Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | May 21, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 05-21-2015

Spring is such a busy time that the months seem to zip past. It’s hard to believe that we only have one week left in May. The Author Chronicles wishes all our American friends fair weather and a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. As we celebrate with parades and picnics and shore excursions, let’s take a few minutes from our hectic schedules to reflect on the sacrifice of those who died fighting for our country and to appreciate the efforts of all who have served and are currently serving. Their toil has granted us the freedom to pursue our writing and other careers of our choice, to raise our families, and to enjoy the gifts we have been given.

The American Cemetery, Normandy, France, 05-15-2013

The American Cemetery, Normandy, France, 05-15-2013

While we are remembering, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the contributions of teacher, editor, and author of nineteen books William Zinsser, who died this week at the age of 92. Since its publication, editors and teachers have urged writers to read his classic book On Writing Well — which emphasized “clarity, simplicity, brevity, and humanity” and sold more than 1.5 million copies.

We’ve gathered a good array of posts for your edification this week, including always useful advice from other writers. S. W. Lauden presents great advice from some awesome writers, and in an interview by Jamie, Sarah Dessen offers valuable advice for debut authors. Chuck Wendig answers a young writer’s question, admitting that none of us know what the f*** we’re doing, while Vaughn Roycroft suggests flipping perspectives to turn troubles into blessings.

Each writer has his or her own definition of success. Maria Popova presents Amanda Palmer’s take on success, and Savvy Book Writers give 5 steps to writing success. Some of us start writing while still in school; others don’t begin until retirement gives them extra time.  Kim Pearson talks about writers who are late bloomers.

Words are a writers tools. Ronald E. Yates offers 36 fun facts for word lovers. Sometimes, however, despite our and our editors’ best efforts, mistakes creep into our manuscripts. While we hope these will be eliminated before publication, we’ve all found errors in published writing. Elaine Viets laments how ridiculous mistakes are popping up in novels and news reports.

In honor of Short Story Month, Benjamin Wallace extolls the short story, and Chuck Wendig gives his take and asks others to share — what storytelling lessons are you learning from what stories? Literary journals offer publishing venues for short stories and poetry, but Jane Friedman wonders are literary journals in trouble?

To help those of us who will be heading to writing conferences, Lynnette Labelle supplies a writing conference survival guide.

If you’re hunting for an agent, new agent Noah Ballard is seeking literary fiction, thrillers, YA, middle grade, narrative non-fiction, and honest and provocative new writers. Maybe you are just the person he’s looking for!


This week we came across a number of bloggers presenting tips and tricks. Mark Alpert gives us six writing tips from the master, and Mary Carroll Moore offers 5 tips to prevent distractions from becoming derailments in your writing life. Using a film as inspiration, Shanan Haislip finds 3 writing tips you can learn from Avengers: Age of Ultron.

For those interested in screenwriting, the Wise Ink blog provides 3 screenwriting tricks to help improve your writing, and Yvonne Grace has TV writing tips and tricks for character development in a television series drama. If you’ve finished your screenplay, Ron Suppa suggests 10 rewriting strategies for script writers.

If you are working on your first draft, Marcy McKay mentions 3 traps to avoid when writing a rough draft, and Kristen Lamb asks is your idea strong enough? and discusses James Scott Bell’s LOCK method. Janice Hardy gives us a lesson in writing basics: the Act Two choice.

Some of us who have little experience with fighting need to write fight scenes for our stories, so Bill Ferris lists the 10 keys to writing killer fight scenes.

Good characterization is vital in fiction. In her latest post about characters, Jami Gold asks what is a beta character, and are they weak?, while Fiona Quinn garners information from Vincent Annunziato to help if your villain is sneaking over our borders.

When you finally finish that rough draft, Roger Colby advises what to do when your first draft is finished.

Jody Hedlund suggests 4 steps that can keep writers from dismal failure.


When the final revision is finished and you’re seeking an agent, Monica M Clark discusses how to pitch to a literary agent at a conference, and Catherine Scully gives Indie and unpublished writers some advice on how to break into writing and be on panels at conventions. To help you with that agent talk, Kristen Lamb explains how to relate your novel in one sentence — the log line, and agent Janet Reid answers a question about what is meant by a “brief” synopsis. For writers who can’t make it to conferences or conventions and need to query agents, Alex White clarifies how to write a novel query letter.

Once your book is accepted by a publisher, Roxanne St. Claire cautions writers to beware of what rights they give publishers when signing a contract. Since a lot of time may pass before the book is released, Goldie Ector offers 4 survival tips for writers caught in the waiting game.

For the Indie writers, Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas discuss why self-published authors need both copyediting and proofreading, and J. A. Konrath provides information on what book design adds to an ebook. In a cautionary tale, Chris Marlow, an Indie pro writer, gives 5 steps she took after her ebook was stolen.

Book reviews can help a book sell. Savvy Book Writers explain how to get reviews before your book is published, and Anne R. Allen spells out why never to use paid reviews and a thoughtful look at some other reviewing issues at Amazon.

