Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 24, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 07-24-2014

Thanks for stopping by for this week’s link round up!

The New Yorker takes a deeper look into the career of Mary Rodgers, author of Freak Friday, who died last week.

Multiple writers in Singapore pull out of National Library Board events to protest the removal of 3 children’s books from libraries.

Amy McCullough explains why children’s literary heroes need to be less white.

Here are the Bestselling Books of 2014 (so far).

CRAFT

From beginning to end, there are a lot of details writers have to handle. Janice Hardy lists 4 things to avoid on your first page, Susan Squires discusses writing sex scenes, and Mary Buckham handles writing active settings.

Jami Gold advocates building a character arc from the end backwards, Sharla Rae shows us how to write about hair, and Amanda Patterson lists 350 character traits (175 good, 175 bad) for us to flesh out our characters.

Chuck Wendig dispenses 25 ways to write a real page-turner, while Natalie Lakosil warns us to beware the dreaded revisionitis.

Have you ever thought of serializing your novel? Clara Kensie talks about the life of a serial novelist. And what about ghostwriting? Roz Morris gives us the ghostwriting FAQ, for those who are thinking they need one, or who want to become one.

The writing process can at times be frustrating, overwhelming, and futile-feeling. Molly Greene lists 15 tips to increase your productivity, C.S. Lakin shares 5 writer goals to help avoid overwhelm, and April Henry captures how the writing process really works.

Michael Cairns explores whether single-genre fiction is outdated, while Megan Elizabeth muses on the entire writing experience from writing to publishing.

We are lucky to live in an age where writing advice from experienced writers is so freely available. K.M. Weiland gives us 3 reasons NOT to write for the money; Jane Friedman shares lessons learned at the 2014 World Domination Summit; Jennifer Robson explains why dogs make fun writing partners; and Worst Muse shares some truly bad (and funny) writing advice.

BUSINESS

It seems that Amazon is holding all the cards in the Amazon-Hachette dispute, but Josh Cook discusses one card Hachette can play—DRM. Meanwhile, Douglas Preston has organized the Authors United group to try and give authors a voice in the Amazon-Hachette dust-up.

Amazon unveiled its subscription service, Kindle Unlimited. Mark Coker of Smashwords asks: is Kindle Unlimited bad for authors?

As the agency pricing trial winds down with Apple as its last defendant, the New York Times reports that Apple could pay as much as $400 million in ebook settlements.

If you are searching for a literary agent, Carly Watters lists 6 things you should NOT expect from an agent.

Nick Thacker unveils the truths about self-publishing, while writers of all stripes are starting to talk about money—and that’s a good thing.

Marketing is hard work for us authors, but it comes with the territory these days. The most confusing thing about it is that there is not just one way to success—it is a combination of factors. Rachel Thompson gives some tough love to authors, advising them to stop whining and do the work. When you get to work, Nina Amir has 6 branding tips for writers and authors, and Helen Phillips and Adam Douglas Thompson share 6 tips to make a book trailer.

If you want to get the most out of your social media platform, follow these 15 Twitter stats that can get you more retweets, and Mari Smith’s tips how to get the most organic reach out of Facebook’s algorithms.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

All of us start with an ugly first draft. Check out these poems by William Blake and Lord Byron, scribbled on manuscript pages.

Want a fast read? Here are 50 incredible novels under 200 pages.

Wow! Photos of 9 of the most fascinating abandoned mansions from around the world.

When did we start using affirmative interjections? Yes, a 1,000 years ago.

For those of you pining for the World Cup, Edd McCracken has a literary ode to the World Cup final.

That’s all for us this week!

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | July 22, 2014

Listening

The backdrop to this week’s blog musings is thunder rumbling for a full thirty seconds, not just the usual boom and done.

 

What have I learned about writing this week? This month?

 

As I listened to a singer/songwriter acquaintance of mine croon his hit song for the umpteenth time since he wrote it, I finally “got it” that a creator has to fall in love with their own creation. Period. I haven’t allowed that to happen to me and I’m curious about what I will have to do to “fall in love” with my own writing. Is it all about making sure my work is perfect? That’s a little scary since I’m not absolutely sure what is perfect writing.

 

 

Recently, I’ve listened to an audio book, not a usual thing for me and interestingly enough, I’ve become hooked on a series that, if I were reading, I’d have started and abandoned after the first couple of chapters.

 

I admit I no longer give every book a fair chance. I choose books that captivate me immediately but read quickly enough that I spend some of the night sleeping instead of reading. I hate dragging a book out over days and weeks so much that I’ve often read until dawn and gone to work on just a couple of hours sleep. Now that I’ve reached the age where I need my sleep, if a story doesn’t grab me quickly, it doesn’t get read.

 

This audio book had a slow start, but a book that is read out loud is, by its nature, a slower experience for us fast readers. I’ve also realized I have a habit of skimming when I read, well, I can’t skim when I’m listening because there’s no such thing as hearing faster. At the speed of the audio book reader, I could focus on other things along with the story; the author’s use of description and language and the characters’ personalities. Listening, I observed imperfections that I may have skimmed over otherwise if I had been reading, but absolute perfection doesn’t really matter when a story grabs you.

 

My phone is shrilling an NOAA Flash Flood warning, a seemingly perfect end to these thoughts.

