Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | October 31, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-31-2019

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall morning, trees and silo


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Thanks for joining us this final day of October. We wish you a scary-good Halloween with lots of treats and no tricks.

If you’re celebrating the holiday in costume, Electric Literature helps you plan your literary Halloween costume with this handy chart.

National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow. For those planning to participate, Grant Faulkner looks at expectation versus reality: 10 things you should know about NaNoWriMo.

If you think libraries are passé, Eric Klinenberg tells us that libraries are even more important to contemporary community than we thought and should be funded accordingly. As an example of libraries changing with the times, Natalie Baur writes about the Instagram-based library created by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes, while Andrew Albanese reports that Congress is looking into anticompetitive behavior in the digital library market.

With more on libraries, New York Public Library reveals the strangest questions ever asked of New York City librarians, and Jo Lou thinks librarians are secretly the funnest people alive.

If you like to read tips form well-known writers, Robert Lee Brewer shares 12 Sylvia Plath quotes for writers and about writing, and Steve Laube presents C. S. Lewis on writing.

Kudos: Emily Temple brings us the winners of this year’s $50,000 Kirkus Prize, and Chicago Tribune‘s Christopher Borrelli announces that Henry Louis Gates Jr. has been awarded its Tribune Literary Award.

Maciej Bankowski reports that Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk will open a foundation for literature, and CBC Books says that Margaret Atwood is donating her Book Prize winnings to Indspire to support the education of indigenous students.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall morning, trees and corn




Creativity is the starting point of all the arts. Need to spark yours? ProWritingAid suggests using two words to ignite your creativity, while Kathryn Craft recommends protecting your creative life through ghostbusting.

Rowan Williams examines why poetry matters.

Many things can interfere with writing. Philip Kenney presents 4 practices for overcoming self-doubt, and Erika Liodice advocates overcoming fear to unbox your best writing. In addition, Rebecca E. Neely looks at why you’re procrastinating at writing and how to stop, and Rochelle Melander delves into how to ditch distraction and focus.

James Scott Bell gives us a simple trick to increase productivity, and Michael Gallant asserts that nothing you experience is wasted if you put it to use.

RJ Clayton ponders the benefits of joining an association for writers, while Lisa Tener debates the joys and perils of writing longhand.

Putting ideas together for a story? Mary Carroll Moore discusses hooks and other excellent ways to start your story, Lincoln Michel writes about the many different engines that power a short story, and Janice Hardy reveals two tips that make plotting your novel way easier.

E. L. Skip Knox expands on his worldbuilding series with history for fantasy writers; journeymen.

Bella Rose Pope takes a look at how to show not tell in writing, while Harrison Demchick explores how to exploit uncommon points of view in your novel.

For those who want to keep their readers turning pages, Beth van der Pol goes into how to stop your novel from sagging, Janice Hardy mentions how to hook your reader in every scene, and Karen S. Wiesner delves into writing tension and twists.

K. M. Weiland gives us a writer’s guide to understanding people, and Jami Gold studies romance beats vs. 12 stages of intimacy.

With tips on characterization, Janice Hardy sets out five ways to create likable characters, Stavros Halvatzis explores the foibles kinks and rituals of eccentric characters, Bonnie Randall looks at four breaches that elicit fear in your characters, and Jami Gold asks how our protagonist is challenged to improve and provides a helpful worksheet.

And when you are writing about those characters, Margie Lawson asserts fresh writing sells: make hugs carry power.

Sandra Beckwith clarifies the terms beta readers and launch team members.

If your draft is ready for editing, Michael Aragon offers an easy step-by-step guide to editing your book, and Florence Osmond examines working with those dreaded editors.

Brian Rowe considers why you need to be careful about prologues in your writing, and Linda Lane looks at taming the fearsome apostrophe.

