Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 4, 2016

Top Picks Thursday 02-04-2016

DSCN2731The first February Top Picks Thursday is upon us! According to the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, spring will come early this year—so hopefully no more blizzards for us!

In every industry, there are giants. Publisher George Weidenfeld’s death marks the end of a publishing era.

For most writers, reading is like breathing—we can’t live without it. Share the love on February 14th—International Book Giving Day! You might consider giving one of the books on The Guardian’s 50 Best Culturally Diverse Books list.

If you are like me, you have waaaaay too many books to read. Wouldn’t you love to speed read them all? Unfortunately, a new report seems to discredit the speed reading claim of speed without loss of comprehension.

For those of us who love brick and mortar stores, it’s great news how independent bookstores are thriving in the digital age. One community bookstore that is trying to restock its shelves and revive its trade is St. Marks Books—and they need your help.

The push-pull between publishers and authors over contracts has always been heavily weighted on the publisher’s side. Victoria Strauss looks at the Authors Guild’s Fair Contract Initiative, which hopes to banish some of the more draconian terms found in many contracts.


Do you want to write funny? How about scary? How about sell in other languages? Mark A. Shatz with Mel Helitzer share the number one comedy writing secret, Drew Chial talks scary stories and X-Files, and Roz Morris has three literary translators give their inside tips and secrets.

No matter what you write, you have to start somewhere. Janice Hardy advises letting that new novel idea simmer for a while before beginning.

After the simmering is complete, you probably have characters waiting to jump onto the page. Chris Winkle discusses choosing a viewpoint character, James M. Jackson tells how to deepen character, K.M. Weiland corrects the common writing mistake of having no conflict between characters, and Christopher Kokoski explains what to do when an unlikely character takes over your story.

With the characters raring to go, we still need to figure out the nuts and bolts of the story itself. Ruth Harris shares 6 steps to hook your reader, K.M. Weiland spotlights the #1 problem with backstory and how to fix it, Janice Hardy shows how to plot through a sticky plot patch, and Tricia Sullivan asks science fiction writers how they balance hard fact and fantasy in their works.

No matter what you write, you’ll likely need to research. Aimie K. Runyan explains how to cook that research into your novel. Once you have that research (and plot notes, and character sketches, etc.) Gwen Hernandez demonstrates how to import your files into your Scrivener project. Dawne Webber advises us to resist showing people your first draft, but after the manuscript is written and revised, Liz Michalski tells us how to find the best beta readers for you.

Writing is a long-haul endeavor and involved the spirit as much as the brain. Anne Marie Becker discusses dealing with writer burnout, Tori Eldridge examines the balancing act of caring for others and self, Judy Pollard Smith tells us why you should keep a journal, Clare Langley-Hawthorne battles digital distraction, and James Scott Bell describes the 10 events of the writing decathlon.

While every writer is unique, we all have similar feelings and experiences. Heather Webb discusses surviving writer envy, Kameron Hurley discusses opening the circle at writers’ conventions, Hugh Howey tells us the one thing you need to be a writer, Chuck Wendig lists 25 more hard truths about writing and publishing, and Rachel Aaron-Bach advises you to pay yourself first.


Amazon has been a game-changer for the publishing industry—and that’s both exhilarating and frustrating. On the good side, K.B. Jensen shows how to use Amazon’s Kindle Scout as part of a book launch campaign. However, we also know how fickle Amazon can be with reviews. K-lytics shows how to stop Amazon from connecting your sales to links you posted, thus endangering your reviews.

Agent Janet Reid answers the question: why don’t big name authors just self-publish and make even more money? For those author who do self-publish, Angela Quarles describes creating a production and marketing Bible to get more organized and Frances Caballo lists author groups to help you write, publish, and promote your books.

If you’re seeking an agent, follow Janet Reid’s advice to make sure your first online impression is a good one, so that you can eventually use agent Jim McCarthy’s suggested questions to ask a prospective agent when you get the call.

Social media takes up a large portion of most writer’s marketing time. D.S. McKnight discusses finding the balance between writing and blogging, and Frances Caballo shares 44 suggestions for authors who aren’t sure what to tweet.


Read Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson’s advice on life and creative integrity.