 

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | July 18, 2014

Con•Gregate 2014

Opening Ceremonies with James Fulbright, Jennifer McCollom, Toni Weisskopf & Mark Poole, 7-11-14

Opening Ceremonies with James Fulbright, Jennifer McCollom, Toni Weisskopf & Mark Poole, 7-11-14

It’s not often you get the chance to attend the inauguration of a new convention. I had that opportunity when I attended Con•Gregate at the Marriott in Winston-Salem, NC, from July 11th to 13th. Putting on any convention or conference has to require not only a lot of work but a considerable amount of time as well, and launching a new convention must demand even more. So I send out kudos to ConGregate Productions’ board of directors — Everette Beach, Laura Haywood-Cory, Paul Cory, James Fulbright, and Tera Fulbright — and all the staff and volunteers for their admirable efforts. I think everyone who attended considered the convention a success.

Panel: Urban Fantasy - Future of the Genre with Sharon Stogner, Marcia Colette, Faith Hunter, Larry Correia & Nicole Givens Kurtz, 7-12-14

Panel: Urban Fantasy – Future of the Genre with Sharon Stogner, Marcia Colette, Faith Hunter, Larry Correia & Nicole Givens Kurtz, 7-12-14

Featured guests at the convention included Writer Guest of Honor Larry Correia, Artist Guest of Honor Mark Poole, Special Literary Guest Toni Weisskopf, and Special Media Art Guest Jennifer McCollum.

Panel: Subverting the Trope with Tony Ruggiero, Paula S. Jordan, Stuart Jaffe, Rhonda Oglesby & Larry Correia, 7-13-14

Panel: Subverting the Trope with Tony Ruggiero, Paula S. Jordan, Stuart Jaffe, Rhonda Oglesby & Larry Correia, 7-13-14

In addition to a variety of panels, convention goers could broaden their knowledge and skills with workshops and demonstrations on costuming, make-up, special effects, and prop-building and workshops and seminars on writing — beginning the story (and revising that beginning), writing dialogue, plotting, revising (identifying and fixing grammar mistakes), going beyond the first draft, the Magical Words Workshop (feedback on your first 2500 words), and the Magical Words Seminar: Live Action Slush Pile reading.

The Blibbering Humdingers in Concert, 7-13-14

The Blibbering Humdingers in Concert, 7-13-14

Danny Birt in Concert, 7-12-14

Danny Birt in Concert, 7-12-14

Gray Rinehart in Concert, 7-13-14

Gray Rinehart in Concert, 7-13-14

Other activities included gaming; filk concerts with the Blibbering Humdingers, Danny Birt, Gray Rinehart, and White Plectrum; author readings and signings; book launch parties for Gail Z. Martin and Misty Massey with Silence in the Library Publishing, and D. B. Jackson (David B. Coe); the Baen Traveling Show; games for fans — Fandom Feud, Debate Club, and Geek Trivia; comedy with Phil Keeling; the Dealers’ Room; the Masquerade (costume contest); the Charity Auction and the Monster Hunters International Charity Game.

Panel: How I Got My Start in Fandom with Tom Hutchens, Paula S. Joedan, Randy Richards, Regina Kirby & Tally Johnson, 2-12-14

Panel: How I Got My Start in Fandom with Tom Hutchens, Paula S. Jordan, Randy Richards, Regina Kirby & Tally Johnson, 2-12-14

A number of the panels were designated ET for “expert talks.” Topics for these ranged from science to podcasting, from art to fantasy. Other panels, labeled AP, emphasized “audience participation.” While panels at speculative fiction conventions always involve audience questions and comments, the special emphasis on audience participation in this latter group made these panels even more enjoyable.

Q & A: Ask a Neuroscientist with Tedd Roberts, 7-11-14

Q & A: Ask a Neuroscientist with Tedd Roberts, 7-11-14

Expert Talk: Cues from Shakespeare with A. J. Hartley, 7-11-14

Expert Talk: Cues from Shakespeare with A. J. Hartley, 7-11-14

Expert Talk: Insterstellar Travel with Les Johnson, 7-13-14

Expert Talk: Insterstellar Travel with Les Johnson, 7-13-14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a partial rundown of some of the panel topics:

  • Art — Art and Gaming; The Business of Being an Artist
  • Brainstorming — Building the Big, Bad, Radioactive Bug; Killing the Big, Bad, Radioactive Bug; World Building with Steven Long
  • Children’s Activities — Junior Ghost Busters; Kids Crafts; Kids Filk and Cookies
  • Costuming — Costuming 201
  • 16 - Costume, 7-11-14Diversity — Lt. Uhura: Diversity Began with Star Trek; Writing the “Other”
  • Fandom — How I Got Started in Fandom; Sports Geeks
  • Fantasy — Magic’s Price; Epic Fantasy; Urban Fantasy: Future of the Genre
  • Gaming — What’s Your Gamer Type?
  • Instruction — Learn about Sched.org; Learning to Navigate BoardGameGeek.com; ConGoing 101; Kickstarting Your Project; Managing Your Finances as a Writer
  • Media/TV — Science Fiction/Fantasy on TV; Gone Too Soon [cancelled TV series]; 10 Years of NuWHo
  • Miscellaneous — Raising the Next Generation; Geeks Get Fit
  • Paranormal/Horror — Paranormal: Truth or Fiction; I’m Friends With the Monster Under My Bed; I Hate Zombies, but What if…
  • Allegra Liana, after the Make-up and Special Effects Demo, 7-12-14