Professional writing is a business. Marcy Kennedy discusses creating an author business plan. Part of that business plan should include an author website, and Joanna Penn delineates author website must-haves and some technical setup information to optimize your site as well as how to create an effective mobile-friendly website.

Published writers continue to learn and develop as writers. Jeanine Henning provides tips to evolve as a writer and find more readers.


Contrary to what people today prefer to see in children’s stories, John F. Ptak points out the death and mayhem in books made for children like the New England Primer.

Dahlia Adler suggests 6 YA books for Russophiles.

Electric Literature provides a fascinating infographic: a history of pen names.

Continuing with the history theme, here’s a study of five Cockney poets, from Milton to Keats. In addition, Mimi Matthews tells the story of Bounce, Alexander Pope’s devoted Great Dane, who not only served as his muse but also saved the poet’s life.

Code Gigas: the “Devil’s Bible” is the largest and most mysterious Medieval manuscript ever found.

Strong female characters are becoming more prevalent in video games as well as in written fiction. Here’s a video study of positive female characters in video games — Jade from Beyond Good & Evil.

That wraps it up for this week. Enjoy the long weekend!

Spring flowers

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | May 19, 2015

My book, your book

After having recently read the newly released biography from Ronda Rousey: My Fight, Your Fight, I was inspired by the many motivational messages it contained.

Ronda Rousey is a former Olympic medalist in Judo, and currently the reigning bantamweight champion in Mixed Martial Arts for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Challenge) league. The book was written by her and her sister, and charts the difficult path to get where she is today.

While the book is about someone who becomes a championship fighter, you don’t have to like or even appreciate fighting to take motivation from this.

I believe that Ronda was born and raised to do this (her mother was the first American woman to win a world championship in Judo). I also can’t help but realize that “being born to do this” is one of the most popular answers given when a number of writers are asked WHY they write.

Every chapter I read about this fighter and the struggles she had in her life at the time, I came back to writing and what it meant to me. I guess that’s the point of her book title. She talks about her fight, while the reader thinks about theirs.

Each chapter begins with a motivational quote that I found very easy to translate to a writing version. I also could easily translate this Judoka champion as any of a number of authors giving me advice.

I thought about finding time and the best way to train versus doing the same for writing. Some of the many difficulties that writers (finding their way) are presented with seem miniscule in comparison to those of a judoka trying to medal in the Olympics, or trying to make it in MMA when you’ve only trained in judo.

Or even trying to just make weight and taking three baths in a row to lose every last ounce before it’s weigh-in time.

To say nothing of trying to succeed as a woman in a sport that had only catered to men.

The book is there for you to write. Someone has to write it, might as well be you.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 14, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 05-14-2015

Welcome to this week’s writerly links!

Congratulations to all the 2015 Bram Stoker award winners, especially friend of the blog Jonathan Maberry. Join Jonathan, Christopher Golden, and James A. Moore on their debut podcast of Three Guys With Beards.

Almost all writers suffer from insecurity. Alex Cavanaugh tells us how to get a handle on writer insecurity.

Many of us have been mentored in our careers—the benefits of that are obvious. Susan Spann examines the benefits of mentorship for the mentor.

James Patterson wants your help. Share your ideas on getting kids to love reading on the hashtag #GetKidsReading.

If you’re looking for books to read, Karina Glaser’s middle grade flowchart tells what MG books are right for you, while Ann Morgan shares 5 must-read adult books from around the world.


For our narrative non-fiction writers, here is Linda Cracknell with 5 tips for writing narrative non-fiction.

And if you choose to fictionalize real events, Kathryn Craft has some great tips for novelizing true events.

Whatever we write requires some amount of research. Kristen A. Kieffer describes how to research your novel effectively.

Structure is the underpinning of any good story. Stuart Horwitz discusses how to plot and outline without a formula, P.J. Reece shows how to find the heart of your story, and Weifarer talks about using parallel chapters to perfect a scene.

Characters carry the emotion of the story. Rachel Starr Thomson explains point of view (POV) and the dangers of head-hopping, while Kristen A. Kieffer delves into deep POV. Roz Morris has 5 tips if your characters are all too similar, and Rochelle Deans explores the use of humor in the midst of tragedy. While character arcs are necessary to engage the reader, K.M. Weiland looks at whether a character’s arc can be a subplot.

Joe Hartlaub discusses exploiting strengths and weaknesses in characters, Donald Maass explains how change engages the readers, Caitlin Durante shares 3 ways to convey characters’ emotions, Jami Gold explores alpha heroines, and Kristen Lamb shows how opposition is the key to a strong story.

Sometimes it’s the things readers don’t see that make a story great. Owen Elgie discusses literary misdirection, Kirsty Logan gives 5 tips on creating atmosphere in your writing, and Christina Hamlett shares the building blocks of creating brilliant monsters, bogeymen and other creatures that go bump in the night.

We can suffer from time and resource management issues. Lisa Bennett demonstrates what to do with all your writing languishing in boxes, Drew Chial shows how writers can keep time from slipping away, Kevan Lee lists 50 amazing resources to make you a better writer, and Sonia Thompson shares a simple, science-backed way to improve your writing skills.


