Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 22, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-22-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! After the long President’s Day weekend, it’s back to work with a load of writerly links for you!

Take a look at how famous authors stay inspired and keep writing.

Zachary Lazar explains the importance of teaching poetry in prison.

Auour Ava Olafsdottir discourses on the courage of writers: why the hardliners of the world fear the word.


If you create your own language, Chris Winkle discusses using your conlang without ruining your story.

Every story has large, overarching elements writers have to deal with. Daeus Lamb gives us theme made easy, and Les Edgerton unpacks using 3rd person vs. 1st person novel narratives.

Our characters carry the story. Mary Kole has tips for writing child characters, Kristen Lamb delves into the brain behind the story: the big boss troublemaker, and Janice Hardy has 5 traits to help you create your character’s personality.

Narrative flow and story momentum are important, but as with all craft elements, the rules about them are not set in stone. Interrupting that narrative flow can be effective, as Margot Kinberg shows us, and Stavros Halvatzis explores story momentum.

Craft is the art of getting it right on the page and making readers feel emotions. Gordon Long discusses the 8 elements of tradecraft, John Gilstrap gives details on hollow point bullets,  and Vaughn Roycroft muses on writing and crying.

Editing is a large part of making our stories great. Jami Gold shares her master list of copy editing skills, and Janice Hardy teases apart the difference between a revision, a rewrite, and a redraft.

Creativity is the holy grail of writers. We seek to find inspiration anywhere we can find it. Tim Knox has 10 ways to overcome Lonely Writer Syndrome, Mary Carroll Moore examines refueling your creativity by planning recovery time after you finish a book, and Janice Hardy shares the benefits of writing a novel “just for fun.”

Technology can help our productivity, but sometimes even ultimate efficiency isn’t enough to meet a deadline. Gwen Hernandez explores the exciting new features in Scrivener’s upgrade, while Bill Ferris has tongue-in-cheek top 8 excuses for when you’re about to blow a deadline.


We all have our dreams, but Joel Friedlander warns us to beware of the impossible book project, while J. Kathleen Cheney explores 3 ways to get book covers on a shoestring budget.

Roz Morris lays out why self-publishers should follow the traditional publishing production stages, and Alison Morton has essential insights into translation for indie authors.

Janet Reid doubles up today discussing the most important thing about picking a pen name, and what to do about querying a book that had previous representation but didn’t sell.

Marketing is about enticing readers to buy the product. Sue Coletta shows how to write a better book description in 3 easy steps, David Kudler walks us through creating a compilation or box set ebook, and Tess Taylor looks at the art of publicity: how indie publicists work with writers.

Online is a great place to meet readers. Dani Shapiro explores the hard art of balancing writing and social media, Fauzia Burke examines how Facebook’s latest changes will impact authors, Penny Sansevieri lists 5 unique book marketing strategies for Goodreads, and Anne R. Allen gives us 8 reasons to start an author blog.


Caitlin Macy reminds us that before there was YA, there were horse books.

Emily Temple brings us 25 legendary literary feuds.

Check out a rare look at correspondence from Arthur Miller to his wife, Mary.

Writing historical middle grade or YA? E.L. Skip Knox examines Medieval childhood as history for fantasy writers.

That’s all for Top Picks Thursday this week! Join us next week for the first Top Picks Thursday of March!

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | February 20, 2018

Keeping yourself immersed in creativity

When I was leaving work the other day, I went from an open area of the train station into a corridor that would lead to outside. There was a violinist playing in the open area which always fills the room as it is large with high ceilings and the sound carries well. I usually stop to listen but that day I didn’t. As I passed through the next corridor, I saw a clarinetist start to play. Now I paused, and turned around to go into the previous room.

I listened to the violinist for about a minute, recognizing one of the Bach suites but couldn’t completely place it. I gave him a tip when he was finished with it and nodded my head to him. He returned the smile and nod.

I went back into the corridor and heard the clarinetist play through some jazz riffs. Different feel than the classical of the violin but equally mesmerizing to me. Perhaps mentally liberating is a better term for it. I gave him a tip and got a handshake out of it as well. I thanked him for putting a smile on people’s faces.

Being in a career that is not involved with writing or any other creative endeavor, the only way to experience the fruits of that creativity is by deliberate action on my part. I have to make the time to go outside of my work building during the day for breaks, and maybe I’ll get lucky and hear the violinist play (there are several young students that will occasionally play in that area of the train station). I find these walks to be very effective stress relievers as well, and not only because of the physical activity.

