Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 15, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-15-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Can you believe we are halfway through November already? Today is America Recycles Day, and Saturday is National Take a Hike Day. Since it will be a high of 48 degrees here on Saturday, I will not be hiking anywhere!

The world lost a great one this week: Stan Lee died at age 95. Writer’s Digest remembers him by reprinting Stan Lee’s 1947 guide to writing and selling comics.

If you are looking for ways to improve your craft or network, Diana Hurwitz has writing conferences in 2019 that require early registration, and Frances Yackel lists 7 free or cheap residencies to apply for in 2019.

BookMarks gives us 10 iconic World War I novels for the Armistice centenary, and Sam Leith explains why we need difficult books.

For those doing NaNo, Gwen Hernandez shows how to use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo.

If you have a CreateSpace account, beware. Nate Hoffelder tells us hackers are targeting CreateSpace author accounts to siphon off royalty payments.


We talk a lot about prose here, but we can learn craft from any form of writing. Jacqueline Goldfinger has a newsletter for playwrights—Page by Page: playwriting tips, tricks, prompts, and inspiration. Check it out.

Poetry can illuminate craft for prose writers, too. Pamela Donison shows how to use tips from poetry to strengthen our prose.

Once we’re ready to write, we need to deal with structure and how to start the story. Swati Teerdhala has 6 questions to help you gut check your story structure, while K.M. Weiland gves us 5 ways to successfully start a book with a dream.

And what about who is telling the story? Or whose story it is in the first place? Stavros Halvatzis discusses how to manage narrative perspective in storytelling, and Janice Hardy finds ways to describe your first person narrator.

Your story will fall flat if it seems disjointed or if some elements feel out of place. Jeanne Cavelos advises unifying your story around a meaningful theme, and Janice Hardy explains why your plot needs goals, conflicts, and stakes to work.

A common issue with writers is knowing when your story is done. We could tinker forever, so how do we know when we are finished? Kathryn Craft tells us how to recognize the finish line, Melissa Donovan clears up misconceptions about i.e. and e.g., and Roz Morris shares 16 ultimate resources to make good decisions about your book when the manuscript is finally done.

James Scott Bell discusses something we have all face: writing about experiences we’ve never had. Nuar Alsadir explores the craft of writing empathy.

Increasing productivity is something of a Holy Grail for writers. Tasha Seegmiller shares how writers can break through being stuck, and Jessie Greengrass says that having no time is the best time to get writing done.

Advice and inspiration can come from many places. Jeremy Klemin explores what Pokémon can teach us about fiction, Karen E. Bender says that if you have these traits you might be a writer, Jess Zafarris has the top 10 online writing communities, and Michelle Medlock Adams examines the noble calling of writing for children.


Many of us writers are un-agented nowadays, so we need to know our way around legally. Scott McCormick answers questions about using lyrics in books, and Stephanie Chandler helps us understand publishing contracts.

Mary Kole talks with author Shelby Wilde about how to successfully self-publish a picture book.

Think Amazon rules all? A group of rare booksellers rallied against an Amazon-owned company and won.

Farrah Penn explores a new book format—flipback or mini pocket books.

Authors spend a lot of time angsting about our queries. Janet Reid tells us what to do when you send a query with the wrong name in the salutation, and how to properly name the manuscript file you send to an agent.

Marketing encompasses a wide variety of activities—and will differ from author to author and sometimes even book to book. Shannon McGuire tells us how to reach readers better by diversifying, Melodie Campbell looks at book launch tactics that work, Reedsy shares 4 marketing tips for any children’s books, and Judith Briles has 8 steps to author success.

For more specific marketing ideas: Sandra Beckwith explains why you should skip Black Friday marketing and focus on Cyber Monday, Stephanie Chandler tells us how to sell your nonfiction book to colleges for use in their courses, Debbie Young shows how to get the most out of your great reviews, and Darren Rowse has 12 tips on how to approach influencers in your niche.

Speaking is another way to market your book. Joan Stewart shares 13 places to speak and meet new readers, while Jodee Blanco gives us things to remember when speaking publicly about your book.

Marketing online is a huge way authors connect with readers. Ohn Mar Win examines Instagram for illustrators with 10 basic tips for gaining great followers, Cristian Mihai explains how to create engaging blog content, and Jordan Peters asks us to consider when we sit down to write a blog post, what’s your purpose?


Here are 13 libraries book lovers need to follow on Instagram.

And 29 hilarious and cute tweets for book lovers.

Check out these 15 brilliant words we got from classic literature.

Writer Haruki Murakami will establish an archive of his work at his alma mater, Waseda University, in Japan.

Examining John Campbell, the man who made science fiction what it is today.

Julie Dobrow looks at how much editing was done to Emily Dickinson’s poems after she died.

Craig Morgan Teicher pinpoints the moment Sylvia Plath found her genius.

Anne Lamott extols the virtues of radical hope and laughter.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Safe travels for anyone going to family for Thanksgiving, and we will see you next week.

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | November 8, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-08-2018



Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Fall foliage is at its peak here in the Delaware Valley. Hope you’re enjoying the season.

NaNoWriMo is well underway. If you’re participating, Greer Macallister shares 16.67 ways to juice your daily word count. Don’t feel bad if you’re not participating. In confessions of a slow writer, Anne R. Allen asserts that NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, while Jo Eberhardt lists five reasons not to do NaNoWriMo. For those married to writers who are participating, Thomas Hardy offers the spouses’ guide to NaNoWriMo: juggling life and writing in November.

