Saturday, November 27, 2010

How Was Your Black Friday? What about Cyber Monday?

My brother and I went for our annual excursion hitting area stores on Black Friday, while my husband relaxed at home. He hates such doings, but I enjoy joining in the excitement. The worst line was at Kohl's, but I stayed in it, because I really liked the 40% off tablecloth I got for $8.99.

I picked up some other nice bargains, but didn't go overboard. Besides our last stop at Kohl's, we hit Radio Shack, Meijer, Walmart, KMart, Staples, Pep Boys, my brother's choice which was surprisingly popular, Office Depot, Menards. I was too late for the $9.99 comforters and the $9.99 frying pan sets at Menards, but I did pretty well otherwise. For photos of my bargains, including a stainless steel stock pot, come on over to

I couldn't get up any enthusiasm for Saturday sales, but by Monday, I'll be checking the Web. I've been tempted for a while to get a projector for when I do presentations. I wonder if there will be a good one I can find on Cyber Monday. If so, I'll let you know.

What about you? Did you do any Black Friday buying? What about Cyber Monday? Will you be checking the Internet for bargains?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sharing Christmas Story Results

Just want to point you to the results from Wednesday's post at Acme Authors List, where I made a call out for Christmas stories. I got a tremendous response recommending stories by the authors themselves and also for recommendations about books by other authors.

Whether you like print or ebook, you may discover some great finds from this list. If you want to get into the Christmas spirit, why not check one or more of these out. They'd also make a great present.

Thanks,  Morgan

PS This is an old picture, but snow always reminds me of Christmas. So far we don't have any this year, but that could change any day here in Illinois.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tips and Excerpt Today From My Guest, Light Gore Author, C.A. Verstraete

A good writer never stops learning. Here are some tips from one of the best of them, C.A.  (Christine) Verstraete. After that, you'll learn about her latest releasem what she calls a light gore.

10 Tips to Better Writing By C.A. (Christine) Verstraete

1. Start Small
Big projects can sometimes be overwhelming. Break them into bite-size pieces. I'm guilty of stressing over not writing the 20 pages a week I'd planned. Setting goals smaller, say three pages a day, will get almost the same results, with less stress. And if you don't get the exact amount done, don't beat yourself up. Even one paragraph or page is one more than you had before, and 500 or so words closer to your final word count.

2. Believe in Yourself
A bad review can hurt, but the pain is temporary. But that inner critic that tries to hold you back and tear down your efforts (you're a lousy writer, you'll never get anywhere, why are you wasting your time?...) can be worse. Believe in you. Think on what you've accomplished and move forward. One rejection is just that. It's not the end. Don't let rejection stalk you. Send that story or project to another publication and move on to the next one. Having at least a few stories circulating (some say 10 or 12 if you can) will prevent you from obsessing over one.

3. Learn From Others
Success comes from listening to others who have already been there. Check out the experiences of other writers in your genre. Study the works of writers you admire to see how they did it. No matter how many years you've been writing, there is always something new to learn.

4. Review Yourself
A little self-evaluation can be good to gauge where you are in your writing goals and progress. Be honest; don't be afraid to point out your shortcomings, but also decide on how to improve them. Maybe you've only been published in lower paying markets and are afraid to move to the next level. Pick a market you haven't written for; study the content, and work on a story to submit. Becoming a better writer doesn't mean treading water; test the waters in new markets.

5. Make Goals
Goals keep you from stagnating, but make them reasonable. Start with one goal, like planning to get published in a new magazine in your genre, or working on a story in a different genre or field. When that goal is accomplished, make a new goal. Keep moving forward and don't stress over how long achieving that goal may take. It isn't a race. Work at the pace you feel comfortable with.

6. Seize the Day!
Swallow your fears. Some opportunities only come once. Don't be afraid to take a chance. You never know where it will lead.

7. Don't Fear Mistakes
You'll make mistakes; you'll write less than stellar stories. We all have. It's one mistake. Even if you make the same mistake, it's not the end of the world. Learn from them. Every mistake only makes you stronger.

8. Don't Be a Victim
Self-pity leads to depression, which leads to inactivity, self-doubt and can be a vicious spiral that robs you of your energy and happiness. No matter your circumstances, there is no reason to sit still and be unproductive. Don't make excuses, do something. There are tons of free resources available. Use the Internet and computers at the library. See if there is a niche in your community where you can volunteer or provide a service. See #5.

