Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 23, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-23-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Today is National Handwriting Day, for those writers who do their drafts by hand.

In a sad day for Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien, responsible for editing and publishing much of his father’s work, dies at age 95.

In awards news, Sibylle Berg, a Zurich-based author of more than 15 books, wins this year’s Swizz Grand Prix Literature, Switzerland’s top literary Prize. In the US, the National Endowment for the Arts announced a total of $1.2 million in fellowships for translators and creative writers.

The rather astonishing reason why Goodnight Moon is not on the New York Public Library’s list of the 10 most-checked-out books of all time.

Check out these 9 books that celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

For those who write short stories, this is welcome news: The Atlantic has committed itself to publishing more short fiction.

Browse and register for these writing workshops and conferences from January to March 2020.

California has passed—and other states including New Jersey are trying to pass—a law that could severely impact freelance writers. Victoria Strauss has what you need to know about how California’s new law AB-5 affects writers.


Each of us started our writing journey somewhere. Many started writing as children, some started later in life, but at some point we decided to be an author. Louise Brady shares 10 tips for the aspiring author, and Susan DeFrietas examines if you have what it takes to be a writer.

But what happens at the end of your career? If you have a series or character that has dominated your portfolio? Lee Child is letting Jack Reacher go by transferring the series to another author.

Almost everything we write needs some sort of research. Tara East has 7 tips for researching a novel, Janet Reid tells us about the resource, and Nathan Bransford has a list of societal changes and threats to consider when building your world.

Sometimes we have trouble starting to write. Marla Bishop gives us 10 writing prompts to jump start our brain, and Stavros Halvatzis discusses story templates to guide our thoughts.

Writers use craft elements to keep readers from putting down the book. Spencer Ellsworth looks at the core of every novel: the big want and the big fear; Janice Hardy shares a simple trick to keep readers turning pages, and Dana Isaacson urges us to deliver what your readers want.

Characters are wonderful to write, when they are not making us crazy. Wendy Heard examines writing multiple points of view, Nathan Bransford has 9 ways to spice up characters, and Angela Ackerman looks at cause and effect: does your character’s behavior make sense?

Editing is a vital step in finishing your story. Kristina Stanley lays out everything you need to know about fiction editing, RJ Crayton has 4 tips to help you self-edit, Jennie Nash answers why writers hire book coaches, and Jeanne Cavelos examines the compelling, emotional complex sentence.

Writing a book is a long-term project. Paula Munier describes running the novel-writing marathon, TD Storm shows how your attitude and approach toward habits can revitalize your writing practice, Daphne Gray-Grant has 7 ways to make the most of your writing time, and Katharine Grubb tells us how to make time for your writing.

Although writing is mostly done alone, we often depend on our writing community to help get us through the rough patches. A. Howitt discusses writing groups, Victoria Turk examines dealing with “friendship overload” in the age of social media, and Harry Lee Poe shares 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about C.S. Lewis.


Nick Kolakowski warns authors that LinkedIn’s SlideShare is a vast emporium for pirated books.

Sacha Black shares 6 steps to setting yourself up financially as a writer in 2020.

Self-publishing? David Kudler has fun with formats: mobi/Kindle, Rosalind Minett discusses choosing the right audiobook narrator, and David Mackintosh has top 10 illustration and design tips for picture books.

Many writers enter writing contests, and there are many good reasons to do so. Dea Parkin explains why to enter a writing competition and how to win, while Tamela Hancock Murray tells why a contest win might not help get you published.

Pitching and querying is a staple of the author life. Sandi Ward discusses pitching your novel in person and how it differs from the email query, while Anne R. Allen discusses writing a professional query. Barbara Poelle talks about how to choose an agent amid competing offers, while Janet Reid explains why you shouldn’t pay to revert your rights.

Marketing is difficult, but it offers opportunities to be innovative. Sandra Beckwith suggests you let your characters engage with fans online, SCBWI looks at Ellen Meeropol’s ARC tour, and Debbie Burke has 12 tips for new public speakers.

When marketing online, it helps to have tools. David Gaughran lists 12 free graphic design tools for authors, Frances Caballo shares 11 must-have Instagram apps for writers, and Cristian Mihai explains the blogging mindset of reciprocity.

Trying to attract new readers often requires a multi-pronged approach. Jimmy Kindree talks about submitting short stores for publications, Janet Reid offers the best way to post reviews when you’re a writer, and Jordan Dane suggests cultivating new readers by donating your books to worthy causes.

Zoe M. McCarthy has an easy way to write a book cover blurb, Kris Maze gives us 3 reasons to consider “readability” before you publish, and Laurence McNaughton says if you want to get published, read every day.


Read 12 thought-provoking quotes from 1984 by George Orwell.

Juana Summers delves into the fading art of diagramming sentences.

