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.



Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 18, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-18-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are in the middle of a heat wave here (think 100 degrees!), so we will chill out with some literary links.

Mary Kole is seeking MG & YA novel opening pages to use in a critique series.

Ceridwen Dovey examines whether reading can make you happier.

Before you read, understand how ebooks work. Dan Holloway looks at who owns your books, while John Warner flat out asks: you do know you don’t own your ebooks, right?

But you can always get books from the library. Daniela Petrova’s love letter to the public library details the most important thing she got from libraries—and it wasn’t books.

Nathan Bransford gets philosophical pondering caring about quality in a flash-in-the-pan world.

Want to know your future? Jeanna Kadlec has Summer 2019 Horoscopes for Writers.


Our readers write in many different formats, categories, and genres. Nathan Bransford has 5 tips for writing for children, Nancy L. Erikson tells us how to write your memoir in 15 minutes a day, Marie Wells Coutu has the (not-so) definitive guide on how to write a novel, and Kathryn Craft talks about writing book club fiction: what 5 reading guide questions can teach us.

When we write, we need to decide on structure, genre, and point of view. Alex Limberg questions whether you need the three-act structure, Naomi Bates explores how to choose your story’s genre, and Janice Hardy explains omniscient point of view.

Characters populate all our stories. Stavros Halvatzis discusses deep character motivation in stories, Antonio del Drago has a guide to sacrificial heroes, and David Corbitt examines characters in search of a moral compass.

We all need some editing to get our work as good as it can be. Julie Glover shares 6 tips for finding a great critique partner, and Juliet Marillier explains why editing matters.

Boosting our productivity is often a goal for writers. Brian Rowe shows how to create a schedule for writing your Medium stories, Jeff Gordinier explores the liberation and consternation of writing a whole book with pen and paper, and Lara Zielin tells us why writing yourself into your own hero’s journey can help you get unstuck.

Sometimes the whole writing journey can get us down. Katie Heaney asks: why does writing suck?, while Janet W. Ferguson reveals what to do when grumpiness strikes.

Sarah Stover advises why writers should embrace their weird side, Peter Leavell looks at teamwork and the writer, and Jim Dempsey guides us to achieve our writing goals.


Writers want to just write, but business gets in the way. Annalisa Parent investigates why so many writers feel frustration about publication.

Don’t let frustration blind you to a scam. Victoria Strauss gives a heads up to the most prolific vanity publishers out there.

Carefully consider your options. Jane Friedman lays out the key book publishing paths for 2019-2020.

In this era where anyone can publish anything, Kristen Lamb makes a case for why we need gatekeepers, and why publishing is desperate for the next breakout novel.

If you are self-publishing, Nate Hoffelder advises avoiding these self-publishing money wasters.

No matter how you publish, you should understand permissions and fair use. Jane Friedman brings us a writer’s guide to fair use and permissions, including a sample permission letter.

Melissa Miles McCarter explains why simultaneous pitches are a bad idea.

Writing a non-fiction book? Sue Coletta details how to write a non-fiction book proposal.

Marketing, promoting, and branding go hand-in-hand. Scott McCormick dissects book marketing and social media promotion, Amy Collins explains how to promote your book before you have the book out, and Julie Cantrell goes rebel by asking: should authors break free from the brand?

How to reach your audience? Reviews, news interviews, public readings, and audiobooks can help. Penny Sansevieri serves up a beginner’s guide to securing Amazon reviews, Sandra Beckwith shows us how to find the hidden news hooks in your fiction, M.K. Rainey has tips on reading your work in public, and Ray Flint walks us through developing an audiobook for indie authors.

If those approaches above don’t work, the internet is always waiting. Shelley Sturgeon shares 5 tips for popular posts on your author blog, and Bradley Metrock reveals podcasts as the indie author’s secret weapon.


The Heavens have always captured man’s imagination. David Seed examines two millenia of lunar literature.

No author is immune to bad reviews. Emily Temple brings us the 50 best one-star Amazon reviews of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Jack London is best known as an adventure writer, but Matthew Raese revisits the Jack London novel that influenced a century of dystopian fiction.

Irene Goldman-Price tells us the story behind Edith Wharton’s little-known book of poems on love, loss, and regret.

Sci-fi can seem eerily predictive—but can also be wildly wrong in foreseeing the future. So why are companies employing sci-fi writers to imagine their uncertain futures for them?