Today is National STEM/STEAM Day. These subjects are vital for today’s students, and they all require reading.

While we’re on the subject of students’ reading, CNN’s Katy Scott mulls whether diversity in children’s books can tackle prejudice, and SCBWI’s—the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators—Lee Wind shares Kathy Ishizuka’s article in the School Library Journal: school librarians are on a mission to bring diverse books to their students.

With more on the importance of books and reading, Electric Literature‘s Holly Genovese asserts that restricting books for prisoners harms everyone, even the non-incarcerated.

In The New York Times, Sara Aridi reports that Jorie Graham has won the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry.


Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash




We all value advice from a well-know author. Michael Seidlinger tells us what Shirley Jackson has to say about writing.

Do you think you’re too old to begin a writing career? Joanie Walker claims it’s never too late to write a novel.

Writers’ conferences can provide information and networking for authors. If you’re considering attending one, Rachelle Gardner offers more on writers’ conferences.

Is there ever enough time to write? Cristian Mihai lists 5 tips for finding time to write, and in the 9-minute novelist, Jeff Somers sets out an approach that will lead you from first draft to finished manuscript in minutes a day, while Rose Andrews advocates pushing to the end.

In addition, Pascale Kavanagh suggests meditation to improve writer creativity, and Sarah Cy lists 4 foolproof methods to become a prolific and successful writer.

Cathy Yardley wonders if writers should trust their guts, while Jami Gold reflects on writer confidence: do you self-reject?

Where do you write? Panio Gianopoulos contemplates trains as writing spaces.

For those working on character development, Jordan Dane proposes making your characters memorable. One way to do that is to give your characters flaws. Bonnie Randall shares 8 ways to create character flaws, and Kristen Lamb ponders the difference between flawed characters and those “too dumb to live.” Also, to help you show instead of tell about your characters, Lisa Hall-Wilson digs into the body language of fear.

If you’re working on other elements of fiction, Janice Hardy goes into how to raise tension and conflict in a scene and gives 10 questions to ask when choosing a setting. In addition, Kristen Lamb elaborates on description: fiction without the fillers, while K. M. Weiland considers the question: how do you know when enough is enough?

Do you write a particular genre? Diana Urban examines publishing trends: tropes readers adore across 15 fiction genres. Those who write fantasy or science fiction may want to include a map of their world in their novels. J. L. Gilliland takes a look at how to work with map artists. Hannah Giorgis considers how to write consent in romance novels, and Brunonia Barry reflects on writing what scares us: awakening the monster inside. Finally, for those writing crime fiction or mystery, Sue Coletta debates to lead or not to lead: questioning an eyewitness.

Ready to edit your manuscript? Andrea Merrill shares tricky and confusing words part two, and Melissa Donovan examines what’s wrong with adjectives and adverbs. Dawn Field highlights the “why do I need this?” check, and Zara Altair considers the three stages of manuscript editing. If you’re hiring an editor, Patricia B. Smith reveals how to tell good editing from bad editing.

James Scott Bell tackles how to win friends and influence beta readers.

Although many advise against using anything but your actual name, Sophie Masson lays out the case for pseudonyms.


Photo by 85Fifteen on Unsplash




For writers seeking an agent, Mary Kole clarifies query letter format.

Janet Reid takes on the issue of what to do when you’ve co-created a world and now want to sell your novel set in it.

Whether you travel the traditional publishing route or self-publish, you’ll need an author bio, so Stephanie Chandler addresses writing an effective author bio.

On the subject of publishing, Chris Power suggests that independent publishers have more sway in the industry than ever, and Richard Charkin looks into how commercial success is measured in publishing.

If you’re ready to market your book, Amy Collins takes on book promotion: do this, not that, Dawn Reno Langley explores how to use swag to support your book marketing, and Joel Friedlander asks: have you pre-sold your book? In addition, Penny Sansevieri delves into how to tap the marketing power of street teams, superfans and micro-influencers.

Rachel Amphlett describes how (and why) to create a book catalog of your self-published books.

Lisa Tener advises writers to get on podcasts to reach readers and sell more books, and Penny Sansevieri advocates updating your keywords to sell more books over the holidays, while Sandra Beckwith reveals why readers aren’t reviewing your books.

Sharing social media savvy, Cristian Mihai discusses commenting on other blogs: what works and what doesn’t, and Alee King lays out how to bring your email list back from the dead.

So what do you do when things don’t go the way you’d hoped? Chris Syme takes a look at crisis management for authors.


Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash




We have a special spot in our hearts for booksellers. Evidently, a lot of other people do too. Laurel Wamsley shares how more than 200 people in Southampton, England, formed a human chain to help a bookstore move its stock to a new shop down the street.

It’s heartening to see the opening of a new and unique bookstore: Grub Street‘s Chris Crowley reports that a rare bookseller is opening a cookbook store in Brooklyn.

Taking a glimpse into the past, W. Scott Poole examines how horror changed after World War I, CrimeReads tells about the time Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming got together to talk about thrillers, and Viv Groskop writes about the weirdos of Russian literature., while Hiroaki Sato focuses on the evolution of a strict poetic game: haiku.

To leave you with a smile, BuzzFeed‘s Farrah Penn shares 14 illustrations that’ll make all book lovers laugh.


