Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where or where has my writing gone?

I have to confess something. I can't read my calendar. I mean I can't read the stuff I add to it; all those dates, the commitments, the places I need to be, the things I need to take somewhere - where I'm not sure, 'cause I can't read my own handwriting.

Okay, I should stop right here ~ I have lost my penmanship and don't know where to find it. And, even though I have this huge fold-out calendar that allows plenty of room for note taking, the pages are such a scrambled script I can't decipher them. I swear some chicken has scratched across those little squares just to confuse me, embarrass me and succeeded in irritating me for the sheer fun of it.

I should probably take an ad out. Maybe look in the help wanted section, too. Does penmanship pick up and haul _ss out of harms way? Or does it just disappear? Perhaps it's an age thing and has gone into retirement. I distinctly remember getting good grades in penmanship. Of course that was in the fourth grade and that's been awhile ago ... hmmm. Maybe I'm onto something with the retirement idea.

The reason I even bring the subject up is just awhile ago - like thirty minutes ago, I sent an email to a Barnes and Noble representative about a book signing Morgan invited me to. I remember going to that book store, but couldn't recall when ... so you guessed it, I grabbed my calendar to check back when I had visited the store last. Easy enough, you'd think.

But no! I couldn't begin to guess when I had last visited because ... well, because I couldn't read my handwriting. I had to look on my website to verify the date. Then I matched it to my calendar and I think that's what it says. It could also say famkdliue.

January started out clear enough, but by March my lettering had slipped - literally, or perhaps it's more of a diagonal that I seem to write in. And arrows; did I mention I'm a big changer? I obviously like to create pathways from one date to another. Something didn't pan out so I sent that commitment on to another day. Swooooooosh, a line with little arrow points to the correct date. By the end of the month it looks like an air traffic controller's report.

I'm big into color coding too. Not that it makes any sense. It used to when I color coded my kids schedules so I knew who was where and for how long. I've noticed as the months go along, my red pen gets used more and more as if trying to get my attention. And I circle dates too, any color will do. I once thought it would help me to remember something. Now it just irritates me. For heavens sake, I see the date fine. It's printed in nice bold ink. It's the note beneath I don't comprehend.

Like today's date: August 29, 2007. I'm squinting to read this, turning my head. That helps, some. I wrote something ... about leaving pa. I've never called my father, pa. In my books I use pa, but I don't generally write my manuscripts on my calendar. And there's another word ... I'm guessing here ... wedding! Leaving - pa - wedding?

Of for cripe's sake! I gotta go. We're leaving for Pennsyvania tomorrow morning! Our friend's daughter is getting married.

And I'm pretty sure I need a secretary! He can be in charge of the calendar.

til next time ~

DL Larson

Do You Have Power? by Morgan Mandel

The storm hit the Chicago area around 4pm on Thursday, August 23, changing many of our lives in the process. Sheets of rain hit, the wind roared. Trees that had lived for years, within a few short minutes came crashing down anywhere and everywhere, some onto buildings, some onto cars, many over electric lines. The volume of water was so great, it flooded streets and viaducts. Flowers and shrubs were mangled.

When the brunt of the storm had moved on, we were grateful to be alive.Thankfulness for survival then turned to practical, everyday matters. My husband and I watched the news in awe, marveling at the destruction accomplished in such a short period of time. We were the fortunate ones. We still had power. Or so we thought. That state changed overnight when at about 1:30 a.m. the refrigerator motor stopped running, the night light went out.

In the morning, I got ready for work as best I could in the semi-darkness, with only flashlights and the light from the window.A favorite topic of conversation on the train and everywhere else that day and over the weekend was, "Do you have power?" I can't tell you how many people asked that question and how many times I asked the question as well.

What does this have to do with writers, other than the fact that batteries on laptop computers only last about three hours?

Writers wield power. We weave worlds from our imagination for readers to enter, places they never would have known existed if it weren't for us. Our words spark emotions, make people happy or sad. We can make people reflect on issues and influence how they think.

Yes, we do have power. With that power comes awesome responsibility. Let's use it wisely.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Will we see you in September?

It's a busy month coming up for Novelist's Boot Camp. September 5th we present at the Palos Park Library (on Chicago's SW side) as our Boot Camp will inaugurate their Open Mic Program. On the 8th we're off to St. Louis for WritersFest and an all day Boot Camp alongside Nancy Pickard. Sponsored by the St. Louis Chapter of the Sisters in Crime, this promises to be a fun event. Then on the 29th we'll be at the Great Lakes Booksellers Association Convention in Schaumburg, Illlinois at the Sisters in Crime table.
I enjoy presenting these mini (and full) boot camps--not because I enjoy highlighting my book, but because of the teacher in me. It's always rewarding to see the book's impact: "the lights come on" and an aspiring or even a multi-published author "gets it" and breaks through.
Don't get me wrong, strong sales are great. But as we offer in Novelist's Boot Camp, they are just one measure of success. More lasting, I think, is that sense of personal success. We're fortunate in that we find this personal success in our boot camp presentations.
Now if we can just combine boot camps with motorcycling--we'll have it made!

Monday, August 27, 2007


I recently sent my books to a few of the Amazon Top 100 Reviewers. Amanda Richards composed a really funny review of The Adventures of Guy.


A funny book about a guy
And Guy's also his name
Your standard goof-off slacker-dude
Without a claim to fame

And then one day a phone call came
That sent him on a quest
He's forced to leave his dirty home
(More like his filthy nest)

There's something wrong with little Seth
At least he's not himself
In no time flat, Guy's pals become
A sor-cer-er and elf

It seems your quest is not complete
Without a certain mix
So they recruit a warrior
Stacked like a house of bricks

There's something evil chasing them
And monsters everywhere
Look out for buzzing little flies
And plumber's derriere

The truth of telemarketing
The huge attorney plot
All made as simple as the choice
To supersize, or not?

It's just as crazy as it sounds
With potty jokes and worse
A madcap world of fantasy
Reviewed by me in verse

A warning to you, friends of mine
And you, my dear consumer
Don't bother picking up this one
If you've no sense of humor

Amanda Richards, August 25, 2007
(reprinted with permission)

Norm Cowie
The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness

Sunday, August 26, 2007

An interview with author Grace E. Howell by Margot Justes

Grace E. Howell is another talented author published by Echelon Press.

Grace, tell me a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, where my first novel, TRUE FRIENDS, takes place many years before I was born. I went to the same elementary school that was in TRUE FRIENDS, but by the time I got there, the name had been changed and instead of pastures, a golf course backed up to the school. I was married a short time after graduating from high school and had four children, three sons and a daughter, before I went back to college to become a teacher and later a school librarian. I was regional editor for The Lutheran Witness for five years and my writing for both children and adults has appeared in magazines and anthologies. I love reading, writing, gardening, watching basketball and basketball, and I am very active in my church.

What prompted you to write and did you always want to be a writer?

I have been a writer as long as I can remember, from early elementary school. Once I learned to read, I was hooked on books and have always dreamed of having books I wrote in libraries and classrooms.

How do you develop your characters? Do you use a set formula?

Anything I see, read, or hear about can spark the development of a character in my mind. The ones who make it into a story become quite familiar to me and may stay in mind for several years before making it into the computer or onto paper. I may begin with a time and place before I know the character. As the character in that setting appears and becomes real to me, the story starts, and I know the beginning and the end. The protagonist continues to develop in my thoughts as I go about my days. I don’t write anything down, but I begin to know the character's family, likes and dislikes, hopes and goals. I know what he or she looks like and what his/her strengths and weaknesses are. Branching out from this first character are others in the story, living in my mind until I know them well enough for them to live on paper. Then I may write a character sketch or notes on each character. I seldom need to refer to written notes about my characters as I write a novel because I know them so well.

What do you do to unwind, relax?

My daily escapes include reading a good novel and working in my garden or just enjoying the plants. If I have more time, I love to travel to places I've never been.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Write about what you know. If you want to write about what you don't know, learn about it through experience and research. Read about it. Then you'll know
Read your writing aloud. If it doesn't sound good to you, nobody else will like it either.

