Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | March 22, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-22-2018

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, crocuses, March

Purple striped crocuses on 3-19-2018, the last day of winter. Usually these crocus flowers are long gone by now. The cold weather has extended their bloom.


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Happy spring! Not that it looks or feels like spring in our neck of the woods. March keeps socking us with cold weather and one or more nor’easters a week. It can’t last much longer, right?

One thing you can do when the weather is not felicitous is write. Writing at home, however, can be challenging because of family interruptions and other distractions (like snow shoveling). So, what’s the best place to write? The answer is different for every writer. BuzzFeed’s Farrah Penn relates writer Amy Daws’ story — how she found, purely by chance, a unique place to be more productive. Would this work for you? If not, Bill Ferris has more suggestions — beyond the coffee shop: great places to write away from home.

We like to read other writers’ words of wisdom. Jenny Hansen shares 10 success tips from J. K. Rowling, and Mark Alpert adds four lessons from Colson Whitehead.

For all those readers who want to help out writer friends, Abby Franklin gives the scoop on how to be the best alpha/beta reader ever and give priceless feedback.

We lost an amazing human being last week. From Literary Hub: remembering Stephen Hawking — poet, astrophysicist, rock star.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, yellow crocuses, March

Yellow crocuses on the sunny last day of winter, 3-19-2018.



Do you prefer a particular genre? Anne R. Allen focuses on word count guidelines for all genres and non-fiction, and Kristen Lamb delves into how genre is fundamental for story success. Juliet Marillier ponders: what is fantasy, exactly?

If you are having difficulty writing, Janice Hardy takes a look at how to write when the last thing you want to do is write.

What’s your writing process? Rose Andrews discusses the waypoint writer — a flexible way  to plan a story, while Andrea Merrell asks: are you a waffle or spaghetti writer?

Eli Landes maintains there are only 2 types of stories — and why that matters.

For those puzzled by the elements of writing, Janice Hardy illuminates the difference between idea, premise, plot, and story, and Jami Gold explores how to create positive themes despite bittersweet endings.

Characters are a key element in fiction. Stavros Halvatzis asserts that every hero needs a nemesis, and Katharine Grubb discusses building contrast: why a great antagonist is good for your main character, while David Corbett considers the yearning to be evil. As a bonus for those developing antagonists, Bonnie Randall analyzes what the well-dressed villain is wearing these days.

Now that you’ve figured out your antagonist, Angela Ackerman shares 3 ways to help quieter protagonists steal the stage and advocates using emotional amplifiers to push your protagonist over the edge. Janice Hardy asks: what’s the emotional core of your character?

How important is the setting? Daisy James writes about setting as a character, and Christina Delay explains how to write unforgettable settings readers will never want to leave.

When you’ve completed that manuscript, Tiffany Yates Martin recommends mining your manuscript for buried treasure, and K. M. Weiland suggests you learn 5 ways to take risks with your writing.

When revising, Jami Gold shows how to punch up word choices using word lists, and Dawn Field declares structural language is the foundation of a great story.

Writer Cristian Mihai mulls how to become an artist.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, spring begins

Cloudy sunrise on 3-20-2018, the first day of spring.



When you’re ready for querying, Janet Reid explains how to query when you retell a classic and how much rewriting makes a book “new” enough for querying again.

In publishing news, Claire Kirch reports that feminist presses are seizing the moment and finding success.

For those thinking about freelancing, Jane Friedman reveals what I earned (and how) during my first year of full-time freelancing.

Self-publishing? David Kudler clears up the differences between ePub2 and ePub3, and Janet Reid considers risk assessment on repubbing previous novels.

On the social media scene: Scott La Counte clarifies how the latest Facebook changes affect authors, Rachel Thompson offers 4 ways you can make time to blog right now, and Frances Caballo reveals everything authors want to know about Instagram. Plus, Tom Rachman considers the agony and the ecstasy of taking author photos (mostly the agony).

If you are considering an author website, John Burke discusses how much a website costs.

Promoting your books? Gabino Iglesias provides 10 pointers on giving good author readings, and James Scott Bell wonders: can slick marketing sell bad books?


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, snow on the first day of spring

Snowy evening on 3-20-2018, the first day of spring — a taste of what is coming.



Literary Hub’s Emily Temple identifies the 10 most famous bookstores in the world, while BuzzFeed’s Ambili lists 25 libraries around the world every voracious reader must visit and 25 facts about famous authors that will make you see them differently.

