Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | March 21, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-21-2019


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, yellow crocuses

Yellow crocuses


Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of spring! Our crocuses are finally blooming. Let’s hope the snowy, wintery weather is behind us.

In additon to being the first full day of spring, today is National Common Courtesy Day, a gentle reminder to us all to make courtesy a good deal more common.

Next Monday, March 25th, is National Tolkien Reading Day, so dust off and reread your old copy of The Hobbit—or cheat and binge on one (or all ) of the movies this weekend.

Most writers do not make their living as authors, but a few make a very good living. Emily Temple reveals, year by year, the 25 authors who’ve made the most money in the last decade.

Coming up in April is National Poetry Month. Roz Morris interviews Joe Nutt about how useful poetry is in a prose world.

Libraries always seem to be struggling for funds, but now Susie Dumond reports that President Trump’s 2020 budget proposal threatens to defund libraries. We readers and writers need to work to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Kudos to: Bridge to Terabithia author Katherine Patterson, who won the E. B. White Awardfor literature (reported by Brent Hallenbeck in the Burlington Free Press); to the eight winners of the 2019 Windham-Campbell prizes (reported by Corinne Segal for Literary Hub); and to Arte Público Press, which has been honored by the National Book critics Circle with the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award for its significant contributions to book culture (reported by Rigoberto González for NBC News).

In memoriam: Craig Morgan Teicher reports on the death of former U.S. Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin at age 91.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, leafless trees reflected in vernal pond

Vernal pond



For writers seeking to improve their craft and professionalism, Diana Hurwitz lists writing workshops from April to June 2019. Lisa Cooper Ellison goes into schmoozing for introverts: how to network like a pro.

Mason Curry shares the daily writing routines of famous women authors. Part of that writing routine might include a specific place to write. Susan Haught considers setting up a writing space, while Daphne Gray-Grant asks: is it worth having a tidy place to write?

Sue Coletta lays out 7 hard truths about working as a professional writer, while Bill Ferris stresses 12 things you have to give up to be a successful writer.

Roz Morris highlights 7 ways to write a novel with confidence, while Jim Dempsey focuses on how to find inspiration, and Kathryn Craft ponders when to let go of your original inspiration. In addition, Jordan Peters asks: are you a hoarder (of ideas)?

Check out these storytelling tips from the writer of Blade Runner, Hampton Fancher.

Novelists, have you ever thought about writing a short story? Sarah Dahl considers the benefits of writing short stories. If you do decide to try your hand at short stories or a new genre, Jami Gold addresses how to set goals when trying something new.

David Corbett clarifies the differences between a crime novel, mystery novel, and thriller novel, while Janice Hardy suggests we all need a little mystery in our lives.

Do you know your story’s theme? Stavros Halvatzis examines theme as the controlling idea, and K. M. Weiland expounds on how to find your thematic principle.

If you’re working on your story’s plot, John Gilstrap outlines scene construction, and Jami Gold examines story threads: fixing rips in our story.

A number of bloggers offer tips for characterization: Laurence MacNaughton reveals the secret to creating characters in 60 seconds; Juliet Marillier takes a look at naming characters in historical fantasy; Anne R. Allen spells out why Mary Sues will kill your story; Melissa Donovan provides writing tips for creating a complex villain; and Victoria Mixon writes about layering character for believable fiction.

With more on layering, Vaughn Roycroft discusses layers of antagonism and why you should embrace them.

Grammar, grammar, grammar—it’s important! James Scott Bell concludes: get grammatical or get lost. Providing some tips, September C. Fawkes explains how to punctuate dialogue, while two bloggers address modifiers: Zoe M. McCarthy avers that misplaced modifiers confuse your readers, and Ann Parker cautions writers about misplaced modifiers.

Finished your book? John Doppler goes into how to find the perfect title.

Maryann Miller advises don’t let plagiarism kill your career.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, man holding business section of newspaper

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash




For those pursuing traditional publishing, Becky Tuch give 8 reasons your submission strategy sucks and what you can do about it, Janet Reid makes sense of parsing subjective vs. objective assessment from agents, and agent Rachelle Gardner insists there is no time for despair.

Lee Foster examines changes in book publishing, and Steve Laube analyzes who gets paid in publishing.

Five seems to be a special number this week. Carol Tice lists 5 ways to double your freelance writing income, Jules Horne offers 5 tips for better audiobook narration and performance., and Reedsy sets out 5 tips for better book cover typography.

For those selling on Amazon, Melissa Bowersock delves into tracking Kindle sales with the Book Report app, and Dave Chesson takes a look at changes to Amazon advertising.

Marketing is vital. Sandra Beckwith debunks 3 book marketing myths.

If you’re interesting in trying something different, Paul Sating explains how to grow your readership through podcasting.

With tips for bloggers, Bryn Donovan gives 25 ideas for your author blog, Dana Fiddler tells us how to format your blog posts to keep your readers engaged., and Cristian Mihai advises writers to keep your blog content fresh and asks: are you sabotaging your blog?

