Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | December 7, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers and Readers 12-07-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! After weeks of above-normal temperatures, the arrival of cold weather here in the Mid-Atlantic States makes it feel like we plunged abruptly into winter — which may make us shiver but also puts us in a holiday mood.

If you’re looking for a holiday gift for a writer, you can get lots of ideas from Jamie Gold’s ultimate gift guide for writers 2017, Sandra Beckwith’s 25 hand-picked gift ideas for authors and writers, K. M. Weiland’s Christmas gifts for writers, or Angela Ackerman’s ultimate gift list for writers. In addition, Jael McHenry has a list of gifts writers can give themselves (and they don’t cost a penny).

Pixabay image, The Author Chronicles, presents, gifts

We love hearing about newly discovered works by well-known writers. Electric Literature shares a recently discovered work by Dashiell Hammett with an introduction by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett.

What do you do with your failed novels? Kirsten Menger-Anderson turned her discarded novel drafts into an AI.

Do you feel a book is ruined if you know the ending ahead of time? Lance Schaubert provides a defense of spoilers.


For those in need of inspiration or motivation, James Scott Bell lists 10 ways to goose the muse, and Nils Ödlund gives 6 simple tips on creating a writing habit. However, if you can’t find even a few free minutes, Lisa Tenner shares 7 ways to keep your book alive when you don’t have time to write it. Some writers face obstacles other than the lack of time. Jenna Victoria discusses writing with a chronic illness — or whatever other problems life sends your way.

James Scott Bell constructs a scene template for new writers, and Ann Griffin writes about writing fiction using family history, while Jared Reck examines the fine line between humor and tragedy.

To improve your skill at character development, Sandra Howard suggests living with your characters, while Jim Dempsey describes three ways to discover your character’s true motivation, and Kristen Lamb discusses why pain and wounds are vital for fiction.

No matter what you write, skillful revision is vital. Bob Hostetler provides ideas for fixing your worst writing pitfalls, P. J. Parrish considers finding the perfect metaphor, Angelena Boden debates oversharing … or being authentic, and Stephen Spector addresses our love-hate relationship with punctuation.

What’s your biggest problem as a writer? Victoria Landis asserts that a writer’s number one enemy is ego.


For those following the traditional publishing route, Jane Friedman shares how to find a literary agent for your book, and Janet Reid explains whether an offer in hand from a publisher might be enticing to an agent. Janet Reid also discusses the business side of writing a biography.

A book launch is an important event for an author. Deanna Cabinian lays out 5 things I’m not doing to launch my book — plus what I’m doing instead.

Self-Publishing Advice Blog has good news for Indie authors: European company PublishDrive expands into the U. S. Joel Friedlander explores creating artwork for foil, stamped, or embossed book covers for self-published hardcover books, while Melinda Clayton talks about enabling x-ray for your ebooks on Amazon.

These days, social media is a useful marketing tool for all authors. Rachel Thompson sets out how to go about a social media clean-up, while Frances Caballo advises writers to increase engagement in your marketing with visuals and shares 8 tools for writers who use Pinterest.

If you’re an author blogger, Anne R. Allen shares 10 tips for a successful author blog, Darren Rowse explores how to use lists effectively in your blog posts., and Adam Connell details how to prepare for a new year of blogging.

Corinne Moulder shows how to find the right book publicity for your book, Michael Larsen suggests creating diverse income streams that build your brand and your income, and Lynne Cantwell explains how to open a Zazzle store and why it’s a good idea.


BuzzFeed‘s Kelly Oakes wonders if you can guess these ten classic science books from just one line.

Libraries are vital for an informed society, but they are not valued everywhere: Farid Y. Farid reports on Egypt’s war on libraries.

Sarah Gailey analyzes the fear of the female voice.

Carolina Fraser relates the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the greatest natural disaster in American history.

Had any bad reviews lately? Remember, everyone gets them. Literary Hub shares a negative 1890 review of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Let’s not forget that today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. The attack on Pearl Harbor 76 years ago changed the course of history.

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

J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, turkey buzzards on silo

If you look closely, you can see two turkey buzzards sunning themselves on the top of the old silo.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 30, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-30-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Hard to believe that tomorrow is December 1st.

Goodreads will now charge from $119 to $599 for you to giveaway your free books.

All writers know that writing can be cathartic, but Audrey Berger Welz shares how writing helped her survive a near-fatal illness.

Opinions vary on whether or not it’s a good thing to participate in anthologies. Margot Kahn discusses how and why to edit an anthology.