Maggy van Eijk shares 19 writing tips to help you become the next J.K. Rowling—which would be awesome, because J.K. Rowling’s magic touch sends the Harry Potter book sales booming again.

Want to travel but can’t? Ann Morgan goes around the world in 10 must-read books.

David Shariatmadari examines 8 words that reveal the sexism at the heart of the English language.

Thought writers and math don’t mix? Think again. A study finds mathematical structure in great literature.

We’ve all heard some of these—10 things people say to creative writers but shouldn’t.

Jarry Lee shares 27 hilarious food puns every book nerd will appreciate, while author Robert Jackson Bennett explains how barbecue is like epic fantasy.

Take a peek into classic author’s worlds: Jane Austen’s writing desk and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s financial ledger for 1925.

Everything old is new again: William S. Burroughs reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”, and a previously unpublished Beatrix Potter story is discovered.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Thank you for visiting and please come again.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 28, 2016

Top Picks Thursday 01-28-2015

Welcome to our Top Picks Thursday roundup! We got hit with 20” of snow this weekend—I hope all of you in the path of the storm stayed safe and warm.

If you are looking for a writing contest, check out Erica Verrillo’s list of 42 writing contests in February with no entry fees.

Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse in Philadelphia, owned by Ariel Johnson, prizes diversity in its heroes.

We all know reading is good for your brain. Jennifer Abasi gives us 5 physical benefits of reading.

Publishing is certain to change in 2016—the question is how. Scholastic’s latest podcast examines book trends in children’s literature in 2016, and Jonathon Sturgeon wonders if Google, Apple, and SCOTUS will decide the future of book publishing this year.

Authors are often not compensated fairly (or at all) for presenting at book festivals. The Society of Authors examines how the campaign to have authors receive compensation is impacting the festival universe.

Who knew there could be a kerfluffle over folklore? Some researchers claim that fairy tales are thousands of years old, while others are not so sure.

Writers are often introverts, yet we must appear in public to sell our books. Jami Gold examines the writer dilemma of private life vs. public figure, and Kathryn Craft describes how finding your tribe can change your writing life.


Sometimes the thing that holds writers back the most is ourselves, and sometimes we get held back because our needs have changed over the course of our careers. Rachel Thompson explores how to give yourself permission: how to stop worrying about what others think and write your damn story, and Chuck Wendig shares some thoughts for mid-career writers.

The underlying story structure can make or break a story. John Wong uses the original Star Wars: A New Hope to examine the 7-point plot structure, while Chuck Wendig looks to Star Wars: The Force Awakens for 5 storytelling lessons.

Writers need to consider so many things when embarking on a project. Martina Boone explores the search for the unexpected as the key to voice and plot in fiction, C.S. Lakin explains why outlining your scenes will help you write a great novel, Laura Brown discusses when the research is right, and Marie Lamba lays out the key differences between Middle Grade and Young Adult.

The big-picture issues aside, writers also have to perfect the details in their work. K.M. Weiland discusses setup and payoff as two equally important elements of foreshadowing, Dawn Field shares 7 ways to help you be precise in your writing, and September C. Fawkes describes how to break the rules right by telling instead of showing.

Character also brings a great many items to ponder. Mary Kole shows how to format interiority, Janice Hardy explains what to do when one POV is better than the other, and Lloyd Strickland ruminates over the philosophy behind creating a good bad guy.

After the writing comes the editing. Kim Bullock describes how to search for darlings to murder, Joe Moore shares editing tips for the indie author, and K.M. Weiland shows us how to edit our NaNo book—or any other book.

Writing advice isn’t always about the nuts and bolts of the craft—sometimes it’s about the writing life itself. Anne R. Allen posts 10 misconceptions a good education gave her about writing, Lynette Labelle tries to balance writing time and life, and Jane Friedman gives advice specifically for children and teen writers.

In a similar vein, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore shares 5 things she wishes she’d known 5 months before she published her first novel, Maggy van Eijk finds out what keeps writers motivated when writing a novel, and Dan Blank assures us: don’t worry, it only gets harder.


All authors also have to deal with the business side of things. Angela Christina Archer discusses the two types of businesses authors can set up for themselves—unless you choose James Scott Bell’s option of self-publishing as a lemonade stand.

