Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 19, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-19-2019


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, view of the crowded beach

Island Beach State Park, New Jersey


Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of summer. In honor of the end of season, I’m sharing some reminders-of-summer photos today. It’s sad to see the warm weather go, but the cooler days will be welcome.

Ahoy, me hearties! Today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day, so we’re singing “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.” Who’s joining us?

If you’re a Tolkien fan, remember that Sunday is Hobbit Day. If you’re not a fan and you see anyone in costume, you’ll know why.

Libraries and writers go hand in hand. This week we found a number of writers sharing information about libraries. Micah Moore writes that the Dallas Public Library is ready to open a podcasting studio, sewing rooms, and other maker spaces, Karl Bode reports that librarians and archivists are scanning and uploading books that are secretly in the public domain, and Heather Schwedel explains why angry librarians are going to war with publishers over e-books.

Libraries don’t have to be big to have influence. Aušrys Uptas tells us about the woman who turned the stump of a dead 110-year-old tree into a magical Little Public Library for her Idaho neighborhood.

If you need an excuse to do more reading, Maggie Seaver tells us that people who read before bed not only sleep better, but eat more healthily and make more money, and Tracy Hecht describes how books can help kids navigate complex times.

Caits Meissner reveals what the incarcerated writer wants the literary community to understand.

Writer’s Digest‘s Robert Lee Brewer shares 14 William Faulkner quotes for writers and about writing and 10 Robert Jordan quotes for writers and about writing.

Michael Schulman takes a look at superfans: is fandom becoming as toxic as politics?


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, seagull landing on the beach

Seagull landing




Monica Duncan covers the art of efficient writing, while Tina Jordan gives us habits of highly effective writers. If one of your habits is carrying a notebook everywhere you go, Laurence MacNaughton explains why writers should never carry a notebook.

If you’re puzzled about author voice, Mary Anna Evans discusses how to find your author voice.

A number of writers share tips about characterization. Beth van der Pol shows us how to create a character from scratch and how to create a complex character from a single photo, while Nathan Bransford lays out 6 ways to build intimacy between characters.

Fae Rowen enumerates ten more f-words for writers and their characters, Jami Gold takes a look at avoiding change: what’s stopping our characters, and TS Books gives us 40 ways to exploit facial expressions in writing.

For those doing worldbuilding, E. L. Skip Knox adds shoemakers to his history for fantasy writers series.

Struggling with your book’s scenes? Linda Lane reminds us that touches of humor relieve stress in tense scenes, and Janice Hardy suggests adding more internalization to your scenes.

Kris Kennedy advises writers to avoid info dumping backstory by making it essential, while Kathryn Craft delves into “showing” through exposition.

Janice Hardy has advice for writers thinking about writing in a new genre. If that genre is mystery, Elaine Viets lists 8 ways to fix a stalled mystery (her suggestions can be helpful for other genres too).

Premise and theme are vital components to a story. Vaughn Roycroft suggests using theme to leverage revision., and Stavros Halvatzis clarifies the moral premise and how to write it.

If you belong to a critique group or are a beta reader, P. J. Parrish contemplates the fine art of giving out criticism, and Jim Dempsey looks into how to give useful criticism.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, mother feeding young seagull

The gull on the right stood on the beach for several minutes squawking, and I wondered what was bothering her until the young one—as big as its parent—ran up to beg for food.




For writers pursuing the traditonal publishing path, Janet Reid responds to an author wondering if the submitted manuscript ended up in the agent’s spam folder, and Rachel Pieh Jones tells us what happened after she lost her agent—twice.

R.J. Crayton mentions 10 publishing terms every new author should know, Susan DeFreitas identifies 3 critical things you won’t learn in an MFA program, and Nathan Bransford gives the scoop on hybrid publishing.

Chris Syme offers the five myths of crisis management for authors.

In Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss reveals that authors’ concern grows over late royalty payments at Dreamspinner Press.

Self-publishing provides an alternative to the traditional path, but it’s not for everyone. Ray Flynt sets out some questions for writers considering going Indie, Tracy Atkins delves into how to make trim-sized PDFs for print on demand publication, and SFWA supplies an overview of the history of self-publishing.

John Doppler has suggestions on how to deal with an unresponsive publishing or self-publishing company.

Do you have a book about to be published? Adam Cushman details the 10 best book trailer types, Judith Briles goes over planning your book launch, and John Gilstrap suggests some swell swag, while Juliet Marillier focuses on publicity and the introvert writer.

Even the best writers get occasional poor reviews. Catharine Riggs explains how to deal with your one-star reviews, and NetGalley provides guidance on coping with critical reviews.

Social media is a key marketing tool. Laura Drake reports social media: you’re doing it wrong, and Sandra Beckwith goes into how to build a killer book publicity media list, while Monojoy Bhattacharjee wonders how it would impact publishers if Facebook ditched the Like count.

Blogging is another marketing tool. Cristian Mihai reveals the secret traits of successful bloggers, and Anne R. Allen recommends guest blogging to build platform and sell books and shares 5 tips for landing guest blogging spots, while Elizabeth S. Craig shares her thoughts on blogging.

Author websites are also vital. Laksmhi Padmanaban discusses what the ideal author website looks like.

In Publisher’s Weekly, Nicholas Clee reports that the resale of ebooks has been ruled illegal in the UK.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, goldfinches on the garden fence

Goldfinches on my garden fence in the early evening sun




Mackenzie Dawson tells how books are helping employees bond at a real estate company.

Roy Morris Jr. writes about the US tour that made Gertrude Stein a household name.

Farouk Yousif celebrates Fadhil al-Azzawi, the iconic Iraqi writer who modernized poetic forms.

