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!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 25, 2018

Defining Writing Success

Here’s a question that you cannot get wrong: what is writing success? Why can’t you get it wrong? Because the answer is different for each person. Success in the arts is personal.

Sure, there are outside measures of success for authors. Number of books sold, author rankings, book rankings, awards, bestseller status, how many unique books published, books turned into movies… There are many external measures of success. Some authors use those to judge their success—and that’s okay, because that’s their measure of success.

What’s yours?

Some authors don’t care about sales, they just want to see their book in print. So a self-published book with no marketing pressure suits them just fine. Some authors want an agent. Some authors want a book contract with a traditional press, either small press or large. Some want to see their series in print.

The answer to what is success varies from author to author—but also from month to month. Success is a moving target. Sure, some people zero in on one thing from the beginning (New York Times bestseller or bust!), but many of us find success incrementally. First we just want to write a publishable story. Then we want to see it in print. Once it’s in print, we want it to sell well. And always the hope of a blockbuster movie hovers in the quiet corners of our minds.

But success is not always an upward trajectory. It can come in waves, rolling in highs and lows with each project. I am experiencing that now. I have a published book, a short story in a published anthology, and a self-published genealogy book. Not bad. But now I am struggling with a major rewrite of a manuscript I have high hopes for, but it’s not quite “there” yet. I thought it was, but it wasn’t quite. So now I am diving in again.

For me, at this moment, success is defined as finishing this book.

What’s your definition of success look like today?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 20, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-20-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! September 25th is National Comic Book Day, so break out your favorite comics and enjoy!

Check out the 2018 Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners.

In a controversial move, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is cutting off access to volunteer-run free books programs.

The TV show The Great American Reads returns.

Catherine Curan examines bookstores finding creative ways to survive and thrive in the age of Amazon.

Libraries are still important and relevant today, as evidenced by the $7.1 million Radnor library renovations, and other suburban library expansions, and Kristen Arnett asks: do you really need a degree to be a librarian?

Want to make your picture book a bestseller? Get a giddy grandma to read it on tape. Here’s the viral video of a Scottish grandmother reading The Wonky Donkey.


So much goes into even the shortest story. Kristen Lamb looks at time as a literary device, Lee McKenzie shares what photographer Annie Lebovitz taught her about writing, and Jami Gold applies TV lessons to chapter hooks.

Characters are the lifeblood of our stories. Janice Hardy asks: are you making this character flaw mistake?, while James Scott Bell reminds us that true character comes out in stressful moments. When your characters talk to each other, Andrea Mitchell guides us through using speaker tags and beats correctly, and Janice Hardy reviews formatting dialogue in fiction.

Writers are always trying to polish our writing after our drafts are finished. Rachelle Gardner has some tips for tightening your writing, and Julie Glover shares 4 easy edits that make your story flow better.

Sometimes stories require more than one book to be told. Jodi Meadows has 13 easy (and brutally truthful) steps to writing a fantastic sequel, Jo Jakeman explores the lasting appeal of fictional vengeance for the marginalized, and Stephanie Greene discusses 3 types of series.

Every writer wants to enhance productivity and trigger our creativity. Dawn Field shows how to use writing snippets to exercise your creative mind, and Melissa Donovan tells us how to break through a fiction writing block.

Writing is an emotional career. Janet Boyer shares 10 books to read when you are discouraged about being a real writer, Jami Gold wonders what you want to write but haven’t yet, and Zoje Stage discusses the reality of the post-publication blues.


Steve Laube asks all authors: have you checked your copyright lately?

Alicia Adamczyk reminds us that you don’t own the music, movies, or ebooks you buy on Amazon or iTunes.

Nonfiction writers, Erica Meltzer has 6 questions to help nonfiction writers find their niche.

For those interested in creating an audiobook, CJ Critt gives us an audiobook narrator’s guide for authors.

