Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kuranda by Margot Justes

Another perfect getaway from Cairns is Kuranda. There are a couple of wonderful ways to get there, one is to take the combined Skyrail, and the Scenic Rail. Tours are available where you can do both. That is what I did, hindsight being perfect, I would have just gotten the tickets and taken the rail both ways. It was a sublime 45 minute ride and the scenery was incredible, huge gorges, waterfalls and lush vegetation.

Splurge for a first class ticket, and you will be wined and dined in delicious comfort on a train that dates back to the 1890’s, and along the way pass through some amazing scenery as the old train chugs along.  

The return trip was on the Skyrail, as it seemed to float over the top of the rainforest. You catch a tiny glimpse of the vastness of the formidable rain forest. I found the scenery was far more spectacular from the train, and I enjoyed it more.

Kuranda Village is delightful, it’s fun just to stroll down the street and visit the shops. The Heritage Markets operate 7 days a week, along the way there were a few galleries,  restaurants, many arts and crafts boutiques, it is a place to relax and simply enjoy. I even bought a contemporary abstract that was being sold off and discounted, really discounted. I picked it up for a ridiculous price, and lugged it home.

It is a charming, touristy place, the locals are friendly, and willing to go out of their way to be helpful, and there is the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, and Kuranda Koala Gardens. To see everything at leisure, the best bet is to get a round trip train ticket and not worry about catching the last Skyrail.  I would love to go back and do just that.

Kuranda is not to be missed, and the way to get there is incomparable.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming end of September Blood Art

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why A Writer? Redux by DL Larson

I often wonder why I chose this life as a writer. Or, did being a writer chose me? I've been at this for so long it's difficult to remember the sequences that led me to where I am today. How about you? Do you remember why you chose a writing career? Reading has always been a great passion of mine. Even the mundane parts of reading manuals or instructions. I always found the mistakes in written words and found it aggravating that words were mispelled or used inappropriately, while other folks shrugged as if saying, "who cares? We're putting this thing together not editing a best seller." Yet I find reading my new phone instruction manual impossible to follow. And I wonder where my skill as an editor disappeared to! Then I re-evaluate the situation and I worry about the experts who wrote such a manual, appalled at their lack of writing skills. So I pause for a moment, readjust my thinking, noting that the writer/editor/critquer called DL Larson has taken over and has the urge to fix the broken sentences to repaired. Call me a word mechanic, I can't help myself, it bugs me to see broken structure when it comes to words. The other day I saw a toddler having a tantrum. It was nothing serious, just a little guy frustrated at not getting his way or not having the skill to express his wishes or maybe Mom was determined to get her way for once. I don't really know, but I had to smile when Mom said, "Use your words." I wanted to ask her if she was a writer. Since I can't think of anything I'd rather be, being a writer suits me fine. I knew when I was ten years old I had a story to share. I still haven't written the story that perked my interest toward putting words to paper. Maybe someday I will accomplish that goal. It took a few more decades before I finally settled down to the business of writing as a career. There's been struggle, challenge and satisfaction, and always the urge to keep trying. So tell us, why did you chose a writing career? Til next time ~ DL Larson

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Daintree Rainforest by Margot Justes


Third day in Cairns took me to Daintree Rainforest.  It’s quite a hike, a good 2 hours plus pick up time from various hotels. The ‘safari’ truck was not the most comfortable mode of transportation, every bump on the road left an impression, and there were quite a few.  For me it was worth the effort. I’ve never seen a rainforest before, and didn’t really know what to expect. Our guide told us that the rainforest is over 125 million years old. Simply amazing.

The tour included, a two hour walk in the forest, a chance to swim in a creek in crystal clear water, sample the local fruit, and local Billy tea, basically an earthy bush tea, rather a muddy flavor, a barbecue lunch, a visit with captive kangaroos, and a Daintree River cruise in search of crocodiles. There was also a stop at Cape Tribulation,  a walk to the lookout to see where the rainforest meets the reef.

The first thing you notice as you enter the forest is the soft mist, the gently falling rain, the serenity, the tall trees and branches aiming for the sun, along with lush ground vegetation. You can hear drops fall on the leaves, listen to the countless birds chirping, and wild turkeys strolling in the distance.  