Agent Rachelle Gardner has 10 things editors look for in non-fiction authors. She also tells us how to talk with agents and publishers. If you’re looking for an agent to talk to, try querying Mary South of Lowenstein Associates.

Britt Skrabanek explains why writing is not enough to ensure success, Kimberly Grabas discusses 7 book marketing trends authors can’t afford to ignore, and Hans M. Hirschi examines the bane and headache that is swag.

The internet offers many different ways to connect with our readers. Frances Caballo explains how to use Pinterest as an indie author, and how to set up your Goodreads author dashboard. Rachelle Gardner looks at the conundrum of to blog or not to blog, and DiAnn Mills shares 5 ways to avoid the blogging trap.


Most of us agree that Alan Rickman did a fantastic job with a nuanced, deep portrayal of Severus Snape. Find out the secret to Rickman’s amazing performance.

Back in the early days of Hollywood, women had a larger slice of the pie than today. Meet Frances Marion, a screenwriting powerhouse in early Hollywood.

Writers love books, even when writing them makes us a wee bit crazy. Alex Alvarez shares 31 funny tweets that are way too real for writers, Nicole Froio lists her 10 favorite bookish feelings, and Erin La Rosa gives us 17 truths only book lovers will understand.

In an interesting juxtaposition, modern social media helps discover a rare antique document. Norway’s National Library discovers a rare atlas—with a little help from Reddit.

Jane Austin scribed more than books—see Austen’s copied music manuscripts online.

Visit William Corbett’s Bookshop, a recreation of a 17th century bookshop. It may contain this 17th-century medical pop-up book. Yes, I said medical pop-up book.

And finally, you can now answer the question that has kept you up at night: Which punctuation mark are you?

That’s all for Top Picks Thursday this week—and this month! See you in February and thanks for reading.

Jan 22 snow 1

Snowy morning on January 23, 2016


If you watched the news over the weekend, you know the snowstorm that pounded the Mid-Atlantic (one of the top ten storms on record) brought the area to a standstill. Airports and a portion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike were closed and ground-based mass transit severely curtailed. Car accidents and medical emergencies added to the burdens of emergency workers. Babies were born and people died, many of them from shoveling snow. On the other hand, contrary to expectations, only a limited number of people lost power, and power was soon restored.

Three days later, much of the East Coast is still recovering: people with shore houses are cleaning up after the coastal flooding, side streets in cities are finally seeing plows, people are digging out their cars, and many schools are still closed. There’s no debating that powerful snowstorms cause massive problems.

For these reasons and more, a lot of people hate snow. I, however, am not one of them.

Despite the problems and inconvenience, when snow begins to fall, I become a child again.

As you’ve probably noticed, children, who live fully in the present, view snowstorms from a different perspective. The first flakes infect them with wonder, joy, and excitement. Snow creates a fantasy world, arouses creativity, and offers marvelous opportunities for building snow figures, constructing snowballs and snow forts, and making snow angels. A snowy world is a world full of possibilities, fun, and enchantment.

Children also experience snow in a different way. Everything is fascinating to a child and must be explored in all possible ways, and with all the senses. Unlike adults, who rely mainly on the sense of sight, children listen and smell and touch and feel. And what child has not tasted a handful of snow?

jan 22 snow 3

Last Friday night, when the gently falling snow had covered the ground, I took a walk outside. I love walking in a new snowfall, especially at night, and opening up all my senses to take in the entire experience. Ordinary objects take on a distinctive beauty as snowflakes, like bits of icy down, fashion a white coat that conceals dross with magic and casts a unique light to brighten the darkness. Sound changes also. Traffic noise from the highway a mile away becomes muted. The whole world seems hushed and yet the quiet swish of the falling snow is clear and distinct. The air smells fresh and clean. Snowflakes splash exposed skin with chill wetness and taste like icy treats on the tongue.

A walk in the falling snow invigorates and inspires, gets the creative juices flowing and the thought processes clicking. Any walk can do this, but a walk in the snow is special.

But walks end, weekends pass, and life goes on. As Sunday became Monday, my thoughts turned to this week’s blog post. I hadn’t come up with a topic, and time was ticking away. This is not an unusual situation for me, though, and when I let my thoughts percolate, ideas invariably bubble up. (Not all of them worth pursuing, of course!)