9. Be Happy
We all can't be Rockefellers or live like them. Always thinking the grass is greener on the other side will never make you satisfied. Look closer and you'll find crabgrass and weeds there, too. Enjoy your faith, friends, family, pets, and hobbies. Shut off the computer and make time to exercise and have some fun. You'll feel better and be more productive.

10. Think Positive
It takes less energy to think positive and will add more to your life and your writing.

And now, let's see find out how C.A. managed to put her tips to work in her latest release:

A party at a day camp; a blind date on Valentine's Day. Can you say loser?, Jess thinks. But this is no ordinary party. The Killer Valentine Ball has more thrills than Jess ever expected--or will ever forget.

As they walked into the shadows, Jess noticed that things weren't quite as they appeared. Sections of the room lightened for a moment before being cast again in deep shadow. What Jess thought she saw in that split second made her heart race. On the dance floor, the same three couples stood, clasped to each other. Jess stared. She swore they never moved.

The music played quietly in the background. When the shadows brightened, Jess caught a quick glimpse of one of the couples. The young man's mouth gaped open. His partner's gown glistened with streams of dark ribbons. The light flashed again and Jess gasped. Those weren't ribbons! The girl's dress shone with dark glimmers. Like-like blood, she thought. No, it can't be! She looked back at Dylan, who shook his head and urged her on.

"Light tricks," he whispered. "It's not real. It's Halloween stuff, like the movie. Don't worry."

Want to find out what happens next?  You can for $.99, if you Click the link above.

The Killer Valentine Ball

Author: C. A. Verstraete
Cover Artist: Delilah K. Stephans
Word Count: 3,094; Pages: 15
ISBN: 978-0-9865875-6-6
Price: $0.99
Release date: October 1, 2010
Warning: Light gore

To connect with C.A. (Christine), you can find her online at these links:

Book page:

Please leave a comment or question below for C.A. (Christine). I know she'd like to hear from you.

Meet C.A. aka Christine Verstraete, Tuesday's Guest Blogger

Tuesday the 23rd, is the scheduled day for C.A. (Christine) Verstraete's blog stop here, but since she provided me with such a wealth of material, I'm starting early. Today, meet C.A. as she reveals how she became a writer and frankly answers interview questions.

Here's what Christine says about getting hooked on writing:

     C.A. Verstraete
I grew up with my nose always in a book, so it seemed a natural progression that I wanted to be a writer. A prophetic wish, it seems, judging from my favorite baby photo as seen on my website of me with a newspaper and a pencil behind my ear. I studied journalism and continue to do freelance writing for newspapers.

I also enjoy writing all kinds of fiction, with stories appearing in several anthologies including the recent Steampunk'd from DAW Books (coming out Nov. 2).

My kid's mystery, Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, was #1 on Kindle for Miniatures books and was a 2009 EPPIE Award finalist for best YA/children's ebook by the Epic Foundation.


1. How long have you been writing?

C.A.  Forever? Ha! For years. Being trained in newspapers, I'm used to writing every day so the real question is probably when am I not writing?

2. What is your favorite genre?

C.A.  I confess to split personality writing. I'm drawn to mysteries, horror and kid's books, so I seem to write about the same as what I like to read. I love a good scare.

3. What's been the hardest thing you've written so far?

C.A. I'd have to say that learning more about science fiction-type writing has been interesting and a great challenge. I learned about a whole new category when writing my story for the Steampunk'd anthology and had a lot of fun doing it. Some of my stories had some magical and supernatural elements already, so I hope to try my hand at more of that.

4. If someone walked into your office, what would they see?

C.A.  Stuff! (Or what others call junk! :>)) Being a collector and crafter, as well as a writer, you tend to collect a lot of supplies, projects and materials, besides the books and other "writerly" items.

5. Is there a particular author who influenced you?

C.A.  I have several favorite authors, though I think Stephen King and Dean Koontz rank at the top. I also enjoy reading mystery authors like Margaret Grace, Elaine Viets, and others.

6. What made you decide to sign with Muse It Up Publishing as people are generally leery of new houses?

C.A. It sounded like an interesting venture and I have to admit I am impressed with how thorough and professionally it's being run. The openness is also refreshing. Publisher Lea Schizas has a good reputation and runs a tight ship.