Even with the tourists, the clicking cameras and resounding footsteps, it was one of the most peaceful couple of hours I have ever spent. There is a boardwalk  designed for tourists, otherwise the bush is thick with vegetation. We searched for the ever elusive Cassowary birds, but we weren’t lucky enough to see one. The flightless birds are related to the emu, and are considered to be the heaviest birds in Australia.

After our tour of the forest, it was on to the creek for a swim and fresh fruit. I’m still not a fan of papayas, but loved the passion fruit. It’s actually quite delicious mixed with yogurt.  It became my breakfast treat, both in Cairns and Sydney.

Lunch was served in a local restaurant, where our tour guides put a steak on the barbie for us. I got to feed a couple of kangaroos. The restaurant keeps maimed kangaroos in a fenced yard; they survive, are well treated, and it’s great for the tourists. I have never seen a kangaroo before, and found these quite docile, and strangely awkward except when they run. The locals are not so delighted with the creatures, they are considered to be a nuisance. I loved them.

The last thing on the agenda was the Daintree river cruise, we were in search of crocodiles. It was a cloudy, rainy day, perfectly suited to the location, and we even found a large crocodile, along with birds, and Mangrove trees. You can see the roots well above the water, they thrive in salty, swampy coastal waters.  

The day was long, packed solid, and well worth it. It was an exhausting excursion, my endurance was well tested, I’m not as young as I used to be. Would I do it again? You bet.

 More next week.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming end of September Blood Art

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blessing or Curse is Now Out!

Blessing or Curse Collection - Five short stories about five very different people, with one thing in common: They all take a pill to be young again. How does that work out? Some happy endings, others not. Some nice characters, others not. This is a sequel to the thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, but dwells more on relationships than danger.

Available for $2.99 in the five story collection format at:

Or, if you wish, pick only one of the short stories at 99 cents:

Desperation forces Consuela to order the Forever Young pill to cure her husband, Diego, from Parkinson’s Disease; but is the cure really a curse?

Ezekiel, an African-American male, can't get it up for his lady love, Luana. Will the pill draw them closer together or drive her away?

Strawberry blonde model, Sherri, sees her popularity fading, along with her looks. The pill can bring her fame and fortune, but what about love?

Doormat, Dee Dee Marshall, takes a bold step when evidence points to her husband's infidelity. 

Overweight Chicago Police Officer Walinski must pass a new physical or lose his job, along with his beloved canine partner. Can the young pill offer security, when danger lurks in the line of duty?

Coming Next is Always Young, the last of the Always Young Trilogy. 

Find all of Morgan Mandel's books at




Sunday, August 18, 2013

FREE on Kindle This Week

Although technically a novella for the Halloween season, I was thrilled to learn The Vampire and the Vixen would be released early on Kindle in order to participate in the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) program at Amazon. I'm even more thrilled to announce The Vampire and the Vixen, a tongue-in-cheek is-he-or-isn't-he vampire story, will be FREE on Kindle from August 20 to August 24.

Kelsey Adams is determined to get ahead without the influence of a famous father or by getting special favors from her boss. So it was a big mistake to kiss Rafe Alexander on the balcony at a library fundraiser.

Rafe is mysterious, charming, and sexy. And he's Kelsey's new boss. He wants people to accept him for what he is. Which could be difficult because Kelsey has more than a sneaking suspicion he's a vampire.

Can she look beyond that and trust him with her heart to have the future she wants? And will he still be there when the sun comes up?

Click HERE to download your FREE copy this week starting on Tuesday.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


P.S. Please feel free to repost, share, or tweet about this post. In fact, it would be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Fun! by DL Larson

I feel like a little kid and want to holler, 'NO! I don't want to go back to school." Seems summer just got under way and now kids are returning to classes. My granddaughters start this Friday as Jr. High students. EEK! What happened to my two adorable little girls? I know, I'm in denial and am left wondering how the time has slipped by without my noticing. Today is my last day to enjoy their company before school routine and sports take over our calendar as well as our lives. So this blog is short today. My grandson Colton is with us too and we plan to spend the day doing nothing and everything ... which means playing in the sandbox, the fort, riding a tractor and making cookies for Uncle Nick's birthday. My time with them is precious and very limited. So I hope you understand today is not about writing, but about making memories. So go ahead, take a day and have fun with your family and friends. It's good for the soul and rejuvenates the creative thinking! Someone's hollering ... gotta go! Til next time ~ DL Larson

Monday, August 12, 2013

Nine Zombie Book Secrets

Sorry, to disappoint you, there are no secrets.