If you want to know more about Grace E. Howell and her first novel check her website TRUE FRIENDS is available from Follett,, and Echelon Press.

Thank you, Grace.

Shoshin -- by Larry D. Sweazy

At the moment, I have no deadlines. A brief reprieve from the rat race. So this morning, I mowed the yard, ran some errands, watched Charlie Rose on PBS for an hour, and had a long conversation with the dogs about the meaning of life. They, of course, looked at me like I’m a total idiot, because they have it made.

Is this anyway to spend a day off, a 3 day break from my desk? Obviously not, because here I sit, writing Sunday’s blog post on Friday afternoon.

As a freelancer, I’m always worried about the next job. I guess it’s kind of like being an actor—once the movie is in the can they have to go back to real life and wonder what’s next.

In my working life, my contracts only last for the length of the project I’m working on. When the project is done, I hit send, and wonder if I’ll ever work again, too. Even though over the last 10 years I have worked on over 500 published titles, either indexing, editing, or writing, I still worry. My track record says not to. My long-time clients seem to be happy with my work, and my client list is full. There is no reason to question that the jobs won’t come…but still, I can’t help myself. I wonder what I would do if they didn’t.

And I have no clue. I’m doing what I want to do with my life. It’s hectic, challenging, and I have a decent roof over my head. The freelance work allows me the freedom to work from home, create my own schedule, come and go as I please—and most importantly, write when writing is best for me; first thing in the morning.

Before I began freelancing full-time, I worked 7 to 4 in an office building. I’d come home, eat dinner, then plant my butt at the desk for a couple of hours every evening and write. It was tough, but I wanted to be a writer so I figured I had to write whenever I could. Thankfully, I have a wife who understands my drive, believes in the dream, and knows the hard work it takes to turn said dream into a reality. I probably don’t say thank you enough to her.

Today I ran the dishwasher. Does that count?

Anyway, my point is, whether you’re a freelancer, an actor, or a writer working on the last book in your contract, you always worry about what’s next. And I think that’s a good thing. I’d hate to think that I take my clients or my publishers for granted. I have to deliver my 500th index as if it were my first. Same with a short story or novel.

Buddhists call this Shoshin. It means Beginner's Mind, and refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. Or better put, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few," so says Shunryu Suzuki.

Losing Beginner’s Mind can be a dangerous thing. I have learned about plot and character development over the years (and indexing, too), but I don’t consider myself an expert in any way. I consider myself armed with tools. And tools always need maintenance, sharpening, or replaced.

Those same tools will serve me well if the contracts stop coming in Monday. But I still worry. And I still tackle each new project like it was the first…with the practice of Shoshin firmly in place.

Think about it, and see if it works for you…

Friday, August 24, 2007

Be A Road Runner! By Rob Walker

It takes infinite energy and speed to gather any sort of momentumfor a book, and so nowadays one does not begin at the beginning of what seems the marketing cycle. Instead one begins well before the book is published. There are many steps you can take to get some notice for your book before it comes out in publication. Notice the public in publication? Get on the"wire" wherever you can find it and spread the word. No easy task, I know. I have done it for over forty books. Begin small and build up. Begin with family and friends. If you can get anything early from your publisher in the way of say covers, get them. Posters, get them. If not consider making your own. No time for shyness here. While working at the local Starbucks on your next opus, put up your sign. You would be surprised how many people it will attract and you can drop your card on them--remembering to put the pub date on the back and maybe where the book will be availalble. Push this out to family and friends. The business card with your book cover as backdrop is the easiest and quickest way to get the word well as the cheapest. If you have garnered any early reveiws and they are great and short, say two or three paragraphs, or if you have cudos from other authors or peers, duplicate and laminate those suckers and hand them out. Then move past the local scene.

Your next job is to get on the computer and contact every local newspaper in your area about your upcoming book, and use the"platform" or nuts and bolts of your mystery to entice a story out of a reporter. Then go for the larger newspapers. Send each a NEWS item in the form of a NEWS release. The more pointed the"nonfiction" elements of your story, say if it is centered around child endangerment or the condition of the nation, or financial ruin in the housing get the idea. Play up the angle a newsman can use. You can't get discouraged either when, after sending out fifty or even a hundred News Releases you get two responses.

Of course, today we all know to BLOG and on our blogs we can BRAG about our latest and its coming out when, and where, and who's behind it? We also have our websites where we can play it up big. Every bookstore needs a marquee so we writers can have our names in lights. Borders could take a lesson here. For years I have said bookstores oughta have overhead marquees upon which it is stated who is signing when.

Every ounce of your advertising imagination is needed to sell a book. Murder Must Advertise is a wonderful source of inspiration for marketing. On this site everyone talks about successes and failures in this area. A place to learn from. Good luck with the hardest part of writing -- selling it with a look.

Rob Walker

Some days are BIGGER than others!

Yesterday was a BIG day in our lives. When the yellow school bus rolled down our road my grandaughters jumped up and down. My daughter swallowed back her tears, while my husband took pictures of Alex and Kylie climbing aboard. And me, well, I'm glad it was bright out so I could wear my sun glasses to hide my emotions as I waved enthusiastically.

Babyhood has officially been left behind and Kindergarten has taken its place. My girls looked so little yet happy when the bus pulled away. I remember letting go all those years ago too ~
Then poof, the moment for memories was gone. My daughter raced off to work while Kurt and I headed for DeKalb, hoping the ray of sunshine and blue skies would last through the morning. See, my husband was getting his Father's Day present ~ a little late, but still an exciting adventure.

By the time we arrived at the DeKalb airport, the sky was clear with the exception of fluffy clouds that didn't deter us. The T-6 (texan) WWII Advanced Flight Trainer stood on the tarmac waiting. Kurt was going up. Once all the papers were signed and numerous pictures taken ~ think John Wayne war movies and you'll have the right kind of plane and the appropriate stance for pictures. The pilot had Kurt pose just like the actors back in the day ... fun, silly, but he looked damn good, too!

By nine-thirty I stood alone on a deserted airstrip watching the plane climb to dizzing heights. I thought of all those papers my husband had been made to sign and my stomach squeezed. Then they were out of sight and the wind and sun were my only companions for the next forty-five minutes.

The T-6 has the capability of flying fast, some 250 miles per hour, and the pilot had promised a full arsenal of manuevers. Words like barrel roll, loops, and immelmans were mentioned and I tried not to think too much about the ejection technique Kurt had been given before take off. I needn't have worried, Kurt enjoyed each belly drop and rush of adrenaline, even though he climbed from the plane as clumsily as a drunkered.

Since Kurt looked a little weary from his trip, I drove and we headed west. We had the day to ourselves and planned a road trip with no destination in mind. We took no interstate roads, and left the windows down and the sunroof open as we puttered down Route 64.

What is it about playing hooky for a day that it becomes bigger and so freeing? Stepping out of the routine of our lives is well, liberating! Responsibilities melt away and the world looks a little nicer, a little more exciting.

We visited White Pines State Park, the Mississippi Palasades, and walked through antique stores in rustic Galena. We drank a little, ate too much and spent money on things we couldn't have found anywhere else ... really!

We drove into rain and watched lightening light up the sky. Ditches overflowed with water and only when we got closer to home did reality catch up and we wondered what the latest storm did to our place.

We had been gone only fourteen hours, but it felt longer. We had escaped our daily routines and enjoyed the time together to do nothing, all the while filling the day with wonderful sights and sounds, and best of all memories.

I highly recommend playing hooky! It's good for the soul. I feel more rested today, more capable of handling what comes my way. But please ... no more rain! Even us farmers have had more than we can use. As for my writing, I'm looking forward to setting down and trying out a new twist that popped into my head while we meandered down some highway.

Til next time~

DL Larson

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fear of Flooding By Morgan Mandel

While the monsoon season is upon us, I can't help but think about the similarities between nature and the author game.

With the summer storms, come rising water. Owners of property near the Fox River and the DesPlaines River in Illinois are anxiously sandbagging, some already experiencing flooding.

Mosquitos are hatching. West Nile Virus is a possibility, to some an actuallity. Yet the rains continue, with brief respites. While some people hope, others' hopes are already dashed.

Similar occurrences take place in the author game. With each day, new promotional opportunies arise. There are countless ways to get ourselves and our books known. Which are the best? Which are a waste of time? How many are too many? Or is that possible?

Can we maintain our existing websites and blogs, attend conferences, booksignings, do everything else to get known and still lead a normal life or will we drown from all the pressure?

Writing is not for the faint of heart. It's a game of sink or swim, where the fastest and strongest survive.

The waters are rising. Are you a good swimmer?

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How to cope with the rat race

Get into the slow lane. That's what Terri and I have done. We're somewhere north of cell phone and Internet access (had to travel 25 minutes to find a town with a library with dial-up to post this) in rural Ontario, Canada. For those of you who are detectives, we're near the offical home of Wiarton Willie. While the skies are gray, the air is clean, the people friendly, and the water in in bay is clear twenty feet down. Things move much more slowly here, there is no constant hum of expressway traffic, and without the city lights the stars are so close you can reach out and almost, almost, just about--touch them. It is in many ways a writer's paradise. Not that I'll work much--the schedule is full of back porch relaxing and long naps on the couch. But in the quiet there is time to think, to plan, to generate ideas, and to enjoy good friends and family. Like the old biker once said, "never be afraid to slow down."
Good advice for writers as well, eh?

Scared Silly

I read the scariest thing ever, with apologies to Stephen King, Dean Koontz and our own Master of Macabre Rob Walker. It isn't a book, but more of a pamphlet, a journal, a magazine as it were. Like a werewolf , it comes out once a month to turn my blood cold.

It is ... (shudder) ... something to scare a man out of his back hair.

I can barely tell you.

Its pages are so scary... so frightening ... terrifying ... and ... um ..., other words that describe fear. Fear that causes your muscles to petrify as chemicals of unhappiness surge through your body, springing up goose bumps along the way.

I must speak the name of this periodical, though my mouth refuses to utter its simple name... so I will type it instead with shaky fingers.

It is ... (eek) ... READER'S DIGEST.

Yes, you heard me.

Reader's Digest.

You scoff. I can tell ... only because I have incredible powers of perceptiveness (my wife snorts in disbelief). You mock my gentle wisdom ... the warning that I spread to save those who read this magazine for its insight, humor and stories of human courage.

But have you read the other parts of the magazine?

You know, those parts that come with an eight point font disclaimer that takes up a whole page or three ... that no one ever reads because it's an eight point font disclaimer that takes up a whole page or three.

The stuff having to do with ... health?

Yep, Reader's Digest is chock full of stuff dealing with what they laughingly call health. For with hypochondriacs like me, that's not a good thing. For you see, I am susceptible to the power of suggestion. If there's a mosquito in the room, I feel itchy. If someone yawns, I yawn. And if someone gets skin cancer, I start watching my moles with squinty-eyed suspicion.

I've learned all kinds of scary things about health by reading Reader's Digest. For instance, did you know that your bowels have a temper? I didn't. Why if you eat the wrong things, it might get irritable and go Postal on you. And I learned by reading RD's learned pages, that even though I might feel wonderful, cholesterol might ... even as I type ... be packing my arteries with stuff that will make them explode.

Do you know the signs of a heart attack? Me neither, until I read RD. Thanks to their friendly words, I know that the signs of a heart attack are chest or upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea and lightheadedness. After reading this, I broke out into a cold sweat, clutched my hands to my chest which seized up so that I couldn't get a breath and almost passed out.

I also learned that back and joint pain might mean that I have prostate cancer, a rash might be Lyme disease, and that my severe headache was not from having teenaged girls, but more likely from an aneurysm. And my blurred vision isn't me getting old - it's macular degeneration that can be reversed by the wonderful drug Avastin, which will also treat my colon cancer. Lucky me.

So call me a hypochondriac, but I'm going to stop reading the medical stuff. I think I'll skip right to "Humor in Uniform."

(whistles tunelessly and reads).


I hurt my funny bone!

The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Print Short Story market -- by Larry D. Sweazy

In 1950, The New York Times declared that the pulp magazines were dead. The culprit? The introduction of the paperback book. After WW II there was no paper shortage, and Bantam and Dell burst on the scene to bring paperbacks to the masses. As far as I know, the Times has not declared the print magazines dead because of the introduction of the Internet, but there is no question that the market is small and growing smaller.

For mystery writers, the standard of excellence in the short story field still remains to be Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock. Both publications continue to have a large amount of subscribers, but I think even they are being squeezed by all directions in current times. Both maintain a presence on the web and have not ignored the new technology. Pay rates remain static at .04 to .06 cents a word. And they are tough markets for a writer to break.

I sold a short story to EQMM last summer (it will appear in the March/April 08 edition, available in late January) after trying for 15 years. Now, that was not consistent effort, but when I went back and check my first rejection slip from them, it was dated 1991. I don’t know how many times I’ve submitted to EQMM over the years, but it was quite a few. Interestingly enough, Hitchcock had rejected the story that Queen bought, with comments, asking to see more of my work. I thought what the heck, I’ll send it to Queen. I’m glad I did.

Jim Huang, owner of The Mystery Company bookstore in Carmel, Indiana, maintains that selling to Queen is harder than getting a novel published. I agree.

There are still paying markets out there, but the competition is tough. Check out the cover of an Ellery Queen and you’re likely to find writers like Lawrence Block or Loren Estleman—writers that you are competing with for a slot in the magazine. Needless to say, I’m honored and excited about having a story in Queen. The sale was a milestone for me that would have never happened if I would have given that story away for free.

The last time I checked, Women’s World still takes mysteries. The Strand accepts unsolicited manuscripts. You have to search out the print magazines, and be consistent with your submissions. And, you have to think outside the box.

I recently had a short story accepted by Boy’s Life. I wrote a 1500 word mystery for them. They publish one short story an issue, and the guidelines are stringent. Again the competition is tough. In an interview, the editor says they receive 100 submissions a month, 1200 a year, for the 12 short stories they publish. And, like EQMM, they have regular writers they work with. That story will appear sometime in 08—I’ll post the exact date when it’s confirmed.

If these are markets you want to publish in, you simply cannot give up. Like I said in my last post, start submitting at the top and work your way down. But most importantly, make sure you’re sending quality material. If you’re just starting out, worrying about becoming a better writer instead of being published. Learn all you can about the short story format. It’s not a novel. It has its own requirements. And editors know a good one when they read it.

Is the print market dead? No. And I think it will be around for some time. Don’t let the negativity of the current times sway your thinking. If you work hard and never give up, you never know what might happen. You might sell a story to Ellery Queen or Boy’s Life.

Good luck, and keep writing…

Saturday, August 18, 2007

An interview with author J. R. Turner by Margot Justes

Jenny, tell me a bit about yourself.

I'm a very happily married mother of three. My husband and I met when I was seventeen and were married when I was twenty. We've had our ups and downs, but overall, he's truly "my hero" as sappy as that sounds :) My childrenare a true blessing. Dustin, who's fourteen, is six-foot, three-inches tall and wears a size 15 shoe. He's definitely my "gentle giant." My daughter,Molly, is full of life, loves to dance, sing, and is very athletic. My youngest, Matthew, is still my "honey bear" at six. Now that my dream of becominga published author has come true, I have very little to complain about--darn!Seriously, though, my early years were rife with trauma and drama and I think having survived them, created in me a need for peace and stability in my own home as an adult. It's also informed my writing, however, as I tend to write action, adventure, with a splash of romance. Plenty of trauma and drama there to play with. I'm also all about the happily-ever-after and I suppose having one of my own has shown me just how much hard work and determination it takes to achieve a satisfying ending.

What prompted you to write and did you always wanted to be a writer?

The love of writing was always a part of me, but when I was younger I wanted to work as a translator/lawyer for the U.N., be a fashion designer, and a career journalist chasing stories all over the world. Because of the craziness of my early years, I developed a deep-seated need to understand the people in my life, always looking for that explanation of why people behaved the way they did. This then developed into a passion to observe even the smallest details of the way people spoke, what they said, and even what they didn't say. Observing all this, thinking it over for years on end, and having a very active imagination, created the need in me to communicate these thoughts in one form or another. Since I'm such an avid reader and love reading different perspectives, seeing how other authors view human nature and sampling such a wild variety of imaginations, writing seemed like a natural course for me to follow.