Frances Caballo looks into Instagram for authors: how to use hashtags.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, robin

Spring robin



Andrea Smith reports that the house in England that inspired Wuthering Heights is for sale.

Rohini Chaki reveals that Alexander Dumas (author of classics like The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo) thought his magnum opus was a massive cookbook, while Emily Temple delves into Honoré de Balzac’s legendary love affair with his anonymous critic.

Alison Flood tells us that Joni Mitchell’s hand-drawn book written for friends in 1971 is to be published.

Roy Christopher says literary allusion runs deep through the history of hip-hop.

Even great writers can get bad reviews: Tina Jordan shares scathing reviews of classic books from the NY Times’s archives.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, late afternoon sun, clouds

Late afternoon sun


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Join us again next week for another roundup of writerly links!


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, full moon, night clouds

The last winter full moon


Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | March 19, 2019

binge-watching habits of writers

Back in the day, this would have been called TV watching and for many still is. Nowadays, most of our viewing content is available on demand and as such allows for our habits to develop trends towards anything our heart desires, including binge-watching whole seasons of series in short periods of time. Each service offering up our content is quick to suggest and serve up what else we’d like to watch next.

I’m wondering what these choices are for writers, and it’s effect on writing if any.

Since my television’s main input is a computer and has been for many years, most of my viewing comes through a standard web browser. My main “channels” are youtube, amazon, netflix, and occasionally the web pages for the channels of my cable service – if I happen to currently have a subscription to one.

Several months ago I caught up with my favorite shows: Blacklist, Criminal Minds, Elementary. So, needing something to binge watch, I’ve watched entire series of shows/documentaries relating to FBI files, forensics, CIA, true crime, serial killer, and mafia investigations. I noticed that this started with the FBI and after I ran out of available shows to watch, I started looking for the subject of the investigations themselves. The most popular FBI investigations over the last century are serial killer, mafia, and things of that nature of which there are plenty of documentaries.

The serial killer documentaries grew morbid after a while, as I was more interested in how the FBI caught them as opposed to seeing more about the killer. There’s a funny meme that’s gone around social media saying something to the effect of “I’m a writer not a serial killer” when remarking on the contents of one’s browser history.

My current work in progress involves the world we live in today but featuring some paranormal fantasy. The investigative division in my book is right out of Criminal Minds at a much younger age – with a paranormal element. I think I could say the same of everything I’ve been watching. I can see the mafia, serial killer, regular police work, etc. – with a paranormal element.

This isn’t to say that I’m trying to write all that, just that my mind can easily drift there. The subjects upon which the investigative divisions direct their focus are all secret societies in some way or other, whether centered around a single individual or a group. It’s easy to add a paranormal element to it.

I always liked the paranormal and some horror/dark fantasy entities like vampires, witches, etc. This features in my writing and is influenced by my separate interest in investigation, police forces both local and federal, secret societies that may or may not be involved with organized crime, etc.

Thought for the day, how is your writing shaped by your television/binge-watching/browsing habits, or is it the other way around?


Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 14, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-14-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! In addition to being Pi Day, today is National Potato Chip Day, National Children’s Craft Day, and (for us) National Write Down Your Story Day. So let’s get writing…

Will your writing ever garner you a Nobel Prize? Who knows? After last year’s debacle with no Prize presented for Literature, Carrie V. Mullins asks:  do we still need the Nobel Prize for Literature? And Calvin Reid looks at the changes made to the Prize process and its return in 2019.

In other prize news, Kelli Jo Ford wins 2019 Plimpton Prize, and Benjamin Nugent wins Terry Southern Prize.

While the demand for more diverse books rises, some authors are worried about writing diverse characters and getting pushback for it. Bharat Krishnan walks us through how to authentically write diversity in our stories.

Want to know which books are truly great? OCLC looks at the top 100 novels most widely stocked in libraries around the world.


Many writers like research, but dislike writing a query or synopsis. Yet all these things can help with story-level issues in your work. Alma Katsu shares tips for complex historical research, Susan DeFrietas explains how your query can reveal story-level problems in your book, and Ammi-Joan Paquette gives us 4 steps for perfecting your synopsis.

Lots of craft elements intertwine to build your story and they all impact each other. K.M. Weiland discusses the triangle of plot, character, and theme; Cindy Sproles talks cliffhangers, and Jami Gold explores what makes a story uplifting.

Our protagonists are key to keeping readers turning the pages. Antonio del Drago examines the hero archetype and the hero’s journey, Janice Hardy has a practical guide to using character archetypes in your novel, Donald Maass delves into dark protagonists we love (and why), and James Scott Bell wonders if every lead character need an arc.

Kristen Lamb lists 7 ways to self-edit effectively and save yourself money. When you edit, don’t forget to look at the dialogue—Elaine Viets shares tips on writing realistic dialogue.