The experience in the snow … the books I’m reading (a Katherine Kurtz fantasy and a David Weber science fiction adventure) … the scheduled meeting of my critique group (now postponed) …

After circling around like a flock of migrating birds at dusk, my thoughts finally settled on setting and description. If nothing else, a snowy landscape provides a setting where all kinds of things can happen.

As a reader, I need to picture the characters in a specific setting. In the novels I’m reading, Katherine Kurtz and David Weber have both created fictional worlds which are so believable, so fully realized, that I’m sure they exist out there somewhere. These two authors know their worlds thoroughly and intersperse just enough description throughout the narrative for the reader to visualize them as well.

Including the optimal amount of description and specific details to provide a strong sense of place takes skill. Too much description can be tedious and lose a reader’s attention. Too little can make the story seem unreal and incomplete.

Finding the balance between too much and too little is a skill that successful writers have to cultivate. When editing or critiquing, I sometimes run across scenes that give so little setting that I feel like the action or conversation is occurring in a white, formless world, or like the characters are actors performing in front of a green screen. This is understandable in a first draft, but needs to be corrected int revision.

jan 26 snow bluejay

Bluejay hogging the bird food.


I’ve advised writers who have a problem with creating a realistic place to visualize their setting in detail. Diagramming a place can also help a writer physically see, for instance, where furniture is located. A limited number of key details (which must include items that will play an important part later in the story) should be incorporated in the manuscript, enough to make the place distinct and real without going overboard. And wherever possible, these details should encompass more than just the sense of sight.

But just what key details should a writer include?

Although I can recognize when the description is too sparse or overdone, I haven’t managed to give writers much guidance in how to choose appropriate key details. That’s a source of frustration for a teacher. Now, however, reflecting on my walk in the snow has provided inspiration and sparked an idea, or at least a place to start.

Perhaps writers have difficulty visualizing their settings and picking out key details because they’ve lost the childlike habit of noticing all the details, small and large, of their surroundings. Perhaps what we writers need to do is stop being preoccupied with the past and the future and practice living fully in the moment, practice being consciously aware of all the sights, sounds, smells, textures, temperatures, and tastes around us. We can’t write what we don’t perceive.

We don’t have to wait for a snowfall to immerse ourselves in the present moment. As I proofread this post, I’m peripherally aware of the steady flow of the air from the floor vents, the quiet ticking of the wall clock, the chill in the air as the sun descends.

We can all learn to have mindful awareness at least part of the time. Focusing on the present moment is a good way to occupy time while driving or waiting in a doctor’s office or standing in a checkout line at the store. Try it. Concentrate on your surroundings. Don’t let thoughts of anything else intrude; brush them aside. Observe everything: cars, people, buildings, furniture; the colors and color schemes, the cleanliness or dirtiness, the items that have been repaired or need repairs. Use not just sight but all the senses you can. What do you hear, smell, feel, and taste? Immerse yourself in the experience. Then pick out three or four specific details – not just sights, if possible – that epitomize the place.

Try keeping a writing journal. When you get home, write a description that includes only the key details of the settings you’ve observed. Do this as often as you can to acquire the knack of creating fully realized, believable settings. And maybe you can use one of those setting descriptions in a future manuscript. You never know.

You don’t have to be a writer to benefit from concentrating on or living in the present moment. Not only can the practice of mindfulness keep boredom at bay, but it has been shown to improve mental and physical health as well. Who can argue with that?

jan 26 snow woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker on the back steps.


Do you love snow or hate it? Do you keep a writing journal? Have you practiced mindfulness?

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 21, 2016

Top Picks Thursday: 01-21-2016

Hi! Thanks for joining us for this week’s Top Picks Thursday blog roundup. The big storm sweeping across the country the end of this week should make sitting in front of a screen reading blog posts far more attractive than venturing into the blizzard, so enjoy!

Scientific studies have shown that journal writing can benefit anyone, but it can be especially helpful for writers. Judy Pollard Smith shares her ideas about writing your life in journals.

Are you new to writing? If you’re looking for pointers, Anne R. Allen details 10 things that red-flag a newbie novelist and Patrick Samphire lists the 5 best bits of writing advice he’s ever received.

