Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | July 28, 2015

When The Switch Is Flipped

It feels as though in the last month our youngest child suddenly had the ‘I Can Read’ switch flipped in his head. We suspected for a while that he was able to read more than he was showing us – we also know he’s a perfectionist. If he couldn’t read everything at the first try, he didn’t want to show he could read anything. In the last weeks no polysyllabic word has been safe from him.

Now comes the fun part, helping him find books. He enjoys a good MAGIC TREEHOUSE and FRANKIE PICKLE made him laugh. GERONIMO STILTON is slightly too complex at this time. Still, the humor appeals to him and I see the series becoming a favorite.

One afternoon we were listening to a beloved audiobook, BUNNICULA, by James and Deborah Howe. I happened to mention that I’d heard there were more books in the Bunnicula series written from the perspective of the goof ball puppy character, Howie. My son put down the Lego project he was working on (something that almost never happens) and asked if he could read those books. Now.

Thanks to the magic of libraries and independent book stores, I had three of the books by the next afternoon. I picked him up from camp with the books on the back seat of the car and he carefully read the titles. He laughed hard at the one called THE ODOROUS ADVENTURES OF STINKY DOG. Then he picked the book up and read it out loud the entire way home. At home I opened the doors of the car wide so he wouldn’t get too hot and he kept reading until his voice was hoarse.

He’s reading the books as fast as he can, and inter-library loan has become my special friend. As a parent, seeing my son read with such fierce joy is one of the delights of my life.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 23, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 07-23-2015

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 16, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 07-16-2015

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | July 14, 2015

Con•Gregate 2 — 2015

Greg 8

The Tardis

The Tardis

Convention alien mascot Greg 8 and Dr. Who’s Tardis greeted attendees of Con•Gregrate 2, held July 10th through July 12th, 2015, at the renovated Radisson Hotel on South Main Street in High Point, NC. This is the convention’s second year, and it has moved to the location of the defunct Stellarcon, which it replaced.

This year’s special guests included Writer Guest of Honor Michael Stackpole and Writer Guest of Honor Timothy Zahn, who have both written novels in the Star Wars universe as well as many other works; Fan Guest of Honor Albin Johnson, who created the 501st Legion, a worldwide Internet-based group for Star Wars costumers; Special Artist Guest Scott Rorie, a Marvel approved and Lucasfilm approved artist as well as the free-lance artist who created the program cover; and Special Musical Guests Valentine Wolfe, the Victorian Chamber Music Duo of Sarah and Braxton.

Michael D. Pederson interviews Michael Stackpole, 7-11

Michael D. Pederson interviews Michael Stackpole, 7-11

Michael D. Pederson interviews Timothy Zahn, 7-11

Michael D. Pederson interviews Timothy Zahn, 7-11








On Friday, many convention attendees wore Hawaiian shirts because the first day of the convention each year has been designated Hawaiian Shirt Friday in a unique memorial to honor contributors to the world of science fiction and fantasy whom we have lost. Honored by the colorful shirts this year were Harve Bennett, Eugie Foster, Fred Grimm, Edward Herman, Bob Hoskins, John Jones, Louis Jourdan, Tanith Lee, Alene Martel, Ann Melrose, Leonard Nimoy, Terry Pratchett, Dick Smith, Rod Taylor, Nigel Terry, Grace Lee Whitney, Robin Williams, and Christopher Lee.

Allen Wold gives an informal reading in the hotel lobby, 7-10

Allen Wold gives an informal reading in the hotel lobby, 7-10

Panel: Series, Serial, or Cereal with Timothy Zahn, John Hartness, Darin Kennedy, Ron Garner, and Alicia McCalla, 7-12

Panel: Series, Serial, or Cereal with Timothy Zahn, John Hartness, Darin Kennedy, Ron Garner, and Alicia McCalla, 7-12

Other special events at the convention included E Komo Mei (Opening Ceremonies), the costume contest, the charity auction, the dealers’ room, Authors’ Alley, fan group tables, author readings and signings, the Writers’ Roundtable, HollyWeird Squares, the Baen Traveling Road Show, gaming, the Con Suite (for drinks and snacks), and the presenting of the Cornerstone Award and the Manly Wellman Award.