Productivity is the watchword of our times. Joel Friedlander gives us 13 tips for the work at home author, Roni Loren reveals the surprising results of her self-imposed 30 day social media ban, and Ali Luke ponders if you should give up on writing when you have kids.

The writer’s life is like no other, but has much in common with other creative pursuits.  Ennis Smith tells us how becoming an actor taught him to write, Garth Greenwell muses on what it means to live the writer’s life, and Julie Glover has some tips to bring the fun back into our writing.


If you are a mystery writer, check out Debbie Burke’s list of recent shakeups in mystery publishing news.

For indie authors, there’s a lot to know beyond how to write a good book—you need to design it, publish it, and sell it. Sometimes you need to get rights back from a traditional publisher before you can resell your backlist. Elizabeth S. Craig discusses rights reversion and what happens after, David Kudler shows how to get ebook typefaces right, Melinda Clayton examines KDP vs. IngramSpark, and Russell Phillips explains how to use local booklinks to sell your ebooks.

Is indie publishing right for you? Joanna Penn looks at the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

Janet Reid calms a skittish author who accidentally sent queries to two agents at the same agency.

Marketing falls heavily on the author these days. Rachelle Gardner discusses how to create your own marketing team, Sophie Masson lays out how to plan your own book launch, and Chrys Fey lists 6 gadgets to take to that launch and every book event thereafter.

Much of our reader contact is online nowadays. Cristian Mihai tells us how to build an audience for your blog, Scott McCormick shows us how to use Tumblr to promote your book, Frances Caballo has 9 tips on using Instagram, while Matt Smith explains 5 Instagram analytics tips you need for 2019.

Sometimes online platforms don’t last. With Google+ going away, Anne R. Allen wants to make sure we have all unGoogled ourselves on our contact pages.

Online contacts rock, but face-to-face has its place. Zoe M. McCarthy explores why we should spend the money to attend writing conferences.


Take a look at the 32 most iconic poems in the English language.

Michael Moorcock examines H.G. Wells, a reluctant prophet.

For mystery lovers: Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple will be returning to television in a new series.

In a herculean effort, archivists are digitizing Slovakia’s literary heritage for posterity.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! For those readers of Irish extraction, please celebrate St. Patrick’s Day safely!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 7, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-07-2019

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 28, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-28-2019

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of February! This short month has seemed quite long to me. Check out the latest tips and advice in our latest links round up.

Every so often a plagiarism scandal rocks the writing world. Jami Gold looks at what authors and readers can learn from #copypastecris, the latest scandal to erupt, and Alison Flood delves deeper into the murky world of plagiarism.

Public libraries have been an integral part of American life for many years. Ariel Aberg-Riger brings us a visual history of the American public library, while Joseph James looks ahead to the myriad futures of libraries.

Looking for writing contests to enter? Arthur Klepchukov rounds up fiction writing contests worth your time in Spring 2019.


Every story starts with an idea. Susan Reynolds explores the science of story ideas: how to awaken your brain’s creative superpowers; while Kathleen McCleary shows how to clarify the essential heart of your story before you start to write.

Once you’ve got the idea in hand, the writing begins. Laurisa White Reyes details how to write a real page-turner, Janice Hardy discusses whether Act I should be just set-up or more and shows us how to add conflict to your scenes, Nils Odlund has 3 tips for writing action scenes, and M.L. Keller warns us to avoid “reporter syndrome” in your point of view characters.

Characters are what keep the readers reading. The Passive Voice says that the emotional arcs of stores are dominated by 6 basic shapes, James Scott Bell reminds us of the importance of bonding character and reader, and Lisa Hall-Wilson has tips on how to make dominant female characters like-able.

When you are editing, there are myriad ways to tighten and strengthen your writing. Beta readers and critiques can be invaluable if done correctly. L.S. Hawker has the quintessential guide to selecting and working with beta readers, and Tasha Seegmiller explores negotiating difficult critiques. Laura Drake looks at redundant writing and how to exorcise it, while Kathy Edens looks at what Marie Kondo can teach us about decluttering our prose. If you write nonfiction, this would be the time to see if you can incorporate any of Carrie Anton’s suggested 5 formats of nonfiction book content beyond words to make your book pop.

Writers block and time limitations often curtail our writing productivity. Ruth Harris examines the link between decision fatigue and writers block, and Deya Bhattacharya gives us the 5-minute writing session and how it can up your writing game. Rachelle Gardner suggests 8 things to do while waiting, Zoe M. McCarthy lists 5 tips for keeping writing-related tasks straight, and Tim Parks asks: do we write differently on a screen?


With more and more writers negotiating their own contracts, Victoria Strauss warns against publishers who claim copyright on edits in their contracts, and Leonard D. Duboff and Amanda-Ann Bryan explain 3 types of contracts every writer should understand.