Are you a published writer? Should published authors attend conferences? Yes, says Rachelle Gardner, and gives 4 good reasons.

Whether you’re a beginning or experienced writer, Daphne Gray-Grant catalogs 26 fantastic no-cost tools for writers and Heather Alexander provides tips on using Microsoft Word. Also, check out Chuck Wendig’s 2016 advice to writers — be the writer you are, not the writer other people want you to be.

Winning a writing competition is a great way to improve your platform. Almond Press presents a curated list of creative writing competitions in 2016.


Many writers naturally gravitate toward writing short fiction; others have lengthy stories to tell. Claire Fuller contemplates the differences between the huge unwieldy beast versus flash fiction.

Not all writers like composing on the keyboard. Some prefer writing with pen and paper. If you are looking for another option, Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas share tips for dictating and editing a first draft.

The story is important, but the reader will miss it if bogged down by grammar and spelling errors. Janice Hardy explains and gives examples of dangling modifiers and Laurisa White Reyes describes 6 common punctuation mistakes and how to avoid them.

Character. Character. Character. Well-rounded, believable characters are essential in fiction. To help us with our characters, David Corbett delves into the broken character arc: what to do when your protagonist can’t find absolution, while C. S. Lakin weighs in on scene structure and character arc. Musing about your character’s feelings? Mary Cole discusses developing character interiority and Raina Schell proposes getting into the head of your antagonist. And since all those characters are bound to talk, Alex Limberg explores how to boost your dialogue’s power with body language.

Another vital element of fiction is setting. Mary Buckham relates how writers can craft an effective setting and Janice Hardy illuminates the difference between setting and world building.

And then there’s the plot. Janice Hardy suggests 5 ways to tell if a subplot is leading you astray and Martina Boone considers the unexpected the key to voice and plot in fiction. Since writers sometimes use real-life events as a basis for their fiction, Drew Chial discusses how writers can remix the past to create compelling stories.

For those whose first drafts are finished, Kristen Kieffer gives pointers on how to find and work with beta readers to improve your book.

Whatever you’re writing, you need to keep your audience in mind, so James Scott Bell wonders if you know who you are trying to delight with your story.

All writers, not just science fiction and fantasy fans, should check out Lauren Sarner’s interview with sci-fi heavyweight John Scalzi.


Editing is vital for both self-published and traditional authors. Lynn Neary considers whether an editor’s role has changed over time, Joe Moore presents editing tips for the Indie author, and Karen Saunders explains the difference between content editing, copy editing, and proofreading.

Regarding the publishing business, Joanna Penn and Jane Friedman discuss 2016 publishing trends and Dave King writes about the perils of self-publishing.

For Indie authors, Joel Friedlander writes about 3 typefaces to consider for your books.

Sales for any author improve with the author’s own efforts in marketing and promotion. A number of bloggers have advice on marketing and social media. Self Publishing Relief identifies 12 easy ways to boost attendance at your book signing, reading, or author seminar. Anne R. Allen offers seven tips on how to succeed at building platform without really trying and Frances Caballo tells how to set up your Goodreads author dashboard. Jami Gold offers 6 tips for creating successful author newsletters, while Janet Reid suggests creating micro-newsletters for those with small email lists and limited news to share. Jeri Walker talks about finding 1000 true fans.

Don’t like using social media? Sandra Beckwith suggests how to promote a book without using social media.

Success can be a double-edged sword. Jami Gold discusses the writer’s dilemma of balancing being a public figure but keeping a private life.


Dissatisfied with the bad rap given procrastination, Adam Grant explains why he taught himself to procrastinate.

Reading informs, enlightens, entertains, passes time, and more. Jaime Herndon gives suggestions for reading through grief.

If you’re looking for something to read on these cold winter nights, BuzzFeed’s Jarry Lee lists the 27 most exciting books coming in 2016.

That wraps up this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you next week!

snow photo at sunset 2015

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 19, 2016

Becoming Visible

Invisibility is my superpower.

I am the person at the party that no one notices.

I am the person whose emails go unanswered.

I am the person who sales clerks overlook to serve the person next to me.

I am the person in the corner, against the wall, in the shadows.