Don’t forget that Sunday is Veteran’s Day [which was originally called Armistice Day, established to honor the end of World War I, 100 years ago on November 11, 1918]. If you get the chance, thank a veteran—they’ve all sacrificed for the rest of us.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. We’ll see you next Thursday with another collection of writerly links.



Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | November 1, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-01-2018



Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in November. It’s a warm and beautiful day here in the East. Thanks for taking the time to join us.

Not only is today the beginning of NaNoWriMo, it’s also National Author’s Day and National Family Literacy Day, so sit down and write or pick up a book and celebrate!

Best wishes for all writers participating in NaNoWriMo. With some last-minute tips for you, Grant Faulkner writes about NaNoWriMo and finding your creative flow, and Debbie Young explains how to get ready for NaNoWriMo and why.

Crystal Hana Kim thinks worrying about publication kills creativity. Maybe that’s why so many writers love NaNoWriMo, where the focus is on production rather than publication.

One frequently seen piece of advice for writers is to write what you know. On Literary Hub, five writers—Kim Brooks, Rumaan Alam, Sheila Heti, Meaghan O’Connell, and Jessica Friedman—discuss what it means to write about motherhood (part 1) and part 2.

Speaking of children, Emily Hartford wonders why we are still teaching reading the wrong way, and Mary Claire Blanton explains why you should help kids write.

In remembrance of those we have lost: Melville House‘s Christina Cerin announces the death of Todd Bol, the founder of the Little Free Library, at age 62; The New York Times‘ Neil Genzlinger reports that Tony Hoagland, a poet with a wry outlook, died at age 64; and The Washington Post‘s Harrison Smith writes about the death of black feminist poet and playwright Ntozake Shange at age 70.


Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash





Many things can interfere with writing. Kathy Rowe considers writing and real life: juggling your time; Sheree, the Merry Writer, discusses building the writing habit; Christina Delay talks about writing when life is more trick than treat; and Judith Briles shares 9 mental “tools” for writing when the clock is ticking … and beyond.

For those writers are experiencing doubts, Robin E. Mason provides guidance for when you don’t think you’re good enough, and Chad R. Allen lays out how to be absolutely sure your book idea has a market.

Learning is a key part of writing. K. M. Weiland offers 5 lessons from a lost novel, and Gila Green spells out what writing flash fiction can do for novel writers.

With some tips for those who write in a particular genre, E. L. Skip Knox looks at history for fantasy writers: millers, Dustin Grinnell explores plausible scares: blending the real and unreal in horror fiction, and Anne Janzer goes over how to enliven your nonfiction writing. If your genre is mystery and crime fiction, Erica Wright delves into setting in murder mysteries: where to hide the body, and P. J. Parrish wonders if anything is really taboo in today’s crime fiction.

Mark Alpert takes a look at fiction and politics—and urges everyone to vote next week.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty? TD Storm investigates the pitfalls of emotional body language in your writing, Bonnie Randall examines creating story tension: rooms with an unexpected view, and Janice Hardy delves into providing emotional clarity in your writing and warns of the dangers of over plotting your novel.

Several posts focus on storytelling: Jami Gold discusses storytelling: taking readers on a journey, Barbara O’Neal considers the value quotient—your core story and values, and John Gilstrap offers a different twist on storytelling.

Is the end of your story in sight? Jami Gold examines creating satisfying endings without clichés.

For those in the editing and revision process, Ruth Harris considers radical revision: when the going gets tough, writers get radical, and Charles Harrington Elster asks: are you misusing these common words?


Photo by pulkit jain on Unsplash





Nonfiction writers may find it necessary to submit a book proposal for their work. Melanie Votaw offers 8 tips for a marketable nonfiction book proposal.

With advice for writers on the publishing path, Amy Shojai sets out 7 steps to publishing success by an accidental writer, Richard Lowe takes on the topic of how to make a living as a professional self-published author, and James Scott Bell writes about staying afloat in the roiling sea of books.

We found a lot of good tips this week for those pursuing self-publishing, but writers interested in traditional publishing can learn things from these links as well. Renee Lamine gives tips on pricing your self-published book, Stephanie Chandler reveals how Amazon calculates sales rankings for books, Alex Fullerton goes into how to get a foreword for your self-published book, and Steven Spatz feels that your book needs a pre-sale period to be successful.

For all writers, Kristine Kathryn Rusch stresses the importance of having copyright savvy, David Penny advocates putting readers first—an essential ingredient of successful book marketing, and Dana Kaye asks: do bookstore events even matter?

With helpful information for writers who have blogs, Jordan Peters suggests how to get your blog readers to pay attention, Cristian Mihai shares the Fight Club guide to blogging, and Darren Rowse advises what to do when someone steals your blog content.

The Authors Guild reports on a court case considering whether university electronic course packs an be considered fair use.


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash





Here’s a quiz for those who enjoy poetry. Alana Mohamad asks: do you know these famous poems by their first lines?

Sandra Spanier brings us the vulnerable private writings of Ernest Hemingway.

Paul Alexander takes a look at the psychiatrist who tried to save Sylvia Plath.

For those still in a Halloween frame of mind, Nancy Snyder reveals the ghostly residents of the famed literary Hotel Chelsea.


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. For those who’ve been enjoying Daylight Savings Time, it ends this weekend. Enjoy your extra hour of sleep when you “fall” back, and we’ll see you next week with a new roundup of writerly links!




Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 25, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-25-2018

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of October! It’s National Chocolate Day, so celebrate with your favorite form of chocolate.