Some months ago I had an errand to do during lunch and found myself in the underground concourse of Philly, which connects several train stations (what is it with my attraction to train stations?). I was with a coworker and, drawn by the smell of nuts cooking from a local store, were discussing if we wanted to buy any. We had already passed a guitarist down there, and around the corner from this nut store was a cellist and violinist playing together. I told my coworker that we needed to change position. We moved to a location where we could hear both instruments and smell the nut store all at the same time. The two different genres of music, the smells of the stores, and the surrounding sights and sounds of all the people moving around down there was fantastic. This is heaven to me. I only wish I could have stayed longer to appreciate it.

Most days I stay in at work and never get out of the office until it’s time to leave. Those are the days where going outside and seeing someone in a freeform expression of creativity is needed most. It can be a stress reliever, and it also tunes your mind to more creative endeavors as well.

What are your favorite methods for keeping the creative world close?

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 15, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers and Readers 02-15-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! ♥ Are you, like us, wondering how long the Valentine’s Day candy will last? Around here, it’s either gone in a couple days or still sitting in the bowl at Halloween. ♥

Sending out love this week to writer Judy Blume. In honor of her 80th birthday, Emily Temple shares some of Judy Blume’s advice for aspiring writers. With more writing tips, Melodie Campbell lists the top ten peeves of creative writing teachers.

Publisher’s Weekly‘s Calvin Reid reports that the comics industry is asking the New York Times to restore its graphic bestsellers lists. Since graphic books continue to show considerable growth, restoring those lists makes sense to us.

The award season continues. The American Library Association has announced its 2018 youth media award winners and the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medals for excellence in adult fiction and non-fiction. Also, The Guardian‘s Alison Flood reveals the winners of the PEN/Nabokov and the PEN/Saul Bellow awards.


DiAnn Mills takes a look at how to keep the writing juices flowing, and Daphne Gray-Grant asks: are you up to the task of writing?

Trying to decide what to write? Should you write what you know? — Emily Temple presents 31 writers’ opinions. Maybe you should start with something short. John Dufresni delves into the very contemporary art of flash fiction.

For those working on characterization, Melissa Donovan illuminates archetypal characters in storytelling, Zoe M. McCarthy gives examples of showing your characters flaws, and September C. Fawkes focuses on how to write introspection well: show “just enough.”

Every story needs conflict. Donald Maass considers the tension that arises when worlds collide, and Kristen Lamb explores conflict: elixir of the muse for timeless stories readers can’t put down.

If you’ve finished your first draft, Stavros Halvatzis addresses writing the second draft, and Jami Gold presents her master list of story development skills and her master list of line editing skills.

Fae Rowen shares a simple tip to help get rid of saggy middles, while James Scott Bell details stuff that takes readers out of a story, and K. M. Weiland writes about cohesion and resonance.

For those writers working on a series, Joanna Penn explains why writing in a series will make you more money as a writer, and Janice Hardy sets out a 3-step plan for handling backstory in a series.

Shannon A. Thompson reminds us why you should make time to write while editing/revising.

If you are considering collaboration, Heather Webb shares her tips for writing with another author.


Mark Gottlieb explains how to write an effective hook.

For writers looking for an agent, Janice Hardy examines what your query says about your book, and Janet Reid gives some advice on querying a novel in verse and how to query when you have self-published books. Janet also suggests not reading too much into an agent pass.

Marketing is vital for all writers considering publication. Daphne Gray-Grant lays out how to do better at selling your writing, Grace Wynter mentions five marketing tools for authors who hate marketing, and Ali Luke shares seven ways to market your self-published novel.

Melissa Bowersock asserts if you want to sell more books you need to write more books.

Andrea Dunlop explores launching your second book and beyond: 4 questions to ask.

For Indie authors: Orna Ross presents business models for Indie writers: which one is right for you?  Joel Friedlander wonders: is offset printing the future for Indie authors? Also, Frances Caballo explains how to manage a Twitter account as an Indie author.


Looking for places to add to your bucket list: Emily Temple provides a visual tour of 35 literary bars and cafés from around the world.

Brandon Tensley reveals how a new documentary shows how Lorraine Hansberry took advantage of her talents to advance civil rights.

