windy City" bitter cold like it usual is this time of year. If fact, it's quite Spring-like outside.

I have several trees with buds on them, a rosebush with actual leaves, and a few areas where ground cover is popping up. I half expect to see tulips everytime I walk around the side of the house. And while I really don't mind the lack of freezing temperatures and snow, these mild temperatures may cause problems later on.

If we do get a hard freeze now, it's really going to mess up those plants. One year we had an early thaw and then a late freeze and because of that, none of my blooming trees got their flowers: the crab apple tree and the magnolia tree never bloomed in Spring. It was highly disappointing.

My fear is the seasons are shifting. I was bummed we didn't have a White Christmas, and I really don't want three feet of snow for a White Easter this year in April.

That's a nice thing about writing. I can actually control the weather. If I need a thunderstorm...BOOM! It's raining. If I need a light snowfall before Thanksgiving, but then I need it to melt by the end of the problem. If I need a hot, humid summer day...there it is. The weather may play havoc with my characters or add to a scene, but it's intentional. All planned out. Everything happens according to my wishes.

Wouldn't it be nice if Mother Nature were so agreeable in real life?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Mysterious Mona Lisa by margot Justes

The Prado Museum conservators have solved another Mona Lisa mystery. Or have they?
It seems that for many hundreds of years the museum held in storage what was long believed to be a replica of the Mona Lisa.

As you might have guessed, it isn't just a copy, using infrared technology they found that the portrait was painted in Leonardo's studio and most likely was painted by one of his students while Leonardo was painting the original Mona Lisa.

The painting at the Prado in Madrid, did not have the flourishing Tuscan landscape that the original portrait had, the background instead was coated in black varnish.

Using infrared reflectography, a system by which they can see underneath to the changes the artist makes before the final finish- known as underdrawings-they found the same landscapes as in the original painting.

It is believed that artists even in Leonardo's time used students, they copied their works of art-after all-we recognize Leonardo's genius now, many centuries later, but in his day, he was one of those 'starving artists' trying to survive and put food on the table. I guess times have not changed that much, the same can be said in this day and age.

I wonder who are the true masters today, where centuries later, after we're long gone volumes will be written about their magnificent talent and far reaching foresight.

I really do wonder...

Till next time,
Margot Justes
Hearts & Daggers
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Face Your Fears! by DL Larson

Before you head to a writer's conference, take a moment to face your fears. Most likely, you will have an opportunity to pitch your manuscript to an agent, or editor or publisher. Deep breath here. It's nerve-wracking when your hard work collides with a potential sale.

The possibilities are exhilerating, yet self-doubt sneaks in and destroys confidence and self-esteem. One way to regain your equilibrium is to acknowledge those fears.
"I suck as a writer," "This is a waste of time," "What was I thinking?" "I'm not ready for this!" "I've spent too much money already." "I'm a fool for trying..."

All those thoughts swirling in your head are distractions from the purpose of your mission - to attend a writer's conference and talk to folks in the publishing world. Consider the small child afraid of the monster under the bed; only after looking under said bed does the child feel better. He's confirmed there are no monsters under the bed or in the closet. He's checked! He feels so much better and calms right down.

Take the advice of the small child. Face your fears. Yes, you are a writer and a worthy one, you've had your work proofed and reproofed. You are a good writer! This is not a waste of time, this is another step closer to your goal. You will not reach your goal if you do not move toward it! You were thinking as a writer and yes, you are ready for this. Even rejections will help you learn how to improve your writing skills. As for money, everything costs too much, at least you know this money went toward reaching your goal. As for being a fool, you're in good company. Dreamers and fools make wonderful friends and enjoyable company.

Once your mind is clear of self-doubt it is so much easier to concentrate on making your pitch. Give yourself five words that can spiral into conversation. These five words serve as springboards to conversation about your plot, yourself or perhaps a sequel or series. It's easier to remember simple words over full sentences. If you have a great opening for conversation, remember to deliver it in a casual way. Excited, too. Excitement for your work will enliven others to become interested as well.

One last thought before you talk to a potential buyer. As you pass through the door to sit a moment with an agent or editor, consider this a step into a circle of comraderie. There are no monsters under the table or behind the door. I know, because I already checked.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Name One Method to Promote A Book

I've been on a blog book tour for over a month promoting my paranormal romantic thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse. That's because a tour raises Search Engine Optimization for a book and/or author, and in the process reaches out to other readers and authors along the way. I wouldn't think of releasing a book without going on a tour.

If nothing else, awareness of my new release is raised by my constant references to the tour on egroups and social media sites. Anyone I come into contact with online has to know by now I have a new release. Not only that, when I Google Morgan Mandel, many of the tour stops show up in the search.

What about you? Tell us one of your methods to promote a book. It can be the same as someone else's, if it's also your favorite.


Would you like to be young again knowing what you know now?
Forever Young: Blessing or Curse is now in Print, also on Kindle, Nook, other Smashwords venues.
See more buy links at