Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Nixie's Song vs. 13 Treasures! by DL Larson

At my library, we take turns hosting four week long programs for different age groups. I usually take the 9-11 year old kids. This last month we did a comparison of two books: The Nixie's Song, Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, by Tony DiTerlizza and Holly Black; and 13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison.

The kids soon realized both stories were about fairies, and not the sweet little Disney kind. These fairies had serious issues and the characters became entangled with the fairy worlds created by the authors. We used Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide To The Fantastical World Around You. We searched the colorful pages and found the fairies mentioned in both books. The kids were quite surprised to discover a fairy from 13 Treasures in a Spiderwick Field Guide.

Then the kids noticed more similarities. One girl asked, "Did the author of 13 Treasures remake the first Spiderwick book?" I had no answer for her except, "I bet she read them, yes."

Another topic popped up. Action! The kids enjoyed the action from The Nixie's Song more than from 13 Treasures.  Now, don't get me wrong, the kids enjoyed both books. But I noticed they listened better and remembered more of The Nixie's Song because it was written with a good exchange of dialogue and simple words they understood. 13 Treasures vocabulary was a bit above them and they lost some of the plot in the long narrative.

Each week I pulled several vocabulary words from each book and posted them without definitions. I love playing word games and I asked each kid to select a word they wanted to know more about. Many of the words came from the 13 Treasures side of the board. They wanted to know what these big words meant.

Next week will be our final day of the program. We will play a game I made up for them. It's a bit like Jeopardy. We will have seven categories: three about The Nixie's Song: characters and plot, fairy mischief and vocabulary. We will have the same for 13 Treasures. The seventh category is UP 4 GRABS, mostly questions about the crafts and activities we did in the previous weeks.

Each week I encouraged the kids to take out any of the three books to read. So far, nearly everyone has taken home Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide, only a handful have taken The Nixie's Song, and no one has ventured to take 13 Treasures. I'm still hopeful they will be intrigued enough to check out one of these great books. This is the first time we have not read a whole book together. I hope with a bit more encouragement a few more will be tempted into reading one or both of the books.

So in running this program, I learned a few things to help my own writing. Using big words does not enhance the story. I knew this already, but it proved to be a good reminder. I was also reminded not to have page after page of narrative. Folks tend to skim over these parts and I want my readers to read each sentence.
Writers need to keep the plot moving and the characters growing and learning.

Even in children's books!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Race Is On!

I'm doing my utmost to get Easter Basket ready before Easter, so I haven't been blogging much.
If I miss my deadline, I may need to change the title and make the book a Mother's Day one instead.
Time will tell! So far, this is what it looks like, unless I have to change the title!

Now, back to work on my book!

Find all of Morgan Mandel's romances and mysteries at
her Amazon Author Page:

Connect on Facebook:

Twitter: @MorganMandel

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cruisin' Again

I'm heading off to the sunny Caribbean today aboard the beautiful Liberty, so I won't be blogging. I'll 'see' you when I return!

Here's to sunny skies and warm temperatures.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Friday, March 20, 2015

Marketing for Writers

I’ve been doing some research about marketing because you can sink a whole bunch of money and time into trying to market your book and I'm interested in the most cost and time efficient ways to marketing a book.  Just slapping it up on a website isn’t going to provide the best odds for selling your book anymore, not sure it ever did.  If you build it, they won’t necessarily come and buy it.

I found some interesting resources in my how-to-market journey and I thought that I’d quickly share some of those.

The first is from a site titled Author Media with a subtitle of Making Writers Famous Online.  They have a blog entry titled 89+ Book Marketing Ideas That Will Change Your Life.  They’ve broken their recommendations into categories such as, Build Your Fan Base and Build Your Brand Offline so it is well worth a review.  I really like how they’ve presented their recommendations.  The jury is still out on how feasible it is to accomplish all of the items on the list but having a list to work from is a huge step in the overall process of marketing your book.  Here’s the link:

Another site to peruse is Marketing Tips for Authors. With posts such as Why Authors Should Use Video to Promote Their Books there are lots of tidbits and food for thought in case you get stuck on how and why to do some aspect of marketing your book.  Here’s the link:

Here’s the link to the guide to using video from a marketing expert:

One of the more interesting references I stumbled across was the Amazon link to Guerrilla Marketing for Writers with a subtitle of 100 Weapons for Selling Your Work.  This book has been around for awhile with updates along the way and I haven’t read it myself but one of the reviews at Amazon is quite enlightening.  As the reviewer points out, the book authors’ overarching philosophy is that writers need to think more like entrepreneurs than writers when marketing their books.  This might explain some of that relentless and "assertive" behavior by some writers at conferences.