According to The Guardian‘s Jonathan McAloon, T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” remains one of the finest reflections on mental illness ever written.

For those who want to read books by famous authors but don’t have a lot of time for reading, Emily Temple supplies a list of the shortest novels written by 20 famous authors.

If you’d like to read books that famous people have read, Erin Schreiner gives us a peek at famous readers’ borrowing records from a private New York library.

♥ That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. ♥ Have a great week reading and writing, and catch us next week for another roundup of blog posts for writers and readers.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 8, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-08-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are cruising through February, and bringing you more writerly and readerly links this week.

Check out these 42 amazing books written by black authors!

Think being a librarian is a cushy job? Think again. Katie McLain talks about the stress of library work, Terri Pous shares the solution for people who can only remember what color the book cover was, and Steven Kurutz praises the small town library.

Going to conferences this season? Andrea Merrell tells how to make the most of your conference experience.


“Voice” is an essential element to any piece of writing. But how do you get voice? Mary Kole encourages reading as a path to a great writing voice.

Lisa Tener discusses how to choose a book idea and know if you’re writing the right book.

Every story takes place in a world. How much world-building you need to do depends on the genre. Janice Hardy shares 7 tips of creating believable fantasy or science fiction worlds.

Writing is full of craft elements writers must use properly to draw the readers in. Gabriela Pereira talks pattern and repetition, Laurence MacNaughton shares how to write kick-ass action scenes, and Jo Eberhardt compares foreshadowing vs. callbacks.

Characters inhabit whatever world we create—and we’d better make them compelling. Stavros Halvatzis discusses character traits, wants, and needs, and Anne R. Allen shows how to keep your characters from babbling with indirect dialogue and other dialogue tricks.

When we’re done writing, we need to clean up our manuscript. Jessi Rita Hoffman has hedge words and inflation words to beware of, Elisa Beatty tells us how to get tight without losing any of the story, Jami Gold examines how to improve our editing processes, and Carol Cram lists ten reasons why you need an editor.

We each have our own writing process. Kelly Maher shares her experience of story development through travel and inspiration, and Roz Morris explores 3 wonderful paradoxes of a slow writing process.

At some point in the process, writers need to consider the audience they are writing for. K.M. Weiland has 4 tips for writing to the right audience, Cathy Yardley explores what actually matters to your audience, and James Scott Bell tells how to avoid burnout by taking strategic breaks.


Barnes & Noble has announced Barnes & Noble Press, an enhanced self-publishing platform with more tools and options than before, Ingram Spark shares 8 tips for self-publishing a book, while Amazon is shaking up the audiobook market.

A book’s cover is a major marketing tool. Sandra Beckwith shares 7 ways to make a good book cover decision, and Joel Friedlander has 7 best book cover trends to stay current in 2018.

Janet Reid discusses the dangers of pitching to editors at conferences and the appropriate timeline for nudging agents and editors.

Marketing only works if you reach the proper audience. Brian Jud has tips on how to target your book’s audience, and Dan Balow explores marketing to younger readers.

David Wogahn declares that book reviews, not sales, are the essential first step for authors. On the other side of the coin, Janet Reid tells us what to do if we’ve gotten an ARC to review and don’t like the book.

Thinking outside the box can get your more sales. Joan Stewart shows how to submit your books to holiday gift guides, Christina Delay demonstrates how to use Facebook Pixel Codes to get the most out of your marketing, and Frances Caballo advises not to buy Twitter followers.


Check out these 17 books before they become films in 2018.

These 12 books will make you want to pack your bags and travel across India.

Think librarians are boring? Look at these 6 bad ass librarians from pop culture.

When you read because you have to, it can be hard to read because you want to. Ashley Wertz discusses post-college reading fatigue and how to combat it.

People love a good mystery. Lorraine Berry examines why we’re so fascinated with lost books.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week with all the links you need to keep you in the know.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 1, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-01-2018

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 25, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writer and Readers 01-25-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday!

Three weeks into the new year, Jane Friedman wonders what opportunities 2018 may hold for writers, and agent Laurie McLean offers publishing predictions for 2018.

Libraries are important in many ways. Xhenet Aliu reveals how being a librarian makes her a better writer, and Lisa Eve Cheybe asserts that funding libraries is the way to beat “fake news”.

In a thought-provoking article, Jonathan Ely asks: is creativity finally dead?