    Allegra Liana, after the Make-up and Special Effects Demo, 7-12-14

    Podcasting — The How-to’s of Podcasting

  • Publishing — Self-Publishing Pros and Cons
  • Reading — What Are “YOU” Reading?
  • Science — Ask a Neuroscientist; Harvesting Space for a Greener Earthquake; NASA Panel; Interstellar Travel
  • Science Fiction — Almost Human; Dr. Who Through a Woman’s Eyes; Will Star Wars Be the Next Marvel?
  • Social Media — Social Media/Marketing for Authors/Artists/Others
  • Steampunk — Mecha Samurai and Steampunk Camels
  • Writing — Alternate History; An Alien for Your World, A World for Your Alien; Cues from Shakespeare: Fantasy and Thriller writer; Learning to Write for Your Editor; The Writing Life; The Myth of the Strong Woman; Subverting the Trope
  • Young Adult — Forever Young
Panel: Every Villain Is a Hero with Edmund Schubert, Tony Ruggiero, Alexandra Christian, Emily Lavin Leverett, A. J. Hartley & John Hartness, 7-12-14

Panel: Every Villain Is a Hero with Edmund Schubert, Tony Ruggiero, Alexandra Christian, Emily Lavin Leverett, A. J. Hartley & John Hartness, 7-12-14

Several awards were presented at the convention. Award winners included Mur Lafferty, who won the Manley Wade Wellman Award, an award which recognizes outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy novels written by North Carolina authors; Rich Sigfrit, who won the Cornerstone Award, an award dedicated to acknowledging other fans’ contributions, which is presented by Singularity Effect, a group of fans from the Carolinas; and Misty Massey, who won the “plank,” ConGregate’s special award for the guest who went above and beyond the convention’s first year. Winners of the Masquerade include Mark MacDicken — Master Class, James and Tina Rippe — Novice Class, Michele Giffin — Journey Man Class, Regina — Best Craftsmanship, and Mikki Stith — Judges Choice for DarkChylde.

Workshop: Beyond the First Draft with Paula Jordan and Gray Rinehart, 7-11-14

Workshop: Beyond the First Draft with Paula S. Jordan and Gray Rinehart, 7-11-14

Debate Club with Doc Geressy, Michael D. Pederson & James Maxey, 7-12-14

Debate Club with Doc Geressy, Michael D. Pederson & James Maxey, 7-12-14

Panel: World Building with Steven S. Long, 7-13-14

Panel: World Building with Steven S. Long, 7-13-14

My interest in science fiction stems from my interest in science and learning more about the solar system and the universe, so I was especially fascinated by the panels about NASA and space exploration. Most people don’t realize that NASA deals with much more than space exploration; it also includes earth science, meteorology (weather and weather forecasting), exobiology, geology, geography, public health, and more. People also don’t recognize that the science necessary for space exploration has given us so many advances in the technology we use today. Every time you fasten a shoe or bag or anything else with velcro, you are using a development that came through NASA. Many medical advances, including lasik, have come from the space program. GPS — useful for finding your way to conventions and conferences you haven’t attended before — depends on satellites in space. In fact, according to Les Johnson, most of us do not realize how much our entire economy depends on space technology and that if the technology went down, our economy could collapse. That is just plain scary.

The NASA Panel  with Tedd Roberts, Maggie Allen, Paula S. Jordan & Les Johnson, 7-12-14

The NASA Panel with Tedd Roberts, Maggie Allen, Paula S. Jordan & Les Johnson, 7-12-14

It’s unfortunate that the government has so reduced the funding for NASA. Now is the time to prepare for the future. Some people don’t see a point in spending on something to benefit us in years to come when we have so many problems now, but the truth is that the advances in science and technology do benefit us now and are, in fact, a bargain. According to Les Johnson, the budget given to NASA is equivalent to the amount Americans spend on potato chips in a year. I think we could manage to give a bit more to our scientists, don’t you?

The news from NASA, however, also includes positives. In 2017, NASA plans to launch a vessel using solar sail technology to study an asteroid. I’m really excited about this project. Since the quantity of elements and substances on Earth is limited — and retrieving them too often involves destruction of land our growing human population may someday need — asteroids offer a future source of raw materials for technology and industry. Exploration of the viability of that resource needs to be done. In addition, solar sail technology, which has the advantage of using the free solar wind to propel the spacecraft, is an economical option for space travel that needs to be explored.

On July 20 we will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the first walk on the moon, an event that awed and inspired many people in this country and around the world. In fact, according to the NASA panel, some of the best things about the space program are that it increases our understanding of the universe and gives us a vision of the future and of the things we can do as a country that we’ve forgotten in recent years. If anything is inspiring, that is.

Expert Talk: Insterstellar Travel with Les Johnson, 7-13-14

Expert Talk: Insterstellar Travel with Les Johnson, 7-13-14

Larry Correia signing books in the Dealers' Room, 7-12-14

Larry Correia signing books in the Dealers’ Room, 7-12-14

As you can tell, I really enjoyed the convention and am looking forward to next year, when the convention will be moving to High Point, NC.

I’ll leave you with a wave from Greg8, the delightful little green man created by John Grigni to be Con•Gregate’s mascot.