The Gaming Schedule

The Gaming Schedule

HollyWeird Squares with Allegrina, Glen Beattie & Figment, Randy Richards, Keith Brinegar, Gray Rinehart, Wendell McCollom, Misty Massey, and John Hartness, 7-10

HollyWeird Squares with Allegrina, Glen Beattie & Figment, Randy Richards, Keith Brinegar, Gray Rinehart, Wendell McCollom, Misty Massey, and John Hartness, 7-10

The convention offered workshops in a variety of areas: the 105th Squad Makers Workshop; Portfolio Review (for artists) Creating the Well-Dressed Puppet; the Leather Working Workshop; the Special Effects Makeup Workshop; the Photography 101 Workshop; and a number of writing workshops — the Science in Fiction Workshop; Allen Wold’s Regionally Famous Workshop; Beyond the First Draft; the Plotting Workshop; World Building with Steven Long; and Live Action Slush Pile.

Photography 101 Workshop with Angela Pritchett, James Rippe, Allegriana, Paul Cory, and Jen McCollom, 7-11

Photography 101 Workshop with Angela Pritchett, James Rippe, Allegriana, Paul Cory, and Jen McCollom, 7-11

Friendly Fairy Godmothers, 7-11

Friendly Fairy Godmothers, 7-11

Music fans could listen to concerts by Valentine Wolfe, Hawthorne and Holly, and White Plectrum, and could participate in (or just listen to) Open Filk.

Panel: Tail End in the Seat with Leona Wisoker, Michael G. Williams, Allen Wold, Michael Stackpole, Karen McCullough, and Paula S. Jordan, 7-12

Panel: Tail End in the Seat with Leona Wisoker, Michael G. Williams, Allen Wold, Michael Stackpole, Karen McCullough, and Paula S. Jordan, 7-12

Programs for children included S.H.I.E.L.D. Double Agent Initiative, STEM for Kids, Milk and Magic with Flabbergast the Wizard, Filk and Cookies with Gray Rinehart, and Music by Mark with Mark MacDicken. In addition, the ConGregate Kids Craft Center, which was open during most convention hours, provided a quiet place for parents to take their children to relax with crafts and coloring.

Panel: The Evolving Role of Authors with Mark Rainey, Karen McCullough, Jonathan French, and Michael G. Williams, 7-10

Panel: The Evolving Role of Authors with Mark Rainey, Karen McCullough, Jonathan French, and Michael G. Williams, 7-10

Panel: Them's Fighting Words - Writing Combat in Science Fiction with Chris Kennedy, Ron Garner, Darin Kennedy, Tedd Roberts, Tom Mays, and Jay Posey, 7-11

Panel: Them’s Fighting Words – Writing Combat in Science Fiction with Chris Kennedy, Ron Garner, Darin Kennedy, Tedd Roberts, Tom Mays, and Jay Posey, 7-11

Convention goers could attend a number of expert talk panels and audience participation panels. Here’s a sampling of topics and panels:

  • Anime: Cyberpunk in Anime
  • Anniversaries: 30 Years of the Space Shuttle; 50 Years of Dune
  • The Arts: Music and Art in Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Costuming: Costuming vs. Cosplay; Unique Costuming Materials
  • Fandom: The Care and Feeding of Fan Groups
  • Gaming: Adapting Books, TV, and Movies to Roleplaying Games
  • Horror: What Horror Should We Be Reading?
  • Publishing: Successful Self-Publishing: Tricks and Traps; We’ve Got You Covered; Ask an Editor
  • Podcasting: Talk to Us: Interviews by Podcast; Coming to You Live! Recording Live Podcasts; Promoting Your Podcast
  • Miscellaneous: Kickstarting Things; Improving Cultural Diversity in SF; Privilege: The Prince and the Pauper
  • Science: Medicine of the Future; Build a Better Space Habitat; Ask a Mad Scientist; Nuclear Follies and Oddities; Back to the Future
  • Science Fiction: Dystopian/Disaster Stories; Weapons in SF; Them’s Fighting Words — Writing Combat in Science Fiction
  • Steampunk: Absinthe and Airships
  • Writing: Finding the Story; Copyright and the Author; The Evolving Role of Authors; Death of Characters: Story Progression or Authorial Sadism?; The Location Next Door; Series, Serial, or Cereal?; Writing the Other; Tail End in Seat
  • Women: The Women of Warp; Dr. Who Through a Woman’s Eyes; Women in Science and Tech
Panel: Successful Selff-Publishing - Tricks and Traps with Michael G. Williams, Rebecca Ledford, Karen McCullough, Tom Mays, and Chris Kennedy, 7-10