It’s award season. SCBWI’s Lee Wind announces the 2017 Golden Kite Award and Sid Fleischman Humor Award winning books, and BookRiot‘s Leah Rachel Von Essen reports that The National Book Critics Circle Awards have named their 2017 finalists.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, snow in woods



With a new year of conferences and conventions coming up, Bob Hostetler shares seven tips for your next writers’ conference, and John G. Harkness reveals ten things you need to know about going to conventions as a writer.

A writing life has its ups and downs. Beth Leslie shares 4 ways to keep your writing confidence high, Kathryn Craft discusses becoming a “real” writer, and Judith Briles recommends building an author inner circle to help you stay the course.

A number of writers advocate writing exercises. Some mean that literally. Scott McCormick says a good walk may be the best writing exercise there is, and Cathy Lamb takes a look at why writers should head into the woods.

If you’re thinking of a change in genre, Elizabeth Randolph explores transitioning from non-fiction writing to fiction.

Working on the beginning of your book? Polly Iyer elaborates on why the beginning of your novel is important, and Bill Ferris offers the hack’s guide to writing a perfect first chapter.

Jami Gold delves into writing your worldview: biases and beyond, while Gay Yellen explores writing killer suspense, and Chris von Halle provides 5 lessons on writing humor.

For those in the novel planning stage, Janice Hardy discusses plotting a novel: the big picture vs. single scenes. If you’re doing world-building, E. L. Skip Knox continues his history for writers series with a post on barber surgeons.

Regarding characters, Margot Kinberg reflects on behind-the-scene characters who have a lot of influence, especially in mysteries, and Lisa Cron asks: what does your protagonist want before the story starts?

John Gilstrap considers internal monologue, while Jordan Dane lays out 5 key ways to balance internal monologue, with pitfalls to avoid.

Ready to revise? Bob Hostetler advises fixing these 16 potholes on Grammar Street, and when you’ve corrected all you can on your own, Brooke Warner stresses 5 things to consider when hiring an editor.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, snow and trees along the road



Authors should know how many books they’ve sold. Steve Laube investigates how to count lifetime book sales.

Worried about brand and platform? Porter Anderson writes about platform redux: after the fire and fury, while Jami Gold asks what’s the voice of your brand?

In publishing news, Nate Hoffelder reveals that CreateSpace is getting out of offering publishing services like editing, marketing, and design; Business Wire reports that Barnes & Noble announces Barnes & Noble Press, an enhanced, more user-friendly self-publishing suite.

For Indie authors, Joel Friedlander gives a quick look at the fine art of book spine design, which is too often neglected, and Melissa Bowersock details how Reedsy may help authors and publishers find the professional help they need for their books.

To enhance your social media savvy, Stephanie Chandler explains how to promote your non-fiction book with online groups, Sandra Beckwith specifies how not to act in a Facebook group, and Yvonne Hertzberger asks authors with websites: do you know who owns your domain name?



BookRiot‘s Christine Ro lists 11 reasons to shelve your books backward, and Ashlie Swicker suggests taking book selfies to the next level with the Google Arts and Culture app.

Literary Hub‘s Emily Temple shares great advice from 25 writing manuals by famous writers.

Valerie Stivers recommends cooking from sixteenth-century fairy tales and includes some recipes to try.

The Guardian‘s Alison Flood tells how John Lithgow’s show prompts a surge in demand for an out-of-print W. Somerset Maugham anthology.

Joe Berkowitz shares 9 amazing Ursula K. Le Guin moments that remind us she was a superhero.

And with that, we end this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Join us next week on the first day of February for a new batch of links.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, sunset and snow


Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 18, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-18-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! January can’t seem to decide if it’s winter or spring, but we remain consistent and bring you some writerly links for your enjoyment.

Since it is a new year, Shannon A. Thompson discusses setting 2018 writing goals.

Nikki Demarco explores teaching reading by example, while James Tate Hill asks: do audiobooks count as reading?

Matt de la Pena weighs in on why we shouldn’t shield children from darkness in children’s books.

Margot Kinberg examines plagiarism, and Victoria Strauss warns of possible copyright infringement of your books by Internet Archive.


Writers usually have a ton of ideas they want to work on. So how do you decide what your next project should be? Jami Gold tells us to play favorites when deciding what to write next.

Once you decide, make sure you keep in mind these 5 secrets of good storytelling that writers forget all the time from K.M. Weiland.

Julie Carrick Dalton delves into the intricacies of writing a dual timeline novel, while Kathryn Craft shows how to make the best use of historical elements.

Writers hear so much about “voice,” yet often it is an elusive concept. Dawn Field explores how to develop a distinctive voice, and Mary Kole uses writing vocabulary to streamline voice.

There are certain elements in writing that you need to do well of you are going to use them at all. Laurence MacNaughton tells how to write kick-ass action scenes, while James Scott Bell asks: what’s the deal with dreams in fiction?

Characters do the heavy lifting for our stories. Stavros Halvatzis helps us construct compelling characters, Jami Gold advises tapping into strong emotions with memories, Kassan Warrad shows how to avoid the dark lord cliché, Mareth Griffith discusses insider and outsider points of view, and Janice Hardy wonders if your characters have the right flaws.

We cannot get our work up to professional snuff on our own. Alex Fullerton explains what to expect from a book coach, and Dixie Carlton urges us to let go of perfection paralysis and know when good enough is good enough.

We all want to write more efficiently. Joanna Penn demonstrates how to use dictation for a healthier writing life, and Gabriela Periera shares 3 myths that hinder creativity and how to conquer them.

Sonia Simone has 7 ways to bring more artistry to your writing, Tajja Isen finds the value of abandoning a book, and C. Lee McKenzie looks at writing through catastrophe.


Julie Greenbaum brings us the 2018 book manufacturing outlook.

You know that rule not to query two agents at the same agency at the same time? Janet Reid finds the exception to the rule.

Jane Friedman compiles the best book marketing advice from 2017, while Frances Caballo has 10 tips for introverted writers.

Getting word of your book out is the essence of marketing. Sarah Bolme discusses the power of online book communities, David Wogahn explains how to jumpstart book reviews for self-published books, and Anne R. Allen shows us how to make the most of Amazon’s LOOK INSIDE! feature.

Anne R. Allen also tells us why fiction writers should blog, and Frances Caballo explores how to bring social media to your blog with embedded posts.


Check out these 19 books before their movies come out in 2018.

Peruse these 15 covers for Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar—in order from most to least sexist.

Tim Weed explores the mystique of writers and their cats.

Read some early reviews of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, on the anniversary of his death.

An interesting examination of 20 author photos, then and now.>

Sure, pirates talked funny—but they read books, too. See the fragments of a book found in the wreckage of Blackbeard’s flagship.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 11, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-11-2018

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of 2018! We look forward to another year of bringing you interesting and timely links for writers and readers.

Children’s writers, check out the list of SCBWI’s 25 different award and grant programs.

Smashwords’ Mark Coker brings us his 2018 book industry predictions.

Joanna Penn muses on thoughts and goals for a creative 2018, while Andrea Merrell urges us to take a risk in 2018.

Take a look at this infographic analyzing the reading habits of Americans in 2017.

If you are looking for a critique group or partner, check out Janice Hardy’s critique connection.


It’s a new year, full of new possibilities! Jami Gold says to celebrate the New Year by leaving guilt behind, K.M. Weiland shares 4 life-changing New Year’s lessons for writers, and Grant Faulkner has writing tips to fortify your writing resolutions.

Maybe venture into a new format for 2018? C.S. Lakin reveals that the secret to memoir is the mature self, and Jocelyn at Adventures in YA Publishing shows how to improve your novel by writing a screenplay.

When we get down to writing, we have to juggle a lot of structural items. Diana Hurwitz discusses where to begin, Peter Selgin warns against the deadliest first page sin, Laura Davis has 4 ways to develop a unique writing voice , and Jami Gold tells us how to create scene endings that hook readers.

The nitty-gritty writing has its own list of items to attend to. Tamar Sloan lists 3 powerful techniques to harness a reader’s curiosity, Bridget at Now Novel shares 6 simple rules to writing descriptive sentences, and Geer Macallister explains how to use the feedback you don’t get.

Writing has an emotional and psychological component to it as well. Anne R. Allen looks at 8 qualities more important than writing talent, Kristen Lamb explores 5 areas where we need permission for success, Joanna Penn wonders: why write when there are already too many books in the world, and Kathryn Craft reminds us to ask for what you need.


Janet Reid has a hat trick today, bringing us: how to query when current events overtake your story, how to query when suffering from depression, and how long a previous agent has dibs on your deals.