While writers still argue the merits of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, Andrea Phillips reminds us of a middle ground—in praise of the small press. Hal Robinson examines where authors fit into multi-channel publishing.

The publishing industry is moving toward environmental sustainability, led by the Green Press Initiative, HMH, Macmillan, and others.

Agent Janet Reid tells us what to do if you’ve started querying and then realize your novel really isn’t up to snuff.

Many writers do blog tours now, but Stuart Horwitz has 5 tips for a Do-It-Yourself real-world book tour.

When we publish, either self-publish or traditional, it’s always a good idea to have a plan. Jami Gold talks about creating a publishing plan, and Joel Freidlander discusses strategies for your author websites.

All those plans include finding your audience, so Naomi Blackburn shows how to find your audience online. Some plans hope to generate money from your blog, so 21 experts tell how to monetize your blog.

Annie Neugebauer explains how Twitter is a good place to meet people, hang out, and get found. And wherever you go online, Shari Stauch wants to keep you safe from cyber-trolls and book bullies.


Ever wonder how writers invent languages? Take some invented language lessons from George R.R. Martin and others.

Looking for a hot new literary magazine to query? Check out Rhapsody, the literary magazine of United Airlines.

Don’t worry about not being published by age 25. Here are six famous novelists that didn’t publish until after age 40.

Dr. Jenni Nuttall explores how Middle English drama used stanza styles to depict good vs. bad characters.

That’s it for us this week!

Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | May 13, 2015

Taming Shakespeare

Last month my older child grumbled and complained as she read her assigned pages from TAMING OF THE SHREW. In her English class she’s already read and enjoyed books such as THE CHOSEN, BLACK BOY and BRAVE NEW WORLD, so I wondered if her hardening dislike for the Shakespeare play was because she found the language difficult or the social attitudes too foreign (especially after she yelled “Yes, tell me about your mysoginistic ideals!” at the book).

One night she declared that she likes the movie 10 Things I Hate About You much more than Taming Of The Shrew. As I was about to launch into a ‘everyone should know the original text’ speech she said that in the movie the characters have reasons for what they do. In the play she feels there is little to no character development. Two sisters are presented, one all sweetness and one a horror. Why, she asked, why are they this way, why have two people who grew up in the same house become such polar opposites? To first have two characters presented as ‘this is how they are, deal with it’ and then to have a character change only because she’s starved and abused into submission drove my daughter into a rage. She wanted depth and reasons for the characters’ behavior. We don’t need hours of backstory but at least something to tell us why they have become what they are.

I was about to defend Shakespeare when I realized maybe she’s got a point. I’m sure a Shakespeare scholar could explain the nuances of the play that would tell us Katherina is a ‘shrew’ because the dog ate her doll when she was three and Bianca the source of all loviness because her teeth are perfect. But most readers will never study a text that closely.

This is a blog about writing (though I know many of my posts are about books because, frankly, I love books) and what can a writer learn from TAMING OF THE SHREW? For me, it’s that no matter how beautiful the language or revered the writer, if a story is to achieve true greatness, it needs characters to be understandable and relatable.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 7, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 05-07-2015

Welcome to the first links round-up in May! Boy, is this year flying.

We all know reading is good for your mind. Shankar Vedantam brings us a study that shows that reading Harry Potter has an effect on your behavior. We know the digital world affects our brains. Hugh McGuire wonders if reading books can save us from digital addiction.

Theodore Jefferson celebrates 85 years of Nancy Drew, the girls who changed how girls saw themselves. Unfortunately, as Shannon Hale tells us, boys are still all to ready to mock things they see as “girly.

Awards! Check out all the Edgar Award winners, and Word Girl wins a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing-Animated Program.

Libraries give free access to information, Sabina Khan discusses diversity in writing, and Robin Willis explores the Did Not Finish debate.

Neil Gaiman talks about freedom of speech—all speech, especially the kind you don’t like.


Savvy Book Writers have 15 important question to ask yourself before you write your story. Roz Morris shares tips on how to transition from day-job writing to fiction.

Anne R. Allen lists 13 reasons why you should write short stories this month, Georgia T. tells how to write a “locked in” murder mystery, and Jason Heller wonders: does post-apocalyptic literature have a (non-dystopian) future?

Jami Gold explored how to make characters recommit to the story goal after the Black Moment, Kurt Chambers examines how to show emotions in your writing, and Janice Hardy shows how to craft dialogue in a scene.

We get a lot of feedback on our work, and it can be contradictory and confusing. It can also make us defensive. Jami Gold suggests we look at feedback through the lens of intentionality. Can we justify why we made the choices we made?

Shannon A. Thompson takes a humorous look at writer problems, while Martina Boone looks at the scary side of the writing life.

Chuck Wendig lists some stupid writer tricks, Laura Blackhurst shares 10 commonly misused words in writing, and Todd Hasak-Lowy examines the 7 stages you’ll encounter when writing a novel in lists.

Sometimes it’s the beginning that does us in, sometimes later stages. Jody Hedlund shows us how to deal with paralyzing first chapter fears, while Jami Gold explores what to do if we’re sick of our story.

What writer couldn’t use a little more confidence? Anne Deavere Smith explores confidence and self-esteem, while Mrs. N. gives succinct advice on how to be more confident.