Panel: Successful Self-Publishing – Tricks and Traps with Michael G. Williams, Rebecca Ledford, Karen McCullough, Tom Mays, and Chris Kennedy, 7-10

Panel: Luke Skywalker - Galactic Hero or Jedi Trained Assassin with Timothy Zahn, Albin Johnson, Ken Krahl, and Tom Hutchens, 7-11

Panel: Luke Skywalker – Galactic Hero or Jedi Trained Assassin? with Timothy Zahn, Albin Johnson, Ken Krahl, and Tom Hutchens, 7-11










The convention layout was good; it was easy to get from place to place. Some of the convention rooms were too cool — it’s always a good idea to bring a sweater to a convention — but that’s better than too hot. The hotel restaurant provided reasonably priced buffet meals (as well as a menu for those who wished to order) so that attendees could could eat in a short time and get on to other activities, and the hotel’s invariably friendly, pleasant, and helpful staff impressed me.

Panel: Death of Characters - Story Progression or Authorial Sadism with Chris Kennedy, Emily Lavin Leverett, Darin Kennedy, Paula Jordan, Jonathan French, and Michael Stackpole, 7-11

Panel: Death of Characters – Story Progression or Authorial Sadism? with Chris Kennedy, Emily Lavin Leverett, Darin Kennedy, Paula Jordan, Jonathan French, and Michael Stackpole, 7-11

Panel: Absinthe and Airships with Margaret McGraw, Gail Z. Martin, Larry Martin, and Karen McCullough, 7-12

Panel: Absinthe and Airships with Margaret McGraw, Gail Z. Martin, Larry Martin, and Karen McCullough, 7-12










While three days of convention-going are exhausting, they are also rewarding, inspiring, and enjoyable. I’m looking forward to attending Con•Gregate 3 next year. Hope to see you there!

Panel: Women in Science and Tech with JT the Enginerd, Rhonda Oglesby, Karen McCullough, and Tedd Roberts, 7-12

Panel: Women in Science and Tech with JT the Enginerd, Rhonda Oglesby, Karen McCullough, and Tedd Roberts, 7-12

Panel: Writing the Other with Alicia McCalla, Randy Richards, Stephen Mark Rainey, Paula S. Jordan, Edmund Schubert, Nicole Givens, Kurtz, and Emily Lavin Leverett, 7-12

Panel: Writing the Other with Alicia McCalla, Randy Richards, Stephen Mark Rainey, Paula S. Jordan, Edmund Schubert, Nicole Givens, Kurtz, and Emily Lavin Leverett, 7-12





Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 9, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 07-09-2015

Things are heating up around here as summer takes hold, so we’ve got some red-hot writerly links for you this week. Welcome and enjoy!

How often have we read or heard or witnessed a horde of Internet trolls attacking someone? Anne R. Allen discusses public shaming, cyberbullying, the hive mind and what to do about it, and Shanna Germain also talks about the surge in cruelty towards authors on the Internet.

We writers love to write—but non-writers may need a little persuasion. Here are 3 ways writing will improve your life even if you’re not a writer. Laura Probert shares 9 great reasons everyone should write, and Gregory Ciotti addresses the psychological benefits of writing.

Kate Taylor explains how the Common Core is reducing kids’ exposure to literature in the classroom.

Real teens have their say about why we need diverse books, and Gregory Schmidt examines how gay comic book characters zap stereotypes.
In a release appropriate for July 4th, Stephen King releases an exclusive audiobook called “Drunken Fireworks” in advance of a print anthology.


Most writers don’t lack for new ideas, but sometimes you just get stuck. Joe Hartlaub shares a unique—and potentially heart-wrenching—way of shaking the cobwebs from your brain.

Openings are arguably the most important part of the story—if you don’t grab your readers then, they won’t read (or buy) the book. Donald Maass examines the methodology of openings: intrigue vs. engagement.

Once we’ve hooked a reader, we need to keep them turning the pages. Ninie Hammon explains how to add twists to your plot, and Linda Clare lists 3 ways to test the tension and pacing in your scenes.

Even with a good opening, your story can fizzle if the stakes aren’t high enough. K.M. Weiland shows two ways your stakes could be too low and how to fix them. One way to mess up your stakes is with an ill-placed or ill-conceived dream sequence, as Kristen Lamb explains.