James Woods examines what’s at stake when we write literary criticism.

A rival to Disney? There are plans for a new Russian theme park based on the poems and fairy tales of Alexander Pushkin.

Janine Barchas discusses the obscure editions of Jane Austen’s novels that made her internationally known.

Ben Mazer investigates the enigma of Delmore Schwartz, the luminous poet who fell from grace.

Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for: the backstory you need to understand the movie Cats (2019).

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 16, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-16-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! January 18th is National Thesaurus Day, so lionize, extol, proclaim, and celebrate the wonderful breadth of our English language.

Many of us have been horrified by the devastation in Australia. SCBWI has a way authors can support those impacted by Australian wildfires.

Book Critics Circle announces the finalists for the 2019 NBCC Awards.

Multiple authors have passed away this week: Elizabeth Wurtzel dies at age 52, Charles Sprawson dies at age 78, and Chukwuemeka Ike dies at age 88.

Reading changes the brain and changes lives. The Guardian explores why the books we read as children are the ones that shape our psyche, the visual language of comic books can improve brain function, and the Maryland State Library grant $100,000 to buy books for prison libraries.

New Year, same old scams. Victoria Strauss compiles Writer Beware’s 2019 in review, and Melissa Bowersock warns of the “make my book into a movie” scam.


As we move deeper into the new year, people are still pondering how to writer more, write better, in 2020. Writing and Wellness supports thinking differently about your New Year’s writing goals, Alice Briggs tells us how to set yourself up for success in 2020 and overcome mindset blocks, PJ Parrish shares 8 ways to help you be a smarter writer in 2020, and Lisa Tener has 8 more reasons to write a book this year.

For mystery lovers, Sulari Gentill discusses reviving the traditional mystery for a 21st century audience, and Manuel Betancourt examines how Knives Out turns the whodunit on its head.

Are you thinking of becoming or using a ghostwriter? Roz Morris answers the question: is it cheating to use a ghostwriter?, and John Doppler delves into the ethics of ghostwriting.

Stories have to start with a compelling scene and carry you through all the twists and turns with a deft hand. Jane Friedman lists 5 story openings to avoid, and Nathan Bransford has 5 different openings to avoid, while Kathryn Craft shows us how to bridge temporal story gaps.

Stavroz Halvatzis explains establishing images, while Melissa Donovan brings us to word-level craft involving homophones and Robert Lee Brewer demystifies awhile vs. a while.

Our characters come in all different flavors, but sometimes it’s hard to get them onto the page that way. Kathleen Barber has tips for writing multi-POV novels with distinct voices, Janice Hardy shares 5 ways to develop character voices, Tamar Sloan explores capturing an unhappy relationship, and Julie Glover examines if your character will fight, flee, or freeze. If your character is of the non-human variety, Clea Simon lays out how to write an animal character.

Increasing productivity is always a big goal for writers on New Year’s. Elizabeth S. Craig advocates taking small steps toward a big goal, Paula Munier says the key to a writer’s productivity is saying No, Sarah Bolme lists 6 steps to overcome procrastination, Barbara Linn Probst explores having a place to write, Elaine Viets discusses making time to write, and James Scott Bell shows how to get serious about your writing career.

Authors can learn a lot from other writers. Chuck Palahniuk talks about the importance of not boring your readers, Gregg Millman tells us what authors can learn about writing by teaching others, Katherine Grubb overcomes when you fear what others think, and Orly Konig discusses embracing the women’s fiction genre label.

Nathan Bransford explains why Master & Commander by Patrick O’Brian works, Amy Jones compiles 8 Chuck Palahnuik quotes for writers about writing, Dawn Field lists the absolute best books on writing, and Merry Cari Dubiel reminds us to keep all writing tips in perspective.


Here’s some numbers from the publishing world:  UK Booksellers Association reports third year of gains in stores, Jim Milliot says print unit sales fell 1.3% in 2019, Overdrive reports record digital borrowing in 2019, and Where The Crawdads Sing tops sale lists in print, ebook, and audio.

Shelley Sturgeon rounds up the 10 top posts from The Book Designer in 2019, take a look at The State of Genre Magazines, and Jennifer Prokop walks us through the making of a Harlequin romance cover.

Tracy Marchini explains what it means when an editor or agents says your manuscript is “quiet”, and John Peragine dissects the 3 levels of trust in publishing.

Tetiana Bak lays out how to create a business plan for your indie author business, Brian Jud urges us to sell books through all retailers—not just bookstores, and Sandra Beckwith has fabulous February book promotion opportunities.

Anne R Allen recommends BookBub reviews as an alternative to Goodreads, Cristian Mihai lists 9 tips to help you start your blogging journey like a boss, and Kristen Lamb shares the reasons your book isn’t selling.