To keep your writing limber, you can join Christina Katz’s 21 Moments Writing Challenge. Annie Dillard advises us how to reclaim our capacity for joy and wonder.


For writers wondering just how much power a publisher has over your manuscript, agent Janet Reid answers the question: can a publisher make you change your ending? And Debra L. Butterfield explains the top 3 mistakes writers make when submitting to editors at houses.

In case you are new here and new to searching for an agent, Jane Friedman presents how to find a literary agent, and Mally Becker tells us what literary agents want to see before signing a writer. Meanwhile, Janet Reid explains how to interact with an agent should you meet them in a social situation.

Marketing these days usually means reviews and social media. Penny Sansevieri tells us how to get 100 reviews on Amazon, Alexis Grant shows how to use Twitter to gain professional goals, and Frances Caballo explores social media dashboards for authors.


Technology can be a blessing and a curse. Three-time Caldecott winner David Wiesner has a new, amazing app called Spot. Meanwhile, Maureen Johnson bemoans the tribulations of creating passwords for online use

Brandon Robshaw lists which children’s books sum up the decade they were published.

Over 100 lost stories by Mark Twain have been discovered!

If you love libraries, ogle these 9 beautiful libraries with extraordinary reading rooms.

Ever wonder how much of Shakespeare’s London is left?

Cindy Wolfe Boynton sets the record straight on the bewitching history behind The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

That’s all for us this week!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | May 5, 2015

RavenCon 2015

Opening Ceremonies with Lawrence M. Schoen, Con Chair Michael D. Pederson, Frank Wu, Allen Steele, and Brianna Wu, 4-24

Opening Ceremonies with Lawrence M. Schoen, Con Chair Michael D. Pederson, Frank Wu, Allen Steele, and Brianna Wu, 4-24

RavenCon 2015 took place from Friday, April 24th through Sunday, April 26th at the Double Tree by Hilton Richmond – Midlothian in Richmond, Virginia. I’ve heard favorable comments about RavenCon for years, but this was my first time attending and I enjoyed the convention just as much as I anticipated. The convention was well-organized and everything ran smoothly. The convention rooms were conveniently located, and the wait for the elevators was minimal. Food in the hotel restaurant was reasonably priced and tasty, and for those in a rush, the restaurant provided a buffet at most meals. In addition, free snacks and drinks were available in the Con Suite throughout the convention.

Panel: The Science Behind Science Fiction with Warren Lapine, Allen Steele, Fabian Rush, Dr. Ben Davis, and Robert Blaskiewicz, 4-24

Panel: The Science Behind Science Fiction with Warren Lapine, Allen Steele, Fabian Rush, Dr. Ben Davis, and Robert Blaskiewicz, 4-24

Panel: Writing Dialogue with Lou Antonelli, Lawrence M. Schoen, Karen McCullough, Noah McBrayer Jones, and Kate Paulk, 4-25

Panel: Writing Dialogue with Lou Antonelli, Lawrence M. Schoen, Karen McCullough, Noah McBrayer Jones, and Kate Paulk, 4-25









The special guests for this tenth year of the convention were Writer Guest of Honor Allen Steele, Artist Guest of Honor Frank Wu, Gaming Guest of Honor Brianna Wu, Returning Guest of Honor Jack McDevitt, and Special Guest of Honor Lawrence M. Schoen. These guests of honor and many other authors, artists, costumers, podcasters, scientists, editors, publishers, and musicians participated in a wide variety of panels, readings, concerts, workshops, and signings.

The Dealers' Room, 4-25

The Dealers’ Room, 4-25

The Dealers' Room, 4-25

The Dealers’ Room, 4-25

Other activities included the masquerade, a robotics demonstration, the charity auction, the art show and auction, the dealers’ room, showings of the movies Alien Face Bashers and Press Start, laser tag, the traditional performance of “The Eye of Argon,” and authors vs. writers pictionary — won by the artists this year.

Panel: Researching Your Costume - Historical, SF, Fantasy, or Steampunk with Heidi Hooper, Kirsten Vaughan, and Caitlin Hammer, 4-25

Panel: Researching Your Costume – Historical, SF, Fantasy, or Steampunk with Heidi Hooper, Kirsten Vaughan, and Caitlin Hammer, 4-25

Panel: Weird Westerns with R. S. Belcher, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, and Doc Coleman, 4-25

Panel: Weird Westerns with R. S. Belcher, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, and Doc Coleman, 4-25










For music lovers, White Plectrum, the Blibbering Humdingers, Danny Birt, Paradox Machine, and Devo Spice presented concerts, plus there was a singalong with Tom Lehrer dedicated to the memory if C. J. Henderson, and a late night party with DJ Drae.

Panel: Plotting and Pacing a Short Story with Lou Antonelli, Warren Lapine, and Kristin Mehigan, 4-25

Panel: Plotting and Pacing a Short Story with Lou Antonelli, Warren Lapine, and Kristin Mehigan, 4-25

Panel: No Right Way to Write - Techniques for New Writers with Lawrence M. Schoen, Mary Miley, Allen Steele, and Robert Sommers, 4-26

Panel: No Right Way to Write – Techniques for New Writers with Lawrence M. Schoen, Mary Miley, Allen Steele, and Robert Sommers, 4-26

Convention panels celebrated the 85th anniversary of the first issue of the science fiction publication Astounding Stories/Analog Science Fiction and the 80th anniversary of DC Comics.