When pitching or querying your books to agents or publishers, there are a lot of avenues to take and a lot of decision to make. Among those decisions is your name. Charity Bradford explores the use of pseudonyms, noms de plume, pen names…or not. Alex J. Cavanaugh helps us Twitter pitch like we mean it, Stephanie Chandler lays out the elements of a book proposal, and Bob Hostetler shares 3 things never to say to agents.

Janet Reid has a trifecta this week: 1) sub-rights and how they work, 2) should you include the prologue when submitting pages with a query, and 3) the difference between an agent representing you or representing your book.

Marketing is about connecting your work to the readers who want it, and certain aspects of marketing can (some might say should) start before you even write a word. Amy Collins tells us how to figure out who your audience really is, and Edwin McRae lays out how to find your perfect niche in fiction.

There’s a lot of work to do in promoting your book. Martin Crosbie explains how to set up a series page if you’ve self-published a series, Sandra Beckwith tells us how to announce your book with an email blast, Joanna Penn has 7 reasons to narrate your own audiobook, Cristian Mihai shares how to blog despite having a full-time job, and Nancy L. Erickson reveals the most important part of writing and self-publishing a book.


Lucy Foley examines the profoundly unsettling world of Agatha Christie.

In a different type of unsettled world, Louisa May Alcott landed on the front lines of the Civil War.

Benjamin Markovits parses the endless nuances of British stereotypes.

Old books are revealing secrets far beyond what’s written in them. Sarah Zhang takes us inside the lab discovering DNA in old books.

Alexandra Samuel examines whether science fiction can predict the future of technology.

That’s it for the final Top Picks Thursday of February! We’ll see you in March.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 21, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-21-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are having whiplash weather here. Snow on Wednesday and 50 degrees on Thursday! The snow day Wednesday gave us plenty of time to round up some links for you to enjoy.

Sandra Beckwith posts a 2019 literary calendar with many days and ways to celebrate reading and writing throughout the year.

Former President Jimmy Carter wins his third Grammy, for an audiobook recording of Faith: A Journey for All.

In sad literary news, W.E.B. Griffin, military man and writer, dies at 89, and Betty Ballantine, a pioneer of the modern paperback, dies at 99.

Writers sometimes tackle controversial subjects. Michael Gallant shares advice for writing about controversial topics.


For our illustrator audience: Daniel Stolle has 50 tips that will make you a better illustrator.

Many people find poetry rather inaccessible. Sarah Callendar makes the case for poetry.

Every writer has experienced the magic of stepping into another realm as they write. Vaughn Roycroft examines storytelling and stepping beyond the veil.

Almost every writer does some prep work prior to writing, and there are many problems that can be avoided with a little forethought. Gordon Long discusses using a “fat outline” for powerful writing, Laurence MacNaughton lays out the six-figure master fiction plot, and Jim Dempsey discusses diagnosing your story’s problem.

The goal is to keep readers turning the pages, and lots of craft elements go into doing that. September C. Fawkes advises looking forward, not backward, to pull readers in; Stavros Halvatzis shows how to fix lackluster scenes, and Janice Hardy focuses on the engine that keeps the story running: goals, motivations, and conflicts.

Compelling characters make readers keep reading. Scott McCormick discusses creating 3-dimensional villains, Dawn Field examines creating power moments rich in subtext with dialogue, and Becca Puglisi wants us to think about 7 things your character is hiding. Clare Langley-Hawthorne explores using real people in historical fiction, and Cait Reynolds wants to make sure our fantasy characters have a decent diet.

Writers have lots to keep track of when they write. Melissa Donovan lists 42 fiction writing tips for novelists, and Janice Hardy has another to add: examine your filter words. Alythia Brown urges us to publish far and wide to sharpen our skills and thicken our skin, while Bill Ferris takes a look at how to nail your novel’s first 500 pages.

The struggle to sustain the writing life is both physical and emotional. Blake Atwood shares 4 ways to create and maintain a writing habit, while Rachelle Gardner goes the other way and gives us 9 reasons to quit writing.


We all want to find our own version of success, but how do we get there? Sandra Beckwith reveals 3 essentials for author success.

If you are self-publishing, there are tons of options now for ebook distribution. David Woghan brings us a handy ebook distribution round up to help us make our choices.

We hear a lot about crowdfunding, but it isn’t for everyone. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware examines the company Publishizer and asks: do authors really need a crowdfunding literary agency? Meanwhile, if you crowdfund on your own, Susan K. Hamilton lays out the fantastic and the frustrating parts of crowdfunding her novel.

With her usual knack for finding the positive in what many would consider a tedious chore, Kathryn Craft explains why your submissions package is your story’s Valentine to the world. On the receiving end of many a submissions package, Janet Reid explains how to prepare for an agent 1 on 1 at a conference, and deciphers some of the language of rejection letters.

Marketing is tough. Repeatedly doing the same marketing that doesn’t work for your book is insanity. Judith Briles tells us how to tame the book marketing insanity and move forward. Anne R. Allen tackles the concept of superfans and if we can be successful without them, and Patti Thorn shows how to get book reviews to market your self-published book.