Get your reading caps on! Vulture has 32 books they can’t wait to read in 2020, and Liz Moore shares practical ways to find more time to read as a parent.

The Vatican Library goes online and digitizes tens of thousands of manuscripts, books, coins, and more.

Take a peek inside the New York Times Book Review process.

Short stories have power. Daniyal Mueenuddin explores the short stories that inspired a Russian czar to free the serfs.

Janet Todd discusses the restless comedy of Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel, Sanditon.

Now you can see J.M. Barrie’s handwritten manuscript of Peter Pan.

Olivia Rutiggliano reports on the dognapping of the century: Elizabeth Barret Browning’s beloved pup.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 9, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-09-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of 2020! We have a lot prediction posts as well as regular craft and business and just-for-fun links. Enjoy and I hope 2020 treats you well!

In case you are a fellow procrastinator and still have presents to buy for people, check out these holiday gift recommendations room the HC Bookfinder staff.

Emily Temple gathers the notable literary deaths in 2019, while Bart Barnes has the obituary for author Ram Dass, who died at age 88.

Katherine J. Wu reminds us that thousands of once-copyrighted works enter the public domain in 2020, so take a look if any spark something in your imagination.

One of the great things about America being a melting pot is that as new immigrants come to our shores, our literature becomes richer. Yogita Goyal explores how African migration to the U.S. has led to a literary Renaissance.

As fallout from the Romance Writers of America upheaval continues, Mikki Kendall explains how the RWA racism row matters because the gatekeepers are watching.

Never underestimate a librarian. Kathy Peiss explores why the U.S. sent librarians undercover to gather intelligence in Europe during World War II.

Looking for critique partners in 2020? Janice Hardy’s Critique Connection is currently open for matching interested parties.

Because there were so many New-Year’s-type posts, we have a couple of extra sections today. A New Year is…


Anne R. Allen reviews a decade of self-publishing revolution, and Big Al traces the evolution of self-publishing.

We have some year-end book lists from TV critic Emily Nussbaum and from the New York Times book critics.

Then there are to Top Books lists for last year, last decade, and the last 100 years! John Milliot brings us 2019 print best sellers, Emily Temple has the 100 books that defined the decade, and the OCLC has the top 100 novels of all time found in libraries around the world.


Laurie McLean has 2020 publishing predictions, Mark Coker brings the Smashwords 2020 publishing predictions, and Orna Ross lists her 2020 self-publishing predictions.

On a more personal note, Sacha Black asks what will you do differently in 2020?; Rachel McCollin shows how to identify your writing goals, and Tasha Seegmillier ponders reflecting and goal setting for writers.

Amy Jones shares Isaac Asimov’s predictions for your future as a writer, Angela Ackerman tells how to build a roadmap to the author future you want, James Scott Bell outlines various paths a writer can take in 2020, and Bill Ferris lightens things up with a hack’s guide to making a fresh start in the new year.


There is something to be learned from every genre and form. Will Willingham discusses serial novel writing, Katherine Grubb explained how studying poetry to be a better writer, E.L. Skip Knox has how time was measured in ancient times for fantasy writers, and Grerr Macallister explores writing a genre that’s new to you.

Characters carry our stories and, if we are lucky, live on in our readers’ hearts long after the story is done. Nathan Bransford tells us how to nail every character’s first impression, K.M. Weiland discusses 6 questions to ask about theme and your supporting characters, Lynda Barry shares a comic exercise to create your characters and build their world in less than an hour, and Kathleen McCleary puts characters in the worst-case scenario.

Eldred “Bob” Bird urges us to let our characters tell the story, C.S. Lakin explains how to effectively “tell” emotions in fiction, and Donald Maass delves into emotional tipping points.

There are many elements writers need to integrate into their story. Stavros Halvatzis looks at obstacles and the foundation of structure, Mary Anna Evans leads us to finding our voice, Laura Drake reminds us to use comparison for power, Kristen Tsetsi defends the exclamation point, Christopher Hoffman diagnoses what your choice of dialogue tags says about you, and Jami Gold tackles story endings and writing a strong resolution.

Once you get to that story ending, the editing and revision begin! Joanna shares her process for after the first draft, Peter Selgin explains the wonderful thing about line edits, and Janice Hardy has 3 things to remember when revising from a critique.

How can we improve as writers? Courtney Maum lists 8 podcasts that will make you a better writer, Lisa Tener converses with the creative muse, Sorina Storia lays out 7 steps to mind map a novel, and Nicole Bross shows how tracking your word count can make you a better writer.

Can we increase productivity and creativity? Nathan Bransford tells us how to be a productive writer, Rochelle Melander gives us a guide to creativity and time, Courtney Maum explains how to kill your inner perfectionist, Ellen Buikema looks at how your workspace affects your writing, and Kris Maze shares 5 tips for a healthy writer’s life.

