Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 26, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 03-26-2015

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 24, 2015

Brainstorming Ideas: Do you flare or simmer?

We’ve all been in workshops where we get a writing prompt of some kind. The prompt may be specific; it may be vague. But as soon as the prompt is given, three reactions occur.

1) Some people put their heads down right away and the words start pouring forth on the page.

2) Some people stare into space for about half the allotted time, but manage to write their piece before the deadline.

3) Some people stare into space for almost the full timeframe, and get little or nothing written.

People in the first category are the “flares.” As soon as they get a prompt, an idea jumps into their head and they are off to the races. Personally, being able to come up with such full-bodied ideas at a moment’s notice would thrill me.

I am not a flarer.

I fall into one of the other two categories—the ones I call “simmer.” We simmerers need time to think, to stew, to mull. We need time for our subconscious to put together the prompt and some other random facts and come up with something coherent.

This “simmering” business might scare us away from workshops where we write on the spot, but I’m here to tell you that there is hope!

Quite often when I had classes with Jonathan Maberry, he would throw out random thoughts and we had to give him a story idea based on what he gave us. Mostly, I stared in awkward silence and said something profound like “Umm…” I can’t count the number of times I was halfway home from class and suddenly shouted, “Aha!” with a great idea after not being able to form a single thought at the time.

Later, I took Craftwriting workshops with Kathryn Craft. Hers are small workshops, with writing on the spot, and then reading your output (if you want, no pressure). Can I tell you how scared I was to do this? Me, who took 3 hours to come up with one idea, was going to try and write something decent in 30 minutes or so? But I tried it.

The first few classes were nerve-wracking. The ideas came slowly, and sometimes they didn’t make sense and sometimes I didn’t finish writing the scene because I ran out of time. But I discovered that the more times I did it, the easier it became. I left my fear of writing something idiotic at the door and just let my brain do its thing.

And I got better.

Now, I will never be a flarer. I still spend many minutes of our writing time staring into space waiting for some idea to emerge from the haze in my mind. But I no longer fear the ideas will not come. And the ideas that come now are stronger and better than the earlier ones. Sometimes, I even write really good stuff.

And it’s fun.

And as a writer, if you’re not having fun, what’s the point?

To my fellow simmerers out there: don’t let fear stop you from taking write-on-the-spot workshops. It does get easier. It does get better.

And it does become fun.

Do you flare or a simmer?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 19, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 03-19-2015

Welcome to this week’s round-up!

Sadly, this week Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Japanese cartoonist of dark stories, died at age 79.

Sir Terry Pratchett passed away last week. Some touching tributes to him from Neil Gaiman, Keith DeCandido, Jo Walton, and Maureen Johnson.

And here are some words from Terry Pratchett himself, first on how to write, and then 15 of his best quotes.

This week’s Internet freak-out centered on sexism and writing. Author Andrew Smith, who likes to “keep YA weird,” kept YA abuzz when he gave an interview answer that some construed as sexist. Phoebe North, Tessa Gratton, and Chuck Wendig all reacted to his comment and the furor it had caused.

NFL veteran Israel Idonije talks about his comic book series.


When you’re building your story idea, Sharon Pelletier reminds us that we need The Thing and The Other Thing.

Once we start putting down the words, Linda Clare shows us how to avoid vague words in our writing.

Characters are the meat of the story. David Farland discusses characters, Sara Letourneau shows how mirror characters can illustrate literary themes, and Kristin Lamb explains the difference between “flawed” characters and “too dumb to live.”

When we finish writing, we need feedback. Chuck Wendig gives us 10 tips on making the most out of a writing critique, and Janet Reid explains when it’s a better idea to write an all-new book rather than revise or expand your current edition.

Sometimes we have a bad day. Donald Miller tells us how to feel good about a bad day of writing, and Martina Boone shares the one secret to unlocking the heart of your story.

There are emotional hurdles to writing, as well. Jami Gold explores getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, and Sarah Enni tells us to try something radical: accept help.


Good news for children’s authors: numbers are way up in children’s book sales for 2014.

If you’re on the fence about making your book into an audiobook, Genevieve Holpepper explains the many audiences audiobooks reach—and how powerful audiobooks are.

Not everyone gets a deal with the Big 5 publishers, but there are many other routes to publication today. Eliot Peper discusses the pros and cons of going with a small press, Joel Friedlander gives 4 pathways to publishing without a traditional publisher, Nathan Bransford lists 7 questions to ask before you self-publish, and Darcy Pattison explains how to self-publish children’s picture books.

If you’re trying to get an agent, Ash Krafton shows how to write a personalized query letter, Jane Lebak shares laughably bad rejections, and Kim English explains why you aren’t getting requests.

Manuscript pitch websites claim to be a shortcut to getting an agent. Victoria Strauss investigates if literary agents actually use manuscript pitch sites.

Marketing has many facets. Jason Kong shows what the art of storytelling can teach us about marketing, Tom Corson Knowles explains how podcasts can help you market, and Carmen DeSousa asks the question: are book covers really that important?


Vermont’s 35-year-old Bennington Bookshop now has new owners.

Laura Miller makes the argument that we are all genre readers now, so can we stop the “pixies ad dragons” vs. literary fiction wars?

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the tilde, ampersand, and asterisk.

That’s all from us this week!

Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | March 17, 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett

Last week, as I was caring for my daughter after she had all four of her wisdom teeth extracted, a notification from the BBC popped up on my phone. It said something along the lines of: “Fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett dead at the age of 66.” Since he had been suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease it wasn’t an unexpected death. Still, given my daughters anesthesia-induced blurry state I decided to not tell her right away.

After Sir Terry’s death I read tributes about his writing, which was amazing, his intelligence, which was towering, his humanity, and the myriad a ways he affected the world. While I mourned I also was awash with gratitude – his books are helping me raise my daughter.

She is the sort of person who runs on humor. It’s easier to talk to her about anything if humor is involved. Once, as a small child, she was having a terrible day until late in the afternoon she was nearly incoherent with frustration and rage. In desperation I grabbed Terry Pratchett’s WHERES MY COW? – a joke spin-off children’s book that was first mentioned in THUD. I had to modify some of the language (she was only six) but the humor of one thing looking like another lured her out of her funk enough that we were able, finally, to talk about what was really bothering her.

When my daughter was in second grade we listened to THE WEE FREE MEN, a book about Tiffany Aching (who, like my daughter, was eight, brown-haired and brown eyed, brave and with a fierce sense of justice). My daughter loved the book from a ‘clang well clanged’ to the Nac Mac Feegles to standing up to the queen of the fairies. The next book, A HAT FULL OF SKY, followed and later, just as my daughter was entering her teens, WINTERSMITH. She loves all of these books and they led to discussions about fitting in, being true to ones self, cheese and heaven knows what else. They’ve also given us a conversational short hand. If she says “Well clanged!” I know she’s talking about standing up to a dread fear with bravery, common sense and a good dose of deviousness.

When my daughter was in second grade we visited Disneyworld. Standing in line for a ride we were chatting and she made a reference to the book THUD. The father of another child in our group also knew the book and was startled. He questioned me and really didn’t believe that my daughter could comprehend the subtle meaning of the plot.(1) After a twenty minute conversation with her he admitted that she did understand how the book examines hatred and bigotry. It may be between dwarves and trolls but it’s still hatred of the ‘other’.

I could go on for pages about how these wonderful books enriched our lives. I remember her laughing until she could barely breath over the coffee-swilling vampire in MONSTROUS REGIMENT, I saw the tears she tried to hide after reading NIGHT WATCH and it’s a lot easier to talk about death when you can joke about Death speaking in all caps and with the Death Of Rats as a side kick.

So thank you to Sir Terry Pratchett for all the books and all the conversations they inspired. As he says in UNSEEN ACADEMICALS “…after death, some fools shine like stars…” and as my daughter wrote on Instagram “may [all] your sandwiches have pickles.”

1) Our Disneyland acquaintance also didn’t think THUD an appropriate book for someone so young. He’s probably right, but I didn’t realize that she was in the next room when I started listening to the book on tape. She was so interested in the concepts that instead of turning it off I just made sure we talked.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 12, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 03-12-2015

Welcome to this week’s link-fest! Spring is teasing us here—I hope it sticks around!

In sad news, Terry Pratchett has died at age 66.

SCBWI announces the 2015 Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards, and here is the shortlist for the Diagram Prize—an award for the oddest book title of the year.

Hey! HarperCollins is seeking submissions—no agent required.

How many times have we been asked to work for free? For “exposure”? Dan Cassaro made a splash when he publicly shamed Showtime for asking professionals to work for free.

The writing world on the Internet can be scary. Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas discuss plagiarism—what it is and how to combat it, while Becca Mills shares a chilling true story of how a complete stranger managed to get Becca’s books taken down by filing a fraudulent DCMA complaint. It could happen to any of us.

Think short blogs are the only ones to go viral? Michael Grothaus interviews the authors of the WAIT BUT WHY blog, which has found success writing smart, long-form articles that go viral.

Lauren Barak writes about the ongoing concern that boys “can’t” like “girl” books—and the message that sends to boys while Maureen Johnson also explores this disparity in the way female authors are perceived vs. male authors.

Is this censorship, or does it open our books up to a wider audience? Meet the app that sanitizes profanity from ebooks.

While every writer understands the sometimes cathartic nature of writing, you don’t have to be a serious, professional writer to reap the surprising health benefits of writing.


Every novel starts as an idea. C.S. Lakin explains how to build a compelling novel concept with a kicker. Brian A. Klems answers the question: how long should novel chapters be?, Martina Boone lists 7 key elements of pacing your novel, and Diana Hurwitz reminds us to please resist temptation from these 5 ways you might be tempted to tell, not show.

Words are a writer’s bread and butter. What about foreign words? Christine Kohler discusses how to weave foreign words seamlessly into your work. What about breaking grammar rules? Emily Brewster from Merriam-Webster makes the case for ending a sentence with a preposition: An old-fashioned rule we can no longer put up with.

Description is necessary. Nils Odlund shares a beginner’s guide to writing descriptions, while Victoria Schwab takes us deeper by using setting as a major character in her books.

However you use description, make sure you get the details right. Richard Mabry shows us how to infuse medical details into your fiction, while Traci Borum discusses how much technology should show up in fiction.

The research we do is sometimes unusual. Garry Rodgers shares 10 tips on how to write believable crime and murder scenes, James J. Murray discusses cyanide as a classic murder weapon, and Ciara Ballintyne learned how to carry a claymore.

Clumsy dialogue is bad to leave in your final draft, but Roz Morris points out how writing clumsy dialogue early on can actually help you write better.

Characters—they need to grab the reader right away. Sophie Perinot discusses when the author needs to let the characters have their own way, Tamela Hancock Murray explores conflicted characters, K.M. Weiland tells us how to create spectacularly complex characters, and Janice Hardy shows us how to clarify the stakes and consequences early so the reader cares.

For anyone writing about social issues, Lisa Bennett shares what she has learned about writing successfully about social issues.

Ever feel pulled in a thousand directions? Elizabeth S. Craig has productivity tips for the scattered writer, Carolyn Astfalk shares 10 ways to increase your daily word count, and Garrett Moon explores how Pixar’s creative process helps you innovate.

Chuck Wendig reacts to an ex-MFA teacher who got nearly everything about real-world writing wrong, and delves deeper into the idea of toxicity of talent. Chuck thinks work is more important than talent, so check out Benjamin Wallace’s thoughts on work ethic in authors.

Chantelle Atkins tells us how to know if your’re really a writer, Philip Overy wants us to put our novels where our mouths are, while Kristen Lamb explores the 3 acts of a writer’s journey from newbie to master.


If you are going to self-publish, you are starting a business. Melissa Storm shares her 10 biggest mistakes as a self-published author, Ricardo Fayet shows what authors can learn from start-ups, and Alex Reissig weighs the pros and cons of KDP Select.

If you’re treading the traditional path, you’ve got to query (unless you get really lucky). Julie Glover explains how to punch up a blurb or query, Stina Lindenblatt tells us how to set query goals, Adriana Mather breaks down a successful query, and Lynette Labelle shows us how to decipher an agent’s rejection letter.

Authors are the brand now. Christina Katz lays out the 3 bios all professionals need, and Moeen Eshraghi explains what it means to build a platform.

Marketing means many things these days. Jerome McLain talks to Joanna Penn about book trailers and using video for book marketing, Barb Drozdowich explains why Facebook Pages are still useful, and Jami Gold questions if we should change our blogging style once we’re published.


Check out some of today’s most prominent artists on courage, creativity, criticism, success, and what it means to be a great artist.

How about these 27 clever DIYs that all true book lovers will appreciate. (I like the staircase.)

Librarians, teachers, and even regular readers recommend books every day. Kelly Jensen urges all of us to go beyond recommending the obvious “big” books and find the books that pleasantly surprise—the ones out of easy reach.

In that vein, the New York Public Library staff recommends these 10 YA retellings of Cinderella, and Swapna Krishna shares 5 tips for running a Little Free Library.

Once you have a book in hand, where do you go to read it? Juan Vidal explores reading in unlikely places.

Jodi L. Milner shares her Ode to Grammar Day! (In Verse).

Harper Lee rebukes a reporter who asked her if she was being pressured to release Go Set A Watchman, but the state of Alabama is investigating concerns of elder abuse.

Like to play with words? Jeff Sherwood explains how to invent palindromes.

Beware the dangers of reading romance novels (in 1858).

Check out these beautiful letters of the alphabet, as illustrated in Medieval manuscripts.

That’s all for us this week!

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | March 9, 2015

My Life this month and story structure

I’m not sure I have any business writing about story structure.

Having written a story without any thought of structure, I’m convinced it’s important. Yet I’m never certain that I get it right.

This past month, though, life has thrown a couple of big bad awful things at me and my partner and I’ve been thinking how much these crisis’ reflect the turning points in a story and how much more clearly I now understand the trajectory of a story.

Act 1

February 1 – The Hook. I’m buying health insurance. means it’s almost affordable. I know I need to see a doctor.

February 5 – Doctor Number One says, “That doesn’t look good. I’ll make an appointment with Doctor Number Two for early next week.”

I say, “Surely not me.”

February 10 – Subplot. My partner has a stroke.

February 16 – Inciting Incident. Doctor Number Two says, “I can tell by looking, it’s cancer.” It sounds a little like Blah, Blah, Blah because I have no idea what that means for me. I am trying to balance work and my partner’s medical appointments.

February 25 – Doctor Number Two breaks the bad news and shoos me out of her office. I hear her say, “They’ll treat it with medication. You’ll like it.”

February 27 – Turning Point. Doctor Number Three appears on the scene. Emotional breakdown hits as I finally understand what lies ahead for me in all its horrible glory.  I’d do anything to avoid having to go on this journey but I don’t have a choice – not really.

Act 2

Feb 28 – I throw my energy into researching my illness while scheduling time for inconveniences caused by both Troubles.

March 4 – Some good things happened. It’s not all bad.

Coming up next, I envision some highs and lows, and maybe a battle or two to be fought on the way to the Climax where both my partner and my illnesses will be resolved.  Since this IS real life, I’m hoping this particular story in my life won’t be as colorful or life threatening as fiction.

One thing of which I’m already sure, just like the character in a good book, I’ll be a different person by the end of this.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 5, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 03-05-2015

Welcome to this week’s link round up! March is definitely coming in like a lion in our part of the country. Can’t wait until that lamb shows up.

New England has been hit pretty hard this winter, so Brendan Halpin does what any self-respecting author does with 8 feet of snow—he writes a blog post called Boston Is a YA Dystopian Novel.

Most writers don’t earn their living with their writing, yet public perception is that all writers are rich as soon as they have a book out. Ann Bauer explains why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from.

If you’ve ever had content stolen, or are worried you might, Helen Sedwick provides a step by step guide to dealing with content theft.

All authors need to know what’s in their contracts. Victoria Strauss calls out two red-flag sentences about marketing in publishing contracts.

In this age of unprecedented connection between author and reader, sometimes authors feel pressured to bow to the wishes of their readers and critics. Anne R. Allen examines the line between artistic freedom and crowdsourcing our content.

The diversity discussion is nothing new, and does not just encompass race and gender, but also the perception that boys will not enjoy “girl” books. Joan Didon wrote a 1968 essay on Hollywood diversity that still applies today, Ellen Oh discusses the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, and Shannon Hale breaks our hearts with the story of a segregated school visit in her No Boys Allowed post.


If you’re writing a mystery and need a good cause of death, check out these 5 strange causes of death in the Medieval period.

Trilogies are a different beast than a stand-alone book. Gareth L. Powell shares a trilogy of things he learned writing a trilogy.

The first draft is an odd animal. Stephanie Orges explains what to include in your first draft (and what to skip).

As we progress, we want to connect to the reader. Jackie Johansen explores how to create a strong emotional response in your readers, and Karen Wood shows how to pull your readers through your book by using properly structuring chapter endings.

Jen Matera tells us how to keep voices distinct when using multiple points of view, and Marissa John discusses when you should use was and were.

We all make mistakes—that’s what revising and editing is for. Sarah Alderson shares 5 mistakes writers make (and how to avoid them), and Cate Baum lists 10 most common editing mistakes.

We all want to find success, and a lot of success is in the mind. Kristen Lamb lays out 5 principles of achievement, while Nina Amir tackles how negative statements impact our choices and how to combat them.

Lisa Gail Green shares 5 secrets she learned while waiting to be published, Robert Blake Whitehill gives us 3 tips on how not to stink at writing, and Henry Miller has 11 Commandments of writing and daily creative routine.

Productivity can be hard to find in our busy lives. Jami Oetting lists 7 methods to spark creativity, Author Marketing Institute shows us how to eke out 2 hours of writing per day, and Janalyn Voigt urges increasing productivity by unplugging.

We all get frustrated with our writing sometimes—sometimes because it’s not making enough money, sometimes because it’s so very hard to do well. Don’t fret your day job—take a look at what these famous authors did to make ends meet. As for writing losing its magic and become too much like work, take a page from Donna Galanti’s book and find your childlike wonder again.


In publishing news, Lerner Publishing Group acquires Egmont USA’s list, and news that the Nook will not be spun off sends Barnes & Noble stock soaring.

Dalya Alberge examines a new trend in the UK—publishers opening to unagented submissions.

If you are seeking an agent, Janet Reid explains when it is okay to use questions in a query and why you never call an agent during the query stage.

What type of agent is right for you? Writers Relief has 5 questions to ask yourself about what you are looking for in an agent. Hopefully, your agent will be as honest as Jennifer Laughran when she discusses book money and the mythical six-figure deal.

Every author knows he has to have an author platform. But how do we know if we’ve got all the pieces in place? Author Marketing Institute lists 50 questions to ask yourself about your author platform.