Daniel T. Willingham delves into how to get your mind to read.


Joanna Penn tells us how to find and capture ideas for your novel, while Ruth Harris brings us an author’s glossary and resource guide to help us get through our projects.

Lisa Gail Green gives us 5 ways to recover from being stuck, K.M. Weiland shows us how to write funny, and Lee Lofland has cop terminology to make you crime dialogue sing.

Susan Tuttle helps us understand our POV choices, Barbara Ashford has tips for crafting compelling scenes, and James Scott Bell looks at the power of the close-up connection.

Chrys Fey examines the many ways writers learn from reading.

Kristen Tsetsi wonders: is the dream of traditional publishing worth it?


Thinking of running a BookBub promo? Think again: Amazon is now punishing authors for running BookBub promotions.

Chad R. Allen shares 9 little known facts about getting published.

If you publish yourself, here’s Joel Friedlander’s survival kit for self-publishers.

Carmen Nobel investigates how independent bookstores thrived in spite of Amazon.

Janet Reid hits us with a triple play: how to part ways with your agent, why she turned down queries and how to avoid the same mistakes, and her take on literary agencies that also offer “book development and custom publishing.”

Zoe Saddler tells us how to reach young readers through book festivals, and Nate Hoffelder warns about 8 ways authors waste their money.

Ariel Rule walks us through how to get more Facebook likes, DiAnn Mills shares the writer’s guide to social media organization, and Joan Stewart has the top 10 ways your website leaves readers and leads in the dust.


If nothing else seems to be working, here are 12 bars where you can drink your way to literary greatness.

Despite a campaign to save it, James Baldwin’s former home in France will be demolished.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday—and for November! See you in December!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 23, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-23-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the USA, and here’s a helping of writerly links for you to feast on.

Looking for books to read over the holiday weekend? Check out TIME Magazine’s Top 10 YA & Children’s Books of 2017, or the 2017 National Book Award winners. And while you are at it, listen to (or read) Annie Proulx give one of the best National Book Award speeches in recent memory.

In case you are wondering why the tots are singing during storytime at your library, Abby Hargreaves examines how modern library storytime develops early literacy.

Jana Oliver explores why ebook piracy matters.

Clare Langley-Hawthorne discusses how failing the NaNoWriMo test might be a win for your writing process.


For the poets in our readership: Chris Townsend talks about counting feet: on running and poetic meter.

Even pantsers usually have some “big picture” elements in their heads when they start a story. Kristina Pérez discusses maps and worldbuilding, Janice Hardy explores plotting with layers: 4 steps to a stronger plot, Jeffe Kennedy shows how keeping secrets creates suspense and amplifies tension, and Laura Drake has a fix for a boring scene.

Characters and their actions keep your readers invested. Melissa Donovan explains how to create authentic character relationships, Mary Kole teaches how to write active character reactions, Becca Puglisi advocates writing characters that mirror real life and character flaws for your hero, and Jeanne Kisacky examines (too) close third person.

Nicole Blades shares 5 ways to save your character from a drowning story, Scott McCormick walks us through creating a villain your readers will loathe, and Janice Hardy offers the impossible choice as a surefire way to hook readers.

Revision and editing help us make the most of the words on our page. K.M. Weiland shares tips for how to choose the right sentences, Janice Hardy examines raising the stakes: revising to keep readers reading, and William Ryan has 5ways to improve a first draft.

There are many ways writers coerce themselves to get the words on the page in the first place. Chris Babu shares 13 things that transformed him from reader to published author, Tasha Seegmiller talks about maintaining writing accountability, and Clare Flynn explains how working with a critique group can improve your writing.

Nathan Bransford urges us to be scared of the right things as writers, while Christina Delay says don’t let worries hold you back from writing.

Kate Frost delves into if it’s worth doing a creative writing MA, and Steve Laube investigates the curse of the writer.


Kristen Lamb discusses how to break into the Big 5 publishers.

If you self-publish, David Kudler has an overview of ebook retailers now that Pronoun has closed its doors, and Laure Valentin walks us through how to self-publish in France.

One marketing item every writer needs is an author bio. Sara Wigal tells us how to write an author bio, and Anne R. Allen shows how to tweak your author bio for any occasion.

A few other marketing items to consider: Sandra Beckwith explains how to create a book publicity tip sheet, and Jay Artle talks to Tim Lewis about how authors use podcasts to grow their brand.


In recently discovered story, Raymond Chandler’s villain is the US healthcare system.