7. What has been your worst experience since you became an author?

C.A. I'm sure just about every author has horror stories and bad experiences to share. A few things I learned along the way are the value of openness, open accounting, especially where fundraising and royalties are concerned, and the importance of checks and balances.

8. What has been your most positive experience?

C.A.  Growing as a writer. Seeing my work published in new anthologies and working with new publishers has been a fun experience for me.

9. What constitutes a good book, in your opinion?

C.A.  A good story. Nothing is more enjoyable than spending time with characters you like (or sometimes even hate!) and want to know better.

10. Which of your books is your favorite?

C.A.  I've learned something different with each book or story I've written, so in that respect, they all are special. I've enjoyed writing, and trying new things with each one, whether it was delving into past history and fantasy as I did in my story, The Dream Child (Dragons Composed), developing a friendship (and conflict) between pals Sam and Lita (Searching for a Starry Night), learning about time travel (Timeshares), or writing horror with a macabre sense of humor (The Killer Valentine Ball).

11. If you were asked by a new author for advice, what would you tell that person?

C.A.  Write every day. Writer's block is an excuse. If one story isn't working, write something else.

12. What do you like to do when you're not writing?

C.A.   I enjoy crafting and working in miniature. I collect dollhouse miniatures and like to make many things myself. (Click miniatures on my website for some samples.)

12. What can we expect from you in the future?

C.A.   More! Haa! I'm continually working on new projects. See my website and blog for updates.

Book page:

Tomorrow, be sure to come back to learn Christine's 10 Tips to Better Writing, and also read an excerpt from her light gore, The Killer Valentine Ball.

The Killer Valentine Ball
Author: C. A. Verstraete
Cover Artist: Delilah K. Stephans
Word Count: 3,094
Pages: 15
ISBN: 978-0-9865875-6-6
Price: $0.99
Release date: October 1, 2010
Warning: Light gore

Please welcome C.A. with a comment below. It would be much appreciated.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holidays Are Opportunities

Holidays are a great opportunity to enrich your manuscript. The trick is to not gloss over the  holliday, but to add vivid descriptions as to how the holiday is celebrated by your characters.

You can draw on this by your own experience. Think of a holiday, such as Thanksgiving. What's the weather like outside? That will depend on where you live and/or the climate vagaries of the fictional year you create. Such descriptions can add greatly to the setting of your story.

Who is invited to your character's house to celebrate the holiday? Is someone missing? Why? A rift in the family, illness, death? Who prepares the meal? The mother, the wife, the son, the daughter, one, some, or all? Who helps? Children, spouse, friend? How is the table set? Disposable plates, glasses, silverware or fine china and silver? Such details are a good way to show the station in life of your characters, whether they're well-off, just-married, college students, maybe, or members of a large family.

What's on the menu? Does it reflect a character's ethnicity, a quirk, or maybe an effort to please someone who's held dear or who's domineering? Many people eat turkey for Thanksgiving, but maybe your character is alone and eating spam. Why?

What about guilt? There are lots of possibilities for that, such as a dinner guest who forgot to bring a hostess gift. Then there's the working wife or mother or single who feels bad because she uses canned gravy and ready-made dressing instead of making them from scratch. Why does she work? Is it because she needs the money, wants to get away from home for a while, or has a high profile position? I'm using the female gender here, because it's the women who usually cook the holiday meals, but there are exceptions. If so, that's another good difference to emphasize in your book.

Or what about the eternal ying and yang of invitations to the husband's and wife's houses on the same day, at the same time? Where to go? Who to please? That's a tough one.

What other holiday descriptions can you think of, either from your own novel or someone else's?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hibernation by Morgan Mandel

I don't know about you, but I find it hard to keep my eyes open lately in the evenings. I get myself all comfy on the couch, with my comforter over me, start watching something good on TV, and I miss most of it.I wake up and then stumble upstairs to bed.

In the morning, it's harder than hell to get up. I'd much rather stay in my cozy waterbed. If I don't get up, though, and start moving around, my energy is sapped for the day. Once I get moving, I'm okay. It's just the getting up process that's hard.

I blame it on the change of seasons. It's dark so early at night and darkness is a conducive atmosphere for sleep. So, it's very easy to hibernate these days.

Yes, I do have this inclination to stay in la-la land, mostly in the evening after a hard and confusing day at work. Because of that, it's almost impossible for me to do anything then on my WIP.