Cristian Mihai lists 30 tips for the modern writer, Ofer Tirosh sets out 12 book translation tips for authors, Kimberly Sullivan says that in writing, as in life, we should learn from our mistakes, and Russell Phillips and Andrew Knighton talk about how to collaborate across genres.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, hawk, hawk taking off from top of silo




For those who are shopping a book, Eldred Bird details creating a multi-use logline, while Nathan Bransford looks at when to re-query an agency.

Published writers might be interested in Ruth Harris’ advice on how to rejuvenate your backlist.

Frances Caballo takes a look at how to handle your social media during a crisis.

Cristian Mihai asks what sets you apart as a blogger?


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall, pumpkins and mums




Kristopher Jansma states that Shirley Jackson’s unfinished novel revealed the truth about her marriage, while Alison Flood writes about Stuart Kells’ long search for Shakespeare’s books and original manuscripts.

David L. Ulin considers the countercultural influence of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts., while Cara Hoffman discusses the darkness, strangeness, and unbridled joy of children’s books.

Cristina Bacchilega looks at how mermaid stories illustrate complex truths about being human.

Christopher Benfey tells us that Herman Melville enjoyed bowling and was pretty good at it.

Michael Gonzales relates the strange story of Richard Wright’s lost crime novel.

Bob Shaffer reveals how Jack Kerouac’s hometown honored him, 50 years after his death.

Mark Chandler reports that Idris Elba’s production company has sponsored an eight-part literary podcast highlighting books by British writers of color.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall corn harvest


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Stop by next week for another collection of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall, sunset clouds



Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 24, 2019

Top Pick Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-24-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Fall has finally arrived here, and it’s perfect weather to curl up by the fire and read some literary links.

Looking for new books to read? Check out SCBWI’s Bookstop for books published in 2019.

Ethan Ellenberg discusses intellectual property for authors.

Sometimes teaming up is better than competing. Two Minnesota bookstores partnered up, and business is booming.

National Novel Writing Month is soon upon us. Reedsy explains NaNoWriMo and gives tips to win it in 2019, Jenny Hansen has 10 tips to rock NaNoWriMo, and Janice Hardy has NaNoWriMo prep for planning your novel’s middle and planning your novel’s end.


Sometimes advice is very specific to format or genre. Michael McGinnis has 6 ways to write a better script, Boni Wagner-Stafford offers a step-by-step guide for authors on how to write a nonfiction book, and Iris Origo explores the impossibility of capturing truth in a biography.

Julie Glover gives us more on plotting, pantsing, and personality type, Laurisa White Reyes tells us how to write a real page turner, and Janice Hardy warns us against nice writer syndrome.

Getting a handle on the big craft elements will help ground your story. NY Book Editors explain the difference between perspective and point of view, Jordan Dane shows how to enhance your writing by layering your scenes and plot, and D.M. Pulley shares 5 tips for building a house or setting that comes alive for readers.

Nailing the small craft elements will make your book stand out from the cowd. Hugh O. Smith has how to write a fight scene, Kathy Steinemann lists 85 alternatives for the phrase “clenched fists”, Shannon Moore Redmon gives us 5 things to consider when writing medical scenes, and Zoe McCarthy reminds us that adding sounds to scenes is a sound practice.

Characters keep the readers coming back for more, and can influence the way they think. Brian Andrews offers a villain checklist to create a “great and terrible” villain, and Becca Puglisi tells us how to use your secondary characters to sway the reader.

Editing makes our work the best it can be. Tiffany Yates Martin explains how to train your editor brain, Jami Gold warns to watch for redundancy in our story, and Stavros Halvatzis discusses repetition vs. repetitiveness in stories.

Many writers fight with writer’s block from time to time. The Guardian gathers advice on beating writer’s block from Australia’s top authors, Nick Wisseman tells us how to hurdle your writer’s block, and Christopher Oldcorn advises shaking things up by finding unique places to write.

Even if we don’t have writer’s block, we often struggle with productivity. Anne R. Allen looks at unexamined beliefs that may keep us from writing success, Sandra Beckwith shares 3 ways to get past what’s holding your back, Rosalie Morales Kearns has 7 non-literary ways to get into the flow, and Sarah LaBrie demystifies the writer’s fear of failure.

Inspiration can come from many directions. Janet Reid helps an author understand how to know what you are meant to write, Dave DeCoursey shows how to use your journal to overcome life’s obstacles, Dawn Field asks if you keep a short fiction journal, and Debbie Burke discusses reaching out to new writers.

We can learn a lot from other writers. Savannah Cardova explains what the best metaphors in literature teach us about writing, John Banville interviews John le Carre, Amy Jones has 8 Elizabeth Strout quotes about writing, and Robert Lee Brewer lists 33 lamentable words coined by Shakespeare.

Dave King discusses the need for gatekeepers, while Livia Gershon wonders: who decides which books are “great”?


Jane Friedman examines the current trends in book publishing for fiction, nonfiction, and young adult.

Interested in doing an audiobook? Bill Ferris has the hack’s guide to narrating audiobooks.

If poetry is your sweet spot, BlueInk Review tells us how to promote poetry on social media.

Some of us are still in the hunt for a literary agent. Jessica Faust explains that a logline is not a hook, Rachelle Gardner reveals an episode of botched communication, Janet Reid defines target audience as agents mean it and advises what to do when you leave your agent, and Ruoxi Chen asks: am I allowed to break up with my book agent?

Marketing online and platform-building can be overwhelming. Dan Blank provides us with the introvert’s guide to book marketing and author platform, Rochelle Melander shows how to develop your author social media strategy, and Rachel McCollin explains content marketing for fiction and nonfiction.

Networking is a marketing skill we all need. Joanna Penn discusses why authors should learn to speak in public, Sarah McGuire gives us an introvert’s guide to writer’s conferences, and Joan Stewart shares the 9 most common mistakes in author’s press releases.

Online, Judith Briles says it’s time to do a Facebook settings checkup, and Cristian Mihai reveals the truth about blog post length.


D.J. Taylor examines George Orwell’s notes on 1984 and maps the inspiration of a modern classic.

Researchers analyzed millions of books to find out if humans have gotten any happier over 200 years.

Conservator Chloe Vassot explains the little-known “slow fire” that’s destroying all our books.

Danika Ellis takes a deep dive into the history of deckle edges in books.

We love librarians—even fictional ones! Emily Temple ranks 50 fictional librarians.

Letters between Flannery O’Connor and Katherin Anne Porter trace their friendship.

Would you like to buy John Steinbeck’s silver bucket? A cache of Steinbeck objects are being auctioned off.

Rebecca Onion looks into the sexist reception of Willa Cather’s World War I novel.

Where writers write often fascinates people. ConservatoryLand examines some famous writers and their writing spaces, while Stephen King is turning his house into a writers’ retreat.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week for some spook-tacular literary links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 17, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-17-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Today is National Black Poetry Day, so pick up some of your favorite poets and savor their style.

Lots of book award news this week! Take a look at the 2019 National Book Awards finalists; Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke win the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Literature Prizes; and Margaret Atwood and Bernadine Evaristo jointly win the 2019 Booker Prize.

Amy Jones examines the benefits of the Booker Prize and other literary awards for writers (besides the money).

Lee Wind makes the case for more children’s books in translation, making our children into citizens of the world and broadening their horizons.

Ebony Bowden and Tamar Lapin take a peek at over 200 never-before-seen J.D. Salinger pieces in a collection that will soon hit Manhattan library.

Are you thinking of National Novel Writing Month? Grant Faulkner explains how to write a novel in a month, and Janice Hardy does NaNoWriMo prep with planning your novel’s beginning.


Any children’s authors or women’s fiction authors out there? Philip Pullman discusses children’s literature and the critics who disdain it, and Brenda Copeland has 4 tips for writing bestselling women’s fiction.