Mateo Askaripour says move over Willy Loman—literature needs a new salesman.

There is a robust connection between language and nature. Chi Luu investigates how language and climate connect: while we’re losing biological diversity, we’re also losing linguistic and cultural diversity.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay cool and join us next week for more writerly links.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 11, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-11-2019

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 4, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-04-2019

Happy 4th of July Top Picks Thursday! I hope all of you get to rest, relax and write!

Looking for something to read over the holiday? Marvin Joseph rounds up the best books to read at every age from 1 to 100, and Michael Gonzales has a brief history of the heroes of black pulp.

You may want to be choosy about what you pick to read if you are an older woman—half of women over 40 say older women in fiction are clichés.

If magazines are more your reading material, pick up a Time magazine. Colson Whitehead is the first novelist to grace the cover of Time since 2010.

Can’t get to the library? In Sweden, the library comes to you! Check out Sweden’s bokbaten floating library.


What is a writer, and what can writers learn from other art forms? Meg Dowell has 12 misconceptions about being a writer, Gabriel Urza tells us what fiction writers can learn from stage magicians, and Luke Jerod Kummer discusses the painterly art of observation.

All stories start with an idea. Laura Drake explores where ideas come from, Janice Hardy discusses the need to understand our premise to understand our story, and Orly Konig investigates how mind-mapping can be a pantser’s guide to planning.

Character and plot are inevitably intertwined. Jami Gold examines what “plot reveals character” really means, Ruth Harris talks about the allure of rogue characters, and Nathan Bransford has a list of character strengths and weaknesses.

Many story elements need to be just right to create a page turner. James Scott Bell reminds us to let no good tension go unstretched, Karstenberg walks us through creating fantasy cuisines as part of worldbuilding, Stavros Halvatzis examines using coincidence in stories, Dawn Field reverts to story fundamentals to make a story great, and Taylor Simonds looks at using story tropes to subvert reader expectations.

Every story we write we hope will take our work up a notch. K.M. Weiland shows us how to take our writing to the next level, Terry Odell asks: are your words pulling their weight?, and Mary Ann de Stefano advises on how to manage criticism.

Writing in different genres and formats can improve our craft and open opportunities for us. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shows how to adapt a book into a screenplay, Chris Lentz shares the top 5 things learned from writing a biography, Penny Appleton discusses writing later in life, and Yi Shun Lai tells us how a beginner’s mindset can improve your writing.

Once we complete one project, there are always others waiting in the wings. Barbara O’Neal talks about writing the next book, and Meg Dowell wonders if you should start a new project right after finishing an old one.


The book business is rollercoastering again. Mark Sweney says UK print book sales fall while audiobooks surge 43%, Alison Flood points out that fiction book sales in the UK fall 3% but nonfiction shows growth, and Steve Laube reassures that books are still selling.

Trying to decide how to publish your books can be difficult. Lee Foster examines traditional publishing vs. self-publishing in a 2020 vision, Bryan Collins lays out what every entrepreneur should know about becoming an author, Joanna Penn lists 9 ways artificial intelligence will disrupt authors and the publishing industry, and Brian Jud shows how to create multiple streams of revenue with your work.

Amazon is not having a good week. David Streitfeld dove deep into the problem of counterfeit books on Amazon, and the Association of American Publishers lodged a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission against Amazon, Google, and other large tech companies.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch urges us to shift our focus and rethink the writing business, and Robert McCaw discusses the challenges of getting your book published.

Querying a book with multiple protagonists? Nathan Bransford has a few tips for how to handle multiple protagonists in a query letter.

Marketing! Joan Stewart fields the top 10 FAQs about book publicity and promotion, John Sibley William tells us how to sell more books at author events, and Martin Cavannaugh explains how to create an irresistible lead magnet to market your book.

Most authors know that they need to have some social media footprint to be successful these days. SCBWI lists author website criteria, agent Janet Reid answers social media presence questions, and Sandra Beckwith explores social proof for authors.

While social media can be a boon for marketing, it can also be a nightmare when a book comes under intense scrutiny. Molly Templeton looks at some recent YA books that were pulled because of Twitter pressure, and says the backlash was fueled by more than those particular books.


For our poets, Nick Ripatrazone has a meditation on exclamation marks in contemporary poetry.

Emily Temple looks at how many copies famous books sold in their first year.

Easy as ABC? Jacqueline Ardam shows how the alphabet helped Virginia Woolf understand her father.