Little things can make a big difference. Chris Fey lists 5 tips to spice up your Amazon author profile, while Frances Caballo has 5 little changes that’ll make a big difference in your social media presence and also why video marketing is important, with 3 apps to try.

Blogging is a major marketing tool. Cristian Mihai tells us never, ever, ever give up and she shares 10 rules to help you punch those damn keys.


Since it’s Valentine’s month, romance is in the air. Use this handy chart to find out your romance novel title, and try out these 11 literary pick-up lines for the chronically dateless.

All writers love a good bookstore. Emily Temple has 10 specialty bookstores worth a visit, while Max Joseph gives us a guide to the most beautiful bookstores in the world.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for the last Top Picks Thursday of February.

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 14, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-14-2019


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, red heart on blue

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash


Happy Valentine’s Day, and welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We love that you’re spending part of your Valentine’s Day with us and hope you find lots of goodies among the links that caught our attention in the past week.

On the topic of holidays, Sunday is National Random Acts of Kindness Day. We really shouldn’t wait till Sunday, though. When you think about it, love and kindness ought to be celebrated every day—we could use a lot more of both.

Did anybody give or get a book for Valentine’s Day? Nick Douglas suggests trying Reddit’s best tips for reading more books, while Mairead Small Staid takes a look at reading in the age of constant distraction. Carrie V. Mullins reports that the Center for Fiction’s new home reflects a change in how we read, and—good news for writers and readers—Lisa Lucas, in a Time article, asserts that books are more alive than ever.

On a sadder note, Locus reports that author Carol Emshwiller, known for her experimental and feminist fiction, died at age 97.

Congratulations are in order: Michael Schaub reports that Sandra Cisneros has won the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, folded book pages forming a heart

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash



Creativity and inspiration provide necessary nourishment for artists of all types. Debbie Burke gives us eight tricks to tap your subconscious for better writing, and Jordan Dane asks: can hypnagogia improve your fiction writing?

In addition, Gaetano DiNardi explains why you should work less and spend more time on hobbies, Bob Mayer explains how to fall in love with the writing process: 6 questions to hone your creative workflow, and Lisa Tener advises lighting a candle for your inner critic.

Once you’re inspired and writing, Roni Loren stresses finding and utilizing your strengths, while Kristen Lamb focuses on drudgery: what separates those who dream from those who DO.

Wondering about your book’s audience? Dana Silar demystifies finding your target audience, and Brian Jud give us tips on how to target your book’s audience.

For genre writers, Linda Cardillo discusses writing romance in the 21st century: not your grandmother’s Harlequin; Iain Rob Wright digs into how to be successful in writing horror; and Jami Gold considers story tropes: how do we twist a cliché? For those whose interest lies in writing nonfiction, Tracy Stanley discusses how to turn a thesis into a book that sells.

If you’re sitting down to work on a new project, Louise Tondeur reveals why you don’t have to choose between plotter or pantser, Stavros Halvatzis discusses perspective in stories and how to choose it, and Donald Maass analyzes the ordinary world of your characters: how much and how ordinary?

While we’re on the subject of characters, Becca Puglisi shares 6 ways to show emotions for non-POV characters, and Vincent H. O’Neil offers 5 tips for using voice in dialogue.

For writers in the revision process, K. M. Weiland examines how to use paragraph breaks to guide the reader’s experience, and Janice Hardy warns us about red flag telling words that often spell trouble in our writing and reminds us to get rid of our crutch words. In addition, Giacomo Giammatteo reveals where spellcheckers fall short and why you need an editor.

Sometimes the story just doesn’t work. David Rawlings addresses walking away from your baby—when you need to put your manuscript aside and move on.

If you’re finished revising and editing your manuscript, Meg LaTorre tells us why querying writers shouldn’t write sequels.

Entering writing contests can be helpful for not-yet-published writers. C. Hope Clark writes about how to find writing contests and avoid scams.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, tiny succulent

One of my writing buddies.



For those writing queries to agents, Janet Reid talks about how and where to mention if you are a ghost writer.

If you are a photographer as well as a writer, Lee Foster takes a look at making and selling your own photos, and Isaac Kaplan brings us information about art copyright.

Thinking of publishing your book soon? Stephanie Chandler lists the 6 people every author should hire, and Angela Ackerman delves into how to run a street team.

Many people are visually oriented. Frances Caballo explains why it’s important to use video marketing and shares 3 apps to try, while Steven Spatz explains how to get media coverage for your book.

The dream of every publishing author is to sell a lot of books. Kristen Lamb takes a look at how to sell more books, and Sue Canfield advocates boosting sales with pre-launch social media strategies.

Some writers use email newsletters to increase sales. Christina McDonald tells us how to grow an email newsletter from scratch.