Your author website should be your centerpiece, but many authors also have a blog. Author Chris Jane interviews designer Richard Kelsey to see if your website could benefit from a redesign, and Jeff Goins shares 25 blogging tips.


Like graphic novels? Sarah Hunter lists the 2015 top 10 graphic novels for youth

Bill Bryson’s first travel book in 15 years comes out from Transworld this autumn. 

Paul Lay discusses an interesting side effect of historical fiction. Because fiction needs heroes, the book always depicts one side as good, the other bad. When this perception of a historical figure seeps into the mainstream consciousness, it can make the study of actual history harder because of those pre-conceived notions. 

When designing your book, don’t neglect the book spine—it’s often the only part of the book a reader will see in a store! 

Mary Norris shares her life as a Comma Queen at The New Yorker.

Take the quiz: which female literary character are you

Charlotte Bronte wrote under the pen name Currer Bell. Now, they might know what book inspired the name Currer

A hoard of fan letters reveals that Agatha Christie’s books inspired devotion even from the darkest of places.

That’s all for this week!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | March 4, 2015

Mysticon 2015

The Honor in the Verse Panel with Tedd Roberts and Gray Rinehart, 3-1

The “Honor in the Verse” Panel with Tedd Roberts and Gray Rinehart, 3-1

R2D2 in the hallway, 2-28

R2D2 in the hallway, 2-28

From February 27th through March 1st 2015, people of all ages with an interest in science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, gaming, costuming, horror, robots, writing, film and more gathered at the Tanglewood Holiday Inn in Roanoke, Virginia, for Mysticon 2015. Activities began at 3:00 pm Friday and concluded at 4:00 pm Sunday. The convention was sold out before the opening day again this year. Next year’s author guest of honor will be George R. R. Martin, so if you are interested in attending, register early – early registration also saves you money. [If cost is a concern for you, this convention is a bargain, with both registration fee and hotel rates lower than most.]

The Dealer's Room, 2-28

The Dealers’ Room, 2-28

Chain mail linking in the hall, 2-28

Chain mail linking in the hall, 2-28

The convention offered panels on a wide variety of topics and workshops for arts and crafts – the Casting Workshop; the Prolong Knot Bracelet Workshop; the Turk’s-head Ring Workshop; the Celtic Earrings Workshop; the Sculpting Workshop; the Henna Workshop; and the Art Workshop (drawing a human figure) – and for writing – the Writing Workshop; the Plot Workshop; the Worldbuilding Workshop; and the Indie Publishing Workshop.

 Janine Spendlove at her author reading, 2-28

Janine Spendlove at her author reading, 2-28

Gray Rinehart opening his author reading session with a song, 2-28

Gray Rinehart opening his author reading session with a song, 2-28

Media Guest of Honor Sean Maher answers questions at the "You Can't Stop the Signal" Panel, 2-28

Media Guest of Honor Sean Maher answers questions at the “You Can’t Stop the Signal” Panel, 2-28

Other activities included musical performances, a belly dancing performance, author readings and signings, open gaming, video gaming, the Dealers’ Room, the Art Show, the Drum Circle, the Baen Traveling Road Show & Podcast, the Ghost Hunt, Comedy Magic for the Whole Family, the Match Game, the Roanoke Robotics & Makers Club Workshop and Demonstration, the Astronomy Presentation, a Wrestling Q & A, the Scholarship Auction, and the Costume Masquerade.

 Costumes in the hall, 2-27

Costumes in the hall, 2-27

Lady in black and white, 2-28

Lady in black and white, 2-28

Blue creature lurking in the hall, 2-28

Blue creature lurking in the hall, 2-28




Available to hungry attendees were the Hospitality Suite (for drinks and light snacks throughout the day), 10 Forward Food Concessions (for quick hot food along with snacks and drinks at mealtimes), and the Elephant Walk Lounge, the hotel’s bar and restaurant. For those who wished to dine outside the hotel, a shuttle was available to local stores and restaurants.

The Mysticon Theme Cake by Carla Brindle, 2-28

The Mysticon Theme Cake by Carla Brindle, 2-28

Peter David and Gail Z. Martin on The Eye of Argon panel, 2-27

Peter David and Gail Z. Martin on “The Eye of Argon” panel, 2-27




Also featured in the Hospitality Suite at the convention was the Mysticon Theme Cake – with both chocolate and vanilla portions – which was cut for all to enjoy Saturday evening. On a more somber note, the “Leaves on the Wind” memorial panel – in memory of authors CJ Henderson and Leonard Nimoy and John Jones and other members of fandom – was held on Sunday afternoon. They will all be missed.

