Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 17, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-17-2018

Welcome to our mid-May Top Picks Thursday!

In honor of Mother’s Day, Annie Neugebauer  brings us 9 memorable literary mothers.

In sad news, best-selling author Tom Wolfe died Monday at age 88.

James Hamblin explores the scientific case for two spaces after a period.

Take a tour of the 12 most popular libraries in the world.


When you’re writing a memoir, Neal Thompson lets us know how to tell your family that you’re writing a memoir.

If you’re a poet, Melissa Donovan shares 36 poetry writing tips to improve your craft.

If your opening doesn’t grab your readers, they’ll put your book down. Kristen Kieffer shows how to nail your novel’s opening chapters, Peter Selgin begins the search for the inciting incident, and Janice Hardy has 8 signs you may be over-plotting your novel.

Pull your reader in with compelling characters. Stavros Halvatzis knows that conflicting characters sell stories, Melissa Donovan has 12 character writing tips for fiction writers, and Dave King demonstrates how to hook your readers with characters.

Julia explains how to write relationships your readers can get behind, Janet Reid mulls grief as a character flaw, Janice Hardy shows how to write with emotional layers, and Kathryn Craft explores your character’s “I Want” song.

Writers can learn lessons from many media formats and gather inspiration from anywhere. Victoria Grace Howell discusses writing lessons learned from the video game Conquest of the Longbow, and A.E. Lowan researches world-building for fantasy by exploring women in the Medieval world.

Writers always strive for greater productivity. Lynsey May has writing techniques to quash procrastination, Joanna Penn gives us healthy writer tips to manage stress, anxiety, and burnout, and Karen McCleary discusses thinking with a child’s brain.

William Kenower shows how re-evaluating your writing goals can help you achieve success, Drew Chial writes on writer’s block and maladaptive daydreaming, and Jami Gold asks: how can you tell if your own writing is any good?

Writing can be lonely and emotional. Jami Gold reflects on why we all need a writing community, Henry McLaughlin shares his writing regrets, and James Scott Bell rides the writer roller coaster.


Helen Sedwick has 10 things every writer should know about copyright.

If you write romance, check this out: Alex Green reports that indie bookstores find a new love for romance books.

Thu-Huong Ha tries to answer the question: are ebooks dying or thriving?

Nothing like the voice of experience to teach us. Eldonna Edwards shares her experience and insights about indie vs. traditional publishing.

When seeking representation, there is a lot to know about the process. Amy Collins explains why knowing comps for your book is important, Nathan Bansford has everything authors need to know about pitching, and Janet Reid discusses social media platforms and authors.

How do you get that book deal? Nathan Bransford tells how to write a nonfiction book proposal, Susan DeFreitas explores how 3 different authors got their first deals, and Jason Lefebvre outlines his long journey to becoming a published children’s author.

Marketing is the key to success—get people to notice your book! Melissa Bowersock details her experience getting reviews through Voracious Readers Only, Larry James shares 35 ways to make your next book signing an event, and Penny Sansevieri has 6 reasons to relaunch your book.

Iola Goulton reveals remarkable confessions from book bloggers, John Burke shows how to use your author website for book marketing, Carolyn Howard-Johnson demonstrates how to use book excerpts to promote your book, and Orly Konig tells us how to survive a book launch as a card-carrying introvert.

Blogs and other social media can be vital to connecting with your audience. Barb Drozdowich explains why it’s important to check your blog stats and how to do so, Kirsten Oliphant has important reasons authors need to think about blogging, Ali Luke lists 5 ways to encourage your readers to comment more often, and Frances Caballo gives some examples of things to talk about on social media.


Love to travel but can’t get out as much as you’d like? Tasha Brandstatter takes us on a literary tour of the bookstore bars and cafés of Paris.

Sophie Yeo explores the problem of how to protect rare books and manuscripts from the ravages of climate change.

Jessica Plummer has some tongue-in-cheek advice for fathers in romance novels.

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


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, dawn, spring, pink dogwood

Each time it’s my turn to write the weekly blog post, I sit at the computer with a particular topic in mind. Half the time, I end up writing something far different from what I had planned. This is one of those times.

I had planned to write about how much technology has changed things for writers in the last fifty years, but my mind wandered to the significant changes that have affected me personally in the last fifteen years and how different my writing journey has been from the journeys of those who began their careers in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, and even the ’90s.

I’ve had the advantage of writing with a word processing program that makes rewriting and editing so much faster and easier. We writers still agonize about revision and editing, but I shudder to think of the time before personal computers, when writers had to retype pages and whole chapters over and over to make minor corrections or revisions because using too much white correction fluid was a no-no. Technology has not only assisted with the writing but with the researching as well.