A chapter is an integral part of many novels. Gordon Long delves into just what is a chapter, and P.J. Parrish figures out what goes into each chapter.

To keep readers turning pages, we need to keep them hooked. Stavros Halvatzis discusses how to orchestrate story pace, and Jim Dempsey looks at writing as a labyrinth of choices.

Characters are the ones making those choices (and suffering the consequences), so we need readers to care about them. Justin Attas describes creating a compelling protagonist, Laurence MacNaughton explains the secret to create a fascinating villain, Janice Hardy advises making your characters vulnerable, and Sacha Black addresses diversity in fiction by urging us to write the character you’re afraid to write.

Lisa Hall-Wilson has how to scare your readers using deep point of view and 4 pro tips for writing the emotional journey in deep POV, Terry Odell say to push your characters out of their comfort zones, James Scott Bell shows how to describe your main character, and if any character needs a shotgun in your story, John Gilstrap has a primer on shotguns.

Writers make their story beautiful in the revision process. Angelica Hartgers shares 3 tips for creating lyrical prose, Nick Douglas lists the words smart people can’t spell, Roz Morris reveals what your readers will never notice, Sarah Chauncey explains manuscript evaluations, and Nancy J. Cohen gives us 10 tips for a successful critique group.

Creativity and productivity can be impacted by our emotions. Macy Thronhill has 6 ways to stay productive in a creative slump, Scott McCormick wonders if you can trigger creativity, and Kathryn Craft lists 12 signs you’re afraid of your WIP.

Writing can be tough, so why do we stick with it? Jami Gold lays out how we can discover our vision and our goals, Kristen Lamb searches for the “why” that keeps our muse alive, and John Peragine share 6 daily habits to build a solid writing career.

We all need advice to get ahead—but not all advice is created equal. Gayla K. Hiss has rules for survival for writers, Sonya Huber tells us how “show, don’t tell” almost ruined her as a writer, and Amy Jones lists 10 Jojo Moyes quotes about writing.

A published writer is a different beast than an unpublished writer in many ways. Tracy R. Atkins has part 1 of preparing your manuscript for publication (interior design templates), Kathy Harris discusses writing while waiting, and Kate Murdoch separates the fantasy vs. reality of being a published author.


Ever wanted to host a literary festival? Julie Duffy tells how you too can build a literary festival.

Publishing is a business: John Doppler urges indie authors to figure out who their publishing contract protects, Lee Foster looks at publishing your book on IngramSpark, and Tim McConnehey explains what a cover information sheet is.

Querying your book can be full of pitfalls. Janet Reid discusses appropriate author names and what to do if you get an offer before you have an agent. Rachelle Gardner reminds us to look for where our passion meets the market to find success, and L. Diane Wolfe examines what’s killing your query pitch.

Most readers will find you online, so make sure to be ready when they come looking. Lee Wind directs us to some excellent author and author/illustrator websites, Julie Valerie explores influencers in the online book world, Stephanie Chandler lists book review options, and Penny Sansevieri tells us how to supercharge your Amazon book description.

In our online marketing, David Hartshorne gives us the 7 best social media scheduling tools to save you hours each week, Sandra Beckwith tells us how to get unfriended on Facebook, Frances Caballo walks us through how to use MailerLite (so you can dump MailChimp), Cristian Mihai debates short blog posts vs. long blog posts, and Lindsay Liedke explains how to back up your WordPress site for free (and why you should).


Check out the 10 best short story collections of the decade.

Olivia Rutigliano delves into a cultural history of Nancy Drew.

Brian Goedde examines Goodnight Moon almost 75 years later.

Talk about waiting a long time for the next installment. A lost chapter of the world’s first novel is found in a Japanese storeroom.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 10, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-10-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Wednesday is National Dictionary Day, so look up all those words you think you know what they mean but aren’t sure.