Read an 1861 review of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations

Here’s some history for fantasy writers: Craft guilds.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Enjoy Thanksgiving and we’ll see you back here next week!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 16, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-16-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Halfway through November and barreling towards Thanksgiving, we’ve got a cornucopia of writerly links for you.

Playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard wins the David Cohen prize for lifetime achievement in literature.

Bookseller Elayna Trucker tells us how we can help Napa after the devastating fires earlier this year.

Kat Vancil shows us where to find illustrators, cartoonists, and other creative professionals we need on our publishing journey.

Tracy Cooper explores how stories, songs and rhymes encourage empathy, while Ferris Jabr examines the reading brain in the digital age: the science of paper vs. screens.

If you’re looking for something to read to your kids, check out the New York Times Book Review and the New York Public Library’s Top 10 “Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2017” list.

Arthur Klepchukov brings us fiction writing contests worth your time (winter 2017 edition).

Halfway through NaNo, Anne R. Allen discusses why NaNoWriMo is not for everyone—and may even be dangerous for some.


Sophie Mason has some advice on writing a memoir.

Kathryn Craft demonstrates how to start with story action while accurately telegraphing your story’s genre.

K.M. Weiland has 5 (not-so-little) additions to the great novel-writing checklist.

Sometimes it is the little things that can make or break your story. Cait Reynolds looks at when body parts take on a life of their own, Gordon Long stresses that word order creates meaning, Melissa Donovan examines allusion in poetry, and Nancy E. Johnson reminds us that our story lives in the details.

Characters carry the reader through the story, so they had better be compelling. Mary Kole explains character turning points, Janice Hardy asks if your characters are too stupid to live, Becca Puglisi shows us how to brainstorm the wound in your character’s backstory, Jayme Mansfield explores being your character inside and out, September C. Fawkes has 10 methods to make your character likeable, and Laurence MacNaughton shares the ultimate guide to character motivation (part 1).

Editing makes our work shine—but it can be costly. Lisa Poisso wonders: when we pick editors, can be combine steps to save money?; P.J. Parrish takes a hard look at rewriting, and Julie Cantrell points out how writing partners help—and where to find them.

Writing is a mental and emotional challenge. Many writers face deep self-doubt every time they try to put words on the page. Julie Glover has what to do when you think your writing sucks, Kassandra Lamb shows how to beat imposter syndrome, Leonard Chang wonders how to keep his head up while seeking a publisher, Margaret Dilloway explains when other people’s opinions don’t matter, Dario Ciriello shares how to get past bad reviews, and A. Howitt interviews Donald Maass to find out how to become a breakout writer.

We would all love to write more, faster and better. J. Rose explores creating the right mindset for productivity, Andrea Judy dispels the lies behind productivity, and Grant Faulkner has practical tips on how to beat writer’s block.


Don’t judge a book by…who are we kidding? Because everyone does judge a book by its cover, Ingram Spark shares 5 tips for front book cover design.

Self-publishing is a viable option today, but James Scott Bell still advocates getting some rejection.

Agents are great places to get you some rejection. Janet Reid tells us how to successfully query an oddball story, and also gives us things to consider when you have multiple agent offers on the table.

Marketing is something authors love to hate. Andi Cumbo-Floyd examines the angsty relationship between writing and sales, Marcy Kennedy explains newsletter ads, Amy Collins looks at gaming the Bestseller list and trading reviews, Scott La Counte teaches the art of the giveaway, and Sandra Beckwith suggests you start locally with your marketing.

Online is where most reader-writer interaction happens these days. Jane Friedman delves into the requirements of an unpublished writer website, Tim Grahl debunks 5 myths about email lists, Ali Luke shares 4 WordPress formatting tips to make your posts more readable, and Frances Caballo has 50 blogging topics for writers of all formats.


Because you can never have too much Middle Earth, Amazon will adapt J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for television.

So do you know what these weird English words actually mean?

Martha Collins examines what readers can learn from reading multiple translations of the same poem.

Kristen Yoonsoo Kim discusses Agatha Christie and her mysterious disappearance in 1926.

Flannery O’Connor’s college journals reveal that she, too, suffered from self-doubt.

If you’re looking to dress up your blogs or marketing material, check out these 1500 high-resolution images of paintings made available for free download by the Barnes Foundation.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Hope to see you next week!


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | November 14, 2017

Grammar: An Instrument of Torture…Or of Clarity?