Although writing is a solitary occupation, writers have long sought the company of other writers. We need the support and stimulation of getting out, meeting, and talking to other writers. The writing community is nothing new, but in the last fifteen years, the rise of social media has provided the opportunity to broaden our writing communities to include writers from all over the world, people who we may never meet in person. (Social media also provides an unparalleled chance to connect with readers, of course, but that’s a topic for another time.)

I first connected with other writers by taking a community college course. Next, I joined one of the many local writers groups that meet at libraries or bookstores. What a wonderful experience! However, since I write novels, I realized after a while that a group that looked at one page of my novel every few months no longer met my needs. So, I approached two others from that group who were writing longer works, and we formed our own critique group (which, though the members have changed over the years, still is going strong). I also began attending workshops and writers conferences to help me hone my craft.

I learned a lot, but I knew I needed more. That’s when I found Jonathan Maberry’s Writers Coffeehouse, a small group of writers that met once a month in a tiny building on a corner in Doylestown, PA. At the time, Jonathan had a successful career in non-fiction and had just published his first novel. While he knew the writing craft, he also talked about the writing business, something I knew nothing about. This was what I needed.

I signed up for Jonathan’s “Novel in Nine Months — Science Fiction” class, and when it ended, I signed up for another class. Then Jonathan asked me to join his Advanced Writing Workshop, an ongoing program that met monthly. In the Advanced Writing Workshop, Jonathan talked to each of us about our projects, about the craft, and about the business. He also emphasized that, in addition to knowing the craft and the business, a modern writer should be active on social media.

Most of us eventually gave in to the monthly prodding and joined Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Jonathan also said that blogging and author websites were vital for writers — even unpublished writers — and urged us to start blogs and author websites. Some of us tried blogging, but only Kerry Gans managed to blog on a regular basis for more than a few months. We brought our lack of success to Jonathan, who suggested a group blog, where we could take turns posting.

The idea for a group blog appealed to five of our number: Kerry Gans, Matt McGovern, Gwendolyn Huber, Nancy Keim Comley, and me. The five of us met separately from the Advanced Writing Workshop to decide on a name and format and what and when we would post. Kerry set up the blog for us, and The Author Chronicles inaugural post, “A Bit of Backstory,” written by Kerry, appeared on Sunday, May 29, 2011. Our first Top Picks Thursday post followed on June 2.

In 2012 we joyously celebrated our first year of blogging. We’d done it! We’d kept the blog going a whole year.

And now it’s 2018, and we’re coming to the end of our seventh year of blogging. We’ve had our ups and downs during those seven years. Our mentor, Jonathan, has moved to California, so the five of us no longer meet in person as a group. Social media, however, has enabled us to stay in touch, and some of us meet occasionally at coffeehouses or conferences. Life has kept us hopping, but when life has thrown curve balls at one of us, the others have stepped up to the plate, We have persevered, in both our blogging and our writing journeys.

If you’ve struggled with the starting and maintaining a blog, consider finding some like-minded writers and setting up a group blog. Finding the right partners might take time, but don’t give up.

The Author Chronicles wishes all writers a rewarding writing journey and hope you continue sharing this journey with us. Recognize that the journey will be a challenge, full of rewards and frustrations. Hang in there, and keep on writing!

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, sunset, spring


Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 10, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For writers & readers 05-10-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Mother’s Day is this weekend—how many writer-moms just want some writing time for Mother’s Day?

Annie Prouix wins Library of Congress prize for American fiction.

The Obama Presidential Center will be the first to include a branch of the public library. For more run-of-the-mill libraries, however, Kristen Arnett argues that “the customer is always right” might be wrong.

Meet the black women at Kensington Publishing who are upending the romance novel industry.

You may have heard about the new rule out of the European Union that has many businesses in a tizzy. Trouble is, it will impact authors, too. Kharma Kelley has what authors need to know about the new EU law, and Barb Drozdowich has further information about authors and GDPR.


We mostly discuss writing our own work here, but there are other ways you can use your way with words to forward your career. Cathy Yardley discusses the perks and perils of being a ghostwriter, while Jules Horne tells us how to earn money writing for business.

There’s a vast spectrum of genres out there. Today, Otto Penzler defines the hard-boiled crime novel.

A good skeleton leads to a good story. Anne R. Allen has 10 tips on how to write a publishable first novel, Donald Maass talks about authenticity vs. outline, and Janice Hardy shows how to create plots that don’t feel like accidents.

Fleshing out that skeleton requires a myriad of craft skills. Angela Ackerman demonstrates how to write an effective scene with One Stop for Writers’ formal scene map, Dawn Field gives us 5 ways to improve your verbal imagery, and Melissa Donovan tackles homophones.

Characters and their point of view guide the reader through the story. September C. Fawkes shows how to convey established character relationships quickly, Nils Odlund introduces character agency for beginners, Jami Gold explains why head hopping is considered lazy writing, K.M. Weiland explores several POV problems, and Fae Rowan talks about world building using POV.

Once we’ve written, we must edit. Tori Eldridge rounds up editing advice from editors, while Craig Tuch delineates beta readers vs. editors vs. ARCs.

All writers have their own process, and it usually involves some emotional ups and downs. Therese Walsh demystifies why you think your writing is brilliant one day and horrible the next, Greer Macallister wonders if you should read while you write, and Colin Nissan takes a humorous look at this creature called the writer.


Amazon’s dominance in the book market has long been a topic of conversation. This week 2 writers give their takes on the future of the book market. David Leonhardt says we must save Barnes & Noble, and Mike Shatzkin says that the dominance of Amazon must be addressed but it is more attributable to natural circumstances than it is anyone’s fault.

Orna Ross explains why creative assets are key to income and influence for indie authors, while Penny Sansevieri demonstrates how to use Amazon’s categories to sell more books.

Getting your book to a traditional publisher can be tricky. Lisa Tener walks us through writing a book proposal, and Nathan Bransford tells us when to submit to publishers without an agent.

Before you sign anything, take a close look at all the clauses. Janet Reid looks at both author-agency termination clauses and morality clauses, while the SFWA warns about a new red flag in contracts: perpetual derivative rights clauses.

There are so many channels to explore in marketing. Barbara Delinsky shares lessons in marketing an author needs to know, Dan Smith explains how to mail your book to the media, and Elizabeth Bluemle explores the untapped markets of meeting readers where they are.

Speaking engagements can be lucrative, too. Stephanie Chandler tells us how to locate speaking engagements, and Judith Briles lays out how postcard marketing helps her get booked.

Book reviews are valuable marketing tools. Patti Thorn has 11 ways to make the most of a professional book review, while Diane Byington explores the non-professional review side with how to write an Amazon review.

Marie Higgins advises that you build your author platform with your future in mind, and Frances Caballo instructs us on how authors can get started on Goodreads.


Check out these 11 authors recommend bookstores worth traveling for.

Peruse some of the first sketches of Winnie-the-Pooh, the bear who revolutionized children’s literature.

Joseph Crespino reveals how an unexpected Christmas present gave Harper Lee the time to write To Kill a Mockingbird.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 8, 2018

Tracking Your Queries

Tracking your queries is a must. You don’t want to double-send or worse, miss one. You need to know who replied and who you are waiting on still. You need to know who asked for partials or fulls and when you sent them.

Every writer will have their own favorite method, and I invite any of our readers to share their methodology in the comments. What works for one writer may not work for another. The point is not to track using a specific method, but to use the method that works best for you.

My method is pretty simple—I use an Excel spreadsheet. My columns are: Agent, Agency, Contact Info, Date Sent, Date Reply, Result, Days Out, Notes, and Query Notes.

In the beginning, as I am compiling names and agencies, I use the Query Notes column to note what that particular agent’s submission guidelines calls for. Some want just the query, some want 3-50 pages, some want a synopsis, some want an author bio, and some use online submission forms. This is a timesaver because it keeps me from having to look up their website when it comes time to send the query.

Most of the columns are self-explanatory. Days Out contains a formula calculating how many days it has been since I sent the query. Why? Because many agencies have a no-answer-means-no policy. Some will say “If you don’t hear within 6 weeks, assume a pass” or other time-based language. So I need to know if we have passed that mark. Other no-answer agencies don’t specify a time, and so I give them 6 months.

Step one is filling out all those notes when I make my list of 50 agents. Then I start compiling the queries and send them out. I find I can only do about 5 at one sitting, to make sure I get the various details of what they want correct. I do often do more than one sitting in a day, if time allows.

As I send them out, my favorite tool in Excel comes into play: Color coding! When I send one out, I fill the row with green. If I get a rejection, I change it to red. If I get a request, I make it yellow. Then I sort the rows by color, so the requests are always on top, the active queries are below them, the ones not sent (no color) are third, any that are temporarily closed to queries are next (gray) and the rejections are at the bottom. This sorting keeps me from having to scroll in search of the active requests or queries.

So that’s how I track my queries. What works for you?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 3, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-03-2018

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of May! Today is National Garden Meditation Day, so get out there, meditate, and brainstorm some new writing ideas!

We’ve just finished Poetry Month, but that doesn’t mean poetry has gone away! Molly Crabapple discusses Julia de Burgos, Puerto Rico’s greatest poet, and Chris Harris wonders when, exactly, do children start thinking they hate poetry?

The Golden State Killer is in the news, so Erin Bartnett examines the book that helped crack the decades-old murder case.

Libraries and book stores are gold mines for readers. Abby Hargreaves dispels the myth that librarians read all day—but says they should, while Literary Hub explains why we need to support independent bookstores.

#OwnVoices is a push to increase marginalized voices in our literature, and Bran L. Ayers explores what exactly #ownvoices means for authors and readers.

Some non-American viewpoints can be found here, with these South American women authors the U.S. has overlooked.

Mother’s Day is coming! Here are the top 5 bookish Mother’s Day gifts for book-loving moms.


Sometimes we learn more through our failure than our success. Roz Morris shares what she learned about writing novels by failing at short stories and how to make a short story into a long one.

A story with no plot isn’t a story. Glen C. Strathy has how to plot a book in 8 easy steps, Steven James gives us the 3 questions that will solve every plot problem you’ll ever have, and Stavros Halvatzis explores the link between story structure and strong emotion.

Ruth Harris kicks it off with how to write a great first sentence, while Janice Hardy reveals a tip for getting through hard-to-write scenes.

Characters make or break your story. Jim Dempsey shows how to keep your characters consistent, K.M. Weiland discusses what your characters should talk about, J.M. Williams advises us of the problems with quirky dialogue tags, and Janice Hardy tells us how to eliminate characters from your novel.

Research makes our work shine. Sue Coletta extols the benefits of eavesdropping on Quora, E.L. Skip Knox lays out a history of pirates, and Debbie Burke shares information about cadaver dogs.

Editing brings all the elements of craft into focus. Julie Glover reveals the 5 stages of editing grief, Peter Selgin advises how to use adjectives wisely and judiciously, and Jodie Renner has tips and tricks for catching all those little typos in your own work.

Writing can be mentally taxing, and sometimes we need to step away. Erika Liodice discusses how to find your way back to writing, while Barbara O’Neal reminds us of the importance of a private writing habit.

We are lucky to live at a time where experienced authors can so easily share their knowledge. Shereen Lee interviews author and activist Sandra Cisneros, and James Cameron worries about our relationship with reality.

Jenny Hansen conveys 10 success tips from Stephen King, Michael Gallant advises us to imagine the page as you write your book, and Heather Webb tells us how to write through the “shoulds”.

Some writers are forever hobbyists, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you do want to make the leap to professional writer, there’s a lot to deal with along the way. Mark Alpert gives us how to become a professional writer in 9 not-so-easy steps, R.J. Crayton details the legal use of real places and products in your novel, and C. Hope Clark walks us through the 5 emotional stages of publishing a book.


If you’re a self-publisher, Mandy Wallace has 15 (mostly) free tools to DIY your self-published book.

Cyndy Etler has the key to how to become a bestseller.

The synopsis is a chore most writers dread. Kristen Lamb explains why every writer needs a synopsis, and Glen C. Strathy kicks in his tips on how to write a synopsis.

Our own death is never easy to contemplate, but in the case of our business interests it is necessary. As Jane Marlow points out, your royalties keep coming after your death, so you need to lay out where they go.

If you are agent seeking, Nathan Bransford tackles the often fraught subject of when to follow up with a literary agent.

Marketing! Debbie Young examines the place of bricks-and-mortar bookstores in the indie author’s book marketing campaign, NancyL. Erickson explores how vulnerability is a way to establish trust, Jami Gold discusses making videos with Lumen5, and Belinda Griffin explains why authors need to budget for marketing.

Electronic marketing often gets us the most bang for our buck. Sandra Beckwith has 35 book-related Instagram accounts every author should follow, while Frances Caballo addresses both 10 ways authors can grow a Facebook group and how to effectively use email marketing.


If you don’t like frightening things, here are tips for reading scary books when you’re a scaredy-cat.

But creepy stories have a definite pull on our psyches. Craig Hubert traces the strange cinematic history of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Iris Veysey follows 200 years of Frankenstein on stage and screen.

Liam Heneghan explores how children’s literature leads us to the uncanny.

In a bizarre turn of events, the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature may be cancelled amid a sex abuse scandal.

Maddalena J. Zaborowska documents the last days of James Baldwin’s house in the south of France.

We all know that English is a complicated, often head-scratchingly confusing language. James Harbeck explains how the English language became such a mess.

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



Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | May 1, 2018

Reading As Meditation

I decided to learn to meditate this year.

So what is meditation as I understand it?
A way to rest the mind and calm oneself, using breath and focus to pause thoughts of past and future and remain only in present. Meditation also teaches one to understand oneself better.

This Is not a definitive definition. I’m not an expert on this topic and many articles I’ve tapped to further my own understanding are not in complete agreement. This is only my simplistic understanding of meditation.

Instead of meditating, I started spending more time reading fiction. The fact that I was reviving from surgery was helpful in providing time and motivation.
In the past year or so, I’d let myself be taken prisoner by goals and dreams of productivity and had resorted to reading fragments of stories so short that I rarely fell into a story.
As I lengthened my reading sessions, I got curious about whether reading fiction is all that different from meditation.
Reading, similar to making music, relaxes my body. My breathing slows. My mind stops churning it’s busy way through the past or the future. This is most true when reading print books rather than reading from my phone.

Can reading make someone a better person? There are articles out in internet land that claim reading fiction grows empathy. There are studies on this. Reading, some claim, is a reality simulation and can change the reader’s personality over time. I totally believe this based on my own experiences.

So is reading as good as meditation? My answer is “in some ways”. If I think of reading and meditation as tools, you can never have to many good tools in your tool box. I do however resolve to remember that reading fiction is a valuable tool as well as a pleasure.

I’ll probably learn to meditate properly too.




Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 26, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For writers & readers 04-26-2018

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of April! Today is National Poem in Your Pocket Day, National Kids and Pets Day, National Pretzel Day, and National Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day. Celebrate any and all that apply to you!

It’s still National Poetry Month! Kate Bubcz shares 12 portraits of poets that show sides you wouldn’t expect, and CrimeReads gathers 26 crime authors who are also poets.

Many bloggers focused on author rights this week. Kathryn Goldman explains how to protect your unpublished writing, Nathan Bransford has your author rights in a nutshell, and John Doppler reports on a new form of plagiarism—impersonation.

Reading is pivotal to our work. Sarah S. Davis on how she lost her love of reading and found herself again, Romeo Rosales discusses only reading books whose covers are visually appealing, and Nick Ripatrazone says sometimes the best way to read is to mark up the book.

If you’re looking for something to read, try PBS’ America’s 100 most loved books, LitHub’s 12 books guaranteed to make you cry, or revisit Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which is both scientific landmark and literature.

Calling all writing service providers! Mary Kole is compiling a resource for authors and is seeking writing service providers to add to her list.


Structure and plotting are elements of story that aren’t obvious to the reader, but are crucial to a successful book. Janice Hardy explores 5 ways to structure and plot your novel and asks where your novel’s conflict comes from, while Roz Morris tells us how to write a good plot using the four Cs.

Your first chapter has to hook your reader in many ways. Kristen Lamb examines why we love a good mystery, and K.M. Weiland gives us the ultimate first chapter checklist for introducing the story.

Interesting villains can become iconic villains. Becca Puglisi described how to create a redeemable villain, and Margie Lawson reveals how to make all your character descriptions fresh and vivid.

We all want to save money on editing. Val Breit gives us editing for frugal self-publishers (that will work for anybody), Kristen Lamb has 7 self-editing tips to tighten story and cut costs, and Kathryn Craft asks you if you are emotionally ready for a developmental edit.

Every writer’s process is different, but we can learn what works for us by listening to what works for others. Lauren Schmelz describes writing a book according to Pinterest, P.H. Solomon touts the benefits of dictation, and Stephanie Vozza shows how these 4 different personality types find motivation.

Jessica Wood has 6 characteristics of a great fantasy writer, Zoe M. McCarthy discusses what a writer can learn from reading book reviews, Oren Ashkenazi explains why the term “Mary Sue” should be retired, and Martha Alderson examines the emotional ebb and flow of a creative life.


Self-publishers need to understand all aspects of the business. Stephanie Chandler discusses Amazon out-of-stock issues and the pros and cons of publishing with IngramSpark vs. CreateSpace, and Joel Friedlander explains the color of type pages in your book.

There are good reasons to use a pen name—including Elizabeth Segran’s investigation that shows authors with male names earn more money. AuthorityPub looks at how to choose a pen name for yourself.

If you are pitching to agents and publishers, they want to know your comp titles. These are titles similar to your book to give them an idea of the style and theme of the book and where it might be placed in a bookstore. Nathan Bransford tells us how to come up with good comp titles, while Janet Reid advises on comping an adult novel to YA novels.

When pitching to agents and publishers, you may be asked for a book proposal. To that end, Sophie Masson talks about the art and the craft of the book proposal.

Writers already know how hard it is to get reviews. Anne R. Allen examines how Amazon’s draconian new crackdown on scam reviews is hurting real reviewers—and making reviews for authors that much harder.

Marketing is more than book reviews. Dave Chesson shares essential marketing tactics for children’s authors, and Sandra Beckwith suggests using wacky May holidays as promotion opportunities.

To free or not to free—that is the question. Shawn Inmon examines the past and the present usefulness of free ebooks, and David Kudler debates the plusses and minuses of free ebooks and shows how to make your book free on Amazon.

When marketing online, we have so many options. Sarah Wigal tells us what social media authors should use, Scott La Counte sets out 8 social media goals for authors, Darren Rowse explains how (and why) to write a series for your blog, and Frances Caballo shares 10 tips for getting the most out of your Twitter header.


Got lots of books? Callie Ryan Brimberry shares the top 5 creative ways to display your books.

Does your workspace fuel your creativity? Emily Shawke shows us the desks of 8 inspiring, creative women—songwriters, novelists, interior decorators, and illustrators.

Emily Temple lists 10 things you should know about lists on the internet.

Catherine Reid discusses the magical landscapes of Prince Edward Island in Anne of Green Gables.

Jane Austen tackles mansplaining, and Mathew H. Birkhold explores why so many judges cite Jane Austen in legal decisions.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you next week for the first roundup of May!

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | April 24, 2018

Free spirit

I was laid off from my job a few weeks ago, and I am writing this sitting in the library I discovered as a ten year old.

The layoff was the second of the year (3 months) so mine was easy to digest and I had prepared for it during the past year or so. I dutifully commenced on my job search the next day with phone calls and emails, and then went about my life as I normally would given the time off. After a day or so I found myself walking the city (one of my all time favorite pastimes) and wasn’t properly attired for cold, rainy weather so I had to stop at a train station and get something hot to drink in me.

Anyone who knows me or who has read my blog writings will know that train stations are a favorite place of mine to write, but these facts still sneak up on me because I walk past these places all the time. As I sat down at a table with my hot beverage I wished fervently that I had a pen in my hand and a notebook to write in. As it’s been a while since I’ve written by hand, I was momentarily surprised at this desire, but nonetheless vowed to myself that the next time I was in this situation I would indeed have a pen and book.

During the next few weeks this grew into a routine, usually happening at night, and ending in a late night restaurant in Chinatown. As I wrote I also looked back into my notebook to see what I had written in the past since these particular notes went back a number of years, including the last time I had a job search to do. My notes alternate between journal and writing, occasionally switching on the fly. This time around, I enjoyed going from my journal to a character’s journal. I often didn’t know what I was going to write until I started writing it. Sometimes, I just started with dialogue instead of a character’s journal. As time went on, I found that I wanted to write more in the character’s journal than my own.

These writings were random, mostly centered on characters from a narrative that I had never finished developing. But the writing is therapeutic and act as a trigger for other writing. The change of location also had an effect on the writing, occasionally making it into the writing itself.

Today, I found myself at the library of my youth, specifically the first one I ever went by myself. This was also the place where I remember acknowledging the magic of books and the authors for creating such magic. Amazingly, it’s easy for me to remember when I first made this acknowledgment. It was the end of a summer, right before the time to go back to school and I can see the very spot where I stood then. The layout of the library has changed since then, but I can still see where the wall would have been, with dark brown shelves taller than me on both sides of the wall. I was just at that point where I was getting that realization of the size of the library and the need to go through every aisle, wondering if each book might fill me with delight the same way the last series of books did — that summer was a big one for me and the library. Nowadays, I have more books in my own library than I have time to read, so it’s clear to me that I never actually caught up to that sense of wonder. This is a good problem to have. 🙂

Today I organized several collections of notes over the past decade, consolidating notebooks, notepads, etc. into a binder. I went through old drafts of different versions of the novel I had worked on. I now need to get home and look for more notes as I’m remembering outlines I had done, etc.

As an aside, my job search has yielded an offer for a position that begins next week. This is good news and it alleviates future concerns, but all I can think of is that I only have a week left of living a life that caters best to writing and one that absolutely frees my mind. I have plans to visit three more libraries this week that played some part in my sense of wonder over the years.

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | April 19, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers and Readers 04-19-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Now that our taxes are done (on time, I hope), we can all get back to writing and reading.