Talk about being creative — Dan Colman reports that Jane Austen used pins to edit her manuscripts.

Rebecca Rego Barry announces that the effects of Sylvia Plath are now up for sale.

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


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, spring snowstorm

And the nor’easter moves in on 3-21-2018. No one told the weather it’s spring!


Enjoy our nature photos. Hope you find them an inspiration and a spur to creativity!



Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 15, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-15-2018

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 13, 2018

Hobbies and Writing: When passions feed each other

Every writer has a hobby they enjoy—something other than writing that they are passionate about. The hobbies vary from sports to music to cooking to knitting to woodworking…The hobbies are as varied as the writers. My particular hobby is genealogy. I have noticed that my love of family history has crept into my story-telling, and I wonder if other writers find their passions encroaching on their writing.

People have asked me why I love genealogy so much, and I had to stop and think. I mean, like many hobbies, on the surface it doesn’t seem that compelling. Pursuing long-dead people and adding them to your tree, just a sum of names and dates—what’s so special about that?

Nothing, when seen in that light. But what draws me are the stories. Every person I find and add to my tree, they have a story. Sometimes their story is short—a child born and died in a few days. Sometimes their story spans 9 decades, and they have seen the world from before electricity to putting men on the moon. Some stories are adventures, like the Reverend who lost everything when a ship captain absconded with his worldly goods, or pioneering the then-Indian country of Pennsylvania, or the family of 3 that spent a long, cold winter on a boat docked near the Thames River because the English people didn’t want the German immigrants there even though they had been invited by the Queen. Some are tragic, like the young, pregnant wife whose husband was killed by a train, leaving her and 5 children behind in the 1850s, or the family who lost 8 of their nine children before their second birthdays.

Not only do these stories give me fodder for my own writing, they have given me a sense of connection to the past and to the world at large. Choices my ancestors made shaped the life I live today. Sacrifices they suffered through gave their children better lives than they had. The ripple effect of every person who came before us is both invisible and undeniable. Had my Reverend ancestor decided to be defeated and remain in Wales, rather than come to America penniless with his pregnant wife and year-old son, I certainly would not exist as the person I am today. Nor would the Hilltown Baptist Church that he founded have served that community for some 300 years. Every person is connected to the past and to each other.

In writing, including family history can expand your world beyond the timeframe in the story. For example, in my book The Witch of Zal, the grandparents become important at the end. The story has now expanded beyond my protagonist’s little life and jumped back two generations. And if I finish the series, family history hints that I planted throughout this book will flourish into something very meaningful. In a book that I am shopping to agents now, the story is kicked off by an uncle who brings an Egyptian artifact to Philadelphia in order to hide it with his sister’s family. Again, this widens the world of the story beyond what my 12-year-old can experience firsthand—and extends it backward to a time thousands of years before this story takes place.

I have found that family—and this sense of connection—has made its way into everything I write. Do other writers find their hobbies weaving their way into their stories? And if they do, the question becomes: Do we love these hobbies separately from our writing, or are we drawn to them because they resonate with a theme we naturally explore in our writing anyway? Are the writing and the hobbies actually two sides of the same coin?

What do you think?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 8, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-08-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! March 8th is both International Women’s Day AND National Proofreading Day! So tell a proofreader how much they mean to you today.

SCBWI announced the winner of the Golden Kite for Nonfiction for Young Readers.

Novelist Jennifer Egan has been named the new president of PEN America.

Doreen St. Felix examines Chicago’s particular cultural scene and the radical legacy of poet Gwendolyn Brooks, and Ta-Nehisi Coates explains why he is writing Captain America.


Writers face a number of occupational-related health issues. Colleen M. Story discusses how to stop your computer from hurting your shoulders.

Theme creates depth to your story. Amber Lea Starfire shows how to discover your memoir’s underlying themes, Kristen Lamb examines how the collision of powerful ideas makes superior stories, and Jami Gold examines theme development in your fiction.

Plot, POV, and structure are three large-scale elements you need to master to have a compelling story. Angela Ackerman has 3 ways the setting can steer your story’s plot, Lisa Hall-Wilson shares 5 quick ways to shift description and setting into deep POV, and Kristen Lamb suggests writing your story from the end to gain narrative cohesion.