But to write a good zombie book, the real secret is to have more going on in the story than just zombies getting killed or zombies eating people. It's like those movies, you know the ones that go on and on - one too many fight scenes is just filler and gets booooring. It means you ran out of story (and the scriptwriters got lazy or didn't care cuz they got paid anyway.)

** Some other thoughts: today 8/12 I'm at AR Von's Blog during the blog tour and giveaway. Stop by. (You can see pix of the prizes at day 1 of the tour.)

 Okay - divulging secrets: a few things I learned while writing, editing and re-reading (re-reading and re-reading) GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie.

1. It's amazing how many ways you can think how to describe zombies, how gross you can get and still try to be funny at the same time.

2. Editing and constant re-reading turns you in to a zombie. After  a while you don't see the mistakes. I really am a good speler  speller. Really. But I can't believe the things I missed.

3. I saw a meme talking about gray and grey which made me laugh. It said: How to tell the difference: grey is England; gray is America.

Okay, why in the world did I keep writing grey then and have to change it? Maybe I wanted to be in England...

4.  Watch those modifiers and especially words with double meanings. A couple doozies that didn't get caught first time around. Nope, not telling!
5. Typos: They're inevitable try try as you might to be perfekt.

An author friend said if you open the book, the first thing you'll see is a typo. I didn't, but a reader told me of one. And it's a Spanish word, so if you don't know Spanish, it won't matter. You can infer the meaning from the text. And if you do, well, to my horror, an end letter got dropped. You'll understand as the phrase won't read right and should be translated to "I love you, I'll miss you..." I guess if it's just one, that's not too bad... It'll be fixed in Kindle and ebook; print will have to wait until the next printing.

6.  Now I know why you set a book in one or two places only. No need to figure it out on a map - and me being travel and map-challenged! No need to get characters from one state to another while not messing up landmarks. (Simple - name a few things as they move along. And don't be specific about a town so you can change it to suit your story.)

 The book may have scenes in Wisconsin and Illinois, in Lake Geneva and Chicago, but don't look them up. They're not like the places you know.

7. Don't over-complicate things. I've read many a book that explained the why's and how's of the zombie virus. But... I'm no scientist nor do I pretend to be. It was a lab mistake, people messing with what they shouldn't is my explanation. And isn't that really how many - most -  things start anyway?

8. Bugs. A big no for me, except maybe a couple maggots. Maybe. I hate bugs, and especially maggots. Yuck. But yeah, a zombie book has to have bugs.

9.  Disease is yucky, especially when it comes to rot and things falling apart. In my mind, no one really needs all the icky, gory details. Except for a couple small mentions, I figure readers can imagine the growing horror in their own minds when my character Becca says, "Yup. A sore." (Peeling pink edges... gray center... you get the picture.)

That's only a few of the things I thought to bring up. For now.

** Got some of your own writing tips or dare to share your mistakes?


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer Journal 2013 - The Final Entry

It's hard to believe, but it's true: I head back to school tomorrow, so summer vacation as I've known it is officially over for this year. It's been an interesting summer weather-wise, but all in all I can look back and say it's been restful, fun, and productive (not always in a writing sense, but I finished a bunch of scrapbooking projects and I read a ton of books).

No, I didn't finish all of the writing goals I'd hoped to accomplish, but I did make progress, so that's a good thing.

This week I went through the TWRP loop posts (from last weekend while I was gone) on the Kindle Select Program. There was a lot of informative information, and the timing was perfect because my freebie days for The Vampire and the Vixen are coming up in a couple of weeks. I printed out lots of promotional tips and saved several sites to my favorites bar. I also went through and posted/scheduled my free book on about a dozen sites.

Toward the end of the week, I got my galley files for This Feels Like Home, so I've started going through those. So far, I'm about halfway done and only found one error: a double set of quotation marks in some dialogue. I hope to finish that read-through today.

The galley also has the ISBN on it, so I'll be able to add that to my bookmark and get those printed up as well. Although copyright date for the book is showing 2014, so I might wait a bit on that. Hopefully another sale will come along!

I still haven't heard back from my follow-up to Harlequin, so I think the time has come to up the word count on the book and get it submitted to my editor at TWRP, which is where I intended to submit it in the first place. Now the trick will be to find time to do that...