How do you develop your characters? Do you use a set formula?

It's funny, but I don't actually develop my characters at all. I feel likeI have a huge group of protagonists inside of me, each with their own story, each with their own personalities and full blown, three dimensional flaws, quirks and strength, that the idea of developing them, or using a formula doesn't cross my mind. I tend to come up with a plot first, and then have a very deep gut-instinct about the person in that situation. I think it's one of the most thrilling parts of writing for me--seeing how that character will develop on their own, within the story, and what they'll do next. The only trouble I have with this sometimes is getting out of the way of the character. Once in a while I find myself caring so much about getting the words right, I forget to listen carefully to the character and have to go back and fix my mistakes. Other than that though, it's a real blast.

What do you do to unwind, relax?

I have all sorts of hobbies. I love to knit, crochet, quilt, sew, tat, make soap, dolls, paper and any arts and crafts you can imagine. I used to teach crafts for the Milwaukee Public School System before I moved farther north in Wisconsin. Aside from that, I love camping, reading, and movies. When we can, my best friend and I love to go (with or without our husbands) dancing and shooting darts.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Read what you love and write what you love to read. Always challenge yourself to tackle your weak areas and choose genres and stories where your strengths can really shine. Be sincere, be honest, and don't be afraid to dosome personal soul-searching in order to make your writing the best it can be.

Thanks so much Margot!!

My Biker Bodyguard--Award Winning Romantic Suspense!

Jenny is another talented Echelon author; one whom I've had the pleasure of meeting.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Coming from Echelon Press LLC June 2008

Friday, August 17, 2007


Everyone puts down the grammatical issues inherent in writing as the last concern when in fact they are so important like the semi-colon in the classic line: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Or was that the other way around? I don't care to see the semi-colon misued and abused as in having it replace the simple comma where a comma will do, but on such as that Dickens' line, let the semi-colon rip. The semi-colon is merely the comma screaming out to its cousin the period to join it because "I can't do this job alone! I was not constructed to stop the full weight of a freight train of an entire sentence--a whole thought! The comma rather prefers to travel with fragments and lists, and items you find in a list. It travels with whole sentences only when combined with some stronger element. Either the period (it's cuz or a conjunction -- and or but so, etc). Then an only then can the "lowly" sign of the comma be used to hold off the object of one sentence (thought) from the subject of a trailing sentence (thought). Without the full coupling of the conjunction with the comma, we are into run on territory.

If the period is the basic mark to end a sentence or thought, then how do we add noise to that period? We exploded it out via the exclamation point. Add a sense of questioning or inquiry and the period is topped not with a straight up exploding mark but a squiggly, queston mark. When we use two periods, one atop the other as in the full colon, this is calling in the muscle for sure. We use full colons in the event of setting up information to be displayed or listed the other side of that double-dipped period as in the following: bird cages, boxes, full and empty, used aquariums, scattered bird seed, and hampster shavings.
Or in any list found in a pet store after the fire.

Quotation marks tell us who said what to whom when and where IF we keep each speaker in his own space by giving each person in the dialouge his or her own paragraph indent. It becomes a jumble of confusion when two and three speakers are jammed into a single paragraph, no matter how fat the paragraph. Treat dialogue like the comic strip artists do; give each speaker his own "balloon". Only difference is the prose balloon is represented by the quotation marks. We writers can learn a huge amount from how artists depict conversation in their comic strips. Makes for a great exercise to rewrite a comic strip, not changing the words but embellishing the narrative around the speaking parts, giving each speaker his and her own space (indents and paragraphing), and have the storyline come off as still funny or entertaining or enlightening as the comic "genius" had planned but WITHOUT the visuals. This requires using the same dialogue for the joke to work, but it also means the author must weave in the telling asides in narrative. It points up the fact that you needn't ever use "he said" or "she said" if you instead attach an action/narrative line that "belongs" to this speaker in the same space as his speaking part.

Instead of saying: Mike leand in and said, "I want you to come clean with it now." It could as well be done as: Mike lit a cigarette, leaned across the table, and glared at Jonas. "I want you to come clean with it now."

The first example is a "how he spoke" line. The second example is a "how he acted" line. One uses the comma, the other the period.

These lowly marks have a place, and we owe a debt to the monks or whoever it was that organized all this for us eons ago. Our job as authors is to get the grammar right, and trust me, if you have a contnual bad habit or habits in this area, editors will not read beyond the page. E.B. White's Elements of Style is of great help here, of course, but trust me, any ordinary grammar book, like the tried and true Little Brown Book ought to be looked at from time to time, just to remind ourselves of the wonderful knowledge of language we discovered in fouth and fifth grade, to revisit this area. Revisit sentence types, sentence combining, active vs. passive voice, and any book by Langan on the subject of grammar is required reading for those who have as yet to master the grammatical basics.

Have fun with it, and if it is a mystery (everyone should write a mystery) have Gun with it,

Rob Walker

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Midwest Literary Festival and Writer's Workshop

Aurora, Illinois is the host for the Midwest Literary Festival. If you're looking for a smaller venue rather than a national conference, then this may be what you're searching for.

Dates: October 5 -7, 2007
Friday: Writer's Workshop ~ registrations are still open until Sept. 30 or until the workshop is full. The day-long event costs $130.oo, and includes all breakout sessions, continental breakfast, lunch, and plenty of opportunity to hear professionals speak. For additional costs you might want to have a manuscript evaluated, pitch to an agent or publisher, or attend the Friday night reception and rub elbows with other authors, editors and publishers. Hotel accommodations are also available.

The workshop runs from 7:30 - 4:30 p.m. and offers a wide range of sessions:
finding your market, from ideas to sales, writing the memoir, hooks and cliffhangers, pitching your novel, point of view, mistakes writers make, selling non-fiction, elements of suspense, the writing community, writing for film, how to build your career, writing the historical narrative, developing fantastic characters, etc.

This will be a great time to speak with agents and publishers, one-on-one. I believe all who sign up for this, will have a specific time slot.

New York Times best seller, David Morrell, Scavenger, will be attending,along with Jonathoan Santlofer - Anatomy of Fear, Camille DeAngelis - Mary Modern, New York Times best seller Jacquelyn Mitchard -
Still Summer, and many more greats. Check the site to see all the award winning folks who plan to help with the workshop:

Publishers and Agents ~ I mentioned they would be there, but it will cost you to pitch to them. Gotta pay in advance folks!! To date they have scheduled: Gary Heidt - Imprint Agency, Inc.; Danielle Egan-Miller - Brown & Miller Literary Assoc.; Lauren Mosko - Writer's Digest Books; Kelly Nickell(for you nonfiction writers!) and Johanna MacKenzie - Brown & Miller Literary Assoc. Others may be coming too!

Saturday and Sunday (Oct 6-7) the downtown area of Aurora will be blocked off for vendors - my publisher will be there ... and me!! If you like browsing through books, you'll enjoy this friendly atmosphere. It reminds me of Printer's Row. Arts and craft vendors have been in attendance in the past and I imagine they will be there again this year as well. Barnes and Noble have had big discount sales and small press publishing houses line the streets. If you wish to be a merchant/book vendor, applications can be obtained at the website.

So if you haven't attended a writer's workshop in awhile, this would be the perfect time. I sent my registration in last week and am really looking forward to mingling with other writers and learning from the pros. Illinois is beautiful in October, and usually warm during the day. Space at the workshop is limited, so get signed up soon. Hope to see you there!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ebooks Are An Option by Morgan Mandel

For those who are unaware, print books are not the only option open for readers. Now not only the small publishing houses offer them, but also major NY publishers. In the age of computers, ipods and other gadgets, these electronic books are a natural progression.

Ebooks are easy to load, come in many formats to fit your needs. For those on the go, a pda or other electronic means of reading a book is an alternate method to get your reading fix. When space is a problem, such as on vacation, car trips, or even doctor appointments, readers now have the option to pull out a pda to choose from more than ten books on a menu.