Image of Greg8 used with Con•Gregate’s permission.

For more information and photos see my blog post A New Speculative Fiction Convention: Con•Gregate 2014.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 17, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 07-17-2014

Welcome to the mid-month links round up. Hard to believe summer vacation is about half over, at least in our area.

The winner of this year’s Frank O’Connor Short Story Award is Colin Barrett’s Young Skins.

World Book Night has been scrapped in the USA, but author C.J. Lyons replaces it with Digital Book Day.

This year, Banned Books Week will highlight graphic novels.

Have questions about library ebook lending? Chester County Library answers the FAQs of ebook lending issues in libraries.

The push for diversity in writing is growing. The Diversity Movement gains visibility at the ALA Annual Conference, Disability in Kidlit’s Corinne Duyvis shares writing tips on how not to write disabled people, and Marvel Comics recasts Thor as a woman.

If you want to make a living as a writer, Bob Mayer shares 13 great truths.

Megan Whitmer shows exactly why pirating an ebook is criminal.

CRAFT

Writers are often advised to “write what you know.” Author Terra Elan McVoy suggests “write what you want to understand.” To understand more craft, Jane Friedman posted 3 cool ways to meet, teach, and critique online.

Plotting can be the bane of a writer’s existence. Monica M. Clark advocates condensing the plot of your story into one sentence before you even begin. Hopefully this will help guide you as you write. But if you still end up with plot holes, Roz Morris identifies causes and fixes for plot holes.

Liven up you writing with the often-underestimated power of setting, and 3 ways to use color to enhance your story.

Martina Boone wonders if readers give more leeway to unlikeable male characters than to unlikeable female characters, and MJ Bush gives us 3 steps to taking our character further and deeper with anger.

Editing and revising makes or breaks a story. Jolene Haley lists 8 must-read articles on editing, Jami Gold has a shiny new Story Development and Revision Worksheet, and Martha Alderson explains how to turn a lackluster middle into page-turning excitement.

The lonely genius stereotype gets all the hype, but Joshua Wolf Shenk reminds us of the power of creative pairs. Jen Matera lists the benefits of an open mind, and Lynne Tillman shares what to say when people ask you why you write or make art.

BUSINESS

It’s wild out there in publishing these days. Anne R. Allen defines traditional publishing, as well as self-publishing and vanity publishing, so newbie writers won’t get scammed. David Henry Sterry also lays out the pros and cons of big press publishing, small press publishing, and self-publishing, so you can find the best fit for you.

With Amazon-Hachette still on people’s minds, Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker sets up a satirical, “unbelievable” encounter with Amazon, and Chuck Wendig talks more about the heated, damaging rhetoric surrounding publishing these days.

If you are going to self-publish, follow these 9 successful self-published authors right away. If you are self-pubbing a children’s book, these are 5 people you need to have on your team.

If you’re querying, Peter Knapp is running a query critique econference right now. Janet Reid tells what your chances are if you are not a debut author in the slush pile. When you get the inevitable rejection letters, Carly Watters describes how you can tell whether it is a form rejection or not. What do you do if you have an agent and the relationship is not a good fit? Stina Lindenblatt explains the steps when you have to part ways with your agent.

MS Wish List is a gold mine for what agents are currently seeking, Jane Friedman lines up 5 research steps to writing a book proposal, Marie Lamba explains what it takes to get asked for a full manuscript, and Jane Dystel lists things to think about after your publishing contract is executed.

Pamela Druckerman explains the French book culture, and how it is radically different from the U.S. model. Debut novelist Ted Thompson spills the secrets of his publishing experience–including talking money.

Marketing stumps many authors. Erik Wecks explains how to create a tagline, and Savvy Book Writers lists over 100 websites to promote your book for free.

Finding it hard to squeeze in blogging time? Penny Sansevieri shares 20 ways to reuse, recycle, and repurpose your old blog content, and Anne R. Allen lists great blogging advice in her how to blog guide for authors post.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

July 11th marked the 115th birthday of author E.B. White.

125 famous authors voted for the Greatest Books of All Time. Do you agree with their list? Meanwhile, Kirkus has 9 new books that would make great movies.

We love these cool bookish places gathered together by Book Riot. And take a look at these 50 tattoos inspired by children’s books.

And if you think being a famous writer means no more social worries, take a look at this infographic of famous writers who hated each other’s guts.

That’s all from us this week! Happy summer writing!

 

View from the 12th floor of the Winston-Salem Marriott on Cherry Street, 7-11-14

View from the 12th floor of the Winston-Salem Marriott on Cherry Street, 7-11-14

 

I’ve written a number of blog posts about writing conferences and science fiction conventions. Later this week I’m going to report on Con•Gregate, the speculative fiction convention I attended this past weekend. On the long drive home from North Carolina, I reflected on all the things I’ve learned about writing over the years from panels and workshops at such conventions. I realize that many of our regular blog readers and visitors, while interested in writing and reading, have no particular interest in speculative fiction [science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, paranormal, horror, steampunk, and much more comes under this umbrella term], so I’ve come up with six ways attending a science fiction convention can benefit writers of any genre.

 

1. Science fiction conventions are a bargain.

Writers need to learn the craft. Some do this by taking college courses; others attend writing workshops and conventions. Pursuing a college degree takes money. Writing conventions and workshops cost less but can still run into hundreds of dollars. In contrast, the cost of admission to a three- or four-day science fiction/fantasy convention averages $30 – $50. While there may be conventions that charge more, the most I’ve ever paid is $50. Compared to college courses, writing seminars, writing workshops, and writing conferences, that is a bargain. [Of course, this cost does not include food and lodging, but those charges would apply to writing conferences as well, and in both cases, hotels generally have special rates for attendees.]

Panel: The Writing Life with Alexandra Christian, Glenda C. Finkelstein, Marcia Colette, Les Johnson & Faith Hunter, 7-12-14

Panel: The Writing Life with Alexandra Christian, Glenda C. Finkelstein, Marcia Colette, Les Johnson & Faith Hunter, 7-12-14

2. Writers have many choices.

Science fiction conventions tend to have a variety of one- or two-hour panels and workshops for writers. Panels begin in the morning and continue into the evening, providing considerably more choices for writers than writing conferences. In addition, the author panelists come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences: some also write in other genres, including romance, mystery, thriller, young adult, and middle grade.

Panels cover writing topics of interest to any fiction writer. Writers of all genres create characters – protagonists, antagonists, heroes, villains, sidekicks, and secondary characters; craft plots with conflict, tension, climaxes, and rising and falling action; construct settings in particular times and locations; and consider theme, tone, voice, and other literary devices. In addition to craft topics, other panels deal with agents and editors, social media and marketing, traditional and indie publishing, finding your audience, and other areas important to writers.

Panel: Every Villain Is a Hero with Edmund Schubert, Tony Ruggiero, Alexandra Christian, Emily Lavin Leverett, A. J. Hartley & John Hartness, 7-12-14

Panel: Every Villain Is a Hero with Edmund Schubert, Tony Ruggiero, Alexandra Christian, Emily Lavin Leverett, A. J. Hartley & John Hartness, 7-12-14

3. Panels provide information from multiple sources.

Individual sessions at writing conferences, workshops, and seminars are presented by one person or occasionally two. Panels and workshops at science fiction conventions average three to six authors, editors, and/or publishers, so each panel provides input from a number of people, each of whom has unique experiences and processes.

Every writer has his or her individual process, but no matter the genre, someone on the panel probably has a similar process, a similar problem with the craft, and/or similar experiences in the writing life. Panelists encourage the audience to ask questions and share experiences and suggestions. Panel audiences tend to be small enough to enable a lively give-and-take of ideas and experiences.

4. Science fiction conventions can spark creativity.

Imagination and creativity form the heart of science fiction and fantasy. Gatherings of many writers discussing a myriad of craft tips, ideas, and possibilities gets the ideas flowing and the creative juices pumping. I invariably return from a convention full of ideas and eager to get back to writing.

Panel: Fairies and Vampires and Other Mythological Creatures with John Hartness, Emily Lavin Leverett, Diana Bastine & Nicole Givens Kurtz, 7-13-14

Panel: Fairies and Vampires and Other Mythological Creatures with John Hartness, Emily Lavin Leverett, Diana Bastine & Nicole Givens Kurtz, 7-13-14

5. Science fiction conventions encourage stretching your skills.

Writing involves craft as well as creativity. Stretching your comfort zone by trying out a different form of writing or a different genre can enhance your writing skills and open new horizons. Looking at something in a new way can unlock writer’s block and get the words flowing again.

Science fiction conventions include presenters — scientists and others — who started out writing non-fiction. Others write poetry or screenplays. A couple years ago I participated in the Poetic Asides Blog‘s Poem-a-Day Challenge. It was unbelievably difficult — and the resulting poems have been safely stored away — but the process of squeezing a lot of meaning into a limited number of lines has helped me streamline my prose. Attending a science fiction convention might encourage you to stretch your writing skills by trying a form or genre you wouldn’t normally choose to write.

6. Science fiction conventions are fun!

Everybody needs a break from the daily grind. Science fiction conventions can provide such a getaway. In addition to panels on writing topics, you can find activities such as gaming, filking, film screenings, costuming, make-up, podcasting, self-defense, belly dancing, and more. The fabulous costumes people create amaze me — these people are really skilled — and I’ve become a fan of the imaginative and fun filk music you can listen to (and sing along with, if so inclined) at every convention.

And there are sometimes unexpected surprises, like the pole vaulting competition going on in the street near the hotel:

Pole vaulting on 4th Street near the hotel, 7-12-14

Pole vaulting on 4th Street, 7-12-14

Whatever way you choose to do it, take the time stretch your imagination and hone your craft — and maybe I’ll see you at the next science fiction convention.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 10, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 7-10-2014

Another week, another link round up! Welcome to the Author Chronicles.

We lost three beloved authors this week: Mary Rodgers, author of Freaky Friday, died at 83, Walter Dean Myers, powerful writer and reading advocate, and CJ Henderson, who died after a battle with cancer.

We’re heavy into writing conference season now. If you are on or hosting a panel at a con, Miss Cecil Castellucci has tips to panel like a Lit champ, and Chuck Wendig lays out what writers should know about panels at conferences.

If you want some diversity in your reading, James Dawson has drawn up an LGBT reading list.

In this brave new world of story telling, Eli Epstein explores 8 creative storytelling methods open to writers today.