Do you have a blog or are thinking of starting one? Roz Morris identifies what value she has found in a decade of blogging. Cristian Mihai gives us 10 questions every blogger should ask themselves and insists that blogging is not just about information, while Jordan Peters reveals the seven magic tricks of blogging.

Sometimes maintaining a social media presence can get overwhelming. Roni Loren is busy with digital decluttering before taking a 30-day social media break.

Despite the frigid weather, April will be here before we know it. Jenny Hansen provides an easy tax guide for authors.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, white tiger lying down

Photo by jamie turner on Unsplash



Electric Lit‘s Kristopher Jansma wonders what happened to Sylvia Plath’s lost novels, while Laura Kolb considers the very modern anger of Shakespeare’s women.

Devoney Looser considers Sense and Sensibility: what if Jane Austin had to choose?

Nick Ripatrazone asks: is line editing a lost art?

Aditi Natasha Kini exposes the death of a symbol: how Western writers exploit the tiger.

And finally, check out The Passive Voice‘s graphic on invisible formatting.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, heart shape in mug of cocoa

Photo by David O. Andersen on Unsplash


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Have a great Valentine’s Day and long Presidents’ Day weekend. Join us next week for another roundup of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, V of geese flying

Geese beneath the sunset clouds



Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 7, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-07-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We have emerged from our deep freeze into spring-like weather. But we have fought off spring fever long enough to gather the following links for you.

What we create is intellectual property. Kristine Kathryn Rusch explores the growing importance of intellectual property, and warns authors to watch of copyright grabs.

Speaking of copyright, DCL and the New York Public Library partner to expand access to copyright records.

In a reversal from recent trends, independent bookstores are thriving.

We all know reading is good for you. Melissa Donovan extols the benefits of keeping a reading journal.


One of the first things we must determine as writers is what kind of story we are writing, exactly. Zoe M. McCarthy explores the rather elastic definition of speculative fiction, while Jami Gold looks at aspirational stories and if they reflect our hopes and goals.

A story needs to hook the reader at every level, from the idea itself to each scene. Kathy Yardley shows how to determine if you have a story concept or just a cool idea, and Janice Hardy tells us what writers need to know about hooks.

A good character will hook your reader and never let them go. Antonio del Drago explores why we have heroes, while Stavros Halvatzis examines the hero on a journey of discovery. Stephan Evans has 5 tips for making readers laugh out loud with funny dialogue, Jo Eberhardt tells us what to do when your characters have minds of their own, Jami Gold lays out how pantsers develop character arcs, and Kristen Kieffer walks us through how to craft a negative character arc for your novel.

Voice and Point of View (POV) are often inextricably linked. Mary Kole teases out the differences between authorial voice and 3rd person voice, K.M. Weiland lists 10 advantages of writing a single POV story, and Laurie Schnebly Campbell reminds us that no matter which one we choose, POV should engage the reader.

Editing your novel is a project unto itself. Sofia Ashdown has 10 editing tips, Michael LaRocca gives us 7 proven strategies for editing and proofreading your own writing, Benjamin Dreyer lists 3 writing rules to disregard, and Kyle A. Massa advises us of 3 signs it’s time to stop editing your manuscript.

As writers, we hate to feel like we are wasting time we could be spending writing. Nina Amir urges us to write first to consistently increase our productivity, and E.M. Welsh has 11 productive things to do when you don’t feel like writing.

Sometimes the road to success is counter-intuitive. Kristen Lamb examines when quitting can lead to success, and Lucy V. Hay reveals why the most successful writers fail the most.

Reaching writing goals is a psychological and emotional journey. Nat Russo asks if you are still an aspiring writer, while Jennifer Blanchard shares the daily mindset practice that will help you achieve your writing goals.

It is often said that writers see things other people can’t. Kiley Bense explores how learning to draw can help a writer to see, Kristan Hoffman urges making the ordinary come alive, and Julie Duffy gives us a writer’s manifesto.


When self-publishing, you have to know the ins and outs of everything, even if you hire someone else to do the actual work. Karen Amanda Hooper talks about what to do if you have a terrible book cover, and Melinda Clayton compares using Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital.

Traditional or self-published, you should understand how to both protect and sell your rights. ALLi Admin lays out 3 principles of selling rights, while Janet Reid addresses three topics: how to sell yourself to an agent when you have a backlist with a struggling small press; what to do when you and your publisher don’t agree on your second book; and how to copyright illustrations.

Marketing is stressful for many writers. Jane Friedman explains how to reduce marketing anxiety and confusion and James Scott Bell says no more platform anxiety, please.

Book marketing takes many forms. Amy Collins discusses how to advertise with Barnes & Noble, Kristen Lamb advises how to make all ads, marketing and newsletters work better, and Ella Barnard has social media marketing tips for introvert authors.