Not only that, electronic books are eco-friendly, since no trees were killed to produce them.

I know many of you enjoy the feel of a print book in your hands, but to broaden your horizons, consider adding some ebooks to your collection. They could come in handy when you least expect it!

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What to leave in and what to leave out

There's been some discussion on various writers's forums and blogs about certain conferences only allowing writers who are on MWA or RWA "approved publishers" lists to sell their books or participate in conference panels or presentations.

This is unfortunate, because when a conference limits participation, that conference, in many ways, does a disservice to the reading and writing community.  There is simply no way that fewer choices can be better.

The argument about "standards" is a hollow and self-serving one and not worth rehashing here.

I'm happy, then, to be associated with Love is Murder (  With no disrespect to any other conference, I believe most will agree -- and LIMCON prides itself on this -- that Love is Murder is one of the most inclusive conferences/conventions that celebrates the "dark fiction" genres.

- If you are published with a traditional publisher, there are panel and presentation opportunities.
- If you are published with a non-traditional publisher (small press, indie press, e-press, etc), there are panel and presentation opportunities.
- If you are self-published, there are panel and presentation opportunities.
- If you are to-be published, there are mulitple opportunities, from my own Novelist's Boot Camp to master classes to panels and presentations on the craft and business and joy of writing.
- If you write (or read) short fiction, write for (or read) e-zines, love true crime, are an avid reader, want to meet librarians, agents, academics, editors, reviewers, fans, readers, or writers in like-stages of their careers, want to sample great Scotch Whisky, meet authors from all kinds of writing backgrounds, there are more opportunities than you'll be able to take advantage of in LIMCON's three days.
- Even our LIMCON bookseller is an independent-- She will sell your book--just coordinate.

LIMCON has MWMWA and SinC representation (and RWA as well) on our board, but as an independent NPO (non-profit organization) we are indeed independent. Not on somebody's approved list? Ain't no problem at Love is Murder. Write cross-genre speculative-erotic-suspense-mystery? A mainstream tough PI series? Searching for a publisher? Pack your coat and come to Chicago in February.
Almost every conference has something to offer writers and readers. We think Love is Murder offers something unique, intimate, fun, and inclusive. Please consider this blog  your personal invitation to put yourself on our list of attendees for LIMCON's tenth anniversary this coming February, put yourself through the Novelist's Boot Camp, and have a wee nip at our whiskey tasting.

See you at Sinc's WriterFest in St. Louis and then again in February!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Picnic On a Deserted Island

I'm reading a somewhat tedious book... I hate to tell you what it is, for fear that you will mock me, or worse, for my pedestrian ways, my ... call them scandalous ... feelings ... for it is a famous book ... very famous. It is The Swiss Family Robinson.

Yeah, I know. A classic.

Like Old Man and the Sea, it should be exalted, held above my own meager attempts at prose.

But frankly, have you read it recently? And not for school, but just for fun?

There's no sense of urgency in the book. All the good pastor and his family do is explore the island where they just happen to run into rubber, natural soap, wheat, rice, pineapples, salt, flax, etc. etc.

And like the Professor on Gilligan's Island, he knows everything, including how to create spinning wheels for making cloth, tap rubber and melt it down for shoes, create glass, cure meats and furs, somehow jam a twenty foot five inch thick tree trunk into the middle of a huge tree and all other manner of amazing feats.

Our friendly pastor has the skills of a cooper, a metal worker, farmer, biologist, scientist, industrialist, and a whole bunch of other 'gists' and 'tists.'

Add to this a plethora of animals that don't seem to belong on the same island including a boa that lifted its head twenty feet off the ground (the longest Anaconda ever found was thirty seven feet long), donkeys, monkeys, eagles, kangaroos, angora rabbits, sturgeon, ostrich, buffalo, bear, hyena, George Bush, and more.

And the pastor domesticates almost all of them like some kind of Robinson Crusoe-Dr. Dolittle. Well, all but the snake... but let's leave the President out of it.

That's about all they do through the first three quarters of the book.

Anyway, it's pretty hard for me to give up on a book, so I hold out hope that there will be some intrigue, excitement, some... well, plot, dammit... in the final pages.

Crucify me if you will, but just because a book has a reputation doesn't mean that it makes for a fascinating read. Or am I just jaded?

The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Long Haul -- by Larry D. Sweazy

Last week we covered writing for free—submitting to short story web sites that do not pay but provide exposure and the opportunity to build a following. While I’m still not sure of the value to writer for doing so, there are more alternatives on Internet.

As usual, the business model is much different from traditional print markets.

In the last few years programs like Amazon Shorts, Echelon Press, Fictionwise, and others have entered the Internet publishing scene. You can purchase a short story for a small sum of money, usually .49 cents or a dollar, and download it to your computer, print it off, etc.

From the writers standpoint, I think we need to examine what these programs have to offer.

First the money.

While the details of the above mentioned programs are different, they all share in one thing: They pay royalties from the first sale, some at 40%, some at 50%, but no up front payment.

At first glance this is not such a great thing for a writer.

In comparison, print markets pay a sum up front, but they rarely pay royalties. You’re not going to get paid 6 cents a word for a 5,000 word short story in the download markets—there will be no $300.00 check in the mail. If one story is downloaded, you’re likely to make between .25 cents and .50 cents, and most companies have a minimum, say $10.00, that you have to make before they cut you a check. To get a check for $10.00, you might have to sell fifty stories.

The print markets have a built in readership, and most of the download markets don’t (at least not to the degree as print markets do, like Ellery Queen)—the writer must promote him or herself with a little help from the Internet publisher. To make that $300.00, the writer is going have to accumulate well over a thousand downloads. That’s daunting for an unknown writer.

But…and here’s the BIG BUT, the print short story usually has one shot at finding a readership. A print story will run in one issue, and then poof, for most part, that story is history unless it gets picked up by an anthology or is resold. That’s rare.

The advantage, as I see it, to the download market is that the short story is always available, it won’t ever be out of print.

A little disclosure. I have four short stories on Amazon Shorts. That said, I had the opportunity to met Dan Slater this summer. Dan is the Director at Amazon Shorts. On top of being a really nice guy and wildly exuberant about publishing in general, Dan is passionate about the download market and the possibilities that await on the horizon. While discussing the “money side” of things, Dan said to me, “Look at it like this, while we don’t pay up front like traditional markets, what we do offer is an annuity.”

OK, I’m just as guilty as anybody when it comes to immediate gratification—I like the idea (and reality) of that $300.00 check for a short story sale. But I thought about what Dan said for a while, and it made sense. An annuity…something that pays over time indefinitely. That doesn’t sound too bad. It kind of sounds like a long bet, or another, albeit small, retirement account.

Nobody knows what the future holds. Again, the download stories are always available. Anything can happen…

So what happens when a new writer breaks out with a best seller and has short stories available at one of the download sites? Will that success generate short story sales? My guess is it will, or might—even if that story has been “posted” for a matter of years.

Or what happens when a writer has a signing or goes to a conference two years down the road and promotes their work--their electronic short stories? Will there be sales generated from that? The answer is yes. I’ve seen it happen with my stories.

Maybe a writer manages to sell 100 downloads a year for ten years, does that equal the dollar amount of a traditional market would pay? And does the publishing credit carry the same weight? What is the end result? Nobody knows. Yet.

I think the download sites are here to stay. They offer an opportunity. But it is a long haul opportunity, a part of the writer’s strategy to survive, grow, experiment, and generate money. How much? A lot of that is up to the writer…

As far as opportunities on the Internet go, I think these sites offer something in return, and should, at the very least, be considered as a possible, but not the only, outlet for a short story writer to explore. I still think a writer should try and break the traditional print markets first.

One more thing before I go. This year my short story, “See Also Murder”, was nominated for a Derringer award. It is available on Amazon Shorts. And my fellow western writer, Dusty Richards, won a Spur for his Amazon Short, “Comanche Moon”. I think these awards and nominations are the beginning of a wider acceptance of the download programs in the broader publishing world. That in itself should say something.

Next week I plan on wrapping up this discussion. We’ll look at print markets, and I’ll share some of my experiences as a short story writer…

Saturday, August 11, 2007

An interview with Heather S. Ingemar by Margot Justes

Below is my interview with Heather, she is an Echelon author.

Heather, tell me a bit about yourself .

Heather S. Ingemar has loved to play with words since she was little, and it wasn't long until she started writing her own stories. A musician since the age of five (piano, saxophone, violin, pennywhistle and Irish flute), she completed a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in December of 2006. She and her husband reside on the family cattle ranch, where she takes great delight in thinking up new stories to tell.

How long have you been writing?

Not for very long, actually. I've been a story teller since I was young, however. I've always loved telling stories. I didn't start writing them down until sometime around middle school, but I didn't pursue it. I got frustrated a lot because the stories on paper never came close to the stories in my head. It wasn't until college that I really became serious about it, and learned the skills. That was two years ago.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh, there are so many to choose from and for so many different reasons!

Do you suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I don't, and I don't believe in it. I do think that sometimes the words don't want to fall onto the page, but that's because they aren't ready yet. When they're ready, they'll come.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Research! Research your markets, the craft of writing, research the business of selling your writing, contracts, promotion, all of it. The best way to do well is to know what you're doing, and you do that by learning. Learn all you can.

Thank you, Heather.

WRITE TO SELL By Robert W. Walker

High concept ideas get you a read. If you have an eye-popping premise or "platform" or angle or twist no one's been crazy enough to ever think of before, you might get someone in the impossible world of publishing to take a peek. At which time the execution of the mad but wonderful idea that has sprung full-blown from your fevered, creative, passionate mind is either on the chopping block or the marketing block. Often the concept alone can get you through the door. A wild hair notion stated in a succinct and fascinating way. Once you have a fantastic idea for a novel, say a new twist on the old serial killer thing, one that say involves Child Protective Services and how miserably they have failed nationwide and say in New Orleans....then you have to couch it in the fantastical language you find on the back of all lurid paperbacks. This is called copy. For your pitch, you need to learn to write this exaggerated but informative style--that of the copy writer. Imagine, you are given the opportunity to write your own jacket copy....and do it. This becomes your pitch for the great idea lurking in your mind.

How best to learn the craft of the copy-writer? Read. Read every back copy you can. Read some for laughs, some for instruction, some for exercise and experience, and learn to mimic the style and purpose of this economical way of synopsizing your 80,000 words. Even bad copy does one thing--it informs the reader who the star of the story is--as in a name. Name names of characters, locales, and issues in the book. Name names of people, places and things. Use numbers if possible, stats and or dates and or other pertinent information as in aging sixty year old burnt out Detective George Detwilder Wisnewski, otherwise known among friends as GD Wiz, along with Somerset Dawes, another retired cop, team up to form the Dirty Old Harry Squad (working title of my current opus). Notice age is an important factor to the story; it's in the title. Notice the resonance of names and know that such precision is like taking digital photos that stick in the mind of the reader. The backdrop is modern day Chicago where the landscape can go from beautiful to bleak and dismal in the matter of a few blocks.

So when you are thinking of selling all those pages you have sweated over, couch your pitch in the language of the sales kings, the guys who write copy for books for a living. Guys who, unfortuantely, make more money off books than the rest of us.

Keep on Writing and Write to Sell --


Thursday, August 9, 2007

$8,800 or Bust ...

This weekend is the big 60 mile, 3-Day Susan G. Koman walk in the Chicagoland area. My girls (Angie, Amber, Shannon and Wendy) have been raising money for months in order to participate in this event. Each must raise $2,200. They have sponsored bean bag tournaments, hosted at bars, waitressed a taco night at a local bar and grill, sold hand decorated beer cozies, and sold out on their T-shirts that say "Save the Boobs!" They have requested donations from friends, family, church members and co-workers. Money is still dribbling in ... I think they will reach their goal of $8,800.

Tomorrow the walk begins. I don't know if they are physically ready for the task. They've done this walk before. They know how grueling it will be. The weather won't be much help, steamy and chances of rain. They have concentrated so hard on raising the money, they haven't prepared for the rest as they should have. And that reminds me of my writing career. Perhaps yours too.

I had worked so hard on getting the words just so on the page, that I hadn't taken the time to practice promoting my work once it was done. When my first book came out in 2004, I was overwhelmed with good wishes and selling was fun, for awhile. Then I realized I had to put myself out there ... in the public's eye. I had to speak to folks I didn't know and they didn't know a thing about my book. At my first book sigining, I fumbled about describing my book, not really succeeding at being coherent. The following events were better, but not by much.

I have learned much since then, mostly to be myself and use the Girl Scout motto: Be prepared! I now know to be concise, less is more. I let my books talk for themselves. My brochures have proved a valuable tool. I may be a closet introvert but when at a booksigning or some other author's event, I am almost comfortable being DL Larson, the author. But it takes practice. For those of you who love the part of promoting your book, I can only say - I'M JEALOUS! I can brag about anything but my own work. I believe I'm a victim of high energy with shy tendancies, not the best mix for an author. Plus the fact that talking about oneself is rude ... is so deeply ingrained in my psyche, I may never completely overcome it.

But .... But that doesn't mean I give up. Just like my kids who were determined to raise the full amount for the breast cancer research, I have continued to listen and learn all I can on how to promote my books. I am reminded of the great Winston Churchill and his quote, "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."

So, I'm back at filling my calendar with events. I am an author. I have to get out there and promote my work. But first, I'm going to Chicago this Sunday and cheer on my kids as they cross the finish line!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Hi folks,
You may have already seen this, since I've been so excited I've posted it everywhere I could think of.

I'm very pleased to have received two new reviews.

The most recent one, on 8/1/07, from George T of Pop Syndicate, gives TWO WRONGS 5 stars and says:

"Two Wrongs by Morgan Mandel is a thriller page by page. You won't want to put this one down until you've reached the end...This is a riveting reading and you will be glad you read this book."

To see the entire review, go to:www.popsyndicate. com/site/ story/book_ review_of_ two_wrongs_ by_morgan_ mandel/or go to www.popsyndicate. com and click Books in the righthand column, then click on the third review.

The other, from Patti McQuillen, of the Book Place Reviewers'Group, in July, 2007, says,

"This book is an awesome page turner...In the first sitting I read seventeen chapters...I do recommend this one. It pulls together life, perception, choices, consequences and communication. "

To see the entire review, go to:http://morganmandel books.ning. com/group/ bookreviewers

I'm happy that Two Wrongs is still generating enough interest for reviewers. If you know anyone who likes mysteries or romantic suspense, this novel is still available through, and by order at bookstores.

All the Best,Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Never hesitate to ride past the last street light at the edge of town. ...

There's something about riding a motorcycle--especially at night--that urges the rider to ride a bit further into the unknown, to leave the security of a town's streetlights behind and press into darker, less civilized places. With that urge however, comes some fear.

What does this have to do with the previous posts on writing for free? There is a connection.

Most of us would write even if we weren't paid for it--the passion to exercise our creativity is just that strong. At the same time, even writers have to eat; and moreover our work has value as entertainment, education, or both. So a writer needs compensation.

For better or worse, the publishing landscape has changed irrevocably. Many would say this landscape has darkened. There are far fewer markets for the many of the genres and forms of fiction that Robert Heinlein or Lawrence Block or a long list of well recognized authors produced in their early years. The days of a multitude of well-paying magazine print markets for fiction are gone. These markets have not been replaced by E-zines, because E-zines simply don't pay as well, often pay little, and sometimes pay nothing at all.

So what compensation is there for writers in these electronic micro-markets, and should a writer accept it?

When there is monetary compensation for writing for an E-zine, take it, just be careful of what rights you sign away.

When the money is small, compensate yourself in another way. Use the venue to go beyond your own streetlamps. Explore the unknown--in voice, subject matter, genre, or technique. Ride into the darkness of tough or off-limits subjects. Twist the throttle of your imagination, break a few speed limits, and leave just a bit of your "civilized" writing behind. You may get a few bucks, but the real compensation is that you'll feed the passion to create and go beyond what you thought you could do.

And whether you're riding or writing, there is great value in that.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Chiming in

I just have to add my two cents (about five dollars with inflation) to Larry's very interesting blog with a short story of my own.