Characters have beliefs and those beliefs help motivate their actions, which Jo Eberhardt examines. Robin Rivera takes a look at unlikeable secondary characters and their functions in a story, Kristen A. Kieffer breaks down what is needed to create a powerful antagonist, and The Script Lab shares how to write a coherent character sheet.

All writers have to face editing and revision. Rachel Funk Heller explains how to revise with a Master sheet, Jordan Dane describes his rolling edit process, and Clare Langley-Hawthorne discusses how to evaluate feedback when so much of it is subjective.

Once you’ve finished one book, should you start the sequel right away? Janice Hardy explores the two schools of thought on when to start your sequel.

Jason Black tells us that writing doesn’t have to be hard—just be lazy and let the readers do all the work. Rene Denfeld and Stephanie Feldman discuss the limitations of writing to genre and the senselessness of the hard line between fantasy and realism.

It’s clear by now that the most productive writers often find the most success in today’s market. Joanna Penn shares habits of writing productively, James Scot Bell tells of moving from failure to success in writing, and Max Booth III lists 16 amusing tips for making time to write once you’ve abandoned your integrity.

Where do you get inspired? Debbie Young discusses the joys of unplugging and letting your subconscious work, while Patrick Samphire talks about finding writing inspiration when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed.

Authors share their knowledge: Eoin Colfer discusses his lifestyle, Chuck Wendig tackles his many authorial faces, and Kurt Vonnegut’s graduation speech.


In publishing news, a new study shows that e-lending won’t put a big dent in book sales, and French publisher Delcourt will release 151 French graphic novels (in English) via Comixology.

Also, Amazon is increasing the importance of reviews in its rating system, and Valerie Shanley details all the ways to self-publish a book on Amazon.

If you are searching for an agent, Lisa Katzenberger lists 4 questions agents ask writers at pitch sessions. Also, agent Peter Knapp has joined New Leaf Literary and is open to queries.

Publishing is a business, and businesses usually entail contracts. Agent Janet Reid explains the “life of copyright” clause often found in publishing contracts.

Launching a book is hard work. Jeff Goins describes the good, the bad, and the ugly of launching a best-selling book. And be sure to throw yourself a party to celebrate! Tamar Hela shows how to plan a book launch party online or offline.

If you are an author of independent bent, here are some alternate distribution tactics to try. Porter Anderson explores a new service to help self-published books get distribution to libraries, while the Author Market Institute explains how to distribute non-ACX audiobooks.


Handwriting seems to be making a comeback, whether on paper or on screen. Navneet Alang explores this attraction as he examines the point of handwriting.

To liven up your typed text, meet the exclamation comma and other obscure punctuation marks.

Love books? Farrah Penn has 11 charts that perfectly sum up being a book addict.

If you are interested in fashion through the ages, check out travel writing from the time period you are researching. From Joan of Arc underwear to diamond stockings, find fashion in travel writing.

Mystery lovers, check out this true story of a prodigal book: a miraculous return of a rare volume to the University of Pennsylvania Library.

If that leaves you wanting to know more about rare books, you can apply to the Rare Book School in Virginia.

That’s all for us this week! Stay cool and enjoy your summer!



Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | July 6, 2015

Get Calm and Write

Life has been a bit overwhelming this year and recently when it was time to write I found my mind stirred by panic and as blank as an unwritten book. Nothing. There. Nothing.

On reflection, I realized the tornado of angst that had wiped my mind clean was my own doing, my own unnecessary agonizing over things that couldn’t be known, over things that I could defer to an expert for an answer. I gave myself a week to calm down and within a few days I again became verbal and curious about what others do in a situation like mine.

What if you don’t have the luxury of a week to get back into your creating mode? What can be done for more immediate results?

  1. Remember yoga. Breathe in, breathe out. (Think, breathe in, and breathe out). Repeat. Continue until calm. This is a form of meditation. For additional ways to meditate check out this wiki article . A supporting action I learned in yoga class is to tense and release muscles one body part at a time starting with your toes.
  1. Write in a journal. Promise yourself you never have to reread these pages and feel free to shred them afterwards. I do. Here’s a blog article that gives specific ways to calm yourself via journaling
  1. Be grateful. As I and my partner have been dealing with our significant health issues this year, I had, early on, focused on gratitude. Goodness knows, these are bad diagnoses, but we were lucky too. It occurs to me, that I had, momentarily forgotten our good fortune. For more in depth thoughts on how this works, read this article by Daniel A. Miller
  1. Other things that can calm are:
  1. Keeping a to do list, that way you can relax knowing you’ll remember everything that needs to be done at a later time.
  2. Both your body and your mind benefit from giving your body a workout.
  3. Talk to yourself with kindness.
  4. Count backwards for as long as it takes.