We do most of our marketing work online these days, so it is essential we get it right. Anne R. Allen lists 10 mistakes on your online presence to avoid, Cristian Mihai explores networking for the novice blogger, Jordan Peters tells us how to beat blogger’s block, and Frances Caballo has 14 Facebook pages for authors to review.


Sam Jordison wonders: is Good Omens one of the best collaborative novels ever written?, and Joanna Robinson has an interview with Neil Gaiman as Good Omens comes to the TV screen.

Looking for book bling? Check out these 17 irresistibly bookish earrings from Etsy.

What’s your favorite book? Here’s an infographic showing how long favorite books took to write.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Please join us next week for more literary links!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 6, 2019

Experience, Observation, and Perspective


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, trees and snow at sunrise

Winter Sunrise


Experience, Observation, And Perspective

Experience is universal. Each instant that we exist, we experience something. Some experiences are common to all—we breathe, we eat, we drink, we sleep, we feel—while other experiences are unique to the individual. We need both shared experiences and unique experiences: our shared experiences to allow us to relate to one another, and our distinct experiences make life interesting.

Like experience, observation—noticing or perceiving what we experience—is universal. We pay attention to how we feel physically, to our moods and emotions, to what’s happening in our lives and around us—to other people, to our surroundings, to events near and far, to the weather … and much more. In fact, it’s the observation of what we’re experiencing that gives the experience relevance and meaning.

The fascinating thing about observation is its individuality. When two of us experience the same event—a beautiful sunrise, for example—we do not observe exactly the same details about it. Our observations are colored by who we are. One person may concentrate on the colors in the clouds; another may focus on the quiet peacefulness of the moment.

Observation is a vital skill for writers, for everything we write flows from the sum total of our experiences and observations. The more we experience and observe, the more sources feed that flow of creativity.

Simple observation, though, is not enough. A camera can do that much. True observation involves thought, for to truly observe we must evaluate what is observed and integrate the new observation/information into all that has been previously experienced and observed—and that’s the process which gives us perspective.

Perspective refers to how we look at things, how we understand things and events in relation to the totality of our experiences, knowledge, and observations. Perspective is not static. With new experiences, new information, and new observations, perspective changes.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fog and trees, sun through fog

Morning Fog at 31 Degrees


Using Experience and Observation to Gain PerspectiveAnd Ideas

Non-writers often ask writers where they get their ideas. Writers cringe at that question because their answer rarely satisfies non-writers. The truth is, ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere—which is why writers read and learn and experience and observe all they can.

The idea for today’s topic came to me because the weather of the past few weeks kept pinging my observational radar. Most of the United States has experienced days of extreme cold interspersed with much warmer weather. (As I write this, it’s 48 degrees after two days in the mid-60s when I briefly opened a window to let in fresh air.) Although both these cold temperatures and warm temperatures broke records in many places, swings in temperature aren’t unusual during North American winters. Yet each year with the first bout of much-lower-than-normal temperatures, people grumble complain and rush out to buy space heaters and fluffy coats and extra socks and gloves. (You’d think we’d be used to this and prepare ahead of time, right? Perhaps there’s something in human nature that resists doing so.)

When it warmed up to the high 30s after the first cold snap, I walked out to get the mail wearing flip-flops and a pullover sweater but no coat. With the sun shining brightly and no wind, I didn’t feel cold. (In December, at the same temperature, I wore my winter coat and gloves and put up the hood.)

I mentioned to my husband how warm it felt and he agreed, saying that 38 degrees feels “downright balmy” after highs in the teens.

His comment got me thinking. I’d always assumed that our bodies adjusted to the cold as winter progressed, but now I think our changing perception of cold/warm may be more a matter of perspective. The cold snaps this year didn’t last long enough for our bodies to adjust physically. Instead of acclimatization making an average cold temperature feel warmer, our perception of what is cold has changed. Experiencing the contrast between normal cold and extreme cold has changed our perspective.

So, odd as it may seem, my thoughts about the effects of the weather led to the idea for this blog post.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, cat footprints on snowy steps

Cat Footprints in the Snow


A Reminder For Writers Creating Characters

Each time we create a well-rounded, major character, we establish both the character’s identity—the character’s personality, temperament, interests, skills, ethos, et cetera—and the character’s history—past experiences. This is the character’s starting point but not, for most main characters, the ending point. A change in the character is what readers expect. (If your character does not change, make sure you’ve given the reader a valid, compelling reason why not.) During the course of the story, the character’s experiences and observations should change the character, or at least the character’s perspective.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, sunset clouds, snow beneath winter sunset

Winter Sunset


What experiences or observations have given you ideas or inspiration?


Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 31, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-31-2019

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of January! Today is National Inspire Your Heart With Art Day. It is also “the-Arctic-Comes-To-America Day” so if you are where this intense freeze is in place, curl up somewhere warm and explore the links at your leisure.

The writing world lost some luminaries this week: Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Russell Baker died at 93. Tina Jordan compiled a list of Baker’s books to read.