Panel: ''What If'' Moments in History" with Jarod Kearney, Paula S. Jordan, Jim Beall, and Tally Johnson, 2-27

Panel: ”What If” Moments in History” with Jarod Kearney, Paula S. Jordan, Jim Beall, and Tally Johnson, 2-27

Match Game panelists John Watts, Mark Davis, Billy Flynn, Allegra Liana, Steven S. Long, Flynnstress, Drew Meyer, and Moderator Rich Sigfrit, 2-28

Match Game panelists John Watts, Mark Davis, Billy Flynn, Allegra Liana, Steven S. Long, Flynnstress, Drew Meyer, and Moderator Rich Sigfrit, 2-28

Special guests at this year’s convention included Media Guest of Honor Sean Maher, Author Guest of Honor Peter David, Industry Guest of Honor Kevin McKeever, Artist Guest of Honor Scott Rorie, Gaming Guest of Honor Christina Stiles, Musical Guest of Honor Bella Morte, Fan Guest of Honor James “Butch” Allen, Master of Ceremonies Rich Sigfrit, and Mysticon 2015 Scholarship Winner Cody Prater.

Programs and panels included:

Panel: "What Are We Ignoring - The Tech That SF Overlooks" with Charles Matheny, Darcy Wold, Michael Solontoi, and Jim Beall, 3-1

Panel: “What Are We Ignoring – The Tech That SF Overlooks” with Charles Matheny, Darcy Wold, Michael Solontoi, and Jim Beall, 3-1

  • Alternate History: “What If” Moments in History
  • Art: Art Portfolio Review; The Art of Science; Fandom Art; Master Studies – How to Improve Your Art in 6 Weeks; My Art’s Better Than Your Art; Tools of the Trade; Techniques in Review – What Makes Art?; Art in Video Gaming
  • Children’s Activities: Puppet Crafts; Agents of Shield Disguise Training
  • Comics: Super Team, Assemble!; Bringing the Comic Book World to the TV or Big Screen
  • Competitions: Iron Costumer; Iron Author
  • Panel: "Women in Space" with Michael Solontoi, Kim Headlee, and Paula S. Jordan, 3-1

    Panel: “Women in Space” with Michael Solontoi, Kim Headlee, and Paula S. Jordan, 3-1

  • Costuming: Penny Pinching: Budget Costuming; Introduction to Cosplay Materials and Costuming
  • Fandom: Closet Geek or Geek Chic?; Nerdiquette 101; Raising the Next Generation of Geeks; Geek Trivia for Candy; FanTastic
  • Fashion: Fashions in the Future
  • Film: Top 10 Animated Shows of All Time; Crashing Without Burning; One Hour Film School; Women in Film; Guilty Pleasures; Kill Your Darlings; Weird Movies; What Makes an Animated Film?
  • Panel: "Fantasy World Building" with R. S. Belcher, Michael A. Ventrella, Liz Long, Steven S. Long, Gail Z. Martin, 2-27

    Panel: “Fantasy World Building” with R. S. Belcher, Michael A. Ventrella, Liz Long, Steven S. Long, and Gail Z. Martin, 2-27

  • Gaming: Advanced Game Mastering; Gaming on a Budget; Good Game; Women in Gaming; Roll the Dice – How to Choose a Gaming System
  • Horror: RIP; Horror A to Z; The Psychology of Horror
  • LARP [Live Action Role Playing]: All Dressed Up and Ready to LARP
  • Miscellaneous: Harassment Policies and Why They’re Important; Things They Never Said; Media Mashup – Adapting Books, TV, and Movies to Roleplaying Games
  • Panel: "Exposition in Science Fiction and Fantasy" with Paulla S. Jordan, Kim Headless, Marcia Colette, and Michael D. Pederson, 2-28

    Panel: “Exposition in Science Fiction and Fantasy” with Paulla S. Jordan, Kim Headless, Marcia Colette, and Michael D. Pederson, 2-28

  • Music: Write a song with Bella Morte
  • Myths and Legends: Mythology – Beyond Greek & Norse; Contemporary Cthulhu
  • Paranormal: How Spooky is Spooky?; The Weird South; Virginia Paranormal; elementals and Other Things That Go Bump in the Night
  • Podcasting: Geek Radio Daily; Gallifrey Pirate Radio
  • Robotics: Meet Robotech; Giant Robot Rumble
  • Panel: "The Psychology of Horror" with Mike Allen, R. S. Belcher, Jarrod Kearney, Christopher G. Moore, KT Pinto, and John Johnson, 2-28

    Panel: “The Psychology of Horror” with Mike Allen, R. S. Belcher, Jarrod Kearney, Christopher G. Moore, KT Pinto, and John Johnson, 2-28

  • Science: 30 Years of the Space Shuttle – From the Eyes of a NASA Employee; Nuclear Follies; Women in Space; The Perils of Commercial Spaceflight; Real Alien Worlds
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy: Art & Music in Fantasy/Science Fiction; Did SF Create Flying Saucers?; When Did Sci-Fi Become Mainstream?; More Than Swords – The Military and Fantasy; Sonic Waves – The Effects of Doctor Who in Popular Culture; Villains We Love to Hate; You Can’t Stop the Signal; The Force Re-awakens – Star Wars in the News; Honor in the Verse
  • Social Media: Tooting Your Own Horn with Social Media; Almost Famous; Crowdfunding Your Project
  • Steampunk: Science Fiction and Six-Guns
  • Trading Cards: Swap You Skywalker for Vader
  • Writing: Creating Ongoing Characters; Fantasy World Building; Fire the Canon; Exposition in Science Fiction and Fantasy; Putting the Science in Science Fiction; Ending Stories with a Bang or a Whimper; Aliens in SF; Script to Page; Wear This, Not That; Making Politics Work in Fiction; What Are We Ignoring? The Tech that SF Overlooks; Writing 21st-Century Sequels to 19th-Century (and Earlier) Novels

    Congratulations to the Mysticon staff and volunteers for pulling off another special convention!

    Brian Stillman, Christopher Moore, and A R Kelly on the "Kill Your Darlings" panel, 3-1

    Brian Stillman, Christopher Moore, and Dan A. R. Kelly on the “Kill Your Darlings” panel, 3-1

    52 - Bill Mulligan and Christine Parker on the Kill Your Darlings panel, 3-1

    Bill Mulligan and Christine Parker on the “Kill Your Darlings” panel, 3-1

    Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | March 3, 2015

    Act it out, then write it down

    As so happens from time to time, I was reading a short story recently that made me stop what I was doing to reflect on the writing and what made it so good.

    The story I was reading was from a collection (* – title below) I have in an electronic format, and in this case was reading it on my phone in a style I call flash-reading. This flash-reading occurs at work when on the elevator, waiting for coffee or the microwave, or sitting on the bus or train, etc. I might only have thirty seconds to read which can be challenging as far as reading the story goes.

    So, if there’s a story I’m reading that pulls me instantly to the scene and leaves me there after I turn my phone off, that story is accomplishing the very essence of what I’d want to accomplish in my writing.

    After some thought over it, it occurred to me that one of the reasons the reading was so compelling was because of the scene description. When flash-reading, you only have a second or two to start reading wherever you think you left off. I turn my phone on and touch the e-reading app, which brings me right back to the page (screen) that I was last. If I have to take any time to remember the story before I have to turn my phone off again, then that particular flash-reading session will not progress the story much and I’ll have to wait until a time when I give more than thirty seconds to it.

    When reading this particular story I didn’t have to worry about it because the scenes were so easy to picture. It was like flash-watching a movie, and I would like my writing to have this effect.

    I created an exercise for myself for this. Imagine any scene, act out some part of it then write it down. Now, obviously, there are scenes that are impossible to do the entirety of, but certain parts of it can be partially acted out.

    For example, I have a character who’s on the run and goes into a building with many people. Immediately there are many scenes that have accomplished this in the movies (movies based on Robert Ludlum novels come to mind). The people that are after my character enter the building and now my character has to act inconspicuous without being noticed. He goes to a side table and begins looking through a binder that’s there. I’ve just walked from my living room to my dining room and I’m now at my table where I’ve just picked up a binder I had there. I’m leafing through the binder with my head down while I look to the side in the direction I’m imagining those other characters to be.

    I act this part of it out several times, then write down the basics. The scene will eventually become more than I acted out, of course. But when I revise it, I feel the need to keep the writing down to the least amount necessary to carry out the scene. The concept of revision while keeping the target reader a potential flash-reading audience may possibly improve my writing.

    One of the many good exercises for improving your writing is to read it out loud. I have now added a new facet to be done before that, which is acting out small parts of each scene to find the best descriptive way to express the story. And when I do read the story out loud, I want to read certain sections of it in a flash-reading style. How fast does the scene “become” itself in my mind? The scene should be very quick and easy for the reader to imagine.

    Originally, the concept of flash-reading was only one that happened for me when I decided to start reading on my phone. I’m actually surprised that I did it but now it’s just increased my reading opportunities, however small and fleeting they are sometimes. And now, it may have enhanced my writing. Smile


    * – The collection I was reading is “Shadows Over Baker Street”, (Michael Reaves & John Pelan) and the story I was reading was
    ”Death Did Not Become Him” (David Niall Wilson & Patricia Lee Macomber)

    Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 26, 2015

    Top Picks Thursday 02-26-2015

    Welcome to the last links round up in February!

    As writers, we all know we need to be available for marketing purposes. Mickie Kennedy asks: How available should you be? Where is the line? Kennedy gives tips to help you decide.

    Attorney Leslie Budewitz gets down to copyright basics.