BBC News reports that the secret diary of “Polish Anne Frank” Renia Spiegel will be published after lying in a bank vault 70 years, while James R. Benn takes a look at what books published during wartime [specifically, World War II] can tell us about ourselves.

To get you in the right frame of mind for October and Halloween, Jonathan Dee delves into why Lafcadio Hearn’s ghost stories still haunt us, and Eleni Theodoropoulos considers how Scooby Doo revived Gothic storytelling for generations of kids.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, waves breaking on the shore

Breaking waves


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Join us next week to start the new season with another roundup of writerly links!


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, wooden walkway to the beach

Farewell to summer fun!



Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 12, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-12-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Saturday is National Live Creative Day. I’m not exactly sure what that means but…be creative!

Awards and grants abound! Former UP poet laureate Rita Dove is honored with the 2019 Wallace Stevens Award, James Patterson announces grants to 4500 teachers for classroom libraries, and Rajiv Mohabir wins the Restless Books 2019 New Immigrant Writing Prize for his memoir.

Fifteen publishing pros discuss how We Need Diverse Books changed the literary world.

Jennifer Nalewicki shares her experience spending the night at a library in Wales.

Writers love entering writing contests. Savannah Cordova debunks the 5 most common misconceptions about writing contests.


For our memoir writers: Tanja Pajevic explains how to build a narrative arc in memoir, and Dawn Field shows how a series of moments can lead to your big message.

A.B. Jewell reveals that great noir lives—and dies—on dialogue.

If you are a poet, Melissa Donovan extols the personal benefits of writing poetry.

Sophie Masson looks into writing graphic novels for kids.

We hear about two-person collaborations a lot, but Ceridwen Dovey explores the question can you write a novel as a group?

Trying to get started? Roz Morris has outlining methods for everyone, Angelica Hartgers explores using backward design to plan your story, and Janice Hardy discusses writing the opening scene.

We want everything we write to hook our readers. Christopher Oldcorn explains how to hook the reader every time, and Kristen Lamb has 3 ways to hook readers to a series.

Emotion is key to hooking the reader. Janice Hardy discusses how to add more emotion to your scenes, and C.S. Lakin says to slow your story to move readers emotionally.

We’ve got to make all the components of our craft work together for best results. Kris Kennedy continues her exploration of backstory, James Scott Bell wonders how realistic your action scenes should be, and Laura Benedict advises that good lists make great stories.

Character carries the emotion of your story. Nathan Bransford has 7 reasons your characters feel flat, Joe Fassler examines how a single image can sum up a character’s identity, Walter Mosley discusses discovering who your book’s characters really are, Benjamin Markovits compares a good conversation to a good tennis match, Donald Maass reveals the anti-arc, and Therese Walsh looks beyond two-dimensional character building.

When we edit, we need to look at the big AND little issues in our writing. Zoe M. McCarthy gives us a 10-item manuscript checklist when you’re under a deadline, and Sue Coletta agonizes over which word is correct: coffin or casket?

Bill Kirton examines writing rhythm, Rebecca E. Neely shares how she writes faster, and Dario Ciriello discusses the Budrys rule: 3 writerly sins.

We all need inspiration from time to time. Anne Neugebauer has advice to writers who are in it, Robert Lee Brewer gathers 12 Agatha Christie quotes and 10 Kazuo Ishiguro quotes, and Julie Glover has a pessimist’s collection of (inspiring) writing quotes.


In the self-publishing world: Lee Foster discusses how publishing your book is changing on Amazon Kindle, Nick Ripatrazone examines the pros and (mostly) cons of self-publishing poetry, Andrew Ervin looks at why the best sci-fi and fantasy defy easy genre categorization, and Sara Voorhis shares what authors need to know about book cover design.

Deborah Underwood talks the reality of author money, while Melissa Bowersock delves into the business of pirating books.

BookExpo announces a shorter trade show for 2020 in New York City.

Danika Ellis wonders why interactive ebooks never caught on.

If you are thinking of expanding your content into the gaming world, you will need to understand the relationship between game developers and publishers.

Going traditional? Janet Reid says to please avoid too many characters in your query and for Pete’s sake don’t pay someone else to query for you, while Linda Maye Adams tells us how not to screw up an agent pitch session. Since rejections are part of the query process, Rachelle Gardner explains why you’re getting rejections and Debbie Burke comments on the phenomenon of rave rejections.

After the book deal comes the marketing. Brian Jud shares the 4 pillars of successful book marketing, Boni Wagner-Stafford lays out how to get editorial reviews for self-published books, and Jessica Faust reveals why preorders matter.

Online, Crisitan Mihai explores the art of writing an amazing blog post, Dorit Sasson explains how to market your non-fiction book on your author website with relevant content articles, and Jillian Boehme has survival tips for writers who would rather hide.


Chandler Bolt walks us through book cover trends through the decades.

Japan has a rich literary tradition. Anna Sherman guides us through the many literary landscapes of Tokyo, and Julia Shiota urges people to delve deeper into contemporary Japanese literature, past Haruki Murakami.

Dylan Jones explains why “Witchita Lineman” contains the greatest musical couplet ever written.

Words obviously hold meaning, but Alexander Stern discusses why meaning is more sunken into words than we realize.

Danika Ellis explores why books are the shape they are.

Want a light read? Ann Parker has suggestions for readers looking for humorous books.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more writerly links.

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | September 11, 2019

Irish muse

Last week I travelled to Ireland with family and I found that over half of my observations fed the writer in me.

The trip was spread out to 4 cities across Ireland and although some included metropolitan areas, the majority of my time was spent in or around the countryside. I feel as if I’ve read countless stories trying to describe that countryside, even if the story wasn’t written about Ireland. I often brought a bag containing my notebook in case I got the chance to write, and a number of times I was able to do so. I found myself describing places I saw without story context just because they belonged in a story somewhere.

While the above observations were unexpected, I did have some preplanned research for my stay in Ireland. The first was a need to do any tours I could on Bram Stoker and the second was for the rich folklore of Ireland, specifically what has been expressed in varied forms like the fae, the other people, the little people, the good people, the Aos Sí, and many more.

As it turned out, the advice I was given by multiple sources was to satisfy both of those desired researches in Dublin, which surprised me because I would have thought a metropolitan area is the last place I would expect to be the culture center for folklore. Also, I only spent 2 nights in Dublin which didn’t give me enough time to go after these subjects. I did manage a literary tour during the last hours I was in Dublin, and I found to my biggest surprise that Bram Stoker wasn’t very heavily represented. There are important historical reasons for this, including realizing the works of the other notable Irish writers as well as noting the content of what each writer wrote about.

As to the Irish folklore, I bought some books on the subject in a quaint bookstore in the town of Dingle, in the County of Kerry. Suffice to say that my desired subjects for research, especially the folklore, would require it’s own trip. I also think it’s a trip that would need some pre-planning, as I still can’t imagine the metropolitan area of Dublin being the source for folklore. That still seems to me to be the province of the countryside.

During my time there, I was reading a published journal of Bram Stoker’s, and I found it interesting that some of his entries were near professional quality, instead of scribbling. I know that the published work was a reproduction of his actual handwriting, but I’m pointing out that some entries were final draft quality. Seeing that made me think that there was another, more personal journal of Bram’s somewhere.

My last night in Ireland was spent in a very old castle, where some apartments were renovated and furnished with electricity. My life-long love of Hammer films and the like makes it practically a critical requirement for me to explore the unfurnished rooms of this old castle, and I didn’t disappoint. If anyone is interested in seeing the very amateurish films I made with my phone of my explorations, feel free to see them at the link below.

A night in Knappogue Castle

For everyone that has never been to Ireland, I encourage you to visit there.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 5, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-04-2019

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 29, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-29-2019

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of August! Enjoy your Labor Day holiday and be safe.

This week, Paule Marshall, novelist of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, died at age 90.

It used to be literary critics were the main literary tastemakers, but today that influence has moved beyond their rarefied sphere. Adam Blades wonders if the new literary tastemakers can be trusted, while Kayla Kibbe comments on the growing influence of Barak Obama on the US literary scene.

English class is full of dead authors, but Nick Ripatrazone reminds us of the benefits of classrooms studying living, breathing poets.

Protect yourself: Victoria Strauss breaks down the latest book-to-movie scams.

Looking for a contest to enter? Arthur Klepchukov has fiction writing contests worth your time in fall 2019.

Grant opportunity: SCBWI has a new grant for authors of Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction.


J.M. G. Le Clezio ponders the expansive, immersive quality of great poetry.

Define this: Zoe M. McCarthy explains the differences between the terms anthology, collection, omnibus, compilation, box set, derivative works, and compendium.

As YA books increasingly celebrates diversity and characters who embrace their cultures, Sonia Patel warns that there is a whole group of kids YA has left behind.

For those who wonder if listening to audiobooks is really reading, wonder no more! Jennifer Walter says our brains can’t tell the difference between audiobooks and reading. But our brains will explode if we break the most bizarre grammar rule you probably never heard of.

Structure carries our stories a long way. Paul D. Marks examines great opening lines, Jami Gold looks at “leap of faith” moments, H.J. Ramsay explains why surprise endings ultimately frighten us, and September C. Fawkes gives us 4 keys to a powerful denouement.

Chris Eboch suggests circling your writing with bookends, Janice Hardy both defines a scene and shows how to write scenes, Stavros Halzatzis discusses how to reveal your reveals, and Ruth Harris has 7 rules of cliffhangers.

Character is the driving force in our writing. Julie Munroe Martin asks: what makes you love your main character?; C.S. Lakin has 3 ways to show emotion in your character, Victoria Mixon offers a different approach to character arc, K.M. Weiland shares her “truth chart” method to figure out character arc, Heather Webb lists tips for a great love story, Kristen Lamb dives into deep POV, and Janice Hardy advises us to make sure our antagonists’ motivations are plausible.

Polishing the manuscript can be a slog, but it is vitally important. Laurie Tomlinson explains how to ensure readers won’t throw your book across the room, and Rachelle Gardner has 5 things to do before hiring a freelance editor.

We all want to write more, in less time. But it can be overwhelming, and sometimes our Muse lets us down. Mathina Calliope tells us how to get out of the writing doldrums, Augustina Van Hoven lays out how to break down overwhelming tasks, C. Kevin Thompson explores the digital distraction disease known as Writing Deficiency Disorder, and Shannon Moore Redmon explains how to start a writer’s sprint group.

We are lucky to live in a time where advice is so freely shared. Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor share 10 tips on collaborative writing success, Robert Lee Brewer has 10 Dorothy Parker quotes for writers and about writing, Erika Liodice dicusses how to write while not writing, and Lainey Caneron advises a 3-tier backup for writers.


Bradley Metrock looks at the issue of Audible Captions vs. the publishing industry

Piracy is an ongoing issue for authors. Hugh Stephens discusses tightening the screws on pirate websites through dynamic website blocking injunctions.

If you are printing your book, Teri Tan makes a case for digital print enhancements.

Utilize your subrights—Tim Hawken tells how to turn your novel into a TV series.

If you are a copy editor, you may sometimes wonder how much to charge. Carol Saller explains how a copy editor decides what to charge.

Most of us want to write more than one book, so James Scott Bell discusses how to build a long-term writing career.

You need to pitch your book in many forums, but the most prominent one is when you are looking for an agent or traditional publisher. Kristen Lamb dissects the pitch, Christopher Oldcorn tells us how to win your first book deal, and Susan Dennard shares 7 realities of traditional publishing.

Marketing as a whole is often difficult. Jessica Cotten discusses poetry marketing on a budget, John Peragine gives us 4 tips for indie authors on planning a successful book tour, and Sandra Beckwith has 5 ways to make your book relevant to the media.

Online connections with readers are important. Cristian Mihai explains how to keep your blog content fresh, and Nate Hoffelder lists 6 goals for your newsletter welcome emails.


World literature opens up cultures and countries we might never otherwise meet. L.T. Kampala gives an overview of writers breathing fresh life into Ugandan literature.

Boze Harrington explores the life of Hans Christen Andersen, original literary softboi.

Like crime stories? Hank Phillippi Ryan lists the 7 most suspenseful jury verdicts in literature and film.

Dorothy Parker explores the art of her old pal James Thurber.

Neil Nyren takes a look at the life and work of mystery writer Rex Stout.

Emily Temple rounds up the 50 greatest coming-of-age novels.

Dictators are always afraid books will spread dangerous ideas of liberty. But there was a time when the public feared that library books could spread deadly diseases.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We will see you in September!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 22, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-22-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are wrapping up summer here, but the links keep coming.

Mary Kole is running a poll for published authors to gather data on the path to publication. Go add your two cents!

Many of us know that Iceland is big on books, but explore the rentrée littéraire: the annual French tradition when hundreds of books get added to TBR piles across Paris.

Matt Grant profiles 14-year-old Marley Dias, a tireless promoter of diversity in literature.

Independent booksellers are making their mark. This year, indie booksellers celebrate the first Bookstore Romance Day, while Cristy Meiners investigates how an independent bookstore survives for 90 years.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware exposes a plague of publishing and marketing scams from the Philippines, and Nick Ripatrazone reminds us that we have always been plagued by literary scammers.


While much writing advice can be used by any writer, sometimes the advice is genre-specific. Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola discuss the big memoir pitfall to avoid, Sam Bleicher talks about dealing with facts in science-based fiction, and Melissa Donovan has tips on how to write a poem.

Every element of your story has to fit together seamlessly to captivate the reader. Zoe M. McCarthy has 13 suggestions for when and what to research for your story, Stavros Halvatzis lists the essential ingredients for a complete story, Roz Morris shares 7 hacks for backstory, description, dialogue, exposition, point of view, and plot; Jordan Dane discusses the key types of conflict while Becca Puglisi zeros in on the specific conflict of a delay that makes your character late, and Vaughn Roycroft examines what makes a good ending.

Laura Drake advises putting character first, Maria Arnt talks about likeable characters, Antonio del Drago explores destined and wounded heroes, Lisa Hall-Wilson gives 4 ways to go deeper with deep point of view, Jim Dempsey extols the wonders of your character’s world view, Melissa Donovan discusses creating characters that resonate, and K.M. Weiland reveals how to tell if your story has too much plot and not enough character.

Writers constantly are learning from other writers. Laurence MacNaughton has 6 rules to pump up your writing, Janice Hardy explains why writers should want nitpicky critiquers, and Nancy Johnson shows how Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye offers a master class in craft.

Writing is a lifestyle as much as a job. PeggySue Wells visits the pros and cons of writing as a dream job, Daphne Gray-Grants advises on how to deal with competing creative interests, Robert Lee Brewer has 14 Neil Gaiman quotes for writers and about writing, and Christina Delay discusses the power of the writing tribe.


If you have considered branching into ghostwriting, read these ghostwriters sharing their tales of nightmare clients.

Jennifer Scroggins explores if hybrid publishing is right for you. And any book needs to be edited before publication, so Stacey Carroll looks at how much you should pay for book editing services.

If you are designing your own cover, Renee Wittman has 4 cover design tips to keep in mind.

Want to record your own audiobook or podcast? John Wagner-Stafford walks us through how to reduce reverberation for better self-published audiobooks and podcasts.

Many writers consider a pen name for various reasons. Janet Reid talks about using a pen name specifically to conceal your identity, while Scott McCormick goes a bit broader with pen names and how and why to use them.

Marketing encompasses many different avenues to connect with your readers. Charity Bradford suggests that craft fairs are an overlooked outlet for selling books, Sandra Beckwith tries to make promotion less scary by seeing book promotion as a public service, and Amy Collins shifts the mindset from creating a fan base to creating a reader base.

Since most of our reader engagement happens online, we need to have the correct tools and the correct attitude to succeed there. Anne R. Allen warns authors against sending invasive personal-info-phishing emails to readers, Stephanie Chandler gives us a book sales page website checklist, Adam Connell has 7 effective backup plugins for WordPress, and Steven Spatz says your email list is your greatest asset as an author.

Scott La Counte shares 10 tips on how to promote a book on social media, Moss Celement brings us 6 easy ways to make your boring blog posts more interesting to read, and Cristian Mihai examines an often overlooked aspect of blogging that matters a lot.


Diana Evans asks why Dorothy West, last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, was overlooked for so long.

David L. Ulin takes us inside the archives—and mind—of sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick.

Cities can be dirty places to live, so the iconic New York Public Library lions, Patience and Fortitude, will get a laser bath.

Maria Popiva examines Rainer Rilke and the difficult art of giving space in love.

For Ernest Hemingway fans, A Moveable Feast is in the works as a TV series.

Rebecca Booroojian explains why thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail are obsessed with fantasy books.

Most of us love a good saga. Roy Jacobsen explores the sagas of Iceland: some of Europe’s most enduring, complex literary works.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week as we close down August and get back to the school drill.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 15, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-15-2019

Welcome to Top Picks Thursday! Hard to believe it’s halfway through August! Some people’s children will be back to school shortly if they aren’t already, but in my neck of the woods we don’t start until September. But learning is year-round here, so enjoy the links below!

Matt Grants brings us the urgency and inspiration at the 2019 New York City Poetry Festival.

A selection of Franz Kafka’s papers are now on display at Israel’s national library.

Jami Gold discusses content warnings and how and what to include in them.

The over 40 crowd doesn’t always fare well in fiction, especially older women. Alison Flood celebrates fiction with positive older characters.

Pirate site alert: Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware warns about the piracy practices of Kiss Library.


Some advice on different genres, other ways of writing, and writing series rather than stand-alones: Ed Rucker has 3 tips about writing a legal thriller from a criminal defense lawyer, Johanna Rothman and Marky Kilby discuss co-writing non-fiction across distance, Susanna Calkins shares 5 lessons learned about writing series, Laurisa White Reyes reveals how to write a real page-turner, and Jennifer Croft explores the daily alchemy of translation.

Writers are bombarded with advice all the time—sometimes contradictory. We have to discover what works for us. Jami Gold asks: can common writing advice be wrong?; C.S. Lakin explains when telling, not showing, emotions is the right choice, Steve Laube has 15 grammar rules that can be broken, Janice Hardy shows how to use subtext to say more with less, Elaine Viets discusses using the sense of smell on our writing, Donald Maass explores how persuasion can add tension to your story, and Janet Reid says that no matter what an agent says, do not whitewash your characters.

That said, we are lucky to live in an age where so much advice is available for free. Janice Hardy shares 4 ways to write a better novel, Emily Temple brings us writing advice from Shirley Jackson, Robert Lee Brewer has 12 Kurt Vonnegut quotes from writers and about writing, Stavros Halvatzis discusses the art and craft of creative writing, Edie Melson lists 12 tips for the best writing life ever, Virginia Moffatt gives us some unusual writing tips, and Julie E. Czerneda reminds us to instill wonder in our fiction.

Stories are wired into the human brain. Robert A. Burton says our brains tell stories so we can live, Kathryn Craft reminds us to give our reader an experience, and C.S. Lakin tells us how to evoke reader emotions with “surprisingness.

So how can we be the most efficient writers possible? Judith Briles dispels the myth of author multitasking, Kelly Allen shows how to spend less and save more, Christopher Oldcorn tells us how to find unique places to write, Julie Glover guides us toward finding the right writer organization, Shanna Swendson helps give our creativity a boost, and James Scott Bell tells us we can get more done by giving ourselves less time.


In industry news, Elliot completes their purchase of Barnes & Noble; John Doppler alerts us to Amazon KDP’s unwritten print pricing rule; and Melinda Clayton explores Audible Captions, copyright lawsuits, and other news from the world of writing.

If you want to have longevity in this business, there’s a lot you need to know. Sangeeta Mehta interviews two agents who discuss establishing a long-term writing career, Laina Turner has 10 tips on building a sustainable writing business, Kathryn Magendie discusses what to do when you lose your publisher, and Bob Hostetler shares 3 ways to embarrass your editor or agent (not good for career longevity).

Writing is going multimedia. Joanna Penn tells us how to build your own home sound booth for audiobooks and podcasting, Andrene Low talks about the trials and tribulations of DIY audiobooks, and Holly Lane lays out how to create and run an indie author podcast.

A great cover can launch a thousand book sales. Melinda VanLone shows how to create the best cover for your book by doing the cover two-step.

But what if you are going traditional? What do you need to know about querying and the way the business works? Janet Reid suggests adding your physical address to your manuscript, while Rachelle Gardner answers the question: will I have to pay back my advance? As to querying, Janet Reid explains why querying an unfinished novel is a bad idea, and Meg LaTorre reveals why writers shouldn’t query self-published books.

Marketing is something most authors need advice on to do well. Sue McGinty shares her experience with successful hometown book marketing, Diana Urban lists the top book marketing advertising tips from RWA 2019, Brian Jud explains marketing planning for first-time authors, and Stephanie Chandler looks at how a network of influence can help promote your book.

From the marketing trenches, Randi Minetor enlightens with tales from the book promotion road, and Mike Fabio gives us 3 creative pitfalls to avoid when you advertise books on social media.

Blogs—whether book bloggers’ or our own—can be a great way to communicate with readers. Nicole Pyles shares how and where to connect with book bloggers, Cristina Mihai reminds us that while blogging is all about problem solving, blogging is not just about information; and Stacey Corrin shares 9 reasons to start a blog and 7 reasons not to.


The Internet is crazy for cats. Bookmarks has put together the 9 meanest cats in literature.

Authors not being paid well is nothing new. Despite being a best-selling author, Jane Austen was paid very little—even compared to her contemporaries.

Jamie Quatro examines the hidden life of Anne Lock, the 16th-century woman who was the first English poet to publish a sonnet cycle.

Any Proust fans out there? Nine newly discovered Proust stories are to be published.

For anyone who is or has a college student, Brian Barrett traces the recent radical transformation of the textbook.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you next week for more writerly links.

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 8, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-08-2019


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, building storm clouds

Building storm clouds yesterday, followed by another power outage in our area, making TPT late for the second time in three weeks.