Jonas Mekas—poet, memoir writer, and godfather of American avant-garde film—dies at 96.

Diana Athill, writer and editor, dies at 101. LitHub has an excerpt of her reflections on aging and life.

In awards news: SCBWI announces the 2019 Golden Kite Award winners, University of Pennsylvania professor Charles Bernstein wins the prestigious Bollingen Prize, and Rebecca Makkai and Kiese Laymon win 2019 Carnegie Awards.

Roz Morris explores whether you should take a creative writing degree or not.

How did people pass the time during the government shutdown? Some furloughed employees filled workless days with books.


For those writing children’s literature, Alex Fullerton has 6 tips for writing children’s books.

There are craft issues large and small that all impact our book—and then there are the intangibles. Jami Gold urges us to find our story’s essence, Janice Hardy has 3 mistakes to avoid when creating stakes in your story, Gila Green shows how to write beyond the 5 senses, and Arianna Lemont shares 7 online resources for creating a fantasy language.

Characters populate everything we write, so making them compelling is one of the most important jobs we can do. September C. Fawkes has tips for working with a large cast of characters, Tamar Sloan reveals the key components of a compelling character (according to psychology), Becca Puglisi shows how to use vocal cues to show hidden emotion, and Janice Hardy explores conveying emotions in your novel and the 4 kinds of death in fiction.

With all these elements to consider, it’s a wonder we ever finish writing anything! Daphne Gray-Grant helps us out with 9 ways to finish the writing you start.

Once we do finish a draft, we need to edit it. Debbie Young compiles ALLi editors’ top tips for Indie authors, Ruth Harris advises that less is indeed more, Daphne Gray-Grant has 2 little words to disarm your inner editor,  Janet Reid tells us how you know your manuscript is ready, and R.J. Crayton shows us how to use standard tools to enhance your writing and editing.

The writing life can sometimes feel like a constant struggle to avoid pitfalls, but luckily we have authors who have been through the course to show us the way through. Estelle Erasmus has 8 ways to defend yourself from writing coach scams, Agatha Bolt identifies 5 writing mistakes she made when she started writing (and still struggles with today), and Wendy Clarke examines how she survived second novel syndrome.

The writing life can be a mentally and emotionally exhausting existence where hopeful dreams collide with cold reality far too frequently. Yolanda Smith shares 3 ways writers can grow a thick skin, Grace Elliott asks: why do I have to choose between being a writer and being a mother?, Rachelle Gardener weighs in on big dreams and realistic expectations, and Kathryn Craft explores the story that may be holding us back.


With so many publishing options available today, sometimes it’s hard to know what path to take. Lisa Tener lists the advantages to both self-publishing and traditional publishing, Wattpad announces it is launching a publishing division, Heather Webb shares some hard truths from the publishing trenches, and Steven Spatz reminds self-publishers not to skip hiring a book cover designer.

Authors are always looking for more ways to make money. Joan Stewart has 9 inexpensive revenue streams for broke or struggling authors, and Steve Laube looks at the possibility of libraries paying authors.

Marketing is an ever-changing beast, but the basic idea remains the same—get word of your book out to those who want to read it. Frances Caballo shares 12 rookie marketing mistakes to avoid, and Ann Marie Nieves gives us 8 marketing tips to consider for 2019.

There are many ways to connect with the audience—through ads, through book tours, throught public appearances, and online. Stavros Halvatzis talks loglines, taglines, movie poster, and book covers for print marketing, Chris Pavone says that book tours are more than just showing up, and Mary Halton reveals a simple trick to help you speak in public without showing your nerves.

Online, there are multiple social media platforms to choose from, and the evergreen medium of blogging. Sandra Beckwith tells us what authors need to know about Snapchat, Cristian Mihai advises us what to do when no one is reading your best blog posts and gives us psychological tricks to get more blog readers, and Ali Like explains how to write short sentences and paragraphs the right way (and why it matters).


Sci-fi has always examined the world we could live in. Charlie Janes Anders explains why science fiction authors need to be writing about climate change now.

How does your worldview translate onto paper when you are Deaf? Kristen Harmon takes a look at Deaf literature.

Ruth Finnegan examines what Western literature can learn from the tropes, tricks, and themes in traditional African tales.

Emily Temple examines a state-by-state survey of literary masterpieces to find which is the most literary state.

We have two entries in the Authors-As-Children category: Jane Austen’s family says a note establishes the authenticity of a disputed portrait of Austen as a teenager, and Emily Temple explores what Virginia Woolf was like as a child.

Like J.D.Salinger? Check out this compilation of the first review of every J.D. Salinger book.

When time shows that a dud was really a gem: James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk flopped in 1974, but Barry Jenkins’ film reveals the timely masterpiece it was.

Think we’re oh-so-modern with our ebooks on our mobile devices? A Medieval book coffer shows that people’s appetite for mobile reading is nothing new.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay warm and see you all next week for the first link-fest of February!

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