J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, fall trees, field and trees

November is such a busy time of year for me. With harvesting and processing the last of the garden vegetables; picking apples and making and canning applesauce; going through catalogs and ordering holiday gifts; making plans; doing a major clean-up for the holidays; buying food, cooking, and hosting the family’s Thanksgiving dinner; and, this year, physical therapy twice a week (to mention just some of my necessary tasks), I never have time to participate in NaNoWriMo. In fact, some days in November I don’t squeeze in any writing at all.

I do, however, often listen to the television while working on my November tasks. I like to know what’s going on, but listening to the television includes hearing commercials. Although I try to tune them out, especially the endlessly repeated political ads before the election, some ads contain such glaring grammatical errors that I can’t ignore them. Each time I hear these ads, the misuse of the language grates on me more and more (which means I am increasingly less likely to buy whatever they’re trying to sell — take note ad agencies).

J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, red-tailed hawk on pole, red-tailed hawk in fall

Red-tailed hawk, November 1

After a career as an English teacher, I’m especially sensitive to poor grammar in any published writing. Before it’s published, I expect the writing to have been proofread by someone who knows how to use the language properly. Once something is published, it’s out there. As a writer, I cringe at mistakes in published works because such errors reflect poorly on the author of the piece — and on all of us in the writing business. Even more annoying to me, such mistakes provide a poor example of language usage posing as the opposite. (Contrary to what my critique group might think, I don’t sit around eager to pounce on grammar errors like a hawk seeking prey. I’m not a total perfectionist; authors, editors, and proofreaders — myself included — will miss some errors because we’re human. Too many errors, however, and I stop reading.)

I feel the same way about the language we hear in scripted material on television and other media, language which presents an example that — except for impromptu comments and informal conversation — ought to be correct. Errors in oft-repeated ads are especially problematic because the incessant repetition of wrong examples can convince people that the incorrect forms are the right ones.

But really, why do we need to use correct grammar? People can understand what we’re saying anyway, right?

Maybe. In conversation, good grammar isn’t as vital. When we speak with each other, we frequently use sentence fragments, leave out words, and otherwise disregard correct grammar. If our listeners don’t understand us, they can ask questions. They can also take cues form our tone, our emphasis, our facial expressions, and our body language. Readers and media consumers don’t have those extra clues and can’t ask questions.

Okay, so the purpose of all those pesky rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling is to provide clarity in communication. They’re still a pain to learn.

Yes, most people — young and old, students, writers and non-writers — feel learning the rules is boring at best, tortuous at worst. Maybe it would help if people pictured learning grammar rules as a laying the foundation necessary for effective communication. A firm foundation results in a sturdy house. Build a house on a shaky foundation and the whole construction will be shaky as well.

Learning the rules of grammar and usage isn’t easy. With all the exceptions, the rules can be confusing. Plus, there are so many of them. Mastering grammar may be a time-consuming challenge, but it’s well worth the effort, especially for writers. (Helpful handbooks abound; get yourself one or two.)

In addition to finding grammar boring and time-consuming to learn, I suspect people also resist learning grammar because they don’t understand the origin of the rules, imagining that experts developed the complex horde of edicts and imposed them upon unsuspecting students as a devious punishment. In truth, the rules reflect how the language is commonly used.

The English language (and all languages) existed as a spoken language long before it was written. If you look at examples of the earliest writings in English — the original, not modernized, versions — you’ll notice that the writers spelled words however they wanted. Sometimes the same word would have several different spellings in the same manuscript. For a time that didn’t matter because few people could read. As more people became literate, the variations in spelling caused confusion and the need for standardization became obvious.

Standardization in spelling, word order, usage, and punctuation grew from necessity. If there were guidelines that everyone could follow, confusion would be reduced. So, experts looked at how people used the language and worked out a set of rules to explain that usage. In other words, grammar rules were not arbitrarily imposed on the language but came from the language instead.

If you know another language, you probably noticed that speakers of English do not use their language in quite the same way as speakers of French or German or Hindi or Spanish or Swahili. Some languages capitalize all nouns, not just proper nouns. In English, a noun’s function in the sentence depends upon its placement in the sentence, while many languages indicate a noun’s usage by giving it a particular suffix instead. Some languages have formal and informal, singular and plural versions of the second person pronoun, which in English is always simply you. Because of these differences and more, each language has it’s own unique set of grammar rules.