A lot of my small humor bits have gone into a free e-magazine called Cynic Magazine. I've never tried to get my short stuff published for money, but simply wanted an outlet for my overflowing sense of humor. Being a classy mag, Cynic has published everything I've given them, including articles in their "Best of 2005" and "Best of 2006" issues.

Like Larry, I always sort of wondered if something might come of the exposure, but otherwise, there's no downside, because other than publishing them, archiving them and reprinting for the "Best Of" issues, copyright reverts back to me.

But something did come of this, just recently in fact.

When my second book came out last month, I emailed the news to everyone in my address book. To my surprise, a few days later I received an email from Cynic saying that they would like to do something that they normally don't do. Since I've been such a faithful contributor, they were going to put an ad on their next issue for my new book... for free! And not only that, but in a future issue they would do a review, even further increasing the exposure.

Free publicity!

So check it out at

The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Writing for Free -- by Larry D. Sweazy

Over the last 4 weeks I’ve been talking about short stories on the Internet. I have purposefully ignored the opportunities in print because I’m interested in this “new Internet world” that writers now have the opportunity to publish in.

Sadly, most of the short story web sites on the Internet do not present writers the opportunity to get paid in cold, hard cash. And even if they do, it is not enough to sustain a livelihood.

I stumbled across some information recently that makes an interesting point. Robert Heinlein started publishing short stories in the 1930s. He was paid $70.00 for his first short story sale. Even by the Internet standards of today that’s not bad. A lot of writers would jump at the chance to make seventy bucks by publishing a short story on the Internet. But wait, figure in inflation, do a calculation of the CPI (consumer price index), and that $70.00 translates into over a $1000.00 in today’s money. A grand. For a short story. That’s almost unheard of when publishing on the Internet.

The question is this: Would Heinlein have continued writing if he wasn’t going to get paid for it? He had to put food on the table, just like the rest of us. And like the rest of us, he only had so much time and energy. He wanted to be a writer, there wasn’t time for hobbies.

The world would be a sad place without Stranger in a Stranger Land on the library shelves.

I can’t answer the question I just asked, because Heinlein didn’t have to make that choice. But we do.

We can give ourselves away for free.

We can hope we gain a following. That someone will notice our talent. But really, how often is that likely to happen? Not to say that it hasn’t, because it has happened, and it will happen again. But it’s rare that someone makes a “name” for themselves by giving away their work.

You can look at the free web sites like the old small press days before the Internet. It can be a great training ground. You can learn how to deal with rejection, how to work with an editor. You can build up a list of credits. Which leads to even more questions.

An agent rarely represents short stories, and if you’ve written a novel, do the Internet credits really help?

I think the credits are looked at suspiciously. Most traditional editors assume that there isn't any kind of editorial process on the free web sites. They’re right about some, wrong about others. What’s gong to help get that novel published is good writing and professionalism.

So can the free web sites help? Depends on your goal. I tell most people who starting out not to worry so much about being published—instead, they should worry about becoming better writers. Accomplish that, and the publishing part will take care of itself if you’re persistent and professional.

If publishing on a free short story web site will make you a better writer…then it is part of YOUR process. Part of the new process that I have yet to fully grasp. Free web sites serve a purpose. There are some that are pretty damn good. And I’m sure the editors would like to pay their writers, but they don’t have the funds. Until that changes, I think it is questionable what a free web site does for one’s career.

That’s just my opinion. I’m not judging. I’m just asking questions. Seeking answers like everyone else. I don’t claim to know the answers about the Internet and how it will affect a single person’s career. Or dream. They’re all different. One size doesn’t fit all.

Me? I’d like to be paid for my work. I’m a storyteller. I’ve written most all of my life. Worked hard at becoming a professional writer. Put in a lot of time. Just like a plumber dedicates himself/herself to being a plumber so they can make living, I’d like to make a living as a writer.

A lot of people will tell you that its not possible to make a living as a writer these days. Maybe they’re right. But when someone tells me I can’t, I just try harder. I think anything is possible. There are writers making a living by practicing their craft. Why can’t I? Why can’t you?

If you’re going to give your work away for free, then try the top markets first. Work your way down. Publishing is one of the few places where there is equal ground at the top and at the bottom. Receiving a rejection slip from Ellery Queen takes the same amount of effort as a rejection slip from a free web site.

You never know. You just never know. Someone may actually be willing to pay you for your writing.

Shouldn’t you expect that in the first place?

Next week I’ll talk about programs like Amazon Shorts that pay over the long haul instead of up front.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Interview with Mary Cunningham by Margot Justes

As promised, below is my interview with fellow Echelon Author Mary Cunningham.

Mary, tell me a bit about yourself.

My husband, Ken, and I live in Villa Rica, GA, and are the parents of three grown children…along with Molly, our beloved, adopted canine. At the moment I have a 3-book children's fantasy/fiction series called "Cynthia's Attic," published by Quake. Cynthia's Attic: Curse of the Bayou, will be out around DEC. 1, 2007.

Along with my children’s series, I also co-authored a humorous lifestyle book, Women Only Over Fifty, WOOF, and am published in the Gulf Coast Writers Anthology, Vol. VI. I am a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and The Carrollton Creative Writer's Club

The idea for Cynthia’s Attic came about through the recurring dream of a mysterious attic. Upon realizing that the dream took place in the home of my childhood friend, Cynthia, the dreams stopped, and the writing began.

My father, Paul Bulleit, a Louisville Courier Journal reporter for 40 years, is directly responsible for my love of writing, creativity, and fantasy. When I was a child, a night didn't pass that Dad wasn't either reading to me from a favorite storybook, or making up a story of his own.

How long have you been writing?

I DIDN'T write from age 0-7. Since then, I can't remember not writing!

Who is your favorite author and why?

Harper Lee is one of my favorites. I love her descriptions and her effortless dialogue. To be able to write a story like "To Kill A Mockingbird" would be my dream. I also love the writing of Terry Kay (To Dance With the White Dog). His characters are always true-to-life, but thought-provoking and charming.

Do you suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

Doesn't every writer? I can tell you what I don't do. I don't sit at the keyboard and bang out sentences until something comes to mind. I have to get away from the story until I'm feeling "creative" again. I also bounce ideas off my husband. He's a very good story-teller and can get me thinking, sometimes in a totally different direction.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Read, read, read. Attend seminars and learn as much as you can about the craft of writing and the market. Before you even think about sending a manuscript to a publisher or agent, edit, edit, edit! Do your research and find out which publishers would be interested in your genre. It's a waste of time (yours and the publishers) to send a fantasy/fiction story to a publisher who prints only non-fiction books.

Thank you Mary for your time.

Please visit Mary's website listed below.

The adventure continues!
Curse of the Bayou - DEC. 2007
Have you checked out Fictionwise?

USA Book News Children's
Book Awards Finalist !

Next week I'll visit with another author.
Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon press LLC, June 2008

Friday, August 3, 2007

STAND ALONE or SERIES? by Robert W. Walker

-- How Much Can One Character be Put Upon? How Does One Decide?

When I set out to write City for Ransom, I knew it would be too large a canvass for a single book, that it was a series from the outset. How did I know this? 1) the number books handed to me by a Chicago historian and bookstore owner, Kenan Heise--as the stack was almost too heavy. 2) Once I conceived of Inspector Alastair Ransom, I knew him so well that I felt certain his shoulders were large enough to carry the weight of several books if not more. 3) Alastair and men of his time, handicapped by a lack of relevant science applied to police work, had been kicking around in the back of my mind since the early 80s due to a book that Dean R. Koontz insisted I read.

I have since learned that when another author "truly insists" that your read a given book that it is incumbent upon you to do so, especially when you have shared with this author a notion for a book. For an entirely different novel, I followed the advice of J.A. Konrath to read yet another title and it proved invaluable to my writing project. The book Dean Koontz suggested was the invaluable Century of the Detective by Jergen Thorvald (on my shelf now), and the tomb that Konrath suggested for a horror-thriller entitled Fleshwar ( serialized novel) was Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer. You see where this is going? An author who does a busload of research often does the wise thing and telegraphs to others the project he is working on so as to gather really good information on said subject. This means much of my writing is predicated on much reading or factual materials. You have to break some eggs to make an omelet.