Authors vs. Artists Pictionary with Moderator Danny Birt, 4-25

Authors vs. Artists Pictionary with Moderator Danny Birt, 4-25

Publishers Baen Books, Perseid Press, and Wildside Press gave previews of their upcoming releases. Books launched at the convention included Tales of Fortannis: A Bard’s Day Knight, edited by Michael A. Ventrella and published by Double Dragon; War of Shadows by Gail Z. Martin; Eternity Concepts by Xexilia Zajac; Tales of Time and Space by Allen Steele, Distant Seas by Bud Sparhawk, and Romance on Four Worlds by Tom Purdom from Fantastic Books; and Blood Savages by D. Alexander Ward from Necro Publications.

Panel: Making Magic Work with Stuart Jaffe, John C. Wright, Karen McCullough, and Chris A. Jackson, 4-26

Panel: Making Magic Work with Stuart Jaffe, John C. Wright, Karen McCullough, and Chris A. Jackson, 4-26

Panel: Tips for Aspiring Writers with Lou Antonelli, Ellie Collins, and Paula S. Jordan, 4-25

Panel: Tips for Aspiring Writers with Lou Antonelli, Ellie Collins, and Paula S. Jordan, 4-25









Here are some of the panels and workshops offered at the convention:

The Con Cake, photographed by Ken Jordan

The Con Cake, photographed by Ken Jordan

  • Alternate History: Alternate History in Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Art: Digital Tools for Making Art; Frank R. Paul — A Retrospective; The Business of Art – How Do You Make a Living as an Artist?; The Artist’s Role as Storyteller; From Sketch to Screen
  • Children’s Programs: Welcome to SHIELD; SHIELD Undercover Training; Children’s Writing Workshop
  • Comics: How to Remember Anything; How to Get Your Mom to Read Comics; If I Ran DC Comics; Webcomics/Manga – How to Write a Story; Webcomics/Manga – How to Find an Artist
  • Costuming: Flesh, Bone, and Blood – Breathing Life into Original Characters; Cosplay, Consent, and Con Culture; Researching Your Costume — Historical, SF, Fantasy, or Steampunk; 12th and 13th Century Historical Costuming; Armor 101; Costuming with Disabilities
  • Costumes at the masquerade, photographed by Ken Jordan

    Costumes at the masquerade, photographed by Ken Jordan

  • Costuming Makeup:Special FX Makeup 101; Zombie Makeup Workshop
  • Crafts: Viking Wire Weaving; Fan Knit-In
  • Fantasy: Urban Fantasy – Using Real-World Settings and People in Your Fiction; Making Magic Work; Things Fantasy Writers and Movie Directors Get Wrong About Horses; Stupid Superhero Powers
  • Gaming: Gamergate 101; The Slow Death of Dungeons and Dragons; 10 Best Video Games of All Time; A Day in the Life of a LARPer
  • Health: How to Move; The State of Nutrition
  • Horror: What Makes Monsters Terrifying?; Want to See Something Really Scary?
  • Marketing: The Cinematic Book Trailer; Visibility 101; Indie Publishing – Marketing Your Work
  • Media: The Network Without Fear [Netflix]; Dr. Who Trivia; Becoming a Voice Actor; Shooting a Movie on a Shoestring; Buffy — Looking Back; Making Videos for YouTube; The Marvel Cinematic Universe; The Future of Star Wars; The History of Sci-Fi Movies — Avatar to Zardoz
  • Panel: It's Only a Flesh Wound! Realistic Injuries in SF and Fantasy with Darin Kennedy, Mike McPhail, Stuart Jaffe, Chris A. Jackson, and Kate Paulk, 4-25

    Panel: It’s Only a Flesh Wound! Realistic Injuries in SF and Fantasy with Darin Kennedy, Mike McPhail, Stuart Jaffe, Chris A. Jackson, and Kate Paulk, 4-25

  • Miscellaneous: Dr. Who Sightseeing Abroad; Living the Dream – Planning a Sustainable Creative Career; The Society for Creative Anachronism; Troll Hunting 101; How to Ruin a Successful Kickstarter Campaign
  • Mystery: Elementary, My Dear Watson; Adding Mystery/Suspense to Your Writing (With a Quick Homage to Poe); 10 Real Poe Mysteries
  • Paranormal: Virginia is for Haunters
  • Podcasting: Geek Radio Daily [live taping]; Getting Started in Podcasting
  • Publishing: Finding the Right Publisher; Indie Publishing – Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing; Indie Publishing – The Economics of Self-Publishing; Successful Indie Publishing – Tricks and Traps
  • Science: The Portrayal of Nuclear Power and Engineering in Science Fiction; The Science Behind Science Fiction; The Science of Cryptozoology; Nuclear Power vs. Fossil Fuels; Ask a Scientist; Let’s Build a Space Habitat
  • Panel: Ten Books that Best Represent Science Fiction of the 20th Century with Paula S. Jordan, Stephan L. Antczak, Jim Beall, and Gray Rinehart, 4-26