People who are not native English speakers tend to have difficulty learning the language, not because of the vocabulary but because of the complex grammar. Two of my family members have spouses from other countries. Conversations with them involve more dedicated listening and asking frequent clarifying questions because they may leave out necessary words, add extra words, use adjectives as nouns, mix up word order, or use wrong words. While they’ve acquired a good English vocabulary, they haven’t yet mastered correct usage. Following the rules of grammar enables people to make their meaning clear.

I hope I’ve convinced you that grammar rules are not evilly crafted instruments of torture but guidelines meant to standardize language usage in order to provide clarity.

I hope I’ve convinced some television advertisers too!

So, what are some of the grammar mistakes in ads that currently annoy me?

1. The use of different than instead of different from

“What makes this plan different than the others?”

“They’re no different than anyone else.”

This is the one that bothers me least. I understand using than instead of from after different because than is used in comparing differences – he is taller than John, for instance. Over time, our language does change, and when it does, the rules change too. I predict that in another decade or two, than will be considered a correct form to use after different.

2. The misuse of the preposition to

“…resume to your normal activities…”

This would be fine if only they’d used return instead of resume. The word resume includes the meaning to, so using that preposition after resume is redundant.

“…different to regular…”

I don’t see any logic to this one. The two words are opposite in meaning, so using to after different hits me like fingernails screeching on a blackboard.

These are my current grammar pet peeves. What are yours?

J. J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, fall trees, fall street scene


Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 9, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-09-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Changing the clocks back this week gave us an extra hour to search for writerly links for you.

Tim Falconer reflects on what we lost when Leonard Cohen gave up writing fiction.

Piracy is something that impacts every writer. Martin Puchner explains how a ripped-off sequel of Don Quixote predicted piracy in the digital age. Meanwhile, author Maggie Stiefvater shows how piracy hurts authors in the real world.

Literacy is a life-long process. Maureen Pao explores how free books boost early literacy, Scotland uses therapy dogs in reading class to boost pupils’ literacy, and check out this list of 6 badass YA books to read this fall.

We’re deep in National Novel Writing Month. Kristen Lamb tells us how NaNoWriMo is training to go pro and stay pro, while Chuck Wendig shares a saucy recipe for NaNoWriMo success.


There are many different elements to get write in your story. Chase Burke explores constraint as a method of surprise, Jeff Shear talks about what writers can learn about voice from opera, Lisa Hall-Wilson discusses deep POV and hidden messages in subtext, and Stavros Halvatzis shows how to write a strong story ending.

Compelling characters power your story. Angela Ackerman tells us how to brainstorm your character’s emotional wound, John J. Kelly examines ties that bind and define: the family of your protagonist, and Janice Hardy discusses how to tell if that throwaway character is really a star.

Every word counts in writing. K.M. Weiland shows the dangers of purple prose (and how to avoid it), while Dawn Field has 7 attributes of exquisite writing.

Every writing form has its own rules. Georgia Clark walks us through how to write your first fiction novel for adults, Janice Hardy shares 6 things to consider before writing a series, and Nathan Bransford shows how to write a novel synopsis.

J.K. Rowling has 8 rules of writing, and Kathryn Craft muses on beginnings, middles, and endings.


Hopefully your publishing road will be fairly smooth, but in case it’s not, Kourtney Heintz gives us 6 tips to survive a writing disaster.

Ellen Duffer reports that bookstores see record-low August sales. Which prompts Steve Laube to exclaim: Retail is dead! Or is it?

Jane Friedman discusses the conflicting advice you’ll receive about query letters.

Marketing can seem to take over your life. Belinda Griffin tells us how to overcome overwhelm with better marketing ways, Savvy Book Writers gives us 9 steps to take advantage of time savers, Sandra Beckwith reminds us to not stop with the book launch, and Kimberly Grabas shows how to convert potential readers into buyers.

Part of marketing is knowing how to talk about your book eloquently. Paul Geiger explains how to talk about your book, and Judith Briles has 3 questions to help you talk about your book.

Marketing has many details to get right. Bob Denzer shares secrets of the book designer: creating something from nothing; Sydney Mathieu shares 5 tips for budgeting book promotion, R.J. Crayton tells us how to keep your back matter up to date, and Michael Larsen has 11 ways to prove your book will sell by test marketing it.

The internet is the main way we connect with people these days. Chris Syme tells us how to tame the social media beast, Elna Cain has 9 quick ways to grow your email list using social media, and Paul Cunningham walks us through how to create an efficient contact page that boosts your productivity.


While typos in our manuscript make us groan, here are 19 grammar fails that will make you shake your head then laugh out loud.