Perhaps it is the teacher in me. Even in sixth grade I was unofficially "tutoring" other students from the kid who was held back to the cute girl next door. It spills over in my books. There are few chapters over the years that I've written that don't have a research based point to get across be it to remind folks that the mayor of Chicago was murdered on the grandest night of his life--the closing night of the hugely successful World's Fair to the fact that ants have it rough with parasites too--poor ants. Never felt sorry for an ant in my life until I read Carl Zimmer's book.

Getting now to Shadows in the White City--I naturally wrote it as a sequel but as with every sequel I write, I wanted it to stand on its own—do double duty as both sequel and stand alone. Stand alone. What is this thing I rarely do? Ever try to stand a single volume up on a table and keep it from falling over? Yuk-yuk. No, a stand alone is closer cousin to a shorter work, say a novella, even a short story. A stand alone does not beg a sequel. A stand alone novel is often so unique, the character(s) and plot so wedded that it is hard to see, feel, smell out the possibility of continuing on with another plot utilizing these characters—principally the main character. Not all stand alones but many are plot-driven as they have a one-in-a-life-time feel to this unusually twisty storyline. At least, this is the case with me, an author whose first book, written in high school, was a sequel to Huckleberry Finn.

Woo-woo: S-S-Shadooows in The Whhhite Cityyy (Twilight Zone music here please) sees the demise of the Phantom of the Fair in the first portion of the novel, just as in City for Ransom the big surprise of the book is revealed in the first 70 pages or so. Shadows moves on to Alastair's next difficult case, the murders brought about by a maniac the press is calling The Leather Apron Killer--who may or may not be an import from London. I wanted this to be an atmospheric, creepy case and it really is. How do I know? When an author can creep himself out...feel the fear his characters must be feeling, well let’s just say an author knows his child—even if it is a “brainchild” so to speak (or is it conjure?). It's like when you create a frozen death scene and your fingers become too cold to work the keys, or when you're doing a heat-wave scene and you begin to perspire at the keyboard and you're dripping sweat onto the keys, or your character is awash in a tsunami and you’re quite sure that you yourself are drowning! You just know you are hitting the right stride when you can cause physical and mental changes in yourself, your first reader. It's what they mean by the power of the pen.

I have just finished a stand alone entitled DEAD ON which was requested by the editor as a stand alone. This sets up different wheels and cogs turning in the head. I felt more concentrated on this story and this character and not “setting” him or her up for future challenges. I simply didn’t give a thought to future ills, evils, and catastrophes that Morgan Strydwell, a suicidal cop whose suicides keep having to be interrupted by such irritating things as curiosity, anger, duty, and action. While working on the novel with the idea of it being a stand alone, I felt in many ways more focused on the moment in the story, and I had a sense of compactness and directness (not that my series lack these important elements). As a “long distance” writer, doing a one-shot set in Atlanta and the Georgia woods, I felt not constrained but rather free and concentrating heavily on the heart of the matter. I didn’t have loads and loads of research to do, and I didn’t go in expecting Morgan to carry many books or stories on his shoulders. It was an altogether different experience. Once finished, however, I had that same old curious desire to know what happens in a future for this character that does no exist unless I write it? A sequel. It comes of always wanting to “predict” a final chapter in the life that isn’t in the story. Ever read a short story and you wanted to write a new ending for it, or extend it, to predict what happened AFTER?

But of course there are economic concerns as well. If a publisher/editor calls for or wants a series character, you have to take this into consideration, and visa-versa or in the case of crime writing—vice-a-vice-ahhh!

The author in the end determines if he can or cannot find a new, twisting, challenging, compelling set of curve balls, sliders, fast balls, sinkers to throw at a character created some time back. In my case, often, a series dies a natural death and I am NOT through with challenging the main character. It’s why Morgan Strydwell is, in a sense, an extension of Lucas Stonecoat from my 4-book Edge Series. Strydwell is a shadowy cousin, a reflection of Stonecoat. Alastair Ransom is a composite of many earlier characters—both male and female. Dr. Jane Tewes who works cases with Alastair is quite similar to Dr. Jessica Coran of my 11-book Instinct Series.

Finally, to think clearly on this topic of Stand Alone vs. Series—think TV episodic drama. Each hour-long science fiction tale and crime drama from Star Trek to Law & Order do not reinvent the main characters who become staples of the drama but rather each episode –after establishing the main characters bedrock traits—challenges those traits. If Detective Lenny is an alcoholic, we want to challenge his AA commitment. If Captian J.T. Kirk is brave, what circumstances can we place him in to challenge that—to bring him to his knees? In series work, the reader/viewer is comforted by the returning hero/heroine, but bored silly if that hero/heroine is not put through excruciating paces.
It comes down to this. In the stand alone novel as with the one-shot TV drama, we are finished with throwing rocks at our hero. However, in the series novel as with the series TV drama, we are hardly done tossing rocks and even soda cans at our heroine. Sometimes sticks as well as stones, sometimes and often mental as well as physical anguish and horrors to the delight of the reader/viewer. Two key words in writing either a stand alone or a sequel: challenge and compel. Make the challenges to your fully-realized, well-established character as compelling as you can.

Happy Authoring, Noveling, and Sensationalizing,
Rob Walker

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Stress, The Bridge Breaker

Most of you probably saw the tragedy last night on the news. I'm talking about the bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed without warning. Six people were lost to that catastrophe and my condolences go out to those families. At the same time, I am in awe that so few folks were killed. If someone had written this into a novel, no one would have believed it could happen. Bridges just don't collapse. Yet the few experts have said unnoticed stress caused the accident. I'm sure in the days ahead we will read more about bridges and the intricate workings that make them safe.

And I wonder how many writers will work this into their novels? Is there some way to keep a tally in the next few years? Will it become over-used like so many other tragedies have in the past? I wonder too, if we as a society will become afraid of the many bridges that are over fifty years old. Professionals said the Minneapolis bridge was safe, but it still collapsed. So we wonder if budget cuts or other bureaucratic measures have overlooked safety for economics. Perhaps that is the real story in this tragedy.

In the last few weeks my family and I have traveled to Peoria IL numerous times to stay with Skip in the hospital. We crossed the new bridge stretching over the Illinois River. It soars high above the water. If it came tumbling down, the out come would not be so encouraging. The drop alone would give one a heart attack. It doesn't take much for my imagination to conjure up a tale of horror.

Yet we can not live in fear of bridges. We should not fret needlessly, but we can insist that bridges in our community, county and state be checked and rechecked. We can take measures to insure our safety. We can write to our congressmen to address this issue. As writers we can express our concern in a dignified and fluent manner. But it takes action.

In closing, I thank those who expressed concern for Skip, my mother-in-law. She passed away on Tuesday and I miss her so much. But the stress of watching her struggle in her broken body is over. I feel she strengthened a bridge in my life, the bridge to ever-lasting life. Her pain brought my family together as never before. And that's a bridge that won't crumble.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


If I seem disjointed, I kind of am. As usual, I try to fit too much into my free day. Add to that, I had a new toy to figure out.

Yes, I fell for it. I bought an iPhone and I love it!
The learning and setting up part was the pits, but now I'm in the happy phase where I sort of know what I'm doing and am experimenting.

Anyway, a while back I had reserved a display case at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library to highlight the Chicago-North Chapter of Romance Writers of America, to which I belong.

Today was the set-up day. I had three tiers to work in - two glass shelves and the bottom wooden shelf to fill up. It took me almost two hours of moving books and photos different ways to figure out how everything should look.

When I was through, as a bonus I got to use my new toy and take photos. Lots of sunlight and glass made getting good results a challenge, but I tried different angles until I found some that worked pretty well.
It was very easy to migrate the photos to my computer. Somehow the laptop knew exactly what to do. Okay, probably the new iTunes software I was instructed to install at the beginning had something to do with it.

I also figured out how to set up my e-mail and e-mailed one of my photos to myself and it worked!

Well, I'm off now to spend a few more dollars buying iTunes----