This past week, Caldecott Award-winning author and illustrator Mordicai Gerstein died at age 83.

All writers can use writing advice sometime. Roz Morris shares 7 writing resources she uses all the time, and Jami Gold tells us how to get expert writing advice for free.

Duncan White explores the ever-present worrisome topic of book censorship, while Andrew Perrin parses who doesn’t read books in America.

Are you an audio-visual guru? Mary Kole is seeking to hire an audio-visual person.

It’s almost National Novel Writing Month again! Janice Hardy has some NaNoWriMo prep tips to start you off on the right path.


For some genre-specific writing information: Christopher Castellani discusses the universal urgency of immigrant literature, and Robert Lee Brewer deconstructs 5 spooky children’s picture books.

Plotting and worldbuilding are necessary, but the can also trip us up with all the details involved. Julie Glover talks plotting, pantsing, and personality type, Janice Hardy has the fix for when your story’s plot hides behind the details, and B.K. Bass takes a deep dive into feudal economics for worldbuilding.

Most of us give our first drafts a bit of a stink-eye glare. Joni B. Cole makes a case for you to stop trash-talking your first draft, while Lucy Mitchell tells us how to survive comparing your unfinished draft to a successful bestselling novel.

We want to keep those readers turning pages. Jordan Dane looks at narrative drive and if you have it, Beth van der Pol discusses how to stop your novel from sagging, Anne R. Allen suggests using the Chekhov’s gun tactic, and Joslyn Chase advises hooking readers with danger.

Your characters are the lifeblood of your story. Dawn Field says to develop your story by listening to your cast, Rebecca Langley has what you need to know about writing a great love triangle, Nathan Bransford lists 5 ways to make a character more sympathetic, Donald Maass explores the making of a hero or heroine, Angela Ackerman ponders how you know if your protagonist is strong enough, and Janice Hardy advises giving your reader someone to hate.

The more we can edit ourselves, the less we’ll need to pay a professional editor down the line. Susan K. Hamilton shares 7 tips to help you self-edit your novel manuscript, Andrea Merrell wants to shoot the weasel words, and Fae Rowan says to stop overusing this word.

We’re always looking to improve our craft. Beth van der Pol tells us how to get better at writing, Jill Hedgecock explains using visual inspiration for your stories, and Dana Isaacson has the Da Vinci code for fiction writers.

We love to write, but sometimes we just…can’t. Diana Hurwitz discusses overcoming writer’s block, Felicia Day talks weirdness, writer’s block and women with swords, and Tamar Sloan dissects writerly procrastination, why it happens and how to break free of it.

Shanna Swendson has tips to boost your creativity, Robert Lee Brewer has 10 Edgar Allen Poe quotes for writers, and Nancy Johnson tackles the perennial question, is your book done yet?


Looking for a home for your work? Check out this Big, Big List of Indie Publishers and Small Presses.

Any author should understand the business side of writing. Sandra Beckwith has updated book publishing statistics.

Alex Green takes us inside a New England bookselling conference energized by new booksellers.

Don’t know which way to go in your career? Colleen M. Story outlines how to get help from the universe when making career decisions.

There are always people ready to take advantage of the unprepared. Victoria Strauss unveils a pack of scammer lies to look out for.

Success in writing is a marathon. Rachelle Gardner asks: are you in this for the long haul?

There are certain parts of the marketing process most authors dislike. But we need to be able to do them well anyway. Janet Reid explains when you need backstory in your query, Jael McHenry takes on 3 of a novelist’s necessary evils, and David Kudler examines how to create compelling book descriptions in 2 parts.

Jane Friedman advise to write for yourself but market for your reader. If your readers are middle grade, check out these author-tested middle grade marketing tips and ways to take your middle grade to market.

Real-world connections can take you far. Lisa Tener tells you how to speak to journalists before your book is published (and not give it all away), Alexa Nazzaro shows how to leverage book signings, and Penny Sansevieri discusses super fans and street teams: turning readers into your biggest book promoters.