A sunny welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday!

Today is National Happiness Happens Day. Here’s hoping a lot of happiness happens for you!

Tomorrow is National Book Lovers Day. If you’ve already worked your way through your summer reading list, Jami Gold proposes finding book recommendations from beyond your usual channels, and Tina Jordan and Ross MacDonald list a true crime book for each of the fifty states.

Are you a fast typist? Have some time to spare? Lyndsie Manusos tells us that the Library of Congress is seeking help transcribing suffragist documents.

Plagiarism affects more than the original author. Jonathan Bailey discusses the two victims of plagiarism.

In Memoriam: Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison dies at age 88 [reported by Marina Fang for HuffPost News].


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, sea gull, keep off the dunes sign, shore




Life as a creative person can be difficult. Margaret Olat focuses on how to thrive as a creative in a society that’s always hustling, Cathy Yardley considers addressing anxiety, and Colleen M. Story suggests 5 ways to boost your creativity with color walks.

Lucy Mitchell explains how the act of sharing your not so perfect writing life helps other writers, Liz Astroff wrestles with balancing parenting and writing, and Kristan Hoffman shares 3 lessons about the creative process learned from her toddler.

Robert Lee Brewer shares 14 Shirley Jackson quotes for writers and about writing.

One frequently heard piece of writing advice is to write what you know. Harrison Demchick addresses the misunderstanding of write what you know, and David Tile reveals how to write like an expert—even when you’re not.

Debbie Young suggests finding better ways to measure productivity and finish your book.

Melissa Donovan gives writers 21 ways to improve your writing, while Rachelle Gardner concentrates on that all-important first line.

James Scott Bell takes a look at when writers hit the wall, and Stacey Corrin sets out 10 quick and easy ways to overcome writer’s block.

Anne R. Allen investigates the decline of mainstream fiction and why authors need a genre in today’s fragmented publishing world.

Stavros Halvatzis mulls how to find new story ideas, while Bonnie Randall gives her take on writing emotional truth—what gets us there.

Working on worldbuilding for your novel? PJ Parrish declares we’re lost without a sense of place, and Laurie Schnebly Campbell explores where, when, and why, while Tina Hunter considers habitable planets: exoplanet research for worldbuilding.

Characters are another key story element. David Griffin Brown writes about creating memorable characters, K. M. Weiland looks at the 3 negative character arcs, and Jennifer R. Hubbard goes into when even the author doesn’t know the character is keeping a secret.

Janice Hardy clarifies first vs. third person: choosing the right point of view for your novel, and Peter Gelfan focuses on how to craft engaging dialogue exchanges.

If you struggle with punctuation and grammar, Tobias Carroll tells us how Cecilia Watson learned to stop worrying and love the semicolon, and Robert Lee Brewer clarifies a lot vs. alot vs allot. In addition, Benjamin Dreyer discusses redundant words—like ‘close’ proximity—to delete from your writing.

For writers who want to use a quotation from another author’s work, Cory Doctorow reports that Leonard Richardson’s data-mining reveals that 80% of books published 1924-1963 never had their copyrights renewed and are now in the public domain. (Make sure you check if the work you want to quote is one of those.)

Dawn Field goes into things you might hear from a developmental editor, while Zoe M. McCarthy offers 12 tips to edit a story draft into an enjoyable read.

Polishing your language can bring your story to another level. C. S. Lakin analyzes masterful wordsmithing with metaphor and imagery.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, butterfly and bee, clover, backyard visitors

Bee and butterfly visiting the backyard clover




For writers seeking agents, Janet Reid speaks about how much agents research potential clients and the value of a writer’s having a Publisher’s Marketplace subscription when querying.

Steve Laube takes a look at book manufacturing—the process of printing.

If you are considering a small publisher for your work, make sure you check out that publisher. Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss alerts writers to trouble at Dog ear Publishing.

On the publishing scene, Overdrive CEO Steve Potash hits back at Macmillan’s new library lending terms, and Carrie V. Mullins explains what writers need to know about morality clauses. Also, Karen Raugust reports that the toy company Melissa & Doug plans to begin publishing children’s books.

Are you preparing to market your book? Boni Wagner-Stafford says before you market your book, set your objectives, and Brian Jud lays out book marketing strategies for first-time authors.

Penny C. Sansevieri delves into navigating the changing face of book promotion with smart, effective strategies and why ‘free’ is a cornerstone marketing strategy.

If a book trailer is part of your marketing plan, Manon Wogahn gives a step-by-step guide to making a fast and easy book trailer using Canva.

Sandra Beckwith considers whether authors should respond to negative book reviews.

Finally, some social media advice: Steven Spatz recommends sharing your authentic self on social media, Lee Foster proposes that writers embed words in photos for discovery, and Jordan Peters enumerates the seven magic tricks of blogging.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, native honeysuckle, hummingbird on fence

when I was weeding on a cloudy day this week, I captured a photo of this hummingbird resting on the garden fence in between visits to the honeysuckle flowers.




For those planning some summer fun, Halimah Marcus shares 6 literary party games for your next salon.

Justin Minkel explains why teachers should write.

The Irish Times reports that the new Museum of Literature Ireland will open on Friday, September 20, 2019.

With intriguing news for history buffs, Nicola Holzapfel tells us that historians have a ambitious plan to create a database that would hold all known ancient text fragments in the world in hopes of making it easier for AI to decipher the missing fragments.

Libraries are magical places, especially fictional libraries. Stuart Kells catalogs the top 10 libraries in fiction.

It’s exciting when a new work from a well-known writer is discovered. Brigit Katz at writes that a Steinbeck story about a chef and his cat has been published for the first time.



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, sand dunes, Jersey shore

Jersey shore sand dunes.



A little side story:

If you’re a regular follower of the blog, you know that Kerry Gans usually posts TPT—and a wonderful job she does—and I do the post once a month to give her a break.

Two weeks ago I took my turn for July. On Monday that week I bought ground meat so I could make meatloaf and meat balls to freeze. That night, before the thunderstorm’s downpour even started, our power went out. We got ice for the refrigerator and freezer, but since power was out until late Wednesday (making TPT late the next day), I threw out the ground meat (and a lot of other stuff) to be on the safe side.

This week is my turn for posting TPT In August. Last week I cleaned out the refirgerator and freezer, so I didn’t replace the ground meat until this week—just before the power went out again with high winds an hour before the rain began. This time we waited only an hour before getting ice. Fortunately, the power was only out 8 hours, so I didn’t have to pitch the meat, although TPT is late again.

While it’s probably just coincidence that twice when I was scheduled to do TPT I bought ground meat before a storm during which we lost power, I think I’ll play it safe and NOT purchase ground meat the next time I’m scheduled to do TPT!


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Join us next week for another collection of writerly links!


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, waves at Island Beach State Park, Jersey shore



Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 1, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-01-2019

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of August! This summer is flying by for me, how about you?

In author news, Lois Wille, 2 time Pulitzer Prize winning Chicago journalist, dies at 87.

In literary award news, the Man Booker Prize names their 2019 longlist.

Sylvia Arthur discusses opening Ghana’s first subscription-model library, while here in the US Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg examines how library ebook lending poses a rising problem for the publishing industry, and Macmillan’s response of only selling one copy per library for the first 8 weeks.

Most authors will relate to Karen Olsson as she explains why she doesn’t read all her books.

Check out the series of literary events the National Book Festival is adding this year.


While we often talk generic writing advice here, sometimes we run across great genre- or format-specific articles. Lyndsie Manusos asks: what are chapbooks and why should you read them? Now Novel has 5 lessons from great writers on how to start a short story, Maria Grace explains that science fiction is more than gizmos, and Michael Gallant shares 10 tips for creating your first children’s picture book.

Everyone’s process is different, and so our starting points differ. Some people start with a title, some with world building, and some with research. James Scott Bell tells us how to come up with a title, Justin Attas discusses creating a credible magic system, and Sue Coletta details how and where to research historical crime.

Description seems to be on blogger’s minds this week. Mary Kole looks at novel scene description, Janet Reid shows how description that stops the story dead can lead to rejection, and Janice Hardy lays out how to write description without going overboard.

Characters bring our stories to life, so how we draw them is essential to a compelling story. Kassandra Lamb explores the right way to include multiple points of view, Angela Ackerman tells how to avoid the boring stuff in character description and character building for pantsers, and K.M. Weiland describes the 2 heroic character arcs.

Revision is the way to make our good story great. Nancy J. Cohen discusses what to do after you finish the first draft of a book, Ureeda Asim traces content evolution from good to awesome, and Dan Brotzel lists 7 ways to write funnier fiction.

Sometimes feeding our creativity and making it last is the hardest part of writing. Electric Literature says to follow these Twitter bots for inspiration, Daniel Flanagan reveals how to write every day, W. Zeiler examines what to do when your creativity is on pause, Barbara O’Neal shares her secret to staying creative, Jordan Peters tells us how to beat blogger’s block, and Brigid Schulte dives deep into a creative woman’s greatest enemy: a lack of time to herself.

The right mental attitude can take you far in writing. Pagan Malcolm has 3 mindset shifts a writer must make if they want to become a full-time author, Laura Drake asks us to share our writing wisdom, Laura Benedict advises us not to miss deadlines, and Ann Marie Nieves urges us to embrace small victories.


Publishing is a business. Do you have a business plan? Lisa Bell asks if your writing plan is ready for a crisis.

Nathan Bransford walks us through how authors make money (both traditional and self-publishing models).

Protect yourself. Douglas Preston, president of the Authors Guild, writes about online book-selling scams that steal a living from writers.

If you are self-publishing, you have to think more about the details of the business side than a traditional author. Nathan Bransford parses what it costs to self-publish a book, David Kudler shares a CSS trick for new and old Kindles, and David Wogahn explains why self-publishing authors should consider establishing their own imprint.

If you are looking to go traditional, Rachelle Gardner explains how to find a literary agent, Jodee Blanco has tips to sell your memoir, Janet Reid advises how many rejections you should rack up before giving up, and Anne R. Allen has 8 reasons why your manuscript was rejected.

For success, you need to distill your book into its most compelling pieces. Ruth Harris dissects the art and craft of an elevator pitch, and Adam Croft explains writing hooks for your books.

Marketing takes many forms. Steve Laube answers 4 questions about publicity, Heather Webb shares notes from a book tour, and Sandra Beckwith lists 13 ways to use a book award for marketing.

Online, Nate Hoffelder has 3 secrets to an effective landing page for your site, and Sandra Beckwith explains what all authors can learn from book marketing case studies.


Do you like Sherlock Holmes? H.G. Parry brings a power ranking of Sherlock Holmes adaptations.

Read the 10 greatest opening paragraphs from the noir master Raymond Chandler.

It’s always exciting to find a previously unseen work from a classic talent. Take a look at a lost work by Langston Hughes examining the harsh life on the chain gang.

We know Picasso as a painter, but an exhibition  highlights Picasso’s poetry and ties with China.

Ever wonder about how characters would decorate their homes? Wonder no more! See how Nancy Drew, Ramona, and other favorite children’s book characters would decorate their first studio apartments.