I have made a schedule which I'm doing my best to adhere to. If I want to send out emails in the morning, I try to do them from my home computer before leaving for work. When I'm on the train going to work, I devote that time to my WIP. On breaks I catch a few blogs and emails. At lunch and on the way home, I read my Kindle. When I get home, if I feel up to it, I try to finish a blog, then relax, go back and do some emails, and perhaps zonk out.

What about you? Are you feeling more like hibernating these days also? Does your schedule change with the seasons?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Please Welcome Children's Book Author, Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Please welcome Cheryl C. Malandrinos -

I'm so happy to welcome Cheryl C. Malandrinos to my blog today. I've known Cheryl for some time now through the Internet, and feel like I know her in person. She's very giving and very professional.
Cheryl is a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book, a book reviewer, and blogger. Little Shepherd is her first children’s book. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two young daughters. She also has a son who is married.

Cheryl Malandrinos is also a freelance writer and editor. A regular contributor for Writer2Writer, her articles focus on increasing productivity through time management and organization. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Cheryl is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.

As you can tell, she's a very busy lady. Here's what she has to say about how she performs her juggling act -

Juggling It All by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

There are days I feel like I belong in the circus. Not because my family is a bunch of freaks—okay, maybe we are, but that’s a story for another day—but because I am constantly juggling a menagerie of items, some of which are dangerously sharp or laden with fire.

When I left the corporate world to stay home with my children, it was as thrilling as flying through the air on a trapeze. Here was my chance to enjoy motherhood, be a good wife, and focus on my writing.

Six years later, I’m wondering how the heck I got all the necessary stuff done when I was working outside my home.

In case no one has ever mentioned it before, writers don’t make a ton of money. Well, Stephen King does, but how many of those did God make?

The average writer—especially those newer ones like me—supplement their income in some way. For me, it’s been as a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book. I love my job, which is a darn good thing because my family is convinced some days I am married to my laptop.

Then when I started promoting my first children’s book, Little Shepherd, it was like adding an elephant into the mix. Have you ever tried juggling an elephant?

Luckily, I’ve always been an organized person who manages her time wisely. I couldn’t cope otherwise. Here are a few tips that can help:

• Track your time to see where time is wasted. We all do it: surf the Net instead of write; get lost in research; allow distractions to steal your writing time. By tracking your time, you’ll be able to identify those areas and develop a plan on how to use your time more wisely.

• Use timed writing sessions. Set a timer for 10 minutes and do nothing but write. You can do this throughout the day to keep you focused.

• Set deadlines—even if they are fictitious ones—so that you have a goal to strive for. I used this strategy and was able to complete a first draft of a manuscript in three months.

• Cut out trade journal articles and keep them in a folder so you can tuck them in your briefcase. You can read them on your lunch hour or while you are in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

• Don’t be afraid to say no.

• Try to create a schedule that takes advantage of your most creative time. I’m not a morning person, so I tend to write in the afternoon or after the girls are in bed.

• Leave room in your day for the unexpected.

I don’t believe there is ever a perfect balance. One hand will often be handling a heavier load than the other. I’ve put together a schedule that I can live with 8 days out of 10. Some days my family needs the majority of my attention, other days it has to be work and writing. Some days I feel fortunate to blend the two well.

Finding a balance you can live with the majority of the time will help you achieve your goals. You might even find that you can become a master juggler. Just watch out for those elephants!

You can visit Cheryl online at or the Little Shepherd blog at

You can purchase Little Shepherd at:

I've already got my copy. It's a very cute, sweet book, perfect for a Christmas present.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Cheryl.
What about you? Are you a juggler too? Please leave a comment for Cheryl about her post, her book, or whatever else you wish.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

For Bargain Hunters - Price Reduction for Killer Career

My husband and I received our property tax assessment this week from the Cook County Assessor's Office and were happy to see the value was less. If we were selling our house, it would be a blow. However, we plan to stay there for a while and have been struggling to pay outrageous taxes, so it was good news.

Houses have been selling for less these days, so in a way it wasn't surprising. We're just hoping the places that need our money won't come up with some new formulas to raise our taxes anyway.

Prices are going down all over the place. I for one am always looking for a good sale and confess to clipping coupons from the paper.

In light of the present economy, I've just reduced the ebook prices of my romantic suspense, Killer Career. If you like bargains, the kindle and other ebook versions are now 99 cents. You'll find the links below, if you care to bargain hunt on my book. (g) or Smashwords.

Morgan Mandel