All in all I can look back and feel good about my summer...and now look forward to favorite season!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef by Margot Justes


On the second full day in Cairns, we booked a tour to Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef. According to the brochure, Green Island is a beautiful 6000 year old coral cay located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

It’s a 45 minute boat ride to Green Island from Cairns. The boat ride to Green Island was peaceful, even a whale paid us a visit, checked us out and went on his merry way.

The ride from Green Island to the Barrier Reef was exhilarating. Let’s just say it was a choppy ride-really, really choppy, knuckle white choppy. Even the crew had to hold on. I like speed boats, but that day my knuckles really were white. I was on the top deck, and couldn’t have moved if I wanted to, and believe  me I didn’t. I clung to the railing with both hands, and didn’t let go.

Green Island was beautiful. Lush with vegetation, unspoiled and protected. There is one resort with a swimming pool, it was a bit chilly, and only the birds swam. There were a couple of gift shops, a restaurant, and a cafĂ©, all part of the resort. After a walk about, I stopped for a cup of coffee-not a surprise-the setting was beautiful, right in the center of the entrance to the resort. Who could resist?  If you were not a guest, you couldn’t get to the resort property, but access was available to the restaurant, gift shop, scuba and snorkeling gear.

Green Island is isolated, but there are plenty of snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Peaceful and serene, and cut off from the rest of the world, it’s a perfect place to commune with nature.

After Green Island, it was on to the Great Barrier Reef. The boat docked along a pontoon, and we spent the rest of the day there. While the crew cooked our lunch, it was time to scuba dive, snorkel, a helicopter ride, or a ride in a semi submersible to view the reef. I tried snorkeling once, but the water tastes terrible. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to drink the water.

I did go in the semi submersible, twice, because it was so incredible. I have never seen anything like the reef before, the vitality and variety of the life below was astounding. There are a few pictures, but they are cloudy, shooting through a thick pane of murky glass is not the best way to get great pictures. But I found Nemo. I really did.

More next week.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I'm Still Here

Just a short note to let you know I'm still here! I've been busy editing Blessing or Curse in its entirety, as well as the short stories separately.

Wouldn't you know it, someone mentioned I should call the combination version a Collection, instead of Anthology, since the stories are all done by the same author.

Apparently, that's the more accepted version, so today was spent changing all instances, including covers, to Collection instead of Anthology, not an easy task. Fortunately, the main book did not say either one, so I didn't have to ask my illustrator to change it. The others I did through Amazon's Cover Creator. Once it dawned on me how to make the change, it wasn't that difficult.

Then, I was back to editing the fifth and final short story, and got halfway done.
After that, I'm figuring out how to do a Table of Contents.

Still hoping for a release of the bunch by the end of the week or beginning of the next, depending on how long it takes to figure out that Table of Contents.

Morgan Mandel


Twitter: @MorganMandel

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Summer Journal 2013 - Entry #8

I'd love to say I'm making great progress on my Work in Progress, but that's just not the case these days. And I'm okay with that. Eventually it will get done and in the meantime I have a couple of book releases to look forward to. The Vampire and the Vixen will be officially released by Wild Rose in October (It's already out on Kindle.) and This Feels Like Home (my first full-length available in print in a long time) will be out, I'm guessing, around the first of the year.

This week I did accomplish one important summer writing goal: I followed up with Harlequin on a submission from last year. About a year ago I got a request for the full of "Family Secrets", a story targeted for their American Romance line. I mailed it all off to Canada around this time last year, along with a self-addressed envelope and postage for any return correspondence, but hadn't heard anything at all. Trouble is, other than a general address and name, I didn't have any specific contact information for the requesting editor. So, I tracked down the card from the editor I'd originally met with at Spring Fling in 2012 and generated an e-mail based on her contact information, but for the new editor. We'll see what happens. So far, no response. And who knows, I could be way off base on the e-mail address I sent it to. However, it didn't come back 'undeliverable' or such, so I'm hoping it at least got through. Time will tell. If I don't hear back, since it's been a year already, I'll probably add some plot points to the mss and submit it to my editor at TWRP for consideration. Right now it's at about 59,000 words and would need to be over 65,000 for a print run at Wild Rose.