    Panel: Ten Books that Best Represent Science Fiction of the 20th Century with Paula S. Jordan, Stephen L. Antczak, Jim Beall, and Gray Rinehart, 4-26

  • Science Fiction: Alien Worlds and Races; You Did (Not) Attend This Panel in an Alternate Universe; A Lifetime of Armageddon Scenarios
  • Writing — General: Critiquing the Right Way; Just Like the Last Time, Only Different [Sequels]; Collaborative Writing; Writing Dialogue; Tips for Aspiring Writers; Plotting and Pacing a Short Story; No Right Way to Write – Techniques for New Writers; The Best Critique Group for You; Pantsing vs. Plotting
  • Writing — Genre: Playing God – Building Your Own World; Genre Blending – The New World; It’s Only a Flesh Wound! Realistic Injuries in SF and Fantasy
  • A Writing Career: How to Make Sure Your Submission Gets Rejected; Why Editing Matters; How Not to Ruin Your Writing Career; The Business End; Schmoozing 101
  • Women: Dr. Who Through Female Eyes; Women and Geek Culture; Representation of Women in Graphic Literature; Beyond Xena and Leia
  • Workshops: After the First Draft – The Next Step for the Aspiring Writer; Figure Drawing Workshop; Allen Wold’s Writing Workshop
  • Panel: The Villain's Journey with D. Alexander Ward, Emily Lavin Leverett, Jean Marie Ward, and Kate Paulk, 4-25

    Panel: The Villain’s Journey with D. Alexander Ward, Emily Lavin Leverett, Jean Marie Ward, and Kate Paulk, 4-25

    Panel: Let's Build a Space Habitat with Ian Randall Strock, Paula S. Jordan, Michael Z. Williamson, Allen Stelle, and Jim Beall, 4-26

    Panel: Let’s Build a Space Habitat with Ian Randall Strock, Paula S. Jordan, Michael Z. Williamson, Allen Steele, and Jim Beall, 4-26

    Congratulations to the staff and guests of RavenCon for an all-around stellar convention. This is one I’m definitely going to attend again.

    Panel: Why Science Fiction Matters with David Walton, Jack McDevitt, Jennifer R. Povey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Stephen L. Antczak, 4-25

    Panel: Why Science Fiction Matters with David Walton, Jack McDevitt, Jennifer R. Povey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Stephen L. Antczak, 4-25


    Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 30, 2015

    Top Picks Thursday 04-30-2015

    Welcome to the final links round-up in April! Happy May Day tomorrow!

    In honor of May Day and her latest book The Far End of Happy, Kathryn Craft is launching the Twitter campaign #choosethisday. Kathryn is both raising awareness of suicide prevention resources and encouraging all of us to contribute empowering and positive messages. I love it when authors use their energy to make a difference in the world.

    A tale of two awards: The Orwell Prize for political writing shortlists non-fiction by novelists alongside history and autobiography. Meanwhile, the current controversy over the Hugo Awards prompts nominees to withdraw.

    Jane Chirgwin tells us what your local librarians can do for authors (and it’s a lot!). If you know of a school library that could use some help, nominate them for a grant through the Patterson Partnership.

    Erin Blakemore lists 2014’s most challenged books, while Brigid Alverson wonders why DRAMA, a book about middle school crushes, is being challenged and what that means.

    We’ve noted before how girls are expected to read “boy” books, but boys are actively discouraged from reading “girl” books. Chuck Wendig takes a look at how gender divisions trickle down from the corporations themselves and into our psyches.

    Yet another study shows the power of reading to make a permanent mark on your brain, and Maddie Rodriguez wonders how much time is enough time for reading?


    Story structure guides the reader and builds suspense. Dan Harmon discusses a story circle technique, K.M. Weiland tells us how to know if our prologue is destroying the story’s subtext, and September C. Fawkes explains how to write subtext.

    To keep readers turning the pages, we need to write a compelling story. Erika Mitchell discusses building suspense, and Linda Lane talks about complexity, contrast, and layers.

    Description can kill our story’s momentum if done wrong. James Royce Patterson has 7 tips for writing captivating description, and Charlie Jane Anders gives us the 7 deadly sins of worldbuilding.

    Well-drawn characters are essential to any good story. Nola Sarina shares how to write vivid character descriptions invisibly, and Aasyma shows us with biting humor how NOT to write about disabled folks.

    Editing is necessary for everyone. We can begin with self-editing, using online tools such as these grammar style checkers, but as Victoria Wright reminds us, we need outside editors to really make our work shine. Ruth Harris explains how we can use editors and new skills we’ve learned along the way to fix that supposedly “unpublishable” novel we all have in a drawer somewhere.

    For those thinking of writing a Gothic novel, Esther Kim has some amusing tips to help you get started.

    All writers struggle with creativity and motivation. Kavitha shares 5 tips to help you write out of your comfort zone, Julie Musil urges imperfect action over perfect inaction, and James Clear shares how constraints can actually spur creativity.