Here’s the link to the book and the review at Amazon:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Writing Retreat with Donald Maass! by DL Larson

Every time I take a writing class I feel I don't know a thing about writing. Someone changed the rules and everyone knew but me.

Once talking to other writers, I realized I was not alone with this feeling. Writing is a changing creature and if one expects to succeed, one must keep evolving too. Editors and publishers want a stronger, more involved story for readers. I believe all writers want this as well. We want our readers to become engaged with the story and characters. We want the reader to connect immediately with the protagonist.

We need to write the truth. If we don't give the reader the truth, what is the purpose of writing? We need to give the reader some deeper level of truth that resonates a connection with the characters. Truth moves us. Mr. Maass asked the class to write something from our life that would never be in our novel. He shared that this experience would most likely be something painful, hurtful or fearful. And much too personal to share. Then he told us ~ find a place in your story for your character to say that truth. When there is nothing left to lose, the truth comes out.

Another exercise was to write about a new experience we had. I wrote about my daughter having an emergency c-section. I hemorrhaged with each of my births and never quite got over that fear. I had already experienced a deep fear when my grandson was born too early. The fear nearly overwhelmed me. All turned out well and we were ever thankful for little Colton. Then it felt as if history repeated itself when my daughter had her son, Van. Except this time, the fear was for my daughter, her baby was fine. She was not. An eternity passed while we waited. Finally the doctor approached us. I couldn't breathe. My husband and I wilted against each other when our daughter was wheeled past us. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Then I heard the doctor. Our daughter would be fine.

Mr. Maass told us to forget about safe writing. He asked if there was some place we could put our new experience in our WIP. I smiled, because I already have. So I have done something right after all!

Another topic we discussed was the saggy middle of the story. Many writers neglect this part of their story. It's an important part of any novel and needs attention just as the beginning and end. The middle needs to have surprises and twists. The POV character is going through experiences. These experiences need to be not only truthful, but self-awareness needs to evolve through whatever fear, abandonment, puzzlement the protagonist is involved in. The inner journey the character struggles with is changing and we as writers need to reveal this in new ways.

Here's an example: Her guts twisted in agony.  Delete that. In its place write the experience of the emotion so the reader's gut twists instead. Have the reader experience something they were not expecting. The intention is to stir up the inner emotions of the reader, not the character. Micro tension best describes this procedure. Tight emotions revealed on the page capture the readers empathy and they want to read more. They won't skim through the paragraphs waiting for more action. They will want to read every sentence. Neon emotions don't work. Writers need to give the reader the experience of the emotion they want to share.

We covered so many other topics in this workshop, I hope to share more with you another time. But I will leave you with a questionnaire to ask your POV character:

  • What does your protagonist most want?
  • What does he/she want to avoid at all costs?
  • What does he/she want to accomplish, no matter what?
  • What is the one thing he/she needs to become?
  • Who is the one person your POV character will never trust?
  • Who is the person your POV character trusts the most?
Whatever your answers may be, make the opposite come true in your story. Easy success is boring. Give your readers the challenging ride they deserve. Creating obstacles raises the stakes for your character and enhances the reading level of your audience. Writing your character out of a mess they've created is what good writing is all about.

Good Luck!
Til next time ~


PS: for those interested: Donald Maass has writing books to help you develop your writing skills. The one he used for our class: Writing 21st Century Fiction.

Donald Maass
Donald Maass Literary Agency

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Little Late?

With the temperatures (finally) warming up and the snow melting here in the Midwest, I was able to get to a task we've sorely neglected. We were finally able to get the Christmas lights off of the bushes yesterday! We haven't turned them on since early January, but there's been too much snow around to take them down. So it was definitely nice to take care of that chore. We also finally took down the large wreath from the side of our garage. March 14 might be the latest we've ever gotten to these tasks, but looking around the neighborhood, we aren't the only ones behind this year. Many a house still sports a wreath in some place. I guess winter took us all by surprise this year.

And although I'm enjoying the nice temps as spring approaches, my mind is really on the hot, humid weather of the Caribbean. Next week at this time we'll be boarding our cruise ship and sailing off for a seven-night cruise to the Southern Caribbean. We'll be visiting St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and Tortola. And although I've used a cruise and tropical destinations as the setting for a book already, I'm thinking I might be inspired again to revisit the islands for a story.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wild Wedding Weekend - available from The Wild Rose Press

All Abby Walker ever wanted was to live a normal life in her small suburban-Chicago house. After traveling around the world in her youth, staying put in one spot is a dream come true. But when she winds up on a game show as a favor to a friend, her life takes an adventurous turn she isn't at all prepared for.
Noah Grant has put his small-town Indiana roots behind him. He travels all over the world, enjoying the freedom and adventure. He has no intention of settling down anytime soon, if ever. But then he finds himself married to Abby in a bizarre quirk of fate, and he realizes his life will never be the same. Their passion flares as hot as the sultry Caribbean air. But is passion enough to turn their Wild Wedding Weekend into a lifetime of love?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Death and Your Digital Life

Writers are accustomed to wondering what happens to their work after their death in terms of copyrights.  In fact, this issue is addressed by federal law.  Here’s the link:

Essentially, copyright law “…automatically protects a work that is created and fixed in a tangible medium of expression on or after January 1, 1978, from the moment of its creation and gives it a term lasting for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years.”  Joint works with two or more authors can be even longer and prior to the 1976 law change the years varied depending on when the work was created.  There’s a nice explanation and chart at the following link:

But now with so much of our life as writers being played out in the digital world, what happens to our digital life that seems to continue on even when we’re gone?  What happens to our Websites, our social media accounts or blogs?  These are all good questions and ones that need to be addressed.

Well, you will find many articles about estate planning and how to include your digital life in that estate planning just by searching within that same digital realm.  Here are just a few examples:

Physical death doesn’t have the same meaning in the digital world as it does in the “real” world so it’s important to start thinking about what will happen to your digital assets such as your website:  who will maintain it, if that’s what you want; who will pay for it; who will take it down or even address the issue of just letting your domain name expire or even selling it?  These are just some of the questions that need to be answered.

So, just one more task to add to your writer’s to-do-list – and you thought all you had to do was actually write!  Well, you do have to actually write to have a product to sell and you could hire your own peeps to do the non-writing work for you, or even out-source it; but still, your name is on the bottom line of all things official so you still have to at least know what is going on with your writing – and now digital – life.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Commitment Madness! by DL Larson

I feel a bit like Chicken Little in the reverse. Instead of saying, "the sky is falling!" I'm tempted to holler, "the snow is melting!" And that is a great thing! Spring is slipping into Illinois in a nice way for a change. It's exciting and already most have shed their winter coats for hoodies or no coat at all. I saw a few brave souls in flip-flops today. Oh, to have my toes free!  Free of socks and boots! It's what dreams are made of!

I've been looking forward to this weekend for several months now - it's our Windy City RWA writers retreat. I've been excited about this even though it's my husband's birthday this weekend. He's urged me to go and so I will. But the snow is melting! I want to put out some spring decorations! I want to celebrate my husband's birthday in nice weather! It's usually so icky out in mid-March, this patch of nice weather is addicting. I had my windows down!

Then there is the other commitments that crept up. Our community choir was asked to sing at a person's funeral this Saturday. I've known this family for years. I'd love to sing with the choir, but I'll be at the writers retreat and unable to help out. I've been asked to bring a dessert for the dinner afterwards - a cake. That's just another thing that feels weird about this weekend. I'm making a cake for a funeral but not for my husband's birthday. My sweet daughter-in-law volunteered to make my husband's cake since I won't be around. Homemade cakes are a BIG deal in our family. And then, my two wonderful daughters are making the dinner because I won't have time. I'm soooooo grateful, yet feeling a tad guilty I'm not cooking my husband's birthday dinner. Again, home cooked food is a BIG thing in our family!

And finally, a good friend of ours is having a party tomorrow night! It's a celebration too since he has recovered from a bone cancer transplant. I don't want to miss the get-together. But I've committed my time to the writers retreat and won't be able to attend that either.

It comes down to commitment madness! If I decided to stay home, my family would be upset with me. I need this retreat. I need this time to devote to my writing. I know that! No matter how many times I tell myself this, I still feel selfish for choosing my priority over others. I'm going to blame my mother for this ... putting everyone else before my own needs. It's definitely the way I was raised.

Unless my upbringing gets the best of me, I will attend the writers retreat. I'll let you know how it went next time. It should be a fantastic time. Donald Maass is the presenter, and he will talk about writing 21st Century Fiction.

Til next time ~


Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Series Continues

When I finished my Corral Series, I found I wasn't quite ready to let go of the place I had created. I knew I was done with the three main characters, who all got their happy endings in their respective books, but I always thought it would be fun to revisit The Corral using some of the (very) minor characters who had appeared, usually as a very brief mention) in the three main books.