CRAFT

When writing, authors know we are only half the puzzle—the reader it the other piece. Celeste Ng discusses leaving space for the reader in our writing. Whatever you do, avoid these 4 cliché story endings that readers will hate.

Every scene needs to be vital to the story. Claire Scobie has 10 ways to sharpen your scenes, Janice Hardy explains how to keep informative scenes tense, and K.M. Weiland warns against the common writing mistake of having one-dimensional conflict.

Characters need to be complex; we all know this. Giving them skills can help create depth. Becca Puglisi discusses the talent of photographic memory, Lt. Matthew Sherley talks the art of hostage negotiation, and Janice Hardy recommends giving your secondary characters skills, too.

Anne Marie Gazzolo shares 5 ways to build strong characters, and Heather Web explores what makes an anti-hero so attractive.

Emotions are by definition illogical, but we need to convey them to the reader. Lee Wind explains why teenagers act crazy sometimes, while Jami Gold shows us how to layer intense emotion in our story. In your dialogue, make sure your characters are doing more than just talking.

Bill Johnson reminds us that a story is a journey of feelings, supported by details of time and place. Those details are important—as a writer, how observant are you? Take this fascinating (and actually useful) quiz from Dr. Katherine Ramsland that explores your observational intelligence quotient (OQ). Are you an innie or an outie—or, like me, smack dab in the middle?

Guy Bergstrom examines how weird news teaches us great storytelling, and Ava Jae discusses how to write YA dystopian fiction.

Jen Matera shares some MS Word tips that could make your life easier.

For some advice in navigating this writing life: Jami Gold sees a silver lining in bad reviews, Joshua Becker explores the responsibility that comes with opportunity, Shannon Donnelly shares 10 ways to beat writer’s block, and Marion Winik lists 7 things she’s learned so far in her writing journey.

As the Amazon-Hachette dispute drags on, Chuck Wendig sees the tenuous peace between self-published and traditional published cracking. He weighs in on the dangers of ideology, false dichotomies, and turning publishing into the equivalent of a religious war.

BUSINESS

The drawn-out Amazon-Hachette fracas has authors taking sides. Several best-selling authors post an open letter asking Amazon to resolve the Hachette dispute without harming authors or readers; Hugh Howey asks: do writers need a union? and sets up a petition in support of Amazon; and Chuck Wendig responds to Howey’s petition with a dose of reality.

If you are in search of an agent, Chuck Sambuchino shares a 16-tip checklist before submitting your query; agents weigh in on whether authors should hire an editor before querying; and new agent Whitley Abell of Inklings Literary seeks writers of young adult, middle grade and women’s fiction.

Eric Nelson explains what good book sale numbers look like and how anybody can estimate any book’s sales using public data; and agent Janet Reid tells us how to answer the question: who are you to write this book?

What’s your platform look like? Rachel Thompson list 3 Twitter basics you probably don’t know, and Chris Robley explains why your author website should be your online priority.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

President Theodore Roosevelt has 10 rules for reading.

Jonesing for a new Poirot mystery? The Agatha Christie estate authorized a new Poirot book.

Members of Robert Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition verify that a copy of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield went to the Antarctic with them.

If you love Dr. Seuss, put the Windy City on your vacation list. The Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery has opened in Chicago.

Awesome painted “bookbenches” inspired by classic literature are springing up across London.

We love libraries, and if you do, too, check out Robert Dawson’s beautiful photos of America’s most unique libraries.

That’s it for us this week! Keep cool and enjoy the summer!

 

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | July 9, 2014

Recognizing C.J. Henderson: a writer who inspired me

If I had to list all of the sources of inspiration I’ve had for writing, it would span many categories. Books, authors, movies, music, places, life events, etc. The internal light bulb can flash at any time with various levels of intensity. Of all of them, the most lasting source of inspiration for me has been from authors whom I’ve read, and most importantly, whom I’ve had a conversation with.

C.J. Henderson was one of my favorites, and he passed away this past Friday after a long fight with cancer.

I first met C.J. Henderson at the PhilCon, an annual sci-fi/horror/fantasy convention in the Philadelphia area that features many panels where writers discuss the topics of which they focus their expertise. There is also a buyer’s room where many of the authors will have a table to sell their books and compilations that they have contributed to.

C.J. Henderson was an author who wrote in the genres of horror, hardboiled fiction, dark fantasy and science fiction. I particularly liked his contributions to the Lovecraftian sub-genre, of which I’m a major fan. I couldn’t get enough of his books, and often had to budget carefully each year when I went. I always go on a buying spree for books when I go to the PhilCon, but I always left room in the budget for C.J. Henderson’s books. His writing not only inspired me in what I like to write, but it also influenced what genres I like to read. An influence that has made a large impact on me and opened my eyes.

He had a great personality and was great to talk to. His voice was often the leading attraction in the panels he was in, and he’s the only person I’ve ever heard who could actually do a believable impression of the Old One’s dialect (Cthulhu-Lovecraft), which is nearly impossible to do by design.

He was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, and when his medical expenses became too much, his fans and colleagues banded together to help him any way we could. He fought and fought against the cancer, and continued to do conventions throughout. A compilation of stories to sell for fund raising came together, entitled “Dance Like a Monkey”, since one of his best known sayings was that he’d dance like a monkey for a nickel.

His family is still left with high medical bills, and many of his fans and writers that knew him are asking for anyone to contribute if they can, because every little bit helps.