During a dark time in his life, Gore Vidal wrote mystery novels under a pseudonym.

Check out these 12 Herman Melville quotes for writers and about writing.

R.L. Maizes asks: who needs an MFA when you have this literary fiction trope checklist?

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week for more cool literary links.



Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | July 25, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-25-2019

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, afternoon storm clouds

Building storm clouds Monday—which resulted in our not having electricity until last night (the reason we are a bit late publishing today).


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Hope you’re enjoying your summer. Thanks for sparing a few minutes to check out our weekly collection of literary links.

For those whose interest in astronaut-themed books has been whetted by the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, the Seattle Times staff has compiled a list of favorite fiction and nonfiction books, movies, and TV shows in that genre, while offers classic poems about the moon.

In case you need more suggestions for summer reading, Carly Silver shares 22 of the best summer books recommended by librarians.

On the subject of librarians, Literary Hub‘s Book Marks interviews the Houston librarian dedicated to community over quietude.

Susan Faust charts the sea change in diversity of children’s books, from the 1950s to today.

We never thought of this, but The Guardian‘s David Barnett asks: should books include credits like films (mentioning all the people who worked on publishing them)?

Winning Writers shares free literary contests with deadlines to August 31. [Note: some of the deadlines have passed, but there are plenty you can still enter.]

In Memoriam: Andrea Camilleri, beloved creator of Inspector Montalbano, dies at age 93 [reported in The Guardian by Alison Flood and Angela Giuffrida].


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, roadside day lilies

Roadside day lilies.




Writers can have a profound influence on readers. Tracy Hahn-Burkett advocates making a difference by telling a story, and Gabrielle Maletto sets out 5 reasons you should mentor a creative writing student.

Going on vacation? Lainey Cameron highlights how to write while traveling.

We found a lot of advice for writers this past week. Amy Jones shares writing tips from Writer’s Digest Conference instructors, and Robert Lee Brewer give us 11 Aldous Huxley quotes for writers and about writing. From her own experiences, Sherry Howard sets down 8 things every writer needs to remember, while Laurence MacNaughton warns of 4 writing pitfalls to avoid at all costs.

In addition, Alycia W. Morales advises writers to know why you’re writing, and Sandy Kirby Quandt offers lessons writers can learn from throwing axes.

Suffering a confidence crisis? Sam Hooker suggests a way writers can improve their mindset: stop reading your book reviews; Angela Ackerman takes a look at how to stop self-doubt from holding you back from writing; and Patty Nicholas urges writers to never give up.

Are you writing in a particular genre? Gordon Long asserts genre writing is like playing jazz, Grace Scheufler avers science fiction is more than just gizmos, and Assaph Mehr considers world-building historical fantasy (or, of unicorns and icebergs).

Anna Schmidt, a romance-turned-literary novelist, offers tips on what to do when you outgrow your genre.

Stavros Halvatzis delves into planning your story, and Lisa Cron presents three simple questions that will unlock your story.

For those working on their plots, Brian Schmidt discusses character narrative as a plot device, and K. M. Weiland spells out how to make our plot a powerful thematic metaphor. Also, Janice Hardy sums up the perils of not knowing what happens next in your story and insists every scene should reveal something new.

If you need to tell your story from more than one point of view, Cassandra Lamb focuses on the right way to include multiple POVs.

Why do your characters do the things they do? Julie Carrick Dalton digs into interrogating characters about their motivations.

Steve Laube looks at oxymorons.

Cecilia Watson reveals 9 things you didn’t know about the semi-colon.

Dawn Field takes a comprehensive look at editing: is your manuscript ready for editing?


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, dawn, humid misty summer sunrise

Misty summer sunrise.




Jenn Windrow has suggestions for when no one wants what you write, while Rachel Gardner explores the power of negative thinking (or, in other words, realistic optimism).

Is your manuscript ready for publication? Anne R. Allen names 8 reasons why your manuscript may be getting rejections, while Clare Langley-Hawthorne ponders when is a manuscript ready to be sent to an agent.

For those interested in putting out an audiobook, Nathan Bransford gives his take on Audible’s controversial new feature—Audible Captions, and James Scott Bell writes about producing his own audiobook.

If you’ve decided that self-publishing is for you, David Wogahn recommends that self-publishing authors should consider establishing their own imprints.

Are you marketing your book? Sandra Beckwith lists 13 ways to use a book award for marketing, and Martin Cavannagh asks: can you effectively promote a book on social media without spending money?

For authors who blog, Cristian Mihai lays out the 3 principles of effective blogging.

Do you have an author newsletter? Sandra Beckwith explains how to do an author newsletter swap.

Nate Hoffelder reveals 3 secrets to an effective landing page on your author site.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, tiger, Rick L

Photo by Rick L on Unsplash




Literary Hub‘s Katy Yocom gives us ten enduring stories of an endangered species, the fictional tiger.

Electric Lit‘s Jess Zimmerman writes about the towering influence of Leonard Cohen.

Seán Hemingway, grandson of the famous writer, reveals what Hemingway cut from For Whom The Bell Tolls.

In The Guardian, Mark Brown reports that the Charles Dickens Museum in London has bought a lost portrait of the young author 133 years after it went missing.

On the topic of the exploring the moon, the Boston Globe‘s Alyssa Lukpat tells us about the tiny book Buzz Aldrin took on the historic voyage to the moon, and Literary Hub‘s Martin Parr shows us the heroic Soviet space dogs.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, farm and field, sunset

Farm at sunset.


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Since next Thursday is the first of August, we’ll see you next month with another roundup of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fair weather clouds, fields

Beautiful weather after the storms.



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