Paul Auster on the time he met Samuel Beckett.

And now get back to relaxing! Debbie Burke guides us through do-it-yourself massages for writers.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Have a safe and fun 4th, everyone!


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | June 27, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-27-2019

Misty sunrise


Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of June! Hope you’re enjoying the summer season.

Summer is set to hit those of us in the East with our first heat wave, and that makes us dream of relaxing on the beach. If you’re looking for some short books for vacation reading, Frances Yackel suggests 11 short novels from around the world that you can read in one sitting.

On the international scene, Nnamdi Ehirim reveals how a new generation of Nigerian writers is salvaging tradition from colonial erasure, and Don Kulick, reflecting on why languages die, looks at the slow demise of Tayap in Papua New Guinea.

Have authors been affected by the closing of bookstores? Kristen Lamb addresses the death of ‘ye olden bookstores’ and the author identity crisis.

For those who enjoy astrology, Jeanna Kadlec provides summer 2019 horoscopes for writers.

Kudos to: Joy Harjo, who has become the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate (reported by Lynn Neary and Patrick Jarenwattananon for NPR).

In memoriam: best-selling author of romance novels Judith Krantz dies at age 91 (reported by Michael Rothman for GMA).


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, eggs in Jim Leedom's purple marting house

Purple martin eggs



Writing is a creative endeavor. Julie Duffy assures us that although creation is messy, that’s okay.

Are you a budding novelist? Ivana Sanders sets out 5 steps to starting your novel, and Janice Hardy contributes 4 steps to establish the beginning of your novel, while Karen Dukess claims you need seven friends if you’re writing a novel.

If you are writing in a particular genre, Jami Gold discusses conflicts and goals in romance, and John Gilstrap shares what to wear to a gunfight. For those considering nonfiction, Steven Spatz lays out four questions to ask yourself if you’re writing a business or self-help book.

Offering pointers on creating characters, Sonja Yoerg explores writing characters with personality, while Carol Despeaux Fawcett concentrates on revealing your characters through their circle of friends, and Mark Alpert details how to create a good leader.

For those working on worldbuilding, Lisa Hall-Wilson delves into making your setting real with strategic description.

Dialogue can have many uses: Lisa Lowe Stauffer focuses on using objects to inject character and world-building into dialogue, and K. M. Weiland identifies 4 ways to write gripping internal narrative.

Tension is a way to keep readers engaged. Chris Winkle looks at goal-oriented storytelling: creating tension, and H. R. D’Costa identifies 5 ways to ensure readers don’t abandon your book, while Margie Lawson writes about the power of silence on the page.

If you’re working on your plot, Janice Hardy clarifies what “setup” in a novel actually means, and James Scott Bell addresses writing in medias res.

Terry Odell shares what happens when she reaches the end of her manuscript.

When you’re taking a look at your finished manuscript, Sin Ribbon lists 5 ways to avoid plot holes in your novel. If you’re not sure you have plot holes, Roz Morris points out how to see the holes in your story’s ending.

Ashlee Willis explains how she self-edits her books.

Since the writing process can have stressful moments, Jana Oliver writes about stress and the writer.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, butterfly on wildflowers



If you are seeking traditional publication, agent Janet Reid gives her views on when writers think agents hate certain punctuation marks and whether using grammar software helps or hurts.

Do you write short stories? Yu-Han Chao tells us how she found a publisher for her short story collection, and Janet Reid clarifies how to write a query letter for a short story collection.

Steve Laube answers the question: what are average book sales?

Victoria Strauss warns writers about tricks used by predatory companies to hijack your publishing search.

Nathan Bransford considers whether authors should have more control over their book covers.

David Kudler offers self-publishers 3 dos for getting reviews (and 4 dont’s).

For those looking for social media pointers, Scott La Counte shares Facebook tips for Indie authors (which traditionally published authors may also find useful).

Stymied about creating a website? Rachel McCollin shows us how to get started with a WordPress author website.

For bloggers: Cristian Mihai gives five super easy ways to improve your blog posts, and Anne R. Allen shares ten lessons from ten years of blogging.

Janet Reid focuses on what you need to reboot a career.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, clouds

Summer clouds



Emily Temple shares rejection letters sent to famous authors.

As she relates the unsung Chinese and Korean history of movable type, M. Sophia Newman reveals that Gutenberg wasn’t actually the first inventor of the printing press.