There are also smaller-scale elements to master to get your story to shine. Bridget McNulty explores some ways to effectively foreshadow plot developments, Usvaldo De Leon, Jr. has 6 ways to improve your book by writing humor, and Janice Hardy looks at the dangers of having a reactive protagonist.

Speaking of characters, there are a lot of issues to consider with them, too. Anne R. Allen gives us 10 tips to creating memorable character names, Janice Hardy warns us to check if our story has too many characters and shares the 5 points of a character arc, James Scott Bell shows us how a character should say nothing, and Roz Morris lists 6 tips for writing characters who captivate readers.

Once you’ve written your masterpiece, you need to edit it. Karl Drinkwater has a handy self-editing checklist to make your self-published book the best it can be and reduce your editor’s bill, Indies Unlimited list 6 tips for National Grammar Day, Mary Kole shows how to avoid transition words in your writing, and Melinda Clayton shares funny misplaced modifiers and other common writing mistakes.

Now you think you’re done, but before you send your manuscript out into the world, get some eyes on it. Belinda Pollard describes what makes a good beta reader, and Lisa Tener explains how to find beta readers and what questions to ask.

We all want to get better at our craft, and there is an overwhelming amount of information out there. Melissa Donovan asks: whose writing advice should you follow?, while Jami Gold wants to know what your favorite writing-related resources are.


Amazon is once again changing the playing field—and non-Amazon authors seem to be at a disadvantage.

You can’t judge a book…oh, yes you can. Dave Chesson parses 3 inspirational design ideas from bestselling book covers.

If you are thinking about launching into indie publishing, Sarah Bolme lists 7 traits for becoming an indie publisher, and Steven Spatz has 5 things you need as you begin your career as a self-published author.

If you want to go traditional, Janet Reid reminds us you ALWAYS need a query letter, no shortcuts, and she advises when mentioning a contest in a query letter helps.

Debbie Herbert describes the advantages of hybrid publishing, Steve Laube advises keeping a lid on how much money you make, and Daphne Gray-Grant tells us how to pitch stories editors will want to publish.

Janet Reid also explains what “one-time rights” means, and discusses the use of violence or other unspeakable acts in your writing.

For many authors, book marketing is a chore. Sandra Beckwith explores what to do if you are uncomfortable with book promotion, Greer Macallister delves into the art of the author interview, and Donna Galanti shares 4 ways to create your author persona.

For connecting with your readers online, John Burke has author website basics, and Darren Rowse lists 5 alternatives to self-hosted WordPress blogs.


Check out these 27 costumes that won World Book Day 2018.

Believe it or not, there was a time when Jean-Jacques Rousseau advocated for book burning.

Jane Smiley discusses Willa Cather and her legacy.

Gavin Francis examines “storyhealing,” seeing medicine and literature as two treatments of the human condition.

For those of us who have dreamed about sleeping in a library, our dreams can come true! You can spend the night at Gladstone Library in Wales.

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

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | March 7, 2018

Can You Really Do It All?

Can you really do it all?
This question has worried me since an early writing teacher stated that she’d given up music because “you can’t do it all”. Over the years my natural tendency was to answer that with an emphatic “yes I can” and I’ve juggled things so that I’ve never had to say “I’ve quit.”
Of course, when you’re trying to do it all you do have to set priorities. Which things are most important? And some things are not going to get the attention they deserve. That’s the price you pay. And the grief of not giving something 100 percent is a deep wound.
This is my reasoning for trying to do it all:
1.The Newtonian law of physics, “Objects that are in motion tend to stay in motion.”
2. As long as I’m paying attention to something, as long as it’s (at the very least) in my thoughts every day, I’m learning about it. A Thursday’s child, such as I, with a long way to go, might as well get started now.
Yes, there’s some self justification going on here. I’ve recently had a conversation with another writer on the theme of, “if I can find time to write regularly, then you can” and he may be right, but darned if I can figure out how to do as well as I’d like to right now.
Until I figure that out, I’ll be limping along, trying to do it all.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 1, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-01-2018

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of March! We are starting to see signs of spring around here, so let’s reinvigorate our craft with some writerly links!

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, the KidLitForLives movement has started posting open letters from authors to the teens on a website. See how you can add yours.

Victoria Strauss discusses her experience when the Internet Archive infringed her copyright and how she remedied it.

Heather Webb explores why readers put your book down and stop reading.

Diana Hurwitz gives us a roundup of writing workshops in March and April 2018.