    In separate interviews, Eoin Colfer and Toni Morrison share their hard-won wisdom about writing and the world.


    If you want to go traditional but don’t have an agent, Alexandra Romanov gives us 5 reputable publishers that accept non-agented submissions.

    Ebook Bargains UK looks at the future of the Nook.

    Keep an eye on this, authors. In Britain, the Green Party is suggesting limiting copyright to a mere 14 years. Needless to say, there has been a backlash.

    While on this side of the Atlantic, attorney Helen Sedwick teaches authors how to spot a rights grab in a contract.

    Two things every author needs: a title and an author bio. Cindy Fazzi gives us 5 ways to choose your novel’s title, and Ash Krafton shares tips on how to write your author bio in a query if you are not yet published.


    All things poetic: If Edgar Allen Poe quotes were motivational posters, rocker Nick Cave creates his first poetry collection, and sequels to famous poems.

    Literary Tourism takes us on an adventure through American author museums.

    Kate Wiles lists some of the best history apps out there, including digital libraries and Old English translators.

    Shakespeare died 399 years ago, but sci-fi/fantasy still can’t get enough of him.

    Susie Rodarme serves up 5 small press books for your reading pleasure.

    Erik Kwakkel shows us the art of Medieval texting, and the Medievalists profile 20 beautiful images of Medieval and Renaissance women reading.

    That’s it for us this week! See you in May!

    Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 28, 2015

    Book Trailers: Purpose and Worth

    This weekend, my friend Kathryn Craft launched her new novel, The Far End of Happy. She also launched an online hashtag campaign #choosethisday, which officially launches May 1st, where we all flood Twitter or Facebook with empowering, positive messages and suicide awareness resources. I love seeing authors weaving a deeper meaning into their book launches by also doing things to make a difference.

    At Kathryn’s launch event, we got to see her emotional, compelling book trailer:

    The next day, the co-owner of The Interlude Group, who created the trailer, joined us at The Liars Club Writers Coffeehouse in Willow Grove. Keith Strunk of the Interlude Group talked about making trailers—the purpose behind having one, and if you can afford one.

    A book trailer is simply another marketing tool. We may want it in our toolbox, we may not. It’s rather a personal decision—financial as well as emotional. Video is powerful in today’s marketplace, where we need to catch people’s attention and hold it before the next distraction comes along. But it’s not enough to simply throw some video together, slap down some music, and post it on YouTube. A lot of thought goes into a successful book trailer.

    You need to consider the ingredients:

    • visuals, whether still pictures, animation, or live action
    • music—copyright is an issue, so this might be the toughest part to find
    • text, capturing the heart of the book but not necessarily text from the book
    • editors who have the same vision of the trailer and book that you do

    Even if you are paying for the book trailer yourself, the publisher may want to have a strong voice in the final trailer. While this may seem unfair to us at first glance, you certainly should coordinate your message across all platforms and you are so close to your book that an objective marketing eye is often a blessing.

    I am not going to go into where to find your visuals and music—that can be a post unto itself, and there are many posts about exactly that around the Internet. Suffice it to say that quality is of the utmost importance. People expect Hollywood-level production values (unless cheesy is part of your shtick for the trailer), and you don’t want your trailer to get passed around for the wrong reasons.

    After we talked about the ingredients of a trailer, we discussed what we want the trailer to accomplish. We want the trailer to:

    • be watched multiple times by the same viewer
    • make a viewer want to read the book
    • spark word-of-mouth
    • have it be passed around virally
    • move the viewer emotionally
    • convey the heart of the book
    • convey all the needed info to buy the book

    So will the book trailer sell your book? Perhaps not directly—we really have no way of tracking that. But if people start talking about your book, that’s great. Moreover, seeing the trailer is one more “imprint” on them of your name and your book’s title. I’ve been told it takes seven imprints to make a lasting impression. Thus the importance of having a trailer people will watch more than once.

    Those are why you want a book trailer—the purposes of going through all the work (and it is a lot of work). I’m sure you’re wondering about cost. The cost is in direct proportion to how complicated your trailer is. The more images you need to buy, the more cost. Stock video footage, even more. Hiring live talent or doing Hollywood-level CGI—a whole lot of pretty pennies. Music choices also add to it. And, of course, your biggest expense will be the editor’s time. A simple book trailer can run from $1,500 to $5,000.

    The more prepared you are when you find your editors, the more you save. The more materials you provide, the more you save. The clearer your communication with them (thus, the fewer revisions you need to make), the more you save. You will need to ask yourself: Is it worth it? There is no right answer–only your answer.

    So know this:

    • A book trailer can be a valuable marketing tool, but likely your publisher will not pay for it.
    • Even if the publisher is not paying for it, they will probably want a say in it.
    • A quality book trailer is not cheap, and you want quality.
    • And never, ever, make your book trailer more than one minute long.

    I hope you found this helpful!

    Do you use book trailers in your marketing? Why or why not? If you have examples of a book trailer you think is wonderful, feel free to post in the comments!

    Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 23, 2015

    Top Picks Thursday 04-23-2015

    Welcome to our weekly links round up!