Anna Burns wins the 2018 Man Booker prize for Milkman.

A review of Milkman made Roz Morris question if we need a new term for literary fiction now.

Good news! Judy Blume has finally agreed to make a movie of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

NaNoWriMo is on many writers’ minds in these days waning days of October. Janice Hardy has tips to prep your novel’s middle and your novel’s end, while Anne R. Allen wonders if NaNo can help heal creativity wounds.

Is a workshop more your style? Diana Hurwitz lists writing workshops for November and December 2018.


No matter what fiction format we write in, the common denominator is that we need a good story. Melissa Donovan goes over the elements of plot and also gives us a storytelling exercise focused on process. Bill Ferris has a humorous look at the hack’s guide to writing an outline, and Lisa Cron tells us how to nail the first three pages.

Research of some kind is needed for almost every story. J. Kathleen Cheney tells us how to start the worldbuilding and research…and when to stop, while Dan Koboldt focuses on how to research your writing to ensure technical accuracy.

Characters populate all our writing. Dorian Cirrone shares 5 stops on your main character’s inner journey, Stavros Halvatzis examines strong character relationships in stories, Lisa Hall-Wilson has 5 tips on writing a trauma backstory, and Sue Coletta delves into psychology while explaining how to use false eyewitness testimony in thrillers.

Editing can be painful. Debbie Burke urges us to throw away scenes that just don’t fit, and Andrea Mitchell reveals tricky and confusing words to look for.

Writers take lessons from everywhere. Amber Mitchell gives us writing lessons from Dungeons & Dragons, Harrison Demchick lists 4 things writers can learn from making a movie, and Jenny Hansen explains the bikini wax theory of writing.

Creativity is a wonderful and elusive thing. Gordon Long pits creativity vs. grammar. Originality is also a sought-after commodity, and Kathryn Craft has some thoughts on “originality” in fiction.

Writing is often done alone, and usually built from an idea on up, but not always. Aria Grace shares the 5 top tips for successful co-writing, and Kim Bullock explores the idea of resurrecting a shelved manuscript.

Writers are forever searching for more productivity. Rachel Thompson tells us how to focus on writing right now, Rachelle Gardner urges us to find a time to write, and Zoe M. McCarthy advises finding worthy rewards for meeting your manuscript word-count goals.


Jane Friedman brings us the best marketing advice of 2018, Gila Green discusses a formula for the writing-marketing balance, and Sherrilyn Kenyon shares tips for long-term author success.

Porter Anderson reports on a study showing that sci-fi and women lead Canadian audiobook consumption.

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss highlights the continued decline of Author Solutions.

Publishing has changed drastically over the past few decades. Paul Goat Allen says the future of books is genre-blending fiction, and Alison Morton shows how writing of different lengths offers a book marketing advantage.

Although self-publishing is booming, agents are still vital for those wanting a more traditional deal. Bob Hostetler shares the best parts of being an agent, while Janet Reid answers ALL the questions this week: how to survive the on-sub process, what to do if you need pre-publication permissions, why you do not register copyright before publication, and why NOT to approach a movie agent with your manuscript.

Marketing means getting people to find your book and then enticing them to buy it. Sarah Bolme lists 5 obstacles to overcome to sell more books. Many of them can be overcome with ideas found in BlueInk Review’s 10 tips for hosting a successful book launch party, Sandra Beckwith’s 3 ways to pitch your book as a good holiday gift, and IngramSpark’s how to write a good book description.

Much of our marketing life is spent online these days. Joey Garcia advises us to streamline our online presence and gain more time to write, Frances Caballo says every author needs visual marketing, and Joel Friedlander explains the kinds of traffic that come to your site.

A major connection to your reader is often your blog. Cristian Mihai insists that nobody gives a damn how many blog followers you have, and also asks why should people read your blog? David Hartshorne tells us how to promote our blog, while Cait Reynolds reveals why she hates blogging…but does it anyway.


What makes classic stories classic? Sarah McCoy explores why Anne of Green Gables and Little Women still inspire us today.

S. Yurvati show us the making of a fable.

Jami Gold tells book lovers how to easily search for books at libraries, and Morgan Murrell has a quiz to find out how normal are your reading habits?

Now you can read to your kid with perfect sound effect accompaniment.

Arnold van de Laar diagnoses what mysteries and medicine have in common.

Like to travel? Beatriz Serrano has 4 British author destinations to add to your travel list.

For those of us who have always loved fantasy, Lev Grossman explains why we’ve always needed fantastical maps.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us for the first Top Picks Thursday of November next week!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 18, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers – 10-18-2018

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | October 11, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-11-2018

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Styers Orchard, orchard market, PA

Apple and pumpkin picking at the orchard


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday. We’re glad you could take a break and  join us this second week of the busy month of October.

This is the month for pumpkins, apples, and dried cornstalks, but most of our trees are still green here in the Delaware Valley region and it feels like summer. Nice reading-in-a-comfortable-chair-outside weather (when it’s not raining). If you need an excuse for doing so, check out Global English Editing’s infographic with 9 science-backed ways reading makes you smarter. shared by Andre Calihanna.