Writers write many things other than fiction, and in many different genres. Emily Temple has everything you always wanted to know about obituaries but were afraid to ask, Mod Lesya opines on horror, and C.S. Lakin discusses protecting yourself and others when writing a memoir.

Collaborative writing is very different from solo writing. Maryann Miller has 10 tips to make collaboration work.

Melissa Donovan examines style guides: essential writing resources for professionals, while Carol Cram explores tapping the experts: how to enrich your research and your writing.

One of the more important elements of your story is where it takes place. Nancy L. Erickson reminds us of the importance of setting in your story, and Sara Letourneau shows the advantages of mapping your story’s setting.

There are many elements that have to come together to make your story sing. Ruth Harris has 8 common mistakes to avoid, Stavros Halvatzis shows how to write page turners, K.M. Weiland recommends don’t write scenes, write images, Terry Odell discusses suspension of disbelief, and Janice Hardy gives us a handy tip for crafting a seamless plot.

Of all the elements of a story, character may be the one that sticks with readers the most. Angela Ackerman says for memorable characters, focus on the little things, Margie Lawson discusses getting emotion right on the page, Bonnie Randall shows how shame and vulnerability can connect us to characters, Kathleen McCleary explores the true test of character, Jim Dempsey reminds us to give your hero a hard time, and Hanif Abdurraqib examines how the movie Black Panther gives each of its characters the space to be several things at once.

Kristen Lamb says great dramatic writing draws blood and opens psychic wounds, Janice Hardy shows how over-explaining will kill your novel, and Michael Gallant shows how to read, edit, and evaluate your writing with different eyes.

Every writer I know wants to be more productive. Clare Langley-Hawthorne explains how to micro-progress your novel, Sue Weems shows how multitasking is killing your writing, Jarry Lee has 18 life-changing tips for keeping a journal, and Peter Rey examines how handwriting can boost your productivity.

We can learn from writers old and new. Ismail Kadare demonstrates why the tragedies of Aeschylus are truly timeless, and Sarah Weinman interviews David Mamet on writing his first crime novel.

Writing is as emotional as it is difficult. Christina Delay discusses the attraction of passion, Andrea Merrell talks about making the most of your conference experience (part 2), and Dale Darley has 9 powerful reasons to write a book when you are disillusioned about life.


Some people wonder: why do publishers still issue hardbacks? Philip Jones explains.

IngramSpark dissects the differences between independent vs. chain bookstores.

R.J. Crayton answers the age-old question: how can authors protect their works in progress?

Amanda Layman shares 3 principles of a successful freelance career.

Every author dreams of having their book made into a movie. Christina Sibul and Jeff VanderMeer talk about what it’s really like to have your novel made into a movie.

Literary agents share their wisdom: Steve Laube answers 6 questions for a literary agent, Janet Reid opines on should a writer go with a new press when no one else wants the book?, and Patrick McDonald explains how to scale down large manuscript files for sending via email.

There are many ways to build audience and market your book. Cait Reynolds suggests sticking to your genre to build audience and trust, Rick Lite tells us how to evaluate book marketing services, Rafia Zakaria counter-intuitively writes in praise negative book reviews, and Erika Liodice shows how to find unique speaking opportunities to promote your novel.

For your online marketing, Judith Briles says to freshen up old content to fill new slots when you just can’t write, Kate Hanley demonstrated how she uses Instagram to sell more books, Helen Baggott puts the joy back in Twitter, and Frances Caballo urges us to embrace video, because it’s huge!


Roslyn Sulcas explores the challenges facing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as it migrates from the West End to Broadway.

Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, will be out in November.

Laura Sydell writes on the prescience of William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer.

Check out 20 quirks and strange habits of famous writers.

Damion Searls remarks on the eerie, enduring power of the Rorschach test.

Jen Sherman discussed her favorite souvenirs: Collecting Library Cards to Document My Life and Travels.

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

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 27, 2018

Mysticon 2018

Mysticon, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross

Panel: “Contemporary Fantasy” with Shawnee Small, Liz Long, Pamela K. Kinney, Fraser Sherman, Stuart Jaffe, and Joe R. Lansdale, 2-23-18


In its eighth year, Mysticon 2018, a science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and horror convention, was held from Friday, February 23 through Sunday, February 25, at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood in Roanoke, Virginia. The convention once again sold out. As an extra bonus, the weather warmed up far above normal for February.