The dangers of “biggering”: why Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax is as relevant as ever.

Cristian Mihai examines the paintings of famous writers.

Learn how Winnie-the-Pooh became a household name.

Delve into the poetic tale of literary outlaw Black Bart.

Kerry Mansfield showcases borrowing history: “expired” library books in pictures.

Laugh at ancient literature as Onion headlines.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was, like many Victorians, fascinated by Mormons.

Explore the mysterious murder case that inspired Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 2, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-2-2017

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of November! Halloween maybe over, but we have plenty of treats for you today!

Donald Bain, known best for Murder, She Wrote, dies at 82.

Check it out, children’s authors: there’s a new children’s book award for comedy.

Speaking of awards, Colson Whitehead is honored by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation for his acclaimed novel The Underground Railroad.

For all you workshop and retreat lovers: the Highlights Foundation new workshops have been announced!

Many writers struggle with writing diversity. Bran L. Ayers talks about wanting to write with diversity but not being sure how. Reading is also a great way to research diversity, so here are 6 books to read about the history of immigration in America.

K-Fai Steele discusses why we can’t talk about diversity in children’s literature without talking about money.

Hulu will develop a series based on Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

A viral “angriest librarian” explains why America needs libraries now more than ever.

It’s NaNoWriMo time! Jenny Hanson has 10 ways to make NaNoWriMo work for you, K.M. Weiland has a great novel-writing checklist to keep you moving, Savvy Book Writers celebrates NaNoWriMo, Rachel Dacus prepares for NaNoWriMo and tells why you should do it, E.C. Myers shares NaNoWriMo tips from someone who has never done it, and The Plot Hotline gives us what to do when you suspect you may fail NaNoWriMo.


Beginnings and endings—arguably the most important parts of any story, chapter, or scene. Jordan Rosenfeld shares 4 ways to launch a scene, and Stavros Halvatzis shows how to fine tune the story climax.

When developing our fictional world, every detail must fit and must serve a purpose. J.W. Barlament tackles creating a fictional religion, while Ruth Harris explores how authentic historical detail can trigger emotions in your readers.

Characters are key to reader engagement. Tamela Hancock Murray shows how writing sympathetic characters hooks your reader, Mary Kole discusses interiority and why it matters, Gray Marie shares why she hates strong female characters, Mary Kole looks at bringing dead characters to life, and Debbie Burke shows us how to become a crime victim painlessly.

Writing is only the beginning—then we have to go back and fix it all up! Gwen Hernandez details 4 ways to make notes in Scrivener, and Kelly Gurnett celebrates 6 old grammar rules that are finally going out of style.

The internet is a boon to all new writers out there seeking advice. Joe Fassler interviewed 150 writers to gather the 7 best pieces of writing advice, while Joe Coccaro has 7 essential writing tips for authors.

Being a writer can be a frustrating career. Ginger Moran shows that knowing what kind of writer you are can stave off frustration, while Sue Ward Drake discusses staying positive in a negative writer’s world.

We all have ways of dealing with the psychology of being a writer. PJ Parrish talks about the rituals of writing, Set Godin takes down imposter syndrome, and Marie Lamba examines the power of a do-over.


There are so many publishing options out there for authors today. Parul Macdonald explores big publisher vs. small publisher, Lizbeth Meredith has 3 reasons not to go with hybrid publishing, and Cait Reynolds dissects Kindle Direct Publishing and Kindle Unlimited (or, the hamster wheel of death).

Scott McCormick discusses how to get the best royalties for your picture book, Melinda Clayton looks at 3 reasons your book might not be selling, and Debbie Young has 8 tips for pricing your self-published ebook.

If you look for an agent long enough, you are bound to make a query mistake at some point. Janet Reid tells us how to recover from a queryfail of epic proportions.

We all need visibility for our books. Jane Tabachnick shares 3 ways to get publicity for your book, Joel Friedlander has a primer on book reviews for self-published authors, and Donna Galanti describes how to do in-person presentations with confidence.

Like it or not, the online world is where we engage most with our readers these days. Frances Caballo shares the most retweetable words for engagement on Twitter, David Hartshorne compares WordPress vs. Blogger, and Sue Coletta has social media, blogging, and SEO tips.


Pablo Neruda did not die of cancer, raising the possibility he was murdered.

Many of us have a bookcase worth of used books. Jesse Doogan shares 5 of the best places onlines and in person to sell used books.

At a time when science and math is being pushed at most schools, Marilynne Robinsons offers a defense of the humanities.