For my own life this week, I settled down by reminding myself that living life itself is an act of creation and, just like writing a story, the creator needs to trust that all of the necessary pieces will come together.

What do you do to get calm and get writing?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 2, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 07-02-2015

Welcome to our first links round-up of July! The Fourth of July is just days away, and we wish our American readers a safe and happy celebration.

Diversity in writing is often lacking, but here are some Native American superheroes taking comic books by storm. In other diversity stories, we have talked about white-washing covers, but author Tess Sharpe experienced straight-washing of her bisexual character.

The latest “disturbance in the Force” in the publishing world is the new payment schedules adopted by Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. Ciara Ballintyne explains the benefits to the new Kindle Unlimited payment scheme, while Chuck Wendig discusses other ways to “fix” the problems Kindle Unlimited faced.

The blog Middle Grade Strikes Back has added a new feature spotlighting illustrators. The first MGSB Sketchbook focuses on Chris Riddell.

LifeHacker shares an infographic showing how long it takes to read popular children’s books. Maybe the kids can read while they eat: many Brooklyn Public Library locations are offering daily cold lunches for kids.


When we begin a new project, we have many issues to consider. Foremost might be what genre we want to write in. Steve Laub discusses if and why genre still matters today. Second, we need to know who the story is about. Kristen A. Kieffer tells us how to choose a main character. Finally, we need to figure out how to most effectively tell the story. Rob Hart gives us 3 steps to a bulletproof novel outline.

Getting our characters and their POV right is always tricky. Roz Morris shares 3 signs that your novel has too many characters and what to do about it, Jen Matera discusses character consistency, and Janice Hardy brings us 5 ways POV can make you a better writer.

When writing characters, you need to get the details right. Benjamin Sobieck has 10 errors to avoid when writing about guns, and Roz Morris tells us how to write dialogue that’s convincing and full of life.

Writing groups can be wonderfully supportive places to improve your craft and ease writerly isolation. However, as Jennie Nash reminds us, writing groups have dangers, too, so we should go in with eyes open. Even with writer support groups, sometimes it seems like the writing never gets easier, but K.M. Weiland has 3 ways to make writing your novel easier.

We all search for inspiration. Ruth Harris has 11 tips for care and feeding of your Muse, Belle Wong describes rethinking her use of Morning Pages, Claire King discusses how publishing a novel will change your life, and Dan Blank shares a complete list of creative distractions and defenses against them.

Ever want to turn your book into an audiobook? Linda Holmes looks at the art of the audiobook and how they have evolved since they first came out.


It seems to be getting harder and harder to make money as an author these days. Kristen Pope explores how one writer used crowdfunding to raise $12,775 in 30 days, and Brian White of Fireside discusses the radical idea that authors need to eat, too.

We all know that writing is an art but publishing is a business. It is the business side of things that we authors often struggle with. Helen Sedwick discusses if authors should incorporate themselves.

We hear much marketing advice about branding ourselves and how to reach readers. Janet Kobobel Grant explains how an author gets branded, and Jason Kong highlights the email marketing trap fiction writers must avoid.

Blogs and our author website form the backbone of many of our marketing efforts. Jane Freidman shows how to choose the right WordPress theme for you, while Joel Freidlander shows how to leap from blogger to book author.

Think blogging can’t help your career? Kevin Duncan shows how to write blog comments that get you noticed, and Dorit Sasson tells us how writers can use strategic blogging to find readers.


In an age where we are seeing more and more kick-butt female characters, we can all take lessons from…Jane Austen? Julia Seales shares 10 lessons from Jane Austen on how to be a badass.

Writing Steampunk? Lauren Davis brings us real-life gadgets perfect for a Victorian Era James Bond.

If you are getting older (like me) or just have bad eyes, take a peek at these 10 gadgets to help you better see what you’re working on.

Zombies seem to have taken over the world these days, but they are not a modern phenomenon. Ancient Greeks used various methods to make sure the undead would not rise again.

That’s all for us this week! Have a fun and safe 4th of July, America!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 30, 2015

Why the “Rules” of Story Matter

At the Willow Grover Writers’ Coffeehouse this past weekend, we discussed the structural “rules” of writing. I put “rules” in quotes because we all can point to an author or book that broke the rules and was still wildly successful and wonderfully written. Some people said that following these rules made their work felt formulaic and bland.

I am the first one to say that, yes, the rules can be broken. They are more like strong suggestions. But it still matters that we know and understand them.

Human beings are wired for story—and it is well known that certain story structures resonate more deeply with readers than others. So it behooves us to understand those structures so we can tell our stories in the most compelling way possible.

When we are new writers, writing to rules and formula is a necessary part of the learning curve. We have so many things to earn about as writers, it is a huge stepping stone to follow the time-honored structures that will make our story compelling while we work on the nuances of character and dialogue and description and theme and subplots and…you get the picture.

So does this mean we are constrained to a life of beat sheets and hero’s journeys and three-act structures? Yes and no. I suspect that if you write your story “organically” you will find that it more or less follows one of the story structures people talk about in craft books. We are wired that way.

But that does not mean we can’t break the rules when it benefits our story. Authors have bent and broken and tweaked story structure throughout time, as the story demands. The reason you need to know the rules is to know not only how to break them, but to know why you are breaking them. Breaking them randomly for no story-related reason will result in a badly-told story no one wants to read. Breaking the rules for a story-related reason, for a reason that will elevate the story and bring it home, will result in a compelling read.

The “rules” of story structure are like a scaffold. As we are building our knowledge and our craft, the scaffolding supports us. At some point in our career, we can take the scaffolding down and stand on our own experience and instinct. While most of the time we will still instinctively follow the rules of story structure, you can break out and experiment—the key is to experiment with purpose.

That’s why the “rules” matter—they help us stand when we are young writers and when we have matured we can use them as a springboard to launch our writing in new directions.

How about you? Do you feel constrained by the rules, or do they help you soar?

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | June 25, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 06-25-2015

Summer started off with a bang here in the south Jersey-southeastern Pennsylvania-Delaware region. First we had a heat wave, then a fierce line of storms that knocked out power for many. The forecast for Saturday is rain and temperatures that won’t reach 70. We’re not complaining (too much), however, because we’ve been spared the floods, drought, and fires that are ravaging other parts of the country.

One thing you can do when the power goes out is read, even if you have to use a flashlight or candle. Reading benefits adults as well as children. In fact, P J Parrish asserts that everything she ever learned she learned from potboilers. and wonders if, in our effort to stuff information into kids’ heads, we are leaving insufficient room to let kids develop their imaginations.

Readers can help writers too. Nicole Froio mentions 4 ways readers can help make publishing more equal, and Michael Kozlowski wonders why libraries must pay so much more for ebooks.

Wherever you are in your journey as a writer, Anne R. Allen gives us 6 bad reasons for writing a novel and 6 good ones, James Scott Bell urges writers to earn your writing success the old-fashioned way — that is, to work for it, and Mary Keeley lists traits of a writer on track for success.

If you’re looking for writing tips, Lee Lofland presents writing secrets of best-selling author Lee Child, and J Patrick Allen recommends 5 alternatives to the big bad writing workshop.

Sometimes genre writers feel they do not get enough credit as writers. Susabelle Kelmer urges romance writers to make no apologies for writing in the romance genre, which sells more books than any other genre.

In envy and the writer, Michelle Ule admits to and gives suggestions for dealing with envy of other writers.

And let us remember author James Salter, often called a “writer’s writer, who died June 19 at age 90.


When it’s time to sit down to write, Anthony Reese advises writers to courageously write badly — all the bad stuff can be eliminated during revision.

Writers sometimes struggle with self-doubt. Jennifer Blanchard lists 3 simple ways to boost your confidence as a writer, and Kathleen McCleary suggests using tricks from other writers to improve your own writing.

We all have them — Clare Langley-Hawthorne asks what’s your writing tic?

Do you give enough attention to the elements of your story? Claire M. Caterer gives us her thoughts on theme, K. M. Weiland clarifies what every writer ought to know about the omniscient POV, and Rob Bignel urges writers to appeal to the sense of sound when writing.