Also, the days are counting down to National Novel Writing Month—NaNoWriMo—in November. If you’re thinking about participating, now is the time to prepare. To give you some direction, Janice Hardy offers some pointers on planning your novel’s beginning, and Jami Gold wonders: is your story idea ready? Or if you’re someone who is still debating whether or not to participate, Jenny Hansen can help you decide “To NaNo or Not to NaNo…

Time and again we have seen examples of how diversity comprises a source of strength. Promoting diversity, the Children’s Book Council announces the CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award winners, and Avery Udagawa examines how children’s books translations by men break across languages and cultures.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, books on shelves

Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash



For nonfiction writers, Melissa Donovan explores writing creative nonfiction, and Alexandra Amor delves into how to write a memoir about a difficult subject.

If you’re thinking about entering a writing contest, Writer Beware‘s Victoria Strauss cautions writers about Waldorf Publishing’s manuscript contest.

Having trouble writing? R. J. Crayton gives us tips to helps pantsers get moving again when the story stops, and Rachel Meyer explores what to do when you get stuck: about writer’s block. Also, Roni Loren advises all writers to stop being distracted by your inbox.

For writers doing research, DiAnn Mills recommends simplifying writer research, and E. R. Ramzipoor supplies tips on writing about slavery in historical fiction.

With tips on creating compelling characters, Tamar Sloan writes about capturing complex emotion, Donald Maass considers the importance of emotional weight in providing a deep level of character motivation, DiAnn Mills writes about finding your character’s blindspot, and Sacha Black considers creating killer twists: learn how to redeem your villain.

Another important element of fiction is plot. Janice Hardy sets out 6 questions to ask to find your novel’s plot.

If you’re trying to work in backstory, Margie Lawson applauds the brilliance of backstory slip-ins, and Jeanne Kisacky considers non-verbal communication and backstory.

When your first draft is finished, there are many things to consider when sitting down to revise. Kristen Lamb explains how “perfect” destroys perfectly good stories, Jordan Peters encourages writers to avoid information overload like the plague, and Janice Hardy explores writing transitions: how to move smoothly through your novel. Also, Steve Laube shares a helpful infographic of words commonly confused and adds a couple words that still get misused.

Natalia Sylvester reflects on revision as a form of reimagining. For those reimagining their novels as screenplays, Ellie Maas Davis explains how to adapt a novel to a screenplay.

What’s your writing process? Guy Bergstrom contends: writers, we are doing it backwards.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, pencil with shavings, book

Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash



For writers looking for agents, Janet Reid spells out how ready your manuscript needs to be for a Twitter pitch contest, and Rachelle Gardner answers questions on queries. In addition, Lisa Tener details 7 qualities to cultivate to help you get a book deal, and Jenna Glatzer suggests getting a publishing deal by avoiding these common book proposal mistakes.

Writers often use quotations from another person’s work in their books. If you’re thinking of doing so, Stephanie Chandler shares a sample permissions letter you can use.

If you’re looking at small publishers, Anne R Allen discusses how to tell legitimate publishers from the bad guys.

For those publishing their own books, Yvonne @ Reedsy provides a book cover guide for writers: the anatomy of a book cover, and Joel Friedlander shares 110 type ornaments to use in your book design and a free download.

Concerned about book sales? Stephanie Chandler reveals the truth about book sales and the keys to generating income from publishing, and Karen Myers explains how to track sales of self-published books.

When it’s time for marketing, Emilie Rabitoy shines a light on 5 book marketing myths to explode, and Sabrina Ricci lists 128 resources for book publishing, marketing, and more.

Whether you are traditionally or self-published, if you are considering hiring a book publicist, Joan Stewart provides guidance: how to interview a book publicist before signing an agreement.

With more tips for self-publishers, Debbie Young lays out why every indie author should publish audio books, and Ray Flynt presents the indie publishers toolbox—part 2.

Here’s help for writers struggling with social media: Frances Caballo lists 25 tips for posting on social media, Laney Galligan identifies 5 blogging lessons you can learn from a small country town, and Cristian Mihai counsels keep your blog content fresh and goes over the basics of writing bullet points.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, raven in tree

Photo by Amarnath Tade on Unsplash



Author Alice Walker talks about writing, dancing, and bursting into song.

In Electric Literature‘s adaption from her keynote address, Jennifer Benka, president of the Academy of American Poets, ponders how poetry mobilizes us for change.

For all book lovers, BuzzFeed‘s Farrah Penn catalogs 11 annoyances that make book nerds swear under their breath, and Jenna Guillaume asks: how well do you really know Shakespeare? [Not as well as I thought! How about you?]

Shaun Bythell, a real-life bookseller, weighs in on 7 fictional ones.

Many writers have cats or dogs. Some have more exotic pets. Christopher Skaife introduces us to the beloved pet ravens of Charles Dickens.

In Travel & Leisure, Cailey Rizzo reveals that Oscar Wilde’s former London pied-à-terre is becoming a hotel. If you aren’t able to travel to Britain and are looking for a literary spot closer to home: Rebecca Romney shares her visit to Sherlock Holmes’ 221B Baker Street in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Literary Hub‘s Emily Temple shows the ranking by height of some favorite writers and takes us inside the rooms where 20 famous books were written.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, pumpkins and flowers, Specca farm, NJ


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Enjoy your autumn activities and join us again next week for another roundup of blog posts for writers and readers.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, pumkins and squash, Styers Orchard, PA



Look at these awesome the new cover reveals for Donna Galanti’s Lightning Road series! Plus enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card at the end of this post and get the first e-book in Donna’s series, Joshua and the Lightning Road, on sale now through October 15th for just $0.99cents.

Donna talks today about how creating characters and shares an excerpt from Joshua and the Lightning Road.











Characters That Create Themselves!

Characters can definitely arrive of their own will and on their time! Two examples of this happened in my book, Joshua and the Arrow Realm. The first is the character Oak. He suddenly appeared to me a third of the way through writing the book. His rough voice rang out and I saw him clearly as if he was sitting across from me.

Here is what the main character, Joshua, sees when he first meets Oak:

“At the table sat a man with long, red, wavy hair tied behind his neck and a full mustache that curled up on either side of his mouth. His baggy yellowed shirt emphasized his thin arms, and a chain hung from his neck across sharp collarbones. A black square pendant with braided edges and a lion etched on the front dangled from it. One bony hand fingered a huge hunk of bread, green with mold. He ripped off a chunk with his chipped teeth and swallowed it in one bite, then he picked up a small rusty knife and twirled it in his hand as if debating whether to cut open one of those nasty looking potatoes. His eyes were like shards of amber glass, gleaming luminescent in the golden candlelight. They tightened as he studied us.”

Another example is Ash, leader of the Wild Childs. She magically appeared in the first scene literally from the snowstorm that blew in! She lives in tree houses as a Wild Child to escape the hunt of Queen Artemis.

Here’s Joshua and his first encounter with Ash:

“The girl looked older than me, about seventeen, and as skinny as Charlie. She was dressed in snug pants and a tunic made of animal skin that fell above laced-up, fur rimmed boots. Her right leg twitched, revealing the top of a knife glinting from a leg holder with a handle wrapped in an oily rag. The girl shook her dripping hair, and a tangy smell of dying leaves and wet leather lifted from her. She leaned forward. Her suede satchel slid off her shoulder and down the arm of her baggy coat lined with buttons made from birch bark cut into ragged squares. A closer look at her lopsided clothes made me think they’d been cut from a crude pattern and unskillfully sewn with crooked black stitches.”

The first thing that appears to me when I write a book is dialogue. I think this is why characters pop to me out of nowhere! They appear and start talking to me without any prompting. It’s up to me as the scribe to tell their story.

There is a bizarre outcome to this. In reading through the first draft of Joshua and the Arrow Realm, there were many scenes with characters I did not even recall writing! I contribute this to being in the “fiction dream” while writing as my characters literally speak through me. My husband knows I need to run off and be with my “other people”.  I’m sure glad he’s okay with that. J


The trees crowded around us, the deafening quiet of the woods pounding in my ears. Sweat broke out on my lip and I wiped it away. The one beast licked its lips in return, then curled its mouth in an awful grin, exposing vampire dagger teeth.

The beasts inched toward us. “We don’t want to hurt you.” Bluffing still seemed the best idea.

“And you won’t, my tasty morsels.” The leader panted hungrily.

The lightning orb. I had to trust in Bo Chez’s story and believe all its stormy, electric power could help us. But Sam had said the Greek gods lost their powers. Let it do something! And if it breaks, I’m sorry, Bo Chez!

Charlie clung to my arm so tight it cramped. Fire flashed out of the leader’s mouth, and a long flame roared toward us, cutting through the mist like a fire sword. All three of us stumbled back.

The beast pack leapt toward us like hairy dragons. The moss beneath our feet snapped with fire and heat roasted my face and arms. Fire raced up the wizard trees, and their wood shrieked in splitting agony.

“Run!” Sam dragged Charlie and me back.

Red eyes glared at me.

“Hi-yahh!” I flung the orb hard.

Blue light exploded into the space before us and knocked us all off our feet. I slammed sideways into a tree and slid down to the ground. The beasts were sprawled motionless before us on the blackened, smoldering moss. Trees smoked as flames flickered up them. Charlie and Sam lay a few feet away.



Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. Armed with only luck and his grandfather’s mysterious crystal, Joshua must save his friend by traveling the Lightning Road to a dark world that steals children for energy. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.


“Vividly imagined characters in a gripping action fantasy that never lets you go until the very last page.” —Jenny Nimmo, New York Times bestselling author of the Charlie Bone series

**$0.99 DEAL!**

Joshua and the Lightning Road is available now through October 15th for just $0.99cents on e-book from these book sellers:
Barnes & Noble:
Apple iBooks:


Joshua never thought he’d be called back to the world of Nostos so soon. But when his friend King Apollo needs his help in the Arrow Realm, Joshua braves this dark world once more in order to save him. With Joshua’s loyalties divided between Nostos and Earth, he must rely on his courage and powers to restore magic to this desperate world and to free its people. Abandoned by his friends in his quest, unarmed, and facing great odds, can he survive on instincts alone and not only save those imprisoned—but himself?


“Fast-paced and endlessly inventive, this is a high-stakes romp through a wild world where descendants of the Greek gods walk beside you, beasts abound, and not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.” –Michael Northrop, New York Times bestselling author of the TombQuest series

Joshua and the Arrow Realm is available through these book sellers:

Barnes & Noble:
Apple iBooks:


Donna Galanti is the author of the bestselling paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine, a writing contest judge at, and regularly presents as a guest author at schools and teaches at writing conferences. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna also loves teaching writers about building author brand and platform through her free training series at Visit her at








Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 4, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-04-2018

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of October! It may be Halloween month, but there are no tricks here—just treats!

Brianne Alphonso highlights 14 writers imprisoned for their work.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware sends out a small press storm warning about Fiery Seas Publishing.