Kelly Coyne uses Sylvia Plath’s letters to reveal often-overlooked sides of Sylvia Plath.

Infographic: Read a book and develop superpowers!

How Boris Pasternak won and lost the Nobel Prize.

The Boston Public Library is digitizing 200,000 vintage recordings.

Einstein’s maxims on life fetch $1.8 million at auction.

What does the painting Surrender of Lord Cornwallis have to do with author Edith Wharton?

A newly-translated 16th-century Japanese text offers advice to warrior who had yet to face battle.

Colin Kaepernick has signed a book deal.

Hidden in a basement for 70 years, newly discovered documents shed light on Jewish life and culture before WWII.

A new theater project uses Greek tragedies written centuries ago to heal modern day traumas.

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


Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 31, 2017

Every Day Is Halloween

Happy Halloween! Everyone be safe when trick or treating or driving. And stay warm–it’s supposed to be chilly around here.

Halloween is a time when children and adults alike dress up and pretend to be something else. It’s a bit of fun (and sometimes fright), and most people are concerned only with their appearance. Does their costume look right? Does it show as they want it to show?

But most people never think below the surface of their costumes. For instance, very few princesses think about the responsibilities that would come with being royalty. Cowboys don’t consider the dusty, hot conditions out on the range. Vampires rarely contemplate the emotional effects of being immortal.

Clearly, I do think of these things. And likely every writer thinks deeper than the surface of the costumes, to the reality beneath. After all, that’s what we do—delve into other people’s souls and explore their psyches. We create fictional people that must walk, talk, and react like real people in order to draw in the reader.

So, we writers must dive deep below the surface of our characters. What they “look like” is often the least important part of our character. We routinely put on and take off the “costumes” of our characters and see the world through their eyes.

This year alone I have been a 12-year-old boy in 1922, a ruthless Englishman planning a robbery, a 16-year-old half-god living in rural Kansas, a 12-year-old girl lost in Oz, and a 300-year-old spirit bent on revenge.

For me, exploring my characters is one of the most interesting and fun parts of writing. When I finally create real people who jump off the page, the giddy triumph is a high better than chocolate.

For writers, every day is Halloween!


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | October 26, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-26-2017

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of October!

At the end of October comes Halloween, and just in time for the spooky holiday, Jonathan Ferguson provides a handy guide to vampires, and Eric Grundhauser tells of the creepy cabinet that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. For your Halloween reading pleasure, Chelsey Pippin suggests 31 books that will put you in the Halloween spirit, Jonathan Melville lists 13 books that are scarier than the film, and Emily Temple shares a host of scary literary fiction for people who hate horror.

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, pumpkins, Styers Orchards

The end of October also means it’s almost time for NaNoWriMo. If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, the Writers in the Storm team invites you to “plot up a storm” with the WITS team, Janice Hardy suggests you brainstorm your way to a great novel hook, and Frances Caballo offers 10 tips to stay motivated during NaNoWriMo.

The Guardian‘s Sian Cain reports that George Saunder’s Lincoln in the Bardo won the 2017 Man Booker Prize, the second year in a row the prize went to an American author.

Can ancient literature have importance today? Scott Esposito explores how the oldest stories — like Virgil’s Aeneid — can give us the best perspective, and B. R. J. O’Donnell examines how the Odyssey provides an early, still-relevant example of the enlightened guidance of a mentor. Also, Ben Panko tells how scientists model an ancient magnetic storm using 18th-century writings and illustrations.

Writers can learn a lot from other writers. Pasha Malla details what Julio Cortázar might teach us about teaching writing. Jillian Berman writes that John Grisham reveals his biggest money mistake.

For those who doubt writing can be a difficult activity, Emily Temple relates the stories of 6 famous writers injured while writing.

When you’re drowning in self-doubt, remember that even literary giants had their critics: Literary Hub shares a scathing 1855 review of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.


If you’re in need of inspiration or motivation, Bonnie Randall expounds on maximizing your creativity, Roger Colby shares 5 ways to re-energize your muse, and Barbara O’Neal has some thoughts on vanquishing the inner killer critic. Kathryn Craft suggests 5 ways writers can survive a quake.

Working on character development? Angela Ackerman discusses using dysfunctional behaviors to reveal characters’ emotional wounds and shares the mother lode of links on writing emotional wounds. Diverse characters are good, but Mikki Kendall urges writers to make sure your portrayal of the OTHER does not contribute to the harmful stereotyping of a group, and Bran L. Ayres provides guidance on writing with diversity. If you have aging characters, E. L. Skip Knox delves into history for fantasy writers: how old was old? In addition, Zoe M. McCarthy warns writers: don’t detail every movement your characters make.