Please note that I am not complaining about this—I have worked hard my whole life to avoid the spotlight. My invisibility is hard-earned. It is a wonderful superpower to have for observing life, watching people, and overhearing bits of conversation—great for the writing side of things.

But now I have a book out. (Yay!). I need to market the book.

I need to go against a lifetime of instinct and be the center of attention.

I need to become visible.

And that’s terrifying.

I’m doing the marketing things I can do comfortably. Social media, reaching out to bloggers, doing interviews, creating a book trailer. The safe things. The semi-visible things.

But I’m procrastinating on the big items. The high-visibility items. The school visits and the library events and the book fairs and conventions. The spotlight events that scare me to death.

I know I’m procrastinating. I know my anxiety disorder well enough to see what I’m doing. I’m putting final touches on my school presentation, and soon will have no excuse not to book some. I am planning a launch party, and will have a firm date very soon, making that inevitable. So a time will come when I can no longer avoid the spotlight.

I will become visible.

Why am I so afraid? Good question. The school visits scare me because of the unpredictability of the interaction. Will the kids get involved? What do I do if they don’t? How do I control the presentation while making it a back-and-forth? After all, I chose not to be a teacher for a reason. I’m good with people one-on-one—with a group, I quail.

A library event or book signing would be more controlled, but in those cases I get hit with another anxiety—imposter syndrome. Who am I to be speaking to these people? What can I give them that’s special? I wrote a good book, a fun book, but it’s not Earth-shattering. I simply feel unworthy to be standing in front of people and pontificating on anything.

And yet, becoming visible is my job. I must advocate for my book, because no one loves it like I do. No one has as much invested in it as I do.

I must face my fears. Become comfortable with less control. Quiet the voice that says I am an imposter. Stop being paralyzed by the spotlight.

I must do these things to become successful. To truly move from “writer” to “author”. I must find my voice away from the page. Find a way to connect with my readers.

I need to become visible.

Even if I’m terrified.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 14, 2016

Top Picks Thursday 01-14-2016

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We have many writerly links to share with you today.

Writer Beware is a trusted source of information on scams and questionable practices that target writers. Victoria Strauss compiled her Best of Writer Beware 2015 post.

Here’s a list of Top 100 Writing Blogs for writers and bloggers—many will be familiar to those who visit us frequently.

Salman Rushdie receives the Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

Author Peter Dickinson, two-time winner of both the Golden Dagger and the Carnegie Medal, died on his 88th birthday.

Take a peek at what school librarians are buzzing about right now, and check out these 10 children’s books that feature diverse characters.

Claire Tomalin argues that with food banks, lack of children’s services, and attacks on health services, Charles Dickens’ novels are more relevant than ever.

Writers understand the importance of reviews, but Kristen Lamb lays out the way things work so that readers can understand the power that consumers wield and why their reviews matter.


Sometimes we writers struggle with the overarching parts of writing. Matt Herron shows us how to use Scrivener to start and finish a rough draft, David Corbett explores what to do when your story arc is impossible to fulfill, Janice Hardy tells us what we need to know about “show, don’t tell,” and K.M. Weiland gives us 5 ways to give your book the re-readability factor.

Ever wanted (or needed) to invent a language for your story? Lee Wind gathers articles to help inspiration and process when inventing languages. Kathryn Tanquary shares 7 tips on how to write about other (real) cultures.

Our narrator shapes the story. Emma Darwin explores how you can make emotion real while using less, editor Kaylan Adair lays out the differences between characters in chapter books, middle grade, and YA, and Deb Caletti lists 8 tips for writing an unreliable narrator.

Sometimes, it’s the smaller things that trip us up. C.S. Lakin discusses the 5 essential components of scene structure, Janice Hardy explains describing movement, and James Scott Bell tests our editing chops with “How many writing errors can you find?”.

For those of us on our writing journeys, Marieke Nijkamp shares 3 things she wishes she had known earlier, Jami Gold talks preserving writer sanity by recognizing takers and setting boundaries, and Viginia Kelly gives us 5 Google search tips for authors to make research easier.


Jane Friedman answers the burning question: What is traditional publishing good for? And if you want to be published, Writers’ Relief has 16 steps to making your publishing dream come true. Any publisher claims a certain amount of your publishing rights, so Susan Spann explains the good, the bad, and the ugly of obtaining reversions of publishing rights.