The link for the anthology is http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/society-for-the-preservation-of-cj-henderson/87881/update/188619 

You could also buy his books, of which there are many at his main page: http://cjhenderson.com/

I am saddened by his passing, but I was blessed to have known him. The love and support that I saw from so many writers and his fans will always be with me.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 3, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 07-03-2014

Welcome to July! We at the Author Chronicles wish you all a safe and happy 4th of July.

Help this teacher get books for her low-income kids—only 6 days left for her to raise the money to buy books for her classroom.

Looking for something to read this summer? Check out this summer reading list by and for teachers.

Hey, kids, if you’re 5-16 years old and want to be a book reviewer, the Chicago Tribune wants YOU!

Have you ever heard of Booktrack? It’s basically sound effects for your ebook. Laurence MacNaughton explains Booktrack and how it boosted his sales.

Daniel José Older explains why publishing diversity is so hard to achieve and why diversity is not enough.

Leigh Bardugo takes a thoughtful look at the real reasons so many adults read YA.

Pat Scales discusses censorship, particularly denying incarcerated youth books.

James Patterson donates books to New York City schools.

CRAFT

We’re all looking for that magic key to unlock the greatness in our story. The Script Shadow teams discusses “the exceptional element” needed to make your story get noticed, while C.S. Lakin recommends writing the heart of your story.

Once you’re writing, you need to handle everything that comes your way: noticing and killing filler, dealing artfully with exposition, adding humor to our writing, and writing a good scene. Check out these 5 characteristics of a good scene and 8 signs of a bad one.

There’s so much that goes into our characters. K.M. Weiland walks us through naming characters, while Maggie Stiefvater explains why she rejects character profiles as a writing tool.

Writing takes a lot of inner strength. Chuck Wendig discusses what to do on the days you don’t feel like writing; Ciara Ballintyne shares her writing process; and Kathryn Maeglin lays out 4 reasons you shouldn’t try to be perfect.

Often writers feel overwhelmed by marketing duties. Joe Bunting asks if marketing can actually help your creativity, rather than hurt it.

Adapting your work to the stage can be daunting, and sometimes you have very little say in the process. Hilary Mantel shares her experience adapting Wolf Hall and its sequel to the stage.

When our work is finished, we send it out into the world. When an agent asks for a full, we are excited. But so often it comes to nothing. Pete Knapp gives 6 reasons a full manuscript gets rejected.

BUSINESS

Amazon pushes new book terms at publishers that would be “assisted suicide” for the publishing industry.

When your publisher closes up shop, sometimes you get to have a debut redux, like Kell Andrews.

There are so many things to consider when self-publishing. Helen Sedwick has 7 legal questions to ask before choosing a self-publishing company; Jason Matthews looks at the pros and cons of using Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital as your distributor; and C.M. Skiera explains how not to release a self-published novel.

If you are seeking an agent, Andrea Hurst of Andrea Hurst & Associates seeks women’s fiction, romance, YA, memoir, and more.

Marketing freaks some authors out. Karl Bunker lists 6 things to consider when writing promotional copy; Janet Reid explains effective word of mouth promotion; Cory Doctorow discusses DRM, piracy, and freedom; and Nick Stephenson talks about leaving the exclusivity of KDP Select and boosting his sales.

The Internet is our friend and often our nemesis. Penny Sansevieri shares 10 secrets of savvy search engine optimization, Erik Emanuelli gives us 3 tips to write killer headlines, and Stina Lindenblatt has 9 online behaviors and topics you really want to avoid.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Libraries often have a fantastic atmosphere all their own. For example, the magical interior of Duke Humfrey’s Library at Oxford. And Messy Nessy explores just how the gorgeous old Public Library of Cincinnati got demolished without a murmur of protest.

Sometimes you need to research stuff (or just want to find inspiration). Historic Royal Palaces launched a new image library, and the Medievalists have a list of common boys’ names from Medieval London.

Check out these exquisite illustrations from the 1912 Peter Pan portfolio of Arthur Rackman.

Here is Charles Dickens’ signature and seal on his 1837 contract with Chapman and Hall to publish The Pickwick Papers—in high resolution and zoomable.

The 19th century author Beatrix Potter was more than a writer—she had many scientific interests early in life, and people who encouraged them.

That’s all for us this week! Take a moment amid the barbecue and fireworks to be thankful for our freedoms and those who preserve it.

 

 

Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | July 1, 2014

Comfort

A couple of days ago I was having lunch in a college cafeteria. The room was divided into different sections labeled, I assume, for efficiency. The salad bar was labeled ‘Healthy” and had a long list of the nutritional benefits of food such as spinach and quinoa. I didn’t see what they put up in the place where you could get big, juicy cheese steaks – perhaps ‘Greasy’. I did note that ‘Comfort’ was the label on the area where the macaroni and cheese resided.

Noodles and cheese? Definitely comforting. And who doesn’t occasionally need something that, as the Merriem-Webster Dictionary describes comfort, “1:  to give strength and hope to:  cheer  2:  to ease the grief or trouble of:  console”.  Comfort can be a pair of sweatpants, a big, soft shirt or a beloved book. I’ve just come out of two weeks that started with my contracting late-season flu and ended with our having to put to sleep our beloved 16-year old cat Muriel.