One of the key elements is, of course, characterization. Catherine Linka provides 10 tips for writing unforgettable villains. Janice Hardy asks how judgmental are your characters? and Angela Ackerman wonders what type of secret does your character keep? SueBE suggests making use of body language in your writing.

Though it may seem unusual, Kathryn Craft recommends embracing paradox as a writer.

Lee Wind offers the anatomy of a scene, a resource for writers and illustrators, and editor Christy Distler asks writers where the white space is — are you telling too much instead of showing?

Three writers offer pointers by the numbers: B. D. Schmitt lists 17 things he learned about writing from structuring his novel in 7 days, Jody Hedlund believes writers should keep growing and improving and mentions 5 ways writers get lazy, and Ellen Mulholland provides 5 reasons why you need a critique partner.


More changes in the publishing industry were announced this week. Joel Friedlander explains that Apple will now allow pre-orders for ebooks that have no more than etadata, and Smashwords has announced that it will do the same for all its distribution partners (which includes Apple). In addition, Sai Sachin R reports that now Amazon plans to pay writers based on the number of pages read, rather than by the number of times the book is borrowed.

David Kudler gives us the definition of an ebook.

Agent Janet Reid provides some enlightenment on the relationship between the length of time an agent has your submission and the likelihood of an offer of representation.

Susan Shapiro recommends 9 ways to a faster book deal, and Jane Friedman offers absolute beginners pointers on how to sell your screenplay.

Carla Douglas and Corina Koch MacLeod explain how using editing tools can improve your writing.

For Indie authors, Michele DePhilippo talks about working with a book cover designer, and Porter Anderson declares: in self-publishing, the gatekeepers are dead. Long live the gatekeepers!

In the world of social media, Nina Amir provides tips on growing your email list with a virtual blog tour, Jeff Goins interviews Elizabeth Bradley about how to guest post on a celebrity blog, and Bryan Hutchinson provides 5 tips on how to shake the haters (who hate, hate, hate).

Bill Ferris gives tips on how to blurb a book.


In a video from Book Expo America, Harper Collins’ authors and staff share the books that changed their lives. Do you have one to add to their list?

For those who feel like a little daydreaming, Chelsey Pippin presents 22 fairy tale castles you can actually visit in England, Scotland, and Wales.

We’ve come to the end of our roundup this week. Wishing you good writing, good reading, and a good week to come!


Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | June 23, 2015

Writing Longhand

This subject came up in one of the funnier “water cooler” conversations at work for me recently, originally involving fountain pens. People are used to hearing people from IT get into complicated and drawn out discussions, and we didn’t disappoint.  In this case my co-worker, a fountain pen aficionado, was trying to interest me in several and I, being very high-maintenance about such things, was being…myself. :)

One or two witnesses to this conversation were wondering why I was so demanding about a pen, which brings us to writing. I usually write on a computer, but on a weekly basis, I have longhand writing sessions. The purpose for this is that I’m writing “about” the writing, as if in a journal. Or I might be sketching out future writing. I usually write in my own voice, but I’ve temporarily switched to characters’ voices many times.

I have found that if you’re stuck on something, just writing it down longhand can often get it unstuck. My reason for this has always been that your brain is working on the answer while your hand is writing it on paper. When you’re on the computer, however, this is much harder to do. You can type too fast for your brain to get that far ahead of you. Also, for many people there is the constant need to go into editor mode when on the computer, only because they can. The word processor allows them to present their writing which invites endless editing. Spell-checking becomes easier to do on the fly on a keyboard.

Handwriting doesn’t cause you to do these things because you don’t have any chance of fixing it and seeing it fixed immediately. If your handwriting’s a mess, you accept it and move on.

I looked up this topic, and in addition to the legions of writers who favor writing longhand, I found some references to a scientific/psychological analysis of it. There are articles discussing which hemisphere of the brain is involved with longhand writing versus using a computer, with the assertion being that the right side (long associated with art) is what gets used most when writing longhand. Also, it’s widely reported that people of all ages learn better when writing longhand, regardless of what they’re writing.

Being in the IT field as well as having a desire for writing fiction, it’s in my best interest to bridge the gap between the technology and the arts (sides of the brain). I believe there is a way to stay focused on writing and using a computer keyboard with practice (and the right keyboard ;) ).

But in the meantime, if you haven’t tried writing longhand you really should (with a good pen).

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