Examining other story elements, K. M. Weiland lays out 4 ways to prevent formulaic story structure, Jordan Rosenfeld shows 4 key ways to launch a scene, Jami Gold explores finding the right balance between showing and telling, and Rayne Hall shares tips on creating suspense.

Since the greatest story can be obscured by faulty writing, Dawn Field advises that you need to become your own writing teacher. With some specific pointers, Oxford Dictionaries offers advice on the comma splice. and from The Oatmeal and Jane Daugherty: how and why to use whom in a sentence. These issues, however, are often best corrected in the revision phase. To help with that, Carla King reviews 9 manuscript editing software programs.

For writers making presentations at conferences or conventions, Julie Glover sets out 5 tips for presenting an engaging workshop.


In news regarding agents: Janet Reid considers the pros and cons of choosing a young agent at a small agency, Steve Laube insists that variety is the spice in an agent’s inbox, and Janet Reid answers the question: when you have multiple novels ready, how soon after receiving a rejection for novel #1 can you pitch novel #2?

Roz Morris focuses on the real schedule of a self-published book.

If you’re ready to sell your book, Sandra Beckwith addresses when to write a press release, David Kudler explains how universal sell links make ebook selling easier, Nate Hoffelder shares seven WordPress plugins for author bookshelves, and David Hartshorne compares 5 powerful keyword research tools. For those seeking book reviews, Mike Onorato provides some tips for writing a galley letter.

Gordon Long answers the question: can I make money off my non-fiction book?

Anne R. Allen comments on Amazon’s latest crackdowns, which net review trolls but also innocent authors (again).

Need social media tips? Frances Caballo shares the most retweetable words for engagement on Twitter, John Gilstrap discusses engineering a brand, and Sydney Mathieu contributes Goodreads tips for Indie authors.


We love our libraries! Ryan P. Smith talks about the wondrous complexity of the New York Public Library, Ashley Holstrom claims that Chrome’s Library Extension will change your life, and Ryan Krull asks: what’s a library to do? on homelessness and public spaces. Did you know Napoleon had his own traveling library? Colin Marshall reports on the miniaturized library he took on military campaigns.

Not everyone has easy access to a bookstore. Matt Grant reveals that Los Angeles is getting its own mobile bookstore.

Cait @ Paper Fury shares 10 annoying questions bookworms get asked that just make no sense.

Planning for the holidays? Sarah Rae Smith announces that Harry Potter fans can eat Christmas dinner at Hogwarts, and Stephanie DeLuca says you can live out your romantic comedy dreams of owning a bookstore on this working holiday in Scotland.

Jason Daley discusses what to know about literature’s newest Nobel Prize winner, British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.

Kat Eschner reveals the first cookbooks published by black people in America and that Mark Twain liked cats better than people, while Hephzibah Anderson mentions some of the great writers forgotten by history. Jackie Mansky relates that a collection of Eleanor Roosevelt’s writing captures the first lady’s lasting relevance.

Book fairs aren’t always the quiet events you might expect. Deutsche Welle reports on violence at the Frankfurt Book Fair following calls for “active debate.”

Amelia Tait shows how the 25 greatest stories ever would be ruined by technology.

To finish up on a positive note, Jarry Lee shares 13 sticky note messages from the New York subway that will restore your faith in humanity.

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

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, farm in October

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | October 24, 2017

A Disorganized Mind

“I have a terrible sense of direction because I have a disorganized mind.”
We were strangers, sitting on lawn chairs on the side of a hill in the summer heat. A terrific live band played in the distance.
“You probably have a great sense of direction,” my new acquaintance continued.
“No,” I joked (I was serious), “sometimes I don’t know which way is up.”
It hadn’t occurred to me that I might have a disorganized mind, but right then, I started to question, what, as a writer, should I do about that?
Here’s my list of things to focus and organize the mind
1. Plan your story well. My detailed outline is my “to do” list of bite-sized projects. Which bite will I work on now?
2. Write down a goal for each writing session. What will I accomplish today?
3. Hold your audience clearly in mind before you start writing. Who am I writing for?
4. Label everything. Make lists and time lines to prevent having to scroll through pages of text for forgotten details. What will I want to remember? What will I want to revise later?
5. Keep all story info in one location. Will I remember where l stored this information a month from today?

Older Posts »