The Romantic theory of language origin believes that words have soul.

Michael Waters celebrates that Young Adult novels are finally telling the truth about internet friendships.

Great writers never die. Check out Maurice Sendak’s new posthumous children’s book.

“Love Your Bookstore” is a newly launched campaign to promote physical bookstores.


For historical fiction writers in particular, but can be applied to any story. Andrew Noakes discusses accuracy vs. authenticity: 5 tips for writing immersive historical fiction.

Large-scale elements can ruin a story if done incorrectly. Lisa hall-Wilson has a checklist for writing deep point of view like a pro, Jessica Brody has 3 common plotting mistakes when writing a novel, and K.M. Weiland gives us a Q&A of 6 outstanding questions about story structure.

Characters do the heavy lifting in our work. Mary Kole tells us how to write a proactive protagonist, Yvonne Hertzberger explores the beta hero as a non-stereotypical male character, Bonnie Randall discusses leveraging the emotional spectrum in your writing, Janice Hardy has 5 things to consider when choosing a character’s career, and Heather Webb describes how to write the authentic modern woman (especially if you’re a man).

Editing can bring your story to its full potential. Jami Gold gives us 9 steps to save a broken story, Ruth Harris lists 32 fixes for microblocks and miniglitches, Zoe M. McCarthy advises to watch for the word “some” in your story, Janice Hardy brings us 5 edits that can strengthen your writing right now, and Sara Wigal reminds us of the importance of proofing.

We all want to write better, faster. Jane Friedman lays out 3 principles for finding time to write, Emily Temple shares 25 writers’ views on writer’s block, and Laura Drake tells us why learning writing takes so long.

There is a great emotional and psychological component to being a writer. Grant Faulkner discusses overcoming creativity wounds, Laurie Patton reminds us that it’s okay to be a writer and a [fill in the blank], Elissa Gabbert wants to improve her writing memory, and Janet Reid lists 24 writing tips from Matthew Federman.

If you’re a blogger, Cristian Mihai urges don’t think, just write!, and Jordan Peters asks, are you creative enough?


Most authors want to make money on their books. Not only is it validating, but it helps pay the bills. Amy Collins discusses how to diversify one book into numerous revenue streams, and James Scott Bell explains how to make good dough self-publishing.

With the rise of self-publishing, vanity presses are no longer needed, but they still manage to snare enough unsuspecting authors to remain in business. John Doppler examines 5 reasons why authors still fall for vanity presses.

Going to conferences can be a great way to network with writers and other publishing professionals. Rachelle Gardner has some hot tips for conferences.

Those writers toiling in the query trenches sweat over making mistakes in our queries. Here, Janet Reid gives us examples of authors who did nothing wrong in their queries, yet are nonetheless authors behaving badly. So don’t do these things.

Branding and marketing go hand-in-hand. Jami Gold reminds us that our brand is our promise to our readers, Debbie Emmitt explains how to improve your author website with search engine optimization, and Frances Caballo discusses why authors need both email marketing and social media.


Got some cash? Robin Williams’ collection of rare books is up for auction.

There’s a reason so many librarians are also titled media specialists today. Kristen Arnett explores the dual role of librarian and tech whisperer.

Read about the literary heroes of teen Benjamin Franklin.

Danny W. Linggonegoro explains how doctors use poetry to heal.

William Faulkner was a great writer, but a really bad postmaster.

That’s all for this week! Settle into autumn, and we’ll see you next week!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | October 3, 2018

Reading for Writers: The Art of Fiction


J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, fall leaves, cocoa, open book

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash


October! Time for colorful leaves, pumpkins, apples, and tasty autumn recipes.

I do love fall…even when it feels more like summer…especially when it brings an end to countless days of overcast and rain.

For me, fall is the best time for “spring cleaning.” In spring I’d rather be outside working in the garden, enjoying the flowers and the return of warmer weather. Fall is the time to do more serious cleaning and get the place spiffed up for the holidays.

At present, my house is sorely in need of cleaning. Because of my back problems, two surgeries, and lengthy recovery, I haven’t done much leaning for several years. Even now I have to divide the job into small projects and take my time doing them.

Recently, my bookshelves caught my attention. As you can see in the photo below, the books are stuffed into the selves and dust covered.


J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, bookshelf, books


One jumbled shelf holds my collection of books about writing. Although my husband gently suggests that I borrow such books from the library, I prefer to have the paper books in hand so that I can highlight things in them as I read. I don’t know if that helps the ideas sink into my mind, but I do it anyway—just like I did with textbooks in college.

I may no longer be in college, but writers, like those in most professions, never stop learning. In addition to learning through the experience of writing and critiquing others’ works, writers attend workshops and conferences, take classes, and share insights with fellow writers, either through face to face conversations or through blog posts or books about writing.

Since I have a number of writing books and have found value in every one I’ve read, I’ve have been thinking off and on that I should write a post about writing books, and coming across the shelf full of books has finally nudged me into doing that.

I originally intended to just provide a list of books, but I’ve decided to write a series of posts and go into more detail about each book. Some of the books on my shelf feature on a particular aspect of writing, such as world building or characterization. Other books cover a broader range of topics.

The first book I’m going to feature is one of the latter: John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. I’ve heard a number of writers recommend this book, and it’s well worth reading. Although the subtitle claims it’s for young writers, Gardner’s words can offer insights for writers of any age.