Marketing means getting the word out about your book. Elizabeth Randolph shares marketing ideas for local promotion, Joan Stewart shows how to use freelance journalists in a book publicity campaign, and Ricardo Fayet tells how to leverage book reviews and book promotion sites.

Getting all your online ducks in a row can help your sales, too. David Kudler has 6 secrets to pricing your ebook, Penny Sansevieri shows how to optimize your book’s Amazon keyword search, and Ashley Kimler discusses the benefits of publishing wide and selling books directly from your author website.

Communication with readers is also largely online, so spruce up your online presence in the new year. Adam Connell tells how to prepare for a new year of blogging, Kerilynn Engel has 5 effective backup plugins for WordPress, and Frances Caballo lists 17 Twitter apps for writers.


Although Christmas is past this would work for other gift giving days: 9 (mostly) free gifts readers can give over the holidays.

While reading anything to your baby helps, a brain study suggests the type of book you read to your baby is also important.

Take a peek at Marlene Dietrich’s marginalia.

So, is your vocabulary good enough to pass this synonym test?

Check out these 18 photos that prove that commas matter—a lot.

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

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 9, 2018

The Writer’s Life: When It’s Not Writer’s Block

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, deer herd in the snow

Some days you just can’t write. I’m not talking about writer’s block, but about those days when other things get in the way. Days when you’re so sick that you can’t budge from bed. Days when the pain is so bad you can’t concentrate on anything else. Days that are so full of obligatory activities that the only time for writing is when you’re so tired you can’t keep your eyes open. Those are the kind of days I’m talking about. If you haven’t experienced any of them, lucky you! I’ve experienced more than I like, and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.

I’ve recently suffered through more of them, this time because of the abnormal cold. If you’ve paid any attention to the news lately, you know that the U. S. East Coast has suffered from unusually cold temperatures for a couple weeks, cold enough for snow in Florida. Such winter temperatures might be normal for people in the Midwest, Northwest, and Alaska; residents in those areas might not mind the cold as much because they’re used to it, and they’ve built their houses and heating systems to handle the conditions. That’s not the case in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states.

Which brings me to a beef I have with heating system installers. Three times we’ve had to have heating systems installed in various houses we’ve lived in. Three times I’ve asked to have a larger heating capacity to take care of cold rooms or areas in the houses. Three times I’ve been assured that the new system would be adequate, and each of those times I’ve been imprudent enough to accept those assurances. While they may have designed the heating systems for the average cold temperatures of the local area, the systems just aren’t “adequate” during the super-cold snaps that we invariably get.

Enough gripping! The point is that when the temperature dips below 25°F, our heating unit cannot produce enough heat to keep the house at 65°. The lower the temperature outside and the stronger the wind, the colder it is inside. I can take cold weather outside the house but not inside. Since I have trouble concentrating when it’s cold inside, I have a little space heater to set beside my desk and keep me warm while I write.

That space heater is one of my favorite things in the winter. It moves from room to room with me during cold spells, but this recent spate of cold and windy days has provided more of a challenge than it can handle. I’ve been forced to wear layers – long underwear under jeans, extra socks, thick sweatshirts on top of sweaters on top of long-sleeved T-shirts. After days when the outdoor temperature didn’t reach 20° last week, our old household heating unit could not maintain more than 56° degrees. I decided we needed more space heaters, and I needed them sooner than any would arrive if I ordered them online.

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, sunset over the snow, sweet gum tree in winter snow at sunset

Not being foolish enough to head to the store during the snowstorm last Thursday, I set out on Friday. I figured that space heaters might be in short supply, so I went to an area where several stores might have them. I stopped at Target first because I also wanted fingerless gloves (regular gloves are hard to type with). I had to search for the gloves, but I got the last pair. I also got their last space heater, a small one.

I wanted one or two more space heaters, so I headed for Walmart. Walmart had most of one side of an aisle set aside for space heaters (much more space than Target had), but all the shelves were empty. They had sold out.

I was down to one store – Sears. I didn’t have much hope, but in a small section of clearance items I found eight space heaters. They were small, so I got two.

As I drove home, I felt pretty good about my shopping. It had taken longer than I expected, but I had gotten what I needed. The sky was a bright, clear blue and the snow sparkled in the sunlight. It was one of those times when everything seemed perfect.

If you’re guessing that the feeling didn’t last, you’re right.