Friday I signed a contract for Christmas at The Corral, the first in a spin-off/sub-series called "Holidays at The Corral". This story features Van (the brother of Zach from This Can't Be Love). Van received a cursory mention in Love, so it was fun to delve further into his story and develop him as a main character. All I knew about Van was that he was a lawyer. I expanded this and made him a divorce lawyer, who, because of his career, doesn't believe in love or marriage. I paired him with Maggie (a completely new character to The Corral) who is so busy taking care of other people, she doesn't realize she it's nice to have someone take care of her for a change. Both are surprised to find the other, and even more surprised to discover a spark between them.

Other than a brief mention of Zach and Jessica from This Can't Be Love and Sharlie and Logan from This Time for Always, the initial characters from the series don't make an actual appearance in the story.

I have plans for a few more holiday stories based at The Corral: Halloween, New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, Fourth of July. Each will take place at the bar, but will have unique characters and plots not related to the original stories. The new leads will be characters briefly mentioned in the trilogy, which will tie everything together.

It's always exciting to have another book on the way. Now I just need to figure out what to do for my next project...

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


The Corral Series - A small town where good friends gather and rugged cowboys fall in love. Boxed set available from The Wild Rose Press.

Friday, March 6, 2015

There's an App for that?

An interesting article is at Publishers Weekly concerning Apps connected to cookbooks.  Here’s the link:

What I found interesting about this article is how many of the same concerns that exist for fiction writers overlap with those of non-fiction writers, and just because a writer goes all techno/geeky with their product doesn’t mean that the tried and true principles don’t have to be followed.  Being an IT professional in my day job I’m always interested in what new techno/geeky “thing” is available and how it is being used and/or adapted but cool apps won’t make up for a poor or lackluster product.

When special effects were introduced to movie making I remember seeing some movies where the special effects were the only attraction of the movie, but when a movie blends special effects and storytelling well it can be an amazing and enjoyable experience.  I believe the same is true for novels and other writings – the story telling is critical, despite the technology used to put it in the hands of readers.

Now you might not think that a cookbook, the process of creating that cookbook and how the reader experiences the cookbook would have anything in common with fiction writing but I propose that you’d be incorrect in that assumption.

I found it interesting that the article referenced above stressed that “Content is Key” and that connecting with readers is vital to the success of a cookbook even if you have a dazzling App that draws them in.  Hum, so just because you build – or write - it doesn’t mean they will buy it and if you don’t engage the reader properly the first time if they do buy it they may not come back for a return visit.

For fiction writers it might be a book video/trailer on You Tube or some sort of other marketing instead of an App but the concept is the same.  Drawing readers in is one thing and keeping them engaged is another.

BTW – don’t know what an App is or how to go about developing your own?  Here are some useful references and examples:

- The Novel Engagement App from Romance Writers of America (RWA) but you may have to be a member to use it and there is an additional fee.  It’s promoted as a book discovery app and is free for readers.  I’m still exploring the possibility of using this app but from what I’ve read so far it appears to be worth it, especially for members of RWA.

Keep in mind that there are different types and levels of Apps and make sure that security measures are addressed.  Blog and web hosted sites tend to have apps built in so the author doesn’t necessarily have to create their own but it’s helpful if authors know what apps are best suited to readers discovering and enjoying the books those authors have spent long hours writing.

Alas, writing isn’t just about writing anymore and the Indie author sometimes has to wear many hats but when the writing takes a back seat to those other tasks it may be time to call in some help.

Speaking of book videos/trailers:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Getting Hooked on a Series

Some authors have success by writing their books in a series. In a way, it seems hard, thinking up new plots for recurring characters in each book, but there are also advantages. The more you write about a character or place, the more you come to know, and the more nuances you can reveal to the readers.

Lately, I've gotten hooked watching such TV series as The Listener, Blue Bloods, Judging Judy, and Bones. By watching them in order, I can catch all the fine points, jokes, and references I might otherwise have missed by seeing them randomly.

I have dabbled into series writing, and hope to do more. I've heard the more books in a series, the more chances a reader can get hooked and want to read them all in order, like I've been doing watching my favorite TV shows.

When I wrote Her Handyman, I had no idea I'd follow up with A Perfect Angel, but I felt sorry for one of the characters and had to make life better for her. So, that ended up being a two book series, but might turn into more, after I finish a few other books first.

I'd like to complete Easter Basket, which would be the second in a holiday series. First was Christmas Carol. Both feature inhabitants of the fictional town, Deerview, Wisconsin.

I'm not sure which holiday might come next, as I still have a few other books to finish.

What about you? Are you hooked on a particular TV series or book series? Or, have you written a book series?

Find all of Morgan Mandel's romances
and mysteries at her Amazon Author Page:



Twitter: @MorganMandel