J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, open book



Reading for Writers:
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
by John Gardner


John Gardner was a respected writer, essayist, literary critic, and teacher. The Art of Fiction was completed shortly before his death and published posthumously. The book is divided into two main parts—Part I: Notes on Literary-Aesthetic Theory, and Part II: Notes on the Fictional Process. Following these is a section of writing exercises.

The first part of the book is a discussion of fiction as an art and the writer as an artist.

Art depends heavily on feeling, intuition, taste. It is feeling, not some rule, that tells the abstract painter to put his yellow here and there, not there…It’s feeling that makes the composer break surprisingly from his key, feeling that gives the writer the rhythms of his sentences, the pattern of rise and fall in his episodes, the proportions of alternating elements, so that dialogue goes on only so long before a shift to description or narrative summary or some physical action. The great writer has an instinct for these things.

One of the things I find especially interesting in the first part is Garner’s discussion of the dream which the writer of fiction needs to create for the reader.

Whatever the genre may be, fiction does its work by creating a dream in the reader’s mind…If the effect of the dream is to be powerful, the dream must be vivid and continuous…One of the chief mistakes a writer can make is to allow or force the reader’s mind to be distracted, even momentarily, from the fictional dream.

In the second part of the book, Gardner shifts the focus to craft. He takes a look at common errors (inappropriate or excessive use of passive voice, lack of sentence variety, accidental rhyme, shifts in psychic focus, and more); technique, or manipulation of the fictional elements (structural units, characters, sentences, point of view, style, and more); and ways of plotting different forms of fiction.

The exercises in the final section of the book include not only individual writing exercises but cooperative exercises that could be used by writing groups or classes.


J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, sunset


Although this book is primarily for fiction writers, it could prove helpful for nonfiction writers as well. Look for it in your local library.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 27, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-27-2018

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday in September! This month has flown by. Fall is officially here!

Jeanna Kadlec tells us what fall will be like for writers, astrologically.

Ever wonder how contests can choose a winner when their entrants are from different genres? When judging such a contest, Roz Morris found a common standard to use in judging.

Matt Grant thinks every school across the country should have a “Raising Readers” program.

A picture’s worth a thousand words. Photographer Franck Bohbot documents the character of indie bookstores and their booksellers, and Eric Klinenberg shares a photo essay of the secret life of libraries.

Being environmentally friendly goes beyond publishing with recycled paper. Author Patricia Newman has a few ideas on how to handle publishing’s problem with plastic.


Get your story right from the start! Jami Gold shows how brainstorming your story can proactively avoid issues later, Kristen Lamb reveals fatal flaws in story structure, and Janice Hardy urges us to take heart, because not all first drafts suck.

Once we’ve got a sound idea, we need to write that opening sentence…and the next one and the one after that. Rachelle Gardner describes how to write a captivating opening line, Janice Hardy lists 4 ways to keep your sentences from all sounding the same, and Joe Moran shares how to write the perfect sentence.

There are many techniques to make your writing shine. K.M. Weiland has 3 tips for improving “show, don’t tell”, Lisa Wells gives us 5 techniques to make your readers laugh, and Angela Ackerman explores your character’s unmet needs.

Editing teaches you a lot about your own writing. Joanna Campbell Slan discusses 5 things re-editing your older work can teach you, while Annie Neugebauer explains how to process and filter feedback.

Writing a book—even as a hobby—is a job, and it takes commitment to get it done. Lisa Tener shares strategies to commit to writing a book, Margaret Ann Spence explores how childhood reading shapes identity, and Barbara Stark-Nemon gives us 5 ways to prepare for an encore career as a writer.


To be a successful author, there is a never-ending to-do list—often we wish we could have clones of ourselves to get everything done, especially when it comes to the marketing side of things. Sandra Beckwith asks: is it time to hire an author virtual assistant?

For those traditional publishing agent-seekers, Janet Reid has some advice for you. This week she discusses if you can requery the same agents when you do a major rewrite of your manuscript, and she addresses how long an agent can lay claim to your manuscript after you have parted ways.

Our author brand is vital for selling our books. Dana Kaye helps you find your author brand, and John Burke tells us what to name your author website.

We all want our books to succeed. Anne R. Allen has 9 tips to publish fiction successfully, and Christina Delay tells us how to set up a book launch for success.

Once we’ve launched, we need to keep the conversation going. Judith Briles introduces us to the super fan, the secret sauce all authors want, and Lee Wind gives us some ideas for finding book clubs for your book.

One way to reach potential buyers is through traditional advertising and promotion. John G. Hartness instructs us how to stack ads to maximize your promotional dollars, and Sharon Bially explains how attempting to control the outcome of book PR or marketing can backfire (and usually does).

Another way to connect to readers is online. Darren Rowse lists 8 important admin tasks to do when launching a new blog, Cristian Mihai shares the 3 best ways to hold your blog readers’ attention, and Frances Caballo has 5 tweets to stop sending today and 5 great tweets to send.


Imani Perry explores how an important American author, Lorraine Hansberry, tried to make sense of it all.

Emily Temple brings us 10 successful writers who dropped out (or were kicked out) of school.

See how to tour the most bookish island in the world: Iceland.

What’s with pop culture’s obsession with the apocalypse?

Check out these 23 literary movies and TV shows you should be watching this fall.

Think writing is a genteel pastime? Benet Brandreth reveals the murderous playwrights of Elizabethan England.

That’s it for the last Top Picks Thursday of September! See you in October!

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