If you’re looking for something good to read, Natasha Onwuemezi reports that novelist Andrew Sean Greer and poet Frank Bidart are among this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners, and Literary Hub‘s Book Marks catalogs the previous Pulitzer fiction winners in the 21st century. In addition, María Cristina García Lynch shares the Book Riot recommendations of 45+ favorite groundbreaking women writers.

Have you ever lent a book to a friend who never returned it? Or were you the one who forgot to return a book? Erin Bartnett asks librarians about rules for lending books to friends.

Several authors shared their own experiences: Michael A. Ferro writes about how his first novel brought him out of the dark, new Pulitzer Prize winner Andrew Sean Greer looks at the novels he almost wrote, and Thomas Swick comments about the long path to publication: it only takes one acceptance to negate dozens of rejections.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, books, Jessica Ruscello

Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash



Looking for advice about writing? Emily Temple shares writing advice from Gabriel García Márquez, Roni Loren explains where she gets her ideas (and feeding your idea engine), James Scott Bell counsels don’t be satisfied with competence, and Mark Alpert praises writing groups.

In addition, Lisa Cron sets out how to keep writing when that critical inner voice won’t shut up, and Janice Hardy focuses on the easiest way to get more writing done, while Colleen M. Story wonders if it’s unhealthy to be a workaholic writer.

It’s important for writers to keep their readers in mind. Janice Hardy discusses addressing the reader directly in your narrative, and Kristen Lamb shares 3 tips to catch and keep your audience.

One thing we writers rarely put much thought into is font. Lee Wind explores fonts to inspire you.

Nathan Bransford explains why it’s important to know your book’s genre. If mystery is your genre, Elaine Viets clears up the the difference between cozies and cutesies, and John Gilstrap reveals the truth about silencers. E. L. Skip Knox examines history for fantasy writers: the use of money. Finally, for those writing non-fiction, Roz Morris shares an interview with Jane Davis on handling real-life disasters sensitively in fiction.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, getting your facts straight is vital. Kristen Lamb agrees that research matters: the devil is always in the details.

Jami Gold considers reader connections, fake personas, and catfishing.

For those working on character development, Zoe M. McCarthy delves into wounded heroines as strong female characters, Kathryn Craft shares 13 ways to engage your reader with a despicable character, and Robin LaFevers talks about mining our characters wounds.

Stavros Halvatzis shows how to write essential backstory elements.

Peter Selgin asserts that in storytelling, never state what you can imply and explores two kinds of narrative suspense: true and false.

K. M. Weiland continues with your ultimate first chapter checklist, Part 2: writing the opening scene.

When you get to the revision stage, Janice Hardy lays out 11 ways revising a novel is like remodeling a house, and Lynne Murphy asserts that the English language isn’t logical.

K. M. Weiland evaluates the new Scrivener 3.0: should you upgrade?


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, writer's tools, Dustin Lee

Photo by Dustin Lee on Unsplash



For those looking for representation, Janet Reid mentions why it’s important to include an author bio in a query, and Dan Smith lists 5 ways to pitch a book to media.

Marketing can be a complicated process. Joan Stewart looks at 9 ways a crappy book cover can sabotage your marketing campaign, while Bob Hostetler writes about launching your book: making much ado of your new book, and Gail Carriger provides the 10 best packing tips for authors going to a writing event.

Jami Gold takes a look at when you totally change your brand.

If you’re looking for social media tips: Barb Drozdowich discusses 4 easy ways not to look like a dork on social media, and BlueInk Review sets out how to promote a young adult novel on social media. In addition, Frances Caballo provides 16 tips to boost your Facebook engagement, and Sandra Beckwith discusses the declining status of LinkedIn groups.

Author websites can be important promotion and sales tools. John Burke goes over what you should put on your author website, and Steven Spatz reveals how to improve your author website.

An author blog can also be helpful. Darren Rowse explores how to republish old blog posts and how to write a series for your blog and explains why you’ll want to do both.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, laptop with notepad and coffee, Andrew Neel

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash



David Ulin explains how small, scrappy local book presses have turned L.A. into a publishing town.

The Guardian‘s Maev Kennedy reports that Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s remains have been rediscovered in a wine cellar.

In The Paris Review, Stephanie LaCava shares the illicit love letters between Albert Camus and Maria Casares.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Join us next week for another roundup of informative posts.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, pencil on journal, Jan Kahánek

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash


Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 12, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-12-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Spring Break has come and gone, and we are finally seeing some spring-like weather in our neck of the woods. Here’s some links to grow your writing knowledge.