On Saturday afternoon, after we buried Muriel, I wandered around in a funk, unable to concentrate while I coughed. Finally I realized I needed some solace.

I needed a book.

If I had been by myself I would have curled up with an old favorite. Maybe one of Ellis Peters’ Cadfael mysteries or one of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga. But there were tasks that I had to complete, such as feeding children, so I chose an audio book.

Patricia C. Wrede recently wrote a Frontier Magic trilogy:  The Thirteenth Child, Across The Great Barrier and The Far West. These have become firm favorites, especially the last. I loaded it from my Audiable account to my phone and whenever I was alone that afternoon and evening, I listened.

It was very comforting.

I’m still coughing, though not so much, and still sad about Muriel, the tiny black cat made, we were sure, from dust, moths and shadows. But listening to one of my favorite books definitely cheered me up.

I’d love to know what books, be they print or audio, others have on their comfort list.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 26, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 06-26-2014

Welcome! Is it really our last links round-up for June?

This week, Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon, died.

Author Salman Rushdie wins the 2014 PEN/Pinter Prize for his “unflinching gaze” over his career.

Gerri George examines song lyrics as literature.

Publishers spend the night in jail–as part of a fundraising campaign for prisoners’ right to read.

Reading Is Fundamental reminds parents to keep kids reading over the summer–and start with these 10 beloved children’s books banned for stupid reasons.

We often address diversity here. A.L. Sonnichsen explains why she wrote a Chinese protagonist even though she’s not Chinese, and Kevin Duffy looks at diversity from a class point of view, asking why working-class fiction has become almost nonexistent in publishing.

Sadly, Angry Robot is shutting down their YA (Strange Chemistry) and Mystery (Exhibit A) imprints immediately. We wish good luck to all the staff, artists, and writers affected by the closure. If you want to help the authors, continue to buy their books–like these on this Strange Chemistry Goodreads shelf. Here are authors Gwenda Bond and Kim Curran on how the closure is impacting them emotionally and career-wise.

CRAFT

To outline or not outline? You can do either and still plan ahead. Roz Morris discusses how to write a novel with an outline and still be creative, while Nathan Bransford tells us how to plan a novel without actually outlining.

We have to keep each scene focused and tense, or we lose the reader. Janice Hardy has a quick tip to keep your scenes moving, and Jody Hedlund lists 4 ways to caffeinate your story.

We’ve all got characters to deal with. Diane Drake gives us 5 tips for creating a lead character your audience will care about, Alyssa Hubbard demystifies how to write female and male characters, Tom Pawlik lists the 9 ingredients of character development, and Delilah S. Dawson shares how to write broken, messed-up, antiheroic characters.

When your characters speak, keep this advice in mind: Jen Matera tells us to speak our dialogue, and Jodie Renner reveals dialogue nuts and bolts.
What goes into a good story? K.M. Weiland says the 3 elements of story are humor, action, and relationships. Add to that learning to say things simply yet powerfully, and avoiding these 6 embarrassing grammar mistakes.

Not writing a novel? Autumn Brit discusses the art of the short story, and Helen Ketteman explains the tools she uses to make picture books sing.

So much goes into a novel. Jennifer Lynn Barnes explores how original your plot needs to be, Ninie Hammond shows us the one thing you MUST do after the climax of your novel, and Jami Gold shares 7 lessons from sports.

We can always use advice from those who have been before us. M.A. Ray tells us what NOT to say when you’re a writer (and what to say instead), Jennifer Cruise explains how to find time (or not) to write during a busy day, and Now Novel lists 151 must-visit writing websites.

Creativity is both a writer’s joy and a writer’s curse. Graham Wallas describes the 4 stages of creativity, Alex Honeysett gives us 4 ways to get back on track after losing interest in an idea, Andrew Lewis Conn shares 7 ways to beat writer’s block, and Clare Langley-Hawthorne explores the actual activity of the brain when writing.

BUSINESS

Think publishing is a little opaque? Mike R. Underwood reveals 25 secrets of book publishing.

Does being on a digital best-seller list mean you’ve got it made? Tony Horwitz, a digital bestseller, explores his disappointing foray into digital publishing, and why he wished he had involved his agent from the start.

Melissa Petreshock has 5 tips for writers about how to find, track, and destroy the dread ebook pirates.

Face it, when you put a book out there, presentation is everything, from the cover, to the interior, to the editing. You need it all to be quality. Joel Friedlander explains just how much attention you should pay to your book design, and Belinda Pollard tells us why book editors cost so much.

Marketing–the very word makes many writers cringe. Emily Wenstrom shows us how to love marketing, Noah Lukeman has 15 tips to help sell your ebook series, and Lindesay Irvine explores what might be the most head-scratching marketing plan in fiction today.

If you’re not sure you’re making any impact on the web, Dianna Booher explains how to measure your online influence.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Ever worry about how you’ll dedicate your book? Jo Barrow put together a list of some of the best book dedications ever.

Some unpublished Pablo Nerdua love poems have been discovered in his papers.

Here are 10 fun teen summer novels that adults will love, too.

Do you usually think the book was better than the movie? Check out these 13 books that were waaay better than the movie.

If you want to flaunt your book love but hate commitment (or needles) these 18 temporary tattoos for booklovers may be for you.

That’s it for us this week! Enjoy the summer weather!

 

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