    In the ongoing issue of books in prison in the UK, independent booksellers can now apply online to be approved retailers for prisons.

    John Dugdale documents literature’s greatest comeback stories—among them, Kazou Ishiguro, whose new novel The Buried Giant, is perhaps the riskiest book in his 33-year career.

    Chuck Wendig answers the eternal question: Why are so many adults reading YA and teen fiction?

    This article about the Crisis Text Line is not about writing, although it is evidence of the power of the written word. It also has great insights into teenage communication. Most importantly, the Crisis Text Line has already and will continue to save people’s lives—so feel free to share the information in your circles.


    Calls for “strong female characters” are common. Chuck Wendig explores how strong female characters can still end up weak and powerless. An 11-year-old girl asks DC Comics to remember its female readers and give them more girl superheroes—and they answer her.

    If you’ve ever wondered if your story idea has merit, Martina Boone has 9 ways to test your core idea. And once you’re ready to write the story, Christy Distler discusses cutting to the chase, in medias res.

    To keep you going, Chuck Wendig gives us 5 stupid writing tricks, Mary Kole shares the proper way to write interruptions and trailing off, Lucy Walton-Lang has fantasy writing tips, and Joan Stewart list the top 9 writing mistakes and how to fix them.

    Nathan Bransford has 4 tips for handling multiple POVs, while Kathy Crowley shows how to tame the multiheaded beast that is a novel with many narrators.

    Once your work is ready for other eyes, you need a critique partner. Megan Harris gives us a few things to consider when choosing a critique partner. Whether you’re revising before or after your crit partner sees the work, check out Janice Hardy’s revision plan to keep you focused.

    We all have our own writing process. Adriana Mather discusses the mini outline, perfect for the hybrid pantser-plotter. We’re all looking to streamline the writing process so we can write more in less time. Jamie Todd Rubin compares writing tools Google Docs vs. Scrivener. If you enjoy white noise as you work, Lynn Viehl gives us sources for online background noise.

    If you teach writing, J.P. Choquette lists the top 5 sites for first time authors, and learn in depth how Stephen King teaches writing.

    Jane Lebak suggests that one way to stay productive is to have measurable goals, and Antonio Gabric lists 4 tips to boost your productivity.

    One lovely thing about writers is that we teach each other, share with each other, and inspire each other. Margi Preus shares 9 things we can learn from other writers, Jeff Norton writes about the magic of middle grade and how he found his love for books, and Tony Bradman was inspired by historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliff.

    Jami Gold asks: What scares you about writing or publishing? One fear is being unable to sell your next book. Kathryn Craft tackles that fear in 5 ways to weather a creative winter.


    It’s been hard to self-publish a kids’ picture book as an ebook. Laura Backes discusses the new programs and opportunities for publishing picture ebooks for kids. Much of the issue with picture ebooks was formatting—the illustrations gave ebooks problems. As Kait Nolan explains, good formatting matters in regular novel ebooks, too.

    Sue Coletta explains why she is still pursuing a traditional publishing dream, while Ruth Harris lists the 10 real reasons your book was rejected. If you are submitting, take this quiz: Can you spot the fatal submission mistakes? from Wendy Lawton.

    Agent Janet Reid addresses several career option questions that people asked her. First up, is it a good idea to have someone else write your query for you? Then, if you were originally published by a small publisher, what should your strategy for your second book be?

    On your website or blog, you have an About Me page. Rachel Gurk lays out 5 important components of your About Me page to encourage visitors to stay a while. If you think blogging takes up too much time, Nina Amir shares tips from 6 experts on how to blog faster.

    Jane Friedman shares 5 digital media resources for every writer’s toolbox, Tara Lifland has some cool ways to promote your Facebook event, and Jody Hedlund gives us the in’s and out’s of creating a launch team for a book release.


    Have you heard of the Little Free Libraries? Here are 14 photos of Little Free Libraries that you’ll want to build in your community.

    We all know about the big literary monsters—the cool ones like vampires and werewolves. J.W. McCormack has gathered 31 obscure literary monsters for us to explore.

    Author Francesca Simon ends her Horrid Henry series after 21 years.

    Leonora Epstein compiles 18 things all writers wish they could say.

    Want to add to your reading list? The Strand Bookstore employees share their go-to recommendations.

    Think you’ve read all there is of the Sherlock Holmes canon? Think again. A lost Sherlock Holmes short story has been uncovered.

    If you and your friends love Jane Austen, Anika Mehta shares how to host a Jane Austen girls’ night in.

    Think reading a Medieval book is easy? Erik Kwakkel explains how to crack the codes in Medieval books.

    In a video with English subtitles, you can explore a Dutch manuscript treasure in Berlin.

    How laser scanning, hyperspectral imaging and spectroscopy can unlock the secrets of the Medieval Gough Map.

    That’s it for us this week!

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