I live in a semi-rural area. The county had plowed and salted. The main roads and those that run east and west were in decent shape, but in open places wind-blown snow had drifted onto the roads that run north and south. On one of those roads, my car got caught in the ruts left by another vehicle and zipped off the road into deeper snow at the edge of a field. When the car came to a standstill, I couldn’t get it to budge. Ironically, though my car sat in a low drift, the ground about fifteen feet into the field had been bared by the wind.

Although stranded on a country road, I wasn’t worried. I had dressed warmly and luckily had a very short walk to a John Deere dealership, the only business on the sparsely populated road. I put on the hazard lights, fastened my coat’s hood, and made my way to the dealership. Four cars were parked in the lot, so I assumed there would be at least a couple guys who could help me.

When I entered the building, I found three women working in the office (served me right for stereotyping John Deere workers as male). When I told them I needed help because I was stuck in the snow across the street and asked if they had a shovel, they exchanged a glance that set me aback – until I learned that the one woman had just gotten back to her desk after helping a guy whose car had been stuck in the same spot – the guy whose tracks my car had followed into the drift.

One woman got her coat and a shovel and returned to the car with me. As we worked on getting my car out, other cars, SUVs, and pickups passed. Since I doubted just the two of us could push my car out, I kept hoping someone else would stop. Nobody did.

The woman suggested I get in the car and try to drive out while she pushed. After several unsuccessful attempts, she told me the guy who’d been stuck before me only got out when someone with a pickup truck had pulled him out with a chain.

I had just decided maybe it was time to call AAA – and probably wait a good while for help – when a pickup stopped. I was overjoyed when a man with a foreign accent got out and offered to help. Unfortunately, even with his help, we couldn’t get the car out.

Then a car stopped beside the pickup. Two women got out and joined in pushing, but we still couldn’t get the car out. The man who was driving the car climbed out to help too, but with no luck.

[I do not fault the other drivers who did not stop to help. Perhaps, like me after my spinal surgery, they weren’t physically able to help. Perhaps they had appointments. Whatever the cause, they had reasons. I can’t say, however, that I feel the same about the drivers going the opposite direction who made gestures or shouted at those of us trying to get the car out. Their lane had no drift and was not blocked by any of our vehicles. They couldn’t be bothered to help, but they didn’t mind slowing down to express their unwarranted opinions, which we ignored.]

Finally, the car’s driver suggested that he drive and I help push. At that point, I was willing to try about anything. I couldn’t do much pushing, but with the man at the wheel and the three women and other man doing most of the work, it was enough. The car came free!

Thanks to those kind people who stopped to help, I soon arrived home, set up the space heaters, and donned my fingerless gloves. It had been quite a day, but I was back in business!

Have you had a non-writing day not caused by writer’s block?

Do you have any snow adventures to share?

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Trenton at sunset, the frozen Delaware River, Calhoun Street Bridge

Trenton, NJ, and the frozen Delaware River as seen from the Calhoun Street Bridge, January 5, 2018

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 4, 2018

The Best of the Author Chronicles 2017

If you missed our Top Links from 2017, check them out!

We love to look back on the past year and see what posts resonated most with our readers. Here are our most popular posts from 2017. Enjoy!

25. Why and How to Write on Your Phone

24. Hooray for the Written Word

23. Using Cameo Characters

22. Zombie Cupcakes: The Art of Marketing on a Budget

21. Inspiration: Celebrate Nature! Celebrate Life!

20. A Writing Space from a Favorite Movie

19. You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset

18. Revising the Revision Process

17. Five Reasons for Agent Rejection of a Manuscript

16. Can a Tough Time be a Great Time to Write?

15. Getting Into Character

14. Change Up

13. The Benefits of Productivity Tracking

12. The Duality of the Writing Mind

11. Act It Out, Then Write It Down

10. Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

9.  Revision: When Are You Done?

8.  Mindful Observation: The Key To Minor Characters

7.  Accountability

6.  Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Reality

5.  Becoming Visible: An Introvert Tackles Marketing

4.  No Nonsense Allowed: Why Fiction Must Make Sense

3.  The Myth of the Solitary Writer

2.  Launch Etiquette: MUST You Buy the Book?

And our number one post for 2017:

1.  Write Your Character’s Eulogy

Happy New Year, everyone! We wish all of our readers a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2018! We resume our normal Top Picks Thursday link round-up next week.


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