    Prizes abound! The 2015 Pulitzer Prizes came out, as did the 2014 Spark Awards for Indie Authors. Also the finalists for the 2015 Indie Choice Book Awards and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards were announced.

    Nobel-winning German novelist Günter Grass has died at age 87.

    Perhaps you have been following the Hugo Awards/Sad Puppies debacle closely, or maybe you know something’s going on but aren’t quite sure what. Arthur Chu explains the whole conflict cogently, while George R.R. Martin demolishes the Sad Puppies’ complaints, and Kameron Hurley bemoans the movement to oppose diversity in the Hugo Awards.

    The Hugo Awards are not alone in this apparent backlash against increasing diversity. Swapna Krishna discusses criticism and diversity in comics as well.

    We all know that book reviews are important. NetGalley lays out why they matter and how to write a good review, while Victoria Strauss tells us that Amazon is suing fake review services in an effort to clean up their reviews.

    Almost every published writer has been approached by a newbie writer and asked to blurb or review their book. Erika Mitchell explains what to do in that awkward moment.

    Kas Thomas has the low down on whether writing can make you healthier, and authors E.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Carrie Gordon Watson hope to improve the lives of teens by giving teens a safe place to speak up online with their If Only Someone Knew site.


    We tend to talk most about novels here, but here is information for people writing other types of writing: Dan Peacock lists the top 10 tips for writing novellas, Marianne Knightly shares 5 basics of series writing, and book designer Joel Friedlander has created templates for use in making self-published poetry books.

    We can sabotage our story if we’re not careful. Kristin Lamb gives us 5 ways to kill a perfectly good story, and Heather Jackson reminds us to use internal conflict as well as external to engage the reader.

    Getting the details right is important. Debby Harris shares ideas for handling exposition, Eileen Cook lists 6 tips for improving dialogue, and Delilah S. Dawson has 25 tips for writing violence.

    Writing should be clear and concise. Allison VanNest gives us 6 tips for rewording sentences and Kristin Lamb lists 10 ways to tighten your writing and hook the reader.

    Editing is a major part of the writing process. Emmy Favilla brings us the pet peeves of 30 copy editors, and Benjamin Lancaster shares 5 tips on editing another writer’s work.

    Writing “The End” is not the end of work for your book. Alex J. Cavanaugh explains what happens after the book is finished, Monica Tesler shows how book covers are designed, and James Scott Bell gives the ingredients to make readers lust after your book.

    Writers are often visionaries. Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin explores his ideas, and Toni Morrison shares her radical vision.

    We often need to overcome both inner and outer obstacles to writing in order to succeed. Roz Morris lists 6 tips on how to keep writing when time is scarce, and Lia Louis discusses the lies writers tell themselves that can derail their dream.


    In today’s world, there are many paths to publishing. Jane Friedman updates her Publishing Paths infographic to help you decide which path (or paths) is right for you.

    The publishing world sees the decline in print sales level off as migration to ebooks stabilizes and the ebook market matures.

    If you are interested in agents, Janet Reid explains what to do if you should encounter an agent in a social situation such as a conference. Meanwhile, agent Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary is looking for more YA this spring—horror, magic realism, a break-up story, LGBTQ characters + more.

    With the rise of self-publishing, Mike Shatzkin and others examine ways the author/publisher marketing collaboration should change.

    We authors have to do a large share of our own marketing. Bill Ferris gives an amusing account of how to plan your own book tour, Wise Ink shares the definitive guide to pricing your book, and Jason Kong explains how to use an anthology as a powerful marketing tool.


    The English language keeps evolving. The Oxford Dictionary added many words last year, including “mahoosive”, “lolcat” and “MAMIL” (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra).

    Scott Laming looks at the worst children in literature, while Jenny Kawecki examines the most embarrassing parents in YA.

    Letters of Note brings us Eudora Welty, aged 23, applying for a job at the New Yorker in 1933.

    Best known as the creator of Wonder Woman, William Marston also wrote vintage pulp fiction with a lurid cover to match.

    In the era before Liquid Paper, how do you correct a misprint in a 16th century book?

    That’s all for us this week!


    Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | April 20, 2015

    Assumptions Writers Make

    One of my part time jobs leaves me to figure its ins and outs on my own. That means I frequently find myself revisiting my assumptions about the details of completing my tasks for this job.

    Making assumptions can be good, it saves time to make assumptions based on previous experience.  It’s practical, but if you don’t have complete or correct information, it’s also easy to make incorrect assumptions.

    As a writer, here are a few assumptions that I’ve wrestled with over the years .

    Assumptions can that can cause anxiety:

    You either have it or you don’t. Good writers are born not made.

    Unless a person is a good writer, they shouldn’t write at all.

    There’s no future as a writer, so don’t waste your time writing.

    Assumptions that might slow a writer down:

    There are only a certain amount of words you can write in one sitting.

    You have to write things in order.

    You need to be in the mood to write. Creativity can’t be scheduled.

    You need long stretches of time in which to write.

    There is only one correct writing process.

    What are some assumptions you have made about writing that you’ve found to be incorrect?

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