If you pursue the traditional path, you will need to query. Agent Janet Reid discusses what to do when an anthology you are in has become a mess, Jane Friedman gives us the Complete Guide to Nonfiction Query Letters, and Benjamin Johncock shares the best rejection letter he ever received. Even if you get the coveted revise-and-resend rejection letter, Heather Alexander advises not to turn those edits around too soon.

Once you have query letter in hand, see if either of these agencies is a good fit for your work: the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency, newly re-opened to queries in new categories, or new agent DongWon Song of Howard Morhaim Literary, who is seeking science fiction and fantasy.

Marketing is the lifeblood and the boogeyman of the modern author. Judith Briles discusses what to do when your book is lost in the sea of discoverability, Miral Sattar lists 7 ways to nail your author SEO, C.S. Lakin shows how writers can optimize their book’s description on Amazon, and Janet Reid gives a simple method of deciding who should be on your mailing list.

E.T. Carlton lists 4 easy steps to creating an author brand right now, Jamie Jo Hoang lays out how to create a professional press kit in 8 easy steps, Sophie Masson talks about the art and craft of author interviews, and Frances Caballo urges us to go where the readers are: Goodreads.


Victorian female writers shared a problem with many modern day successful female politicians—they suffered from the motherhood trap.

E.B. White shares his take on how to write for children and the writer’s responsibility to all readers.

Susanna Oakes takes us inside Georgian era circulating libraries.

Any era is partly defined by its food. Catherine Rider found 15th century recipes for entertaining in an Exeter cathedral library manuscript, and Isabella Bradford sampled a recreation of Emily Dickinson’s 1883 Black Cake.

Science and writing have an intricate partnership. Sharon Ruston examines the science of life and death found in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In more modern times, science is providing a way to reassemble broken manuscripts, such as Lisa Fagin Davis’ attempt to digitally reconstruct the 13th century Beauvais Missal.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay warm and we’ll see you next week.

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | January 12, 2016


It’s that time of year again, January, a time for looking back and for looking forward, for making new resolutions, or renewing old ones.

Looking back, I didn’t do as bad as I thought I would, considering that this was a year to focus on health and not much else. I started the year with good habits. Let’s not talk about the middle of the year because it was consumed by the time sucking monster named Cancer. I ended the year as I started it. Perhaps some might call it a failure but I call it “can’t give up”.  I figure, if I keep getting back on the horse every time I fall off, I’ll still eventually get to where I’m going.

Resolution #1 Use my time well.

If writing is not our main job, I suspect most of us struggle to order our days efficiently so that there is “free” time to write.

In particular, I see looking at my month of January; I can have time to write or time to get ready to write.  So I resolve to get calm and relaxed, and writing at a moment’s notice. That means letting go of self indulgent fears.

Resolution #2 Create a regimen.

Creating a regimen, a habit of writing, is something I’ve concluded is like winning the lottery. It would be nice to win the lottery, but it’s not very likely to happen.

My extremely erratic schedule and long hours haven’t changed, but more and more I see how essential it is to do things regularly, to create good habits. So I’m resolving to create a habit of writing. Even (God Help Me) if it’s five minutes a day. Although, having said that, I don’t know if I can follow through on those 14 hour work days, but I’ll try.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 7, 2016

Top Picks Thursday 01-07-2016

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of 2016! We’re looking forward to another year of bringing you craft, business, and uniquely writer-ish posts from around the blogosphere.

Looking ahead, Jane Friedman lists the Top 5 Industry Issues for authors to watch in 2016.

Finding the right people to help lift your work to the next level can be hard. If you want a critique group or partner, check out Janice Hardy’s critique connection group, and if you’re seeking a reputable, business-savvy editor, Nathan Bransford suggests Natasa Lekic’s New York Editors to find the right one for you.


So you want to write a book? Athena Marie has 25 things to keep in mind if you want to write a book. Jami Gold tackles two related topics this week: the steep learning curve of writing and why there is no one right way to write. Writing time is always at a premium, so K.M. Weiland shares 10 methods to find more writing time.