Mysticon, J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles

Panel: “Avoiding Fantasy Cliches” with R. S. Belcher, Darin Kennedy, Jason T. Graves, and J. Kyle McNeal, 2-23-18

Mysticon, J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles

Panel: “Avoiding Fantasy Cliches” with S. C. Houff and Crymsyn Hart, 2-23-18









Special Guests:

Special guests at the convention were Media Guests of Honor Clare Kramer and Zach Callison, Author Guest of Honor Joe R. Lansdale, Artist Guest of Honor Shawn Durington, Gaming Guest of Honor The Library Bards, Independent Film Guest of Honor Jaysen Buterin, Wrestling Guests of Honor Monique Dupree and Tommy Dreamer, Musical Guest of Honor Bella Morte, Fan Guest of Honor Geek Radio Daily, and Master of Ceremonies Rich Sigfrit. This year’s Mysticon scholarship winner was Maggie Draper.


Mysticon, J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles

Panel: “Collaborating in a Shared Universe” with Tera Fulbright, Steven S. Long, Erin Ashley, Richard C. White, Melissa McArthur, and S. H. Roddey, 2-24-18


Convention Activities:

Special events at Mysticon included the opening and closing ceremonies, guest of honor interviews, author readings and book signings, Mark MacDicken’s magic show, the Drum Circle, the Flabbergast Show, the Scholarship Auction, and the Art Auction. Activities available throughout the convention were the Independent Film Festival, the Art Show, and the Dealer’s Room. Attendees could also participate in fun activities like the Author Dating Game, Iron Author, The Author Match Game, Giddy Geeker’s Speed Dating, and Keep Calm and Carry Yarn.

Mysticon, J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles

Bachelor characters on “The Author Dating Game” – Darin Kennedy, Michael David Anderson, and Jason Gilbert, 2-24-18

Mysticon, J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles

Bachelorette characters on “The Author Dating Game” – Samantha Bryant, Kim Headlee, and Erin Ashley with moderator The Giddy Geeker, 2-24-18










The wide variety of gaming activities available throughout the convention ranged from board games and card games to role playing games, video games, and a starship simulator.

Three special activities were scheduled for Saturday evening: the Rocky Horror Picture Show performance, the Masquerade, and the Scholarship Auction.


Panel: “Beyond Western Europe – Other World Cultures for Fantasy” with Fraser Sherman, Steven S. Long, Amanda J. McGee, Richard C. White, and S. C. Houff, 2-24-18

Costumes, 2-24-18

Panel: “Time Travel and the Butterfly Effect” with Jim Beall, Michael David Anderson, Peter Prellwitz, and Fraser Sherman, 2-24-18










Special performances during the convention included the Steampunk Jamboree (music), Final Form Fusion (belly dancing), and the Mysticon Musical Extravaganza.


Mysticon, J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles

Panel: “No Sympathy for the Devil – Protagonists Beyond Redemption” with Darin Kennedy, John L. French, Panela K. Kinney, S. H. Roddey, and Alexandra Christian, 2-24-18


In addition to panels on many topics scheduled all three days, participants could attend workshops: armour patterning, Allen Wold’s writing workshop, the Roanoke Robotics Workshop and Demonstration, the Spare Time Editing Workshop, the Plotting Workshop, the CSI 101 Workshop, the World Building 101 Workshop, and the Makeup Workshop.


Mysticon, J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles

Panel: “Stayin’ Alive – Deep Space Edition” with Jim Beall, Darin Kennedy, and Dr. Daniel Wallace, 2-24-18

Mysticon, J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles

Panel: “Military Psychology” with Darin Kennedy, Erin Ashley, and Richard C. White, 2-25-18









Convention Panels:

Here’s a sampling of the panel topics at the convention:

  • Art: Politics and Economics of Cover Art; How to Draw Your Favorite Cartoon Character; Art in Science
  • Costuming: Cosplay 201: Surviving the Masquerade; Oddball Costuming Supplies: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Costuming Form, Function & Fantasy
  • Fandom: Con Survivalism 101; Fan Fiction; Shiny!; Groupie Gathering; This One Time at the Con
  • Fantasy: Contemporary Fantasy: Setting the Fantastic in the Everyday World; Pottermore and Beyond; World Mythology in Contemporary Fantasy; The Legacy of Frankenstein
  • Film: B Movie Panel; Ghostbusters Crossing the Streams; Women Rocking Hollywood; Step One: Write the Script; Ready Player One; Marvel Cinematic Universe; Cult Movies
  • Gaming: Introduction to Roleplaying; Podcast: Talk of the Tavern; Hey! Let’s Kill All the Orcs: Morality in RPGs
  • Horror: Pretty Scary; A Touch of the Macabre
  • Media: The Quest for Gem Magic; The Last Racebenders/Genderbenders
  • Music: Write a Song with Bella Morte; It’s the Final Countdown
  • Paranormal: Ghosts, Wizards, Witches, Magic: Shakespeare and the Supernatural; Haunted Soundscape: The Roanoke Valley
  • Podcasting: Audio Podcasting and Internet Radio 101; Geek Radio Daily
  • Science: The Science Hits of 2017; Grid Wars; Techniques for Teaching STEM, Parts I-III; Staying Alive: Deep Space Edition; Time Travel and the Butterfly Effect
  • Science Fiction: Star Trek Discovery; Let’s Take Flight
  • Self-Publishing: Successful Indie Publishing
  • World-Building: Beyond Western Europe — Other World Cultures for Fantasy
  • Writing: Astrology and Tarot as Writing Tools; Dynamic Story Creation in Plain English; Avoiding Fantasy Cliches; Writing Up Close and Personal; Collaborating in a Shared Universe; Military Psychology; Epic Scale Fiction
  • The Writing Business: The Business of Writing; Creating an Author Platform to Promote Yourself on Social Media; Judging a Book by Its Cover; Out of the Box [Marketing]; So You’ve Got a Manuscript?


Mysticon, J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles

Panel: “Epic Scale Fiction” with R. S. Belcher, Kim Headlee, Michael David Anderson, Jim Gaines, Peter Prellwitz, and Amanda J. McGee, 2-25-18


Interesting Things I Learned:

* It’s easier to break bones in space because of the lack of gravity. Bone density decreases with long exposure to low gravity. (Staying Alive: Deep Space Edition)

* The chemical make-up of the soil on other Earth-like planets might be different enough from Earth’s to cause problems with growing crops. (Staying Alive: Deep Space Edition)

* Cosmic radiation in space is more dangerous to astronauts than solar radiation because it contains heavy nucleus atoms that can penetrate materials solar radiation can’t. (Staying Alive: Deep Space Edition)

* The biggest obstacles to extraterrestrial colonization may be social challenges rather than scientific challenges. Science and technology cannot ensure a colony’s success if conflict exists among the colonists and they cannot work well together. (Staying Alive: Deep Space Edition)

* One aspect of time travel not often addressed in fiction is whether or not there is also travel in space or location. For instance, what would happen if you traveled backward or forward in time to the same location and arrived in the middle of a building or other physical object that exists in that time but not in yours? (Time Travel and the Butterfly Effect)


Panel: “Out of the Box (Marketing)” with Shawnee Small, Erin Ashley, Stuart Jaffe, and Travis Sivart, 2-25-18

Panel: “Oddball Costuming Supplies – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” with Matthew Penick, Angela Pritchett, Anita Allen, and Meredith Bowman-Shelton, 2-24-18










Panelists’ Tips for Writers:

* In writing a series, the sequels should contain just enough backstory so the reader can understand the story. One way to do this effectively is to relate the backstory from another character’s point of view. (Michael David Anderson, Epic Scale Fiction)

* Write each book of a series so that it could be read alone and in any order. (Peter Prellwitz, Epic Scale Fiction)

* It is well worth the expense for Indie authors to pay for a good cover and a good editor (or more than one). Make sure your cover looks good in a thumbnail size because the cover photo will be that size in much of your online marketing. Also make the cover clickable. (Travis Sivart, Out of the Box)

* Shawnee Small predicts that this will be the year of the audiobook. (Out of the Box)

* What’s the difference between marketing and promotion? Marketing is selling your book. Promotion is selling your brand. (Out of the Box)

* Think of social media as an extension of the writing process, not as a separate thing. (Creating an Author Platform to Promote Yourself on Social Media)

Panel: “Dynamic Story Creation in Plain English” with Pamela K. Kinney, Crymsyn Hart, Stuart Jaffe, Alexandra Christian, and Michael David Anderson, 2-23-18

Panel: “Graphic Novel Storytelling” with Rob Richmond, Richard C. White, and Joe R. Lansdale, 2-23-18










Join the fun at next year’s convention, February 22 – 24, 2019!


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.


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