Celebrate National Library Week! Support your local library, and experience what Stuart Kells describes as the strange magic of libraries.

Reading to children is vital to their future success. Tracy Cooper has 5 ways to keep children engaged at storytime.

Ursula K. Le Guin reminds us that dictators are always afraid of poets.

For National Poetry Month, Melissa Donovan shares poetry writing ideas and activities.

Check it out! A mass of classic books, films and other art is about to enter the public domain.

Melinda Clayton explains terms you need to know before signing a publishing contract.


Do you write crime? Here’s a collection of writing advice from the great writers of crime fiction.

It makes sense that most writing advice focuses on a single story at a time. But what about when you write a series? Ellie Maas Davis discusses writing and editing a book series, and  Sacha Black tells us how NOT to mess up your book series.

The beginning of our book is perhaps the most important section in making it  success. K.M. Weiland shares the ultimate first chapter checklist for hooking the reader,  while Peter Selgin shows how to establish routine while building character on the first page.

Of course, a great beginning won’t offset sloppy writing throughout the rest of the book. Michael Gallant explains how to find the rhythm in writing, Drew Chail demonstrates how to breathe new life into old scares, Laurence MacNaughton gives us 7 ways to master “show, don’t tell”, James Scott Bell discusses short chapters and lots of dialogue, and Donald Maass suggests writing middle scenes with a non-linear approach.

Complex characters draw readers in. Zoe M. McCarthy urges us to allow characters to feel their feelings, Angela Ackerman shows us the destructive power of the lie your character believes, and Janice Hardy asks what your protagonist’s relationships are like.

The words we choose shape the atmosphere in our story. Debbie Young examines how to use colloquialisms and when to avoid them, while Diana Hurwitz talks about landscaping your story.

Sometimes what isn’t said outright is just as powerful as what is. Rose Andrews delves into how to use subtext to drive narrative, and Stavros Halvatzis looks at writing dialogue subtext.

Editing is a massive part of creating a good story. Lisa Poisso lists 6 ways to improve your big-picture revision skills, Scott McCormick advises us on how to solicit and act on feedback from beta readers, and Kristan Hoffman talks about the power and value of critique partners.

Feeling unfocused? Nathan Bransford tells us how to regain our concentration.

Heather Webb explores something we all know too well: a writer’s lessons in failure, while Brian Jud lays out how to set author goals.

Being a creative in a business environment can be hard. Anne R. Allen gives us 10 tips on how to protect your creative self in the marketplace, Nafissa Thompson-Spires discusses writing with a chronic illness, Jane Anne Staw explains how to make your writing anxiety disappear by thinking small, and Mary K. Jensen tells us how to release your inner book two pages at a time.

Gordon Long explores 6 key differences between storytelling and writing, while Mary Laura Philpott delves into why we need memoirs of ordinary lives.


Amazon seems to change the rules weekly. Amy Collins catches us up on all the recent changes at Amazon and what they mean to our marketing plans.

Jim Milliot reports that hybrid publishing and diversity of voices were focuses at the IBPA conference, and Damon Suede discusses getting the most out of conference networking.

If you’re querying, you are always eager to get those letters out there. Mary Kole advises when we should delay agent submissions, while Janet Reid outlines 7 ways to demonstrate that you’re not ready to query.

Once you do send, and you get that coveted agent call, Nathan Bransford explains how to handle an offer of representation.

Jane Friedman reminds us that a strong author platform is about more than numbers, Kristen Lamb dissects what platform is and why do authors need it, and Jami Gold asks if your platform needs a spring cleaning.

Frances Caballo shares 5 things she wishes she had known when she published her first book, and Ann Griffin has advice for the soon to be self-published.

In marketing, Sandra Beckwith interviews a guest on how to promote your audiobook, Kristen Lamb explores how social media changes but humans don’t, and Alee King has 16 promotional strategies to grow your Facebook group 3x faster.


Check out these 10 satirical covers for the terrible books you can’t get away from.

Marisa Crawford examines how Judy Blume taught a generation of young girls to be feminists.

Natasha Frost investigates the secret codes hidden in the books of a Scottish library.

The beloved children’s book, The Little Prince, was born of despair.

Emily Temple has your pocket guide to 10 literary movements of the past 100 years.

Take a look at these 23 anonymous confessions left on a public typewriter.

Here are 31 underrated foreign novels you should read.

What did you think when you read The Great Gatsby. Read 100 of the best 1-star reviews of The Great Gatsby.

Chris L. Terry shows us how to spend a literary long weekend in Richmond, Virginia.

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

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