Tim Mason writes about the real-life detectives who inspired Charles Dickens and sometimes let him accompany their patrols.

Peter Schjeldahl suggests how to celebrate Walt Whitman’s two hundredth birthday.

Andrew Feldman investigates what Ernest Hemingway was doing in Cuba during World War II.

Emily Temple talks about the grand cultural influences of Octavia Butler.

Danielle A. Jackson considers why we’re still looking for the real Lorraine Hansberry.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross,sunset

Sunset clouds


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Have a great reading and writing week, and we’ll see you next month on the Fourth of July!



Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 20, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-20-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Friday is the first day of summer. And to get everyone in the mood, Thursday is National Vanilla Milkshake Day and National Ice Cream Soda Day – both good to cool us off while we peruse the links below.

In awards news, SCBWI announces the 2019 Crystal Kite winners, and Emily Ruskovich’s Idaho, nominated by a single library, won the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award.

Two deaths this week: Lonesome Dove screenwriter Bill Witliff dies at 79, and legendary Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, whose Romeo & Juliet introduced many a high schooler to Shakespeare, dies at age 96.

It’s summertime! Emily Temple lists 20 perfect summer books.

But to get those books in the Scottish islands, you’d need to rely on the Outer Hebrides mobile libraries.

Elsewhere, translated books gain visibility in libraries, Damian Barr examines how indie bookshops are fighting back, and John Maher explores how the internet has changed book culture.

Looking for writing contests? Erica Verillo lists 16 recurring writing contests with no entry fees.


Prose writers are always advised to read well to write well. Melissa Donovan looks at what happens when poets don’t read poetry.

Getting started often means getting all the pieces you need in place before writing. Bella Osborne tells us how to plan your novel, Jake Wolff speaks on the fine art of researching for fiction, and Yolanda Smith examines research and rabbit holes.

Then you need to build the bones of your story. Nicholas Mancusi discusses the importance of plot and inventiveness, while Kassan Warrad warns of a related problem—too little story, too many problems.

Kathryn Craft delves into when something good incites the story, while Nathan Bransford examines the other end of the story with how to write a good climax in a novel. Sarah Callender explores mood, and Dawn Field discusses building your scene quality map.

Characters must have goals or the story is boring. Jami Gold wonders if passive goals can ever be good for our story, Mary Kole has character development questions to ask and answer, and Monique DeVere shows how to raise emotional stakes. Janice Hardy walks us through describing a character’s emotions in a first person point of view, Laurence MacNaughton teaches how to use foreign languages in fiction, and Jeanette Veillette Bowerman tells us how to create multi-layered villains you love to hate.

Editing can help you catch the mistakes that will throw readers out of your story. Kathy Steinemann shares 2 punctuation blunders that puzzle readers and irk editors, Katie Doherty lists 10 writing mistakes people make all the time and how to fix them, K.M. Weiland has 5 ways to earn your audience’s loyalty, and Jim Demspey discusses how to respond to criticism.

As much as we all hate writer’s block, it’s not always all bad. Julia Roberts explores why writer’s block is a gift, and Jami Gold suggests fighting writer’s block by focusing on stronger story goals.

Much of the writing process can seem inscrutable or like magic. Lauren Acampora asks: what, to the writer, are dreams?; Katie Heaney ponders: why does writing suck?; and Jack Preston King expounds on the difference between imagination and creativity.

Getting to THE END is the goal when we first start drafting. Barbara Linn Probst takes a fresh look at “writing what you know”, Lynn Blackburn tries a word crawl as a creative way to make your word count goal, and Bill Ferris shares the top 5 hacks to overcome writer burnout.


Writers conferences abound, but what do you do if crowds are not your thing? Cat Rose has tips how to survive a conference even if you’re an introvert.

As MailChimp changes its terms, Rachel McCollin tells you how to switch from MailChimp to MailLite for budget-conscious authors.

Georgie Hockett gives us 7 ways we can make more money from your book.

Agent Janet Reid gives us 5 reasons she passed on your query, whether pre-publication podcasts are a good idea, and what repercussions could be if you write about a public figure in an uncomplimentary manner in your novel. If you need a book proposal, Tamela Hancock Murray has book proposal basics. And once you have an agent, Nathan Bransford discusses how to work with literary agents on edits.

Marketing can be a hard slog. Dan Blank describes how he helped an author grow her platform from scratch, while Sandra Beckwith tells us how to snag book publicity with a roundup article. Eric Simmons lays out how to get your book into libraries, Dan Smith has 8 tips for marketing self-help books, and Elaine Viets shares confessions of a book reviewer.

Online resources are a great way to stay in touch with your readers. Cristian Mihai looks at how to find your blogging muse, Nate Hoffleder lists 14 content ideas for author newsletters, and John Burke gives us 6 elements of a successful author website.


Timothy Greenfield-Sanders talks about bringing Toni Morrison’s life to film.

Sometimes children’s stories are more than they seem. Sarah Blackwood discusses the quiet subversiveness of Amelia Bedelia.

Nicole Robertson takes us inside the great bookstores of Paris, and The Strand Bookstore is granted landmark status despite the owner’s objections.

Alexis Hall examines if Sherlock Holmes had more in common with the American hardboiled noir than with the English puzzle mystery.

Preserving a literary landmark: Ally Findley details the fight to save the real-life pharmacy from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more literary links!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 13, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-13-2019

**If you missed our coverage of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, here are Days One, Two, and Three.**

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Tomorrow is Flag Day, so take a moment to admire the beauty of our flag and the best of what it symbolizes.

The big publishing news is the sale of Barnes & Noble to Elliott Management (more articles in the Business section below).

Kay Keppler takes apart a study to find out what matters to readers.

Check out this free Braille and talking book program for veterans.

Good news for graphic novel and comic lovers! The American Library Association is ready to shake things up with comics.

Looking for some professional development? Diana Hurwitz lists writing workshops from July to September 2019.


Diversity in our stories is something many of us strive for, but some writers are wary of adding in people of other experiences than their own for fear of offending someone inadvertently. Nancy Johnson tells us what white writers should know about telling black stories.

Writers are forever refining their writing process. Janice Hardy discusses why using fill in the blank writing templates doesn’t work, while Aminah Mae advises that there is no wrong way to write a book.

Often in writing, the devil is in the details. Indeed Michel Leiris looks at the great details that make great art. Janice Hardy asks if we’re using enough sensory details in our descriptions, and Jordan Dane gives tips for writing believable conspiracies for thriller fiction.

Details of craft elements can also elevate our writing. Dana Sitar explores using tone and voice properly in your writing, Linda Yezak explains past continuous and past perfect verb tenses, Melissa Donovan guides us in making the right word choices for better writing, Sherry Howard  demystifies motif, and Donald Maass reminds us that it’s all about the mystery.

Because who is telling the story is vital, Janice Hardy reviews point of view basics. Once we know what characters will inhabit our story, we need to flesh them out. John B. Jamison has 3 ways to discover who your characters really are, K.M. Weiland shares 6 requirements for writing better character goals, and Fae Rowen lists 6 f-words for compelling characters. And because those characters will talk to each other, Julie Glover gives us 5 tips from Gilmore Girls for writing great dialogue.

An otherwise great story can fail the reader in the ending if we aren’t careful. A. Howitt discusses endings and their requirements, and Janice Hardy talk about tying up the loose ends.

After we wrestle that ending onto the page, it’s time to revise. Michael James has 7 tips for getting through your second draft, Howard Underdown explains using a revision grid to break a story down into elements, and Donna Galanti discusses letting go in writing and in life. Tara East tells us how to reduce our word count, Janice Hardy wonders whether or not to hire and editor, and Hayley Millman offers 5 tips for editing a manuscript without an editor.

Churning out those words faster and more efficiently is a goal for many writers. Stavros Halvatzis investigates how long to write each day. Cheryl A. Ossola reminds us that sometimes the story writes itself, but if you are stuck Nathan Bransford has a trick to unstick your novel. Arthur Klepchukov advises that word count goals should not be our only goals, and Lynne Shelby has tips for getting in the zone.

There are plenty of obstacles and mistakes that can make writers want to quit. Terry Odell discusses how “write what you know” can be limiting, Nathan Bransford talks about the most common mistakes writers make, Jeff Somers addressed mistakes and writing, Katrin Schumann ponders how to know when to quit your novel, and James Scott Bell urges us all to stay thirsty.


More Barnes & Noble analysis: Lauren Hirsch’s look at Elliot Management acquiring B&N, and Ed Nawotka saying that Daunt relishes the challenge of leading B&N.

Jim Milliot goes deeper into the looming tariffs clouding the printing picture, Stephanie Chandler examines audiobook production and distribution options, and Jane Friedman urges writers not to crowdsource your cover design.

Agent Janet Reid addresses two topics today: what to do with those required bio fields on portal queries when you have no publishing credentials, and what happens when an author dies mid-contract. If you write nonfiction, Stephanie Chandler explains how to locate and work with nonfiction literary agents.

Marketing is tricky. Joe Konrath tells us why our marketing plan won’t work, Eileen Omosa shows us how to organize a book signing event, and Chrys Fey explains how to prepare for outdoor book and author events.

Blogs are still a solid way to market these days. Amy Collins details how to best approach book bloggers, Sandra Beckwith has 4 reasons to embrace guest blogging, and Christian Mihai lays out how to write a great blog post headline and 8 blogging mistakes that waste your readers’ time.

Social media presence is vital to reaching readers. Maggie Lynch shares a Facebook posting strategy for authors, Frances Caballo shows us how to conquer LinkedIn, and Henneke lists 29 ways to improve your writing skills and escape content mediocrity.


Did the Tony Awards make you want to go write a musical? Electric Literature provides a handy chart to help you decide what musical to write.

Neil Gaiman discusses adapting Good Omens for the small screen.

Valerie Thompson has put together the scientist’s summer reading list, and Tony Hillerman gives us a crime reader’s guide to the classics.

Books can be a lifeline. Tyler Wetherall describes how sharing books with his dad in prison made life bearable for both of them.

Ed Simon discusses William Blake, radical abolitionist, while Joy Lanzendorfer traces Jack London from rags to riches and back again.

James Harbeck ponders the future of accented characters [letters] in English, while Sabrina Imbler is similarly intrigued with why Medieval Europeans were so obsessed with long, pointy shoes.

Those who love poetry will be happy to hear that the Emily Dickinson Museum received a $22 million gift to help carry on its mission.

That’s all for this week! Join us again next week for more writerly links.


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | June 12, 2019

The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: Photo Gallery


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia skyline, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

The Philadelphia skyline, 6-8-19


I spent last weekend at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference with fellow Author Chronicler Kerry Gans. The perfect weather—no rain, no heat wave, no humidity—made it tempting to spend the days outside, but attending the conference was well worth the time spent indoors.

Kerry and I registered separately and, by chance, chose most of the same sessions. Since Kerry did such a fine job of summing up Day One, Day Two, and Day Three of the conference, I’m going to give you a pictorial overview.

Guest speakers:


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Asali Solomon, Opening Remarks, 6-7-19.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry, Keynote Speech, 6-8-19


Workshop leaders with their participants:


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Session I: The Elements of Plot with Shirley Hailstock, 6-7-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Session I: The Writer’s Business Plan – The Art of the Pitch with Jonathan Maberry, 6-7-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Workshop: Should You Self Publish with Karen Schobel-Maneely, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Workshop: The Hermit Crab Essay with Randon Billings-Noble, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry presents the keynote speech, 6-8-19


Workshop leaders:


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Shirley Hailstock, The Elements of Plot, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry, The Writers’ Business Plan: Social Media and Personal Branding, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Kathryn Craft, Setting Story Fuel Aflame in the Here and Now, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Gail Priest, Characterization from an Actor’s Perspective, 6-7-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Lauren Sharkey, Building a Platform, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Donna Galanti, Foundations of World Building for Tweens and Teens, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry, Master Class: Writing an Action Scene, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Ferida Wolff, The Personal Essay, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Karen Schobel-Maneely, Should You Self Publish, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross,  Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Randon Billings-Noble, The Hermit Crab Essay, 6-9-19












I really enjoyed this conference–making connections with new writer friends and renewing connections with long-time friends, as well as learning more about the craft and business of writing. I left the conference Sunday with reluctance at parting from friends and with sorrow that there will be no conference to attend next year. At the same time, I felt relieved to finally have time to process the wealth of information (and to sleep off the exhaustion), while also full of eagerness to get back to writing.

If you’ve never attended a writers’ conference, find one near you and give it a try.



For some more conversation about writing, check out The Liars Club Oddcast #074–Philadelphia Writers Conference Roundtable–recorded during the conference.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Liars Club cohosts Merry Jones, Kelly SImmons, Greg Frost, Keith Strunk, and Jon McGoran interview conference president Autumn Konopka on their Oddcast, 6-8-19



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