Grace Wynters brings us the writer’s edition of taking care of business, and Joanna Penn shares lessons learned from 7 years as an author entrepreneur.

What does success mean to you? Brooke Warner reframes publishing success.

Janet Reid addresses building a co-career with a writing partner, and what to do when life knocks you down during revisions. Kristen Lamb delves into the all-important log-line.

Marketing is how we sell our books. Speaking engagements and reviews are important avenues for selling your books. Jodee Blanco lists the do’s and don’ts of author speaking, while Melissa Bowersock shares her results from using Voracious Readers Only for revues and sales.

Our author platform supports our books, and many platforms incorporate a blog. Lisa Tener has 7 benefits to growing an author platform before writing your book, Darren Rowse discusses using checklists and templates to make your blogging easier, Zoe M. McCarthy gives us less common interview questions for blog author interviews, Jordan Peters asks 10 questions every blogger should ask themselves, and Cristian Mihai tells us how to end your blog posts like a boss.


Author friendships are so important. Imani Perry examines the radical friendship of Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin.

Philip Metres discusses the third most popular poet of all time.

In honor of her birthday, 20 noir-to-the-bone quotes from the queen of crime, Agatha Christie.

Max Booth, III, examines Stephen King as crime writer.

Actress Sally Field talks about her life in her In Pieces memoir.

Stuck on your memoir title? Use this handy chart to title your inspirational memoir.

Your life is a genre. Take the quiz to see what genre it is!

Erin Barnett explores the 10 weirdest places Shakespeare plays have been performed.

Quite a prize! A customer wins his favorite bookshop in a raffle.

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

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | September 19, 2018

writing and other unfinished business

This year has been full of house projects for me. The work includes the search for and hiring of general contractors, electricians, floor and windows replacement company representatives, and overall, a mess around my house. My car even wanted to get in on the act as well by breaking down and giving multiple mechanics a challenge to resolve. There are times it feels that I have too many things cooking at the same time when all I want is for it to be finished. The only project I have any closure for is acquiring art for my house, as my last few posts here attest. Getting any writing done during any of this is, at this time, best accomplished in flashes.

While the subject of flash writing is already established in the world, my version of it is more like my concept of flash reading, something I’ve written about in the past Flash Reading. I think the basic idea of what I’m talking about here is to take a snapshot of your imagination and let it flow onto the page. Reading a paragraph of a novel in a very brief time, say, in an elevator, forces you to quickly create (or recreate) the snapshot of the paragraph’s setting in your mind in order to understand what you’re reading about. For my version of flash writing, I have to do the same with writing in a very short period of time. This is very easy to do, as long as I stay focused on the current scene and not how it fits with the whole novel, etc.

At the very least, it allows me to keep writing during a time when my mind is cluttered with so many other things. A major flaw of mine has always been the distraction of these other things, especially when I walk around my house and see things in an unfinished state. Flash writing allows me to beat the distractions.

The various house projects can also be a possible enhancement to my writing in that the characters may have unfinished projects around their households. I find it easier to write about a character’s frustrations when they echo my own. 😉

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 13, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-13-2018

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Clouds over the mountains in western Virginia


Welcome to Top Picks Thursday on the second Thursday of September. Summer is quickly coming to an end, although hurricane season seems to be ramping up. We hope everyone weathers whatever storms come your way with little damage or loss.

Whatever the weather, Joanna Penn lists 5 reasons this is the best time to be a creator, and Sue Coletta considers writers and dreaming.

For those just setting out on a writing career, George A. Bernstein shares practical advice for beginning fiction writers, and Sharlene Teo gives us the debut novelist’s guide to battling impostor syndrome.

Many writers have cats, but Cameron Shenassa expounds on why every writer should have a dog.

Since most writers will sooner or later need to speak before an audience, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder explains how writers can overcome their fear of public speaking.

If you’re looking for books for children, Maria Russo suggests 5 plucky, charming children’s books for toddlers.


Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash



Debating what to write? Linda Vigen Phillips writes about using free verse to deliver passion, Nellie Hermann contemplates the curious border between fiction and nonfiction, and Rebecca Monterusso sets out 6 things to consider before writing a novel.

For writers wanting to improve their craft, Kethy Steinemann provides 4 tips for better writing by using strong words, and Rochelle Deans gives 3 tips for writing a story that’s better than its flaws.

In two posts, Jami Gold focuses on characters: what it means to create layered characters and character conflict: goals, needs, and false beliefs. In addition, Margot Kinberg considers characters with hypochondria, and Diana Hurwitz discusses characters’ conflicts in communication.

Working on your story? Harrison Demchick presents five crucial tips for convincing action scenes, James Scott Bell goes into how to give your readers unforgettable moments, and BookRiot‘s Katherine Marciniak asks: cliffhangers: is the suspense worth it? Also, Kristen Lamb lays out 5 reasons your story is breaking down.

Donald Maass discusses options for writers feeling stuck.

If it’s time for editing your manuscript, AutoCrit shares a self-editing checklist for fiction writers. For those hiring an editor, Zoe M. McCarthy focuses on tips for cleaning up your manuscript for a hired editor, and Ellie Maas Davis explains how to work with a book editor.

Merilyn Simonds ponders how long it should take to write a book, while Daphne Gray-Grant reminds us why we should resist following the rituals of famous authors.

For those having trouble writing, Edie Melson supplies four tips to distract your internal editor, and Nancy L. Erickson reminds us to finish writing a book, you need to start writing it.


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Photo by Beatriz Pérez Moya on Unsplash



Writing can be a hobby or a career. Christopher Jan Benitez explains 5 types of writing you can turn into a profitable career.

Looking for an agent? Jennifer Baker insists that if you know how to date, you know how to find a literary agent. If you’re querying, Janet Reid answers a question about whether you should mention your research in your query and how to query the only book you’ve written in a different genre.

Can you pitch your entire story in one sentence? Kristen Lamb examines the log-line.

Sandra Beckwith delves into traditional publishing or self-publishing.

On book marketing and promotion, Rose Andrews presents free book marketing strategies, part two, and Sophie Masson considers book promotion: what’s hot, what’s not. Anne-Catherine De Fombelle advocates going wide and finding global markets and also gives suggestions on going local and selling self-published books direct, while David Kudler takes a look at a new Amazon algorithm that has him revisiting KDP keywords.

Lizbeth Meredith sets out five ways to maintain book buzz while writing and managing post-pub life, and Lee Wind discusses booktubers and reaching your audience.

With advice on social media, Chris Syme declares it’s time for your fall platform inventory, and Kris Bock takes a look at building and sharing your author brand, while Annie Sullivan lists 10 Instagram tips for writers.

For those who have blogs and websites, Cristian Mihai addresses an often overlooked aspect of blogging that matters a lot and identifies 8 blogging mistakes that waste your readers’ time. Also, Jane Friedman lays out 10 ways to build traffic to your website or blog.

If you are considering crowdfunding to finance self-publishing, Becca Spence Dobias explores 7 essential questions for crowdfunding at Inkshares, and BlueInk Review‘s Madeleine Dodge offers 7 keys to crowdfunding on GoFundMe.


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Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Unsplash



Andrea Romano shares the 20 books most often left behind in hotel rooms.

Budget Travel‘s Danielle Bauter names 7 unique bookstores in the U.S.

BuzzFeed‘s Kirby Beaton recommends 31 podcasts for every type of book lover.

Matthew Sherrill tells the story of John Quincy Adams’ forgotten epic poem, written after he lost reelection to the presidency.

Literary Hub‘s Melanie Hobson lists 9 novels in which houses have a life of their own, and Becky Chambers explores how The Left Hand of Darkness changed everything.

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


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Rainbow over I-81, Maryland


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