I also spent some time exploring the Behind the Garden Gate blog at TWRP. I printed out some great information on Ways to Make Your Writing Stronger (a post written by my former editor) and Words Not to Use while writing. I also read-through and printed out a post from another blog on using the Kindle Select Program and how to market your books on the freebie days. I have my free days coming up at the end of August for The Vampire and the Vixen, so the timing was perfect for this information. My Wild Rose author loop is also discussing Kindle Select this weekend, which I'm sure will provide lots more information.

And I actually did do a tiny...and I mean tiny...bit of writing. It was just a few sentences, but it was an important transition between two scenes I'd already written. So I actually feel pretty good about that. At least it's something. Every word counts, right?

Right now we are on vacation again. Yesterday and today we are exploring Dixon, IL...childhood home of President Ronald Reagan. I hope you're enjoying your weekend as well!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Exploring Cairns by Margot Justes



The first full day was spent getting to know the town, and stretch muscles in legs, after the long flight.  Cairns is a walking town, and absolutely beautiful. The boardwalk along the shore, the harbor, the vegetation, all were splendid. I absolutely loved Cairns.

An art gallery introduced me to Australian artist Lloyd Rees. I saw his work once again in Sydney, at the Art Gallery NSW-beautiful museum, but I digress, we’re still in Cairns.

I visited a casino, I don’t gamble but for some reason the stilted movements of the croupiers fascinate me, and it’s interesting to watch people so absorbed in what they’re doing that nothing seems to penetrate the intensity of their actions. The building was interesting too, the black dome caught my eye. The surrounding garden was beautiful, along a central walking path, small monuments dedicated to the Australian military branches, gave one pause.

Stopped for coffee, weather was perfect, even in winter, Cairns  is in the tropics, so temperatures during the day were in the mid 80’s. It actually felt good to sit for a moment. Saw a man wearing a Cubs hat and asked him if he was from Chicago. He replied in that wonderful Aussie accent-I could listen to it forever-that his daughter lived in Downers Grove, and he was familiar with the area. We chatted for quite a while.

That was the first thing that caught my attention, the people are so incredibly friendly, polite, and helpful. Even with a map, I’m directionally challenged-to be honest a map doesn’t help me much at all-but I’m not afraid to ask for directions, and people went out of their way to help.

The walk along the Esplanade was a delight; a central shopping, gazing, grazing and anything you want to do route. Along the shore there is a swimming pool, long and large it’s open year long, and looked positively enticing. A spectacular view of the shore from the pool, well designed for optimum pleasure.

Cairns is the perfect central location to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, fishing, surrounding islands, Kuranda, and many other places.

To make it absolutely perfect, there was an open air art fair in progress, and many galleries filled with Aboriginal art work. I assume no one comes home without a returning boomerang. Yes I have one, along with instructions on how to throw it.

More next week.
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming soon Blood Art

Thursday, August 1, 2013

More Marketing Ideas! by DL Larson

TV Time
Dyanne Davis, past president of the Windy City RWA Chapter, hosts a TV program.  She and her husband Bill do an amazing job highlighting authors.  Dyanne asked me a few years ago to be a guest on her show and I said, 'when my next book comes out, I will.'  She held me to that.

Our talk was about writing, ideas for writing and marketing.  She asked me to explain my storyline for not only my new book, Promises My Love, but also for my previous ones. The time flew by. 

This isn't the first time I've been on television, for my first book I visited a local TV station.  I was nervous and my husband said I spoke as if I had laryngitis.  I did better on the radio interview a few weeks later.  Those interviews were live and the sense of urgency that surrounds a live show made me extremely nervous.
My talk with Dyanne was just the opposite.  We laughed and talked without hurry or worry about the time.  Bill will edit the show to pull out any unnecessary tidbits. 

The talk will air in a few months.  It will be on the local cable, channel 6, and from there spread, hopefully to U-tube.  We'll see. 

My next blog tour will be this Monday, August 5, at Sugarbeat's Books Blog.  Find me at    Stop by and leave a comment!

Guest bloggers are generally asked to offer something as they tour various sites.  Many offer free books, ebooks, etc. which I have done.  Others are stepping up the anty and offering more. 
My question, if you so choose to share your thoughts ... would you offer a $50 Amazon gift card or even a $100 gift card to a lucky commenter if you were doing a virtual book tour? 

Til next time ~

DL Larson