Online is a big marketplace, so learn some tips to make the most of it. Amy Collins talks live streaming for authors, Scott La Counte lays out how to promote a book on Facebook, Elizabeth Losh reveals what a hashtag can do while Kim Lochery has the definitive guide to Pinterest hashtags, and Zara Altair gives us 5 ways to use voice search to sell more books.

In the blogosphere, Dave Chesson tells us how to convert readers to email subscribers, and Cristian Mihai advises we ask ourselves: why do folks subscribe to your blog?


Libraries preserve the past. This is the world’s oldest continually operating library, where lost languages have been found. Meanwhile, modern libraries battling to retain borrowers in the digital age are ending late fees.

Take a peek inside a bookstore housed in a 100-year-old Dutch barge in London, while Kelsey Rexroat reveals the secret to shopping in used bookstores.

The literary past of a place can be powerful. Margaret Deefholts indulges in literary intoxication in Edinburgh, while BBC News brings us a story of a literary place in peril—the Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde spent time in prison for “gross indecency,” is for sale.

In author news, old and new: Quentin Tarantino’s next big project is a novel, Brenna Ehrlich delves into Stephen King’s fascination with “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and John-Christophe Cloutier investigates Ann Petry, the author who didn’t care to be remembered.

We know fiction reading makes people more empathetic, but can fiction introduce empathy to an AI?

Language can be moving, so Johanna Skibsrud wonders if language can be understood as a spiritual medium.

Lev Grossman explores why we feel so compelled to make maps of fictional worlds.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more literary tips and tricks.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 3, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-03-2019

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of October! Get your reading glasses on, because next week is both National Mystery Series Week and National Newspaper Week.

Don’t feel bad about the time you spend reading. A study shows that people who read a lot of books are way nicer, kinder, and empathetic.

Emily Temple profiles 7 writers who are among the recipients of the MacArthur “genius” grants this year.

Censorship is always an issue. Megan Volpert shares one teacher’s tale of defending Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.


So many genres, so little time! Lisa Latte explains the 10 essential elements of cozies while Debbie Young defines a cozy mystery and why they are so popular. Derik Caignano has 5 essential elements of unforgettable crime thrillers, Piper Bayard shares 10 character traits of an espionage hero, and David Mark Brown explores collaborative writing in a shared world.

Plot moves the story, but it isn’t the whole story. Janice Hardy warns don’t let the plot hijack our story and explains why your plot isn’t working, but Kristen Lamb suggests that motive is the real force behind page turners.

Writers have many craft elements at their disposal. Kris Kennedy explores essential backstory, Bonnie Randall shows how to sprinkle the seeds of backstory, Gavin Hurly examines the effective use of repetition in writing, Stavros Halvatzis looks at exposition, and Robert Lee Brewer defines the MacGuffin and how writers have used it.

Lisa Tener shows how to write your way out of “the messy middle”, Elle Carter Neal has 5 proven ways to add humor to your story, Clare Langley-Hawthorne examines toxic romance, and Alyssa Hollingsworth explains why your character (and you) should be an expert at something.

Once you’ve got that first draft, the revision work begins. Angela Ackerman wonders: should we seek out writing feedback?; James Scott Bell shares rookie mistakes indie writers make, Janice Hardy reminds us to check for cardboard conflict, and Ray Rhamey posits that reading aloud needs to be more than reading out loud to be effective.

Sometimes we have too many ideas, sometimes not enough. Ruth Harris discusses when to follow that seductive new book idea, while Kate Angus talks about the importance of fallow periods in writing.

We all go into writing with ideas on how writing “should” be. Rachelle Gardner challenges our assumptions, Anthony Doerr throws out all the rules for writing a short story, Denise Webb examines self-belief vs. self-delusion, and Kristen Lamb asks: do some people lack the talent to become a successful author?

Frankie Thomas demystifies poetic meter with a viral tweet story, Amy Jones compiles 10 Alice Hoffman quotes for writers and 10 Ann Patchett quotes for writers, Melissa Donovan shares how to cultivate and save your best writing ideas, and John J. Kelley discusses writing from the heart in a lesson learned from Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.”


A few articles on intellectual property this week: Stan Lee’s daughter sues to reclaim his intellectual property, and Mathilde Pavis explores the legal twilight zone that is intellectual property in outer space.

Alexandra Alter looks at the issues of fact-checking in publishing as mistakes are embarrassing the publishing industry.

For those who need a few tips on how finances in publishing works, Paula Munier lists 10 financial rules for writers.

Traditional or self-published, you need a pitch line for a novel, so Janice Hardy walks us through crafting your novel’s pitch line. Once you have that, you can get to querying, so Heather Webb outlines query dos and don’ts.

Agent Janet Reid explains the value of an electronic footprint and why sometimes agents just don’t want to rep a book, while Carrie V. Mullins shines a light on what writers need to know about morality clauses.

Marketing is all about platform. Brooke Warner describes what all the fuss is about with author platform, Nathan Bransford has 32 book marketing ideas, and Lesley Tither shares some outside the box book marketing.

Getting the word out about your book is the key to success. J.D. Lasica gives us a blueprint for your book launch, Penny Sansevieri shows how great Amazon book descriptions help indie authors sell more books, Sandra Beckwith shares 9 places to find readers who write reviews, and Adam Cushman lists 10 types of book trailers.

Blogs and newsletters are some tried and true methods of connecting with your readers. Cristian Mihai asks: how many topics should a blog cover?; Jordan Peters wonders: are you a hoarder of blogging ideas?; Stacey Corrin has 40 different types of content you can create for your blog, and Nate Hoffelder reveals 10 reasons readers unsubscribe from newsletters.


Is good writing good writing no matter what the format? Cormac McCarthy’s tips on how to write a great science paper.

After 137 years of service, Bisbee, Arizona’s library is declared the best in America.

Readers struggle to balance re-reading with the TBR.

An author attempts to sell self-published book to 50 bookstores in 50 days and learns a lesson along the way.

An examination of Jane Eyre translated into 57 language shows how different cultures interpret Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 26, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-26-2019

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday in September! For all you caffeine addicts out there, Sunday is National Coffee Day! Grab a cup and settle in to peruse the links below.

Publisher Macmillan wants to limit every library to a single copy of new ebooks for the first 8 weeks. Librarians are pushing back, including asking readers to sign a petition against this practice, which would make wait lists for the new books incredibly long. Nate Hoffelder tackles Macmillan’s main complaint, saying the whole “library ebooks kill retail ebook sales” idea makes no sense.

The goal is to get people to read, after all. Joe Pinsker explores why some people become lifelong readers, and Julie Beck investigates the adults who treat reading like homework.

While you are reading, go broad—or abroad. Mina Javaherbin urges us to become multicultural, and Elliott Holt examines the enduring appeal of ex-pat lit.

Is your destiny written in the stars? Jeanna Kadlec has the fall 2019 horoscopes for writers.


Our readers write in widely varying genres and formats, and although much writing advice can work for most writing, there is some advice that is very specific. Jessi Rita Hoffman shares 7 common memoir mistakes, Lucy V. Hay has 10 quick tips about writing horror, Amy Rogers gives us pitfalls and solutions for writing a science thriller, and Nancy L. Erikson reminds us that .

There are many over-arching craft elements that the reader doesn’t consciously note but feels if they are missing or incorrectly done. Andrea Merrell lists 3 critical storytelling elements, Tamela Hancock Murray discusses stakes versus conflict in your novel, Jenny Hansen shows how to find your story’s theme, and Angela Ackerman says a good ending must provide one single element: satisfaction.

Then there are the smaller units of story that readers do notice. Jami Gold explains chapters vs. scenes, Dawn Field guides us through crafting the perfect chapter, Stavros Halvatzis shows how to achieve scene tension, James Scott Bell urges us to do the unexpected, and Nathan Bransford asks if you are creating mystery or just being vague.

Finally, we have the details that readers may or may not see, but will impact their reading experience. Kris Kennedy lays out how to properly use backstory, Randy Ellefson looks at worldbuilding and flying as transportation, Zoe M. McCarthy tells how to introduce taste in a story, and Suzanne Purvis shows how to power up your prose with rhetorical devices.

Characters are the lynchpin of your story. Dawn Arkin examines using character sheets in fiction writing, Nathan Bransford urges us to let the reader diagnose your characters, Kristen Lamb examines the power of different characters to resonate with different readers, and Nathan returns to show how to create a great villain.

While we should all edit our work as thoroughly as possible, Brian Kurian reminds us that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. Harrison Demchick has 4 ideas to help revise that first draft, Lori Freeland discusses the value of critique groups, and Janice Hardy suggests you cut unnecessary internalization from your scenes. No matter what we do, though, sometimes the story just doesn’t come together. In that case Bill Ferris has a hack’s guide to breaking up with your book.

Writing can be emotionally taxing. Anne R. Allen describes how well-intentioned loved ones can sabotage your writing career, Julie Holmes shows how something as mundane as stairs can derail your writing plans, and Margie Lawson explains how to channel your strengths even when you don’t feel strong.

We get advice from many places. McKayla Coyle has compiled the best writing tips from Electric Literature interviews, Christopher Oldcorn says to wrap your writing like a beautiful birthday present for your reader, and Debbie Burke takes us behind the scenes at a writer’s conference.


Authors need to know a lot about the publishing business to be successful, whether we are self-publishing or traditional. Sandra Beckwith has 21 book publishing terms all authors should know, Amy Collins explains why designing your own cover is often not a good idea, and Christopher Wills wonders if we are in a pulp fiction reprisal.

Even going traditional, there is a lot of business that authors need to know. Janet Reid tells us at what stage you should send the prologue—query, partial, or full; agent Kate McKean explains the ins and outs of book deals, and Lisa Tener lists 8 top non-fiction book proposal mistakes and how to fix them.

Distribution is always an issue. Brian Jud talks about selling to non-bookstore retailers, and Anne Merrick lays out how to get your books into libraries. Library sales in other countries can garner money for authors beyond the original sale, because some countries give a “royalty” for borrows.

Marketing is more than just placing ads. Helen Baggott shares DIY PR for indie authors, and Sandra Beckwith has 3 ways to get your dream endorsement.

So much outreach is online these days, it can be dizzying. Kristen Lamb discusses branding on social media, Cristian Mihai explains how to make friends with other bloggers, Kim Lochery has the complete guide to Twitter hashtags, Rachel McCollin demystifies SEO for authors, and Chrys Fey shares 6 ways to build traffic to your website.


People never change. What Edith Wharton knew, a century ago, about women and fame in America.

Speaking of famous women, Katy Hershberger wonders why female celebrities aren’t writing more novels, and Constance Grady explains how Reese Witherspoon became the new high priestess of book clubs.

Because it’s bigger on the inside: a full-sized Dr. Who TARDIS is the biggest Little Free Library in Mississippi.

When literary giants collide: John Milton’s notes on Shakespeare’s plays appear to be found.

On the necessity of heeding the voices with lived experience: listening to indigenous elders in a time of climate crisis.

The mashup of visual and words: the handwritten styles of Instagram poetry.

Leah Price assures us that books won’t die, while Jim Shepard discusses why we still need small literary journals.

Everything old is new again: Millennials are looking backward, seeking self-help books more about “we” than “me,” including ancient philosophy.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but just be careful where you point it. Emily Temple tells the story of the snarky poem that got its 17th-century author murdered.

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


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

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