Rebecca Faith Heyman discusses an alarming new trend among new writers—the myth of the Everyreader. James Chartrand explains how to spot, fix, and eliminate passive voice in everything you write.

If you have writer’s block, Diane MacKinnon says cognitive dissonance may be to blame, while Bryn Donovan suggests the fast list method to beat writer’s block and get back to work.


Nowadays writers have a whole spectrum of options for publishing their work. Martina Boone examines 5 options on how to publish your book, while Chuck Sambuchino suggests this publishing strategy. For self-publishers, Jane Friedman shares a handy self-publishing checklist that will get you from manuscript to book, and Mark Williams discusses goals and markets for going global in 2016. For traditional-minded authors Jane Lebak looks at when you should stop pushing a manuscript and give up.

Marketing is all about branding. Kimberly Grabas shows how to build your author brand from scratch, and Janet Reid tells writers how to do an author bio right and when we need a website, while Belle Consulting lists 9 things every website needs.

Much of marketing is done on social media, so Kirsten Oliphant shares best practices for Facebook Pages and Groups.


Looking for inspiration? For an illustration? For a book cover image? The New York Public Library has released over 180,000 public domain images—from manuscripts to pictures—free online to the public.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week!

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | January 5, 2016

New Year, new house, new perspective

New House, new year, new perspective

I just finished moving into my house a few days ago. The study is coming along though the amount of boxes containing books are going to take some time. I had to disassemble my desk to get it into the house, which renders the design of the desk (I made it) a failure. The only reason I kept it was because I already own it, and assembling it will be easier than assembling anything else. At least there’s no instructions for my current desk. ;)

There are a lot of books that I can unload, but honestly it’s a problem I don’t mind having. There’s a joy in being surrounded by books. For all those that can reach their individual dream state the moment they set foot into a library, you know what I mean.

The cats are starting to get used to this new environment which makes me happy as well. The first things that were operational in the house (after part one of the move) were:

  • cat food & litter
  • tea kettle
  • computer (on kitchen counter)
  • shaving apparatus & toothbrush
  • shower curtain and necessities

Getting everything together and put away will happen in due time. Meanwhile, the writing space in my head has taken on new tenants since I’ve moved. My new neighborhood has new places and people to influence the muse, and I’m feeling new story fragments come out of it.

As I write the fragments down, characters are starting to show themselves, and I find that there’s a conflict between letting myself continue to write about the characters and continuing to get the other story fragments down.

There also seems to be a common theme for me and developing fiction. The fragments start in reality but things like magic and paranormal come later, as if I’m applying paint to wood. There are even some older characters that I’ve had in my head jumping in. I’ve always wanted to do a collection of story fragments but always eschewed it in favor of doing a more cohesive story. Maybe I’ll reconsider it since my head’s exploding with it nowadays.

Enjoy 2016 everybody and I hope it’s a great writing & reading year for everybody. :)

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 31, 2015

The Best of the Author Chronicles 2015

As is our New Year’s tradition, we look back on the Author Chronicles posts that resonated most with readers this year. This year’s list is a great mixture of craft, business, and writer’s life posts, with something for everyone. Enjoy!

  1. Writers, Eliminate Your Pets—Pet Words and Phrases, That Is
  1. Stop Social Media, I Want to Get Off! Focusing Your Online Strategy
  1. It Matters, But Not Now, Just Get to the End
  1. An Office of My Own
  1. Writer Space
  1. Murder Ballads: Folklore and Writing
  1. Writing Longhand
  1. My Book, Your Book
  1. Three Tips to Increase Your Knowledge Without Losing Your Mind
  1. The “Right” Publishing Path
  1. Africa: Getting Away from it All—and Getting Back
  1. Zombie Cupcakes: The Art of Marketing on a Budget
  1. Book Trailers: Purpose and Worth
  1. Why the “Rules” of Fiction Matter
  1. No Nonsense Allowed: Why Fiction Must Make Sense
  1. Writer’s Retreat
  1. Assumptions Writers Make
  1. The Myth of the Solitary Writer
  1. Launch Etiquette: MUST You Buy The Book?

And our #1 post for 2015:

  1. Write Your Character’s Eulogy

We thank all our readers for visiting us this year! We hope 2016 brings you peace and joy and all good things.

See you next week!

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