Writing is an art, so Meg Medina suggests you create an artistic mission statement. Robert Lee Brewer lists 12 E.L. Doctorow quotes for writers and about writing, and Dawn Field explores Edgar Allen Poe’s notion of “unity of effect.

Writing is also a psychological and emotional journey. Yemi Penn discusses overcoming your doubts and finding the power to share your story, while Karen DeBonis talks about harnessing the power of writer karma.

Understanding readers can helps us understand how and what to write. Kristen Lamb explores why humans crave stories that scare them, Bonnie Randall encourages writers to embrace the bleak in their stories, and Helen Taylor delves into why women read fiction.


There are a lot of paths to publishing these days. Sara Rosett discusses the pros and cons of being a hybrid writer. If you self-publish, you need to know formatting. Tracy R. Atkins explains special formatting for nonfiction books in Word (part 2), and Andre Calilhanna lays out what should be on your book’s copyright page.

If you are submitting to agents or editors, you are bound to encounter rejection sometime. Hank Philippi Ryan has a rejection reckoning as to why your book was rejected.

Got a new book? Great! BookBub shares how to launch a new book, Sarah Bolme explores sales techniques to help you sell more books, Martin Cavanaugh brings us 4 nonfiction marketing tools you need to know, and Jane Friedman shows us her favorite digital media tools of 2020.

Online connections are vital to a writer’s success these days. Cristian Mihai tells us how to write blog posts that get you more readers, Adam Connell has 12 powerful WordPress plug-ins to grow your email list 3x faster, and Alythia Brown discusses things that can happen when you stop chasing social media.


Jesse McCarthy explores Toni Morrison’s revolutionary, if lesser known, nonfiction.

Michael Dango dissects meme formalism on Twitter.

What sells? Elisabeth Egan says sex sells—it’s true now and it was true 100 years ago.

Brad Stulberg has 9 self-improvement books actually worth reading.

If you don’t care for self-improvement books, the New York Times has 10 new books they recommend, or you can lose yourself in these 6 long, absorbing books, or ponder the eternal lure of the boarding school mystery genre.

Marisha Pessl lists kids picture books that help children understand death.

Judging a book by its cover, Carina Pereria checks out some artsy, colorful covers.

Encurious lists 20 quotes from children’s books every adult should know, while Adam Gopnik explores storytelling across the ages.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 2, 2020

Happy New Year 2020!

Wishing all our blog followers a safe, happy, and healthy New Year! May 2020 bring you good tidings and satisfaction!

Image by M Harris from Pixabay

See you back here next week as the writing journey continues!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 26, 2019

The 12(ish) Links of Christmas 2019

I hope all of you are having a happy and enjoyable holiday season, no matter what holiday you celebrate! Every year, we look back at the most popular links from our Top Picks Thursday links round-ups. In case you missed them the first time around, here they are again!

15. 5 Essential Things You Need To Know About Writing Habits – Lynn Dickinson

14. Productivity Secrets: Bullet Journals And Planning – L. Penelope

13. Writing Tips: Writing Beyond the 5 Senses – Gila Green

12. How To Write A Page Turner: Mastering the & Rules Of The Cliffhanger – Ruth Harris

11. 12 Tips to Edit A Story Draft Into An Enjoyable Read – Zoe M. McCarthy

10. How To Write Like An Expert—Even When You’re Not – David Tile

9. 19 Ways To Write Better Dialogue – Kristen Kieffer

8. 20 Books TED Speakers Think Everyone Should Read This Summer – Jessica Stillman

7. The Flip Side – Kathleen McCleary

6. One Common Way Writers Weaken Their Descriptions – Janice Hardy

5. The Power Of The Telling Detail – James Scott Bell

4. Intellectual Property: The Big Picture For Authors – Ethan Ellenberg

3. Get Real: 4 Tips For Writing Bestselling Women’s Fiction – Brenda Copeland

2. Bringing The Dead To Life: Why Novelists Should Read Obituaries – Roz Morris

And our most popular link of 2019:

1. Summer 2019 Horoscopes For Writers – Jeanna Kadlec

Thank you all for continuing to read and support The Author Chronicles. Have a safe holiday season and a Happy New Year! We will see you again in 2020.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 19, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-19-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are barreling towards the end of 2019, and holiday season is upon us, but we still have some writerly links to read with you cocoa.

Mary Kole’s Good Story Company is hiring.

Roni Loren posts about the Read Wide Book Challenge for 2020.

Erica Wagner examines how reading has changed in the 2010s, while Maria Popova lists Favorite Children’s Books of 2019.

Libraries often get caught in the middle of publishing disputes, so Guy LeCharles Gonzalez says it’s time to quantify the library’s role in the reading marketplace.

Writer Beware has long been a watchdog for publishing scams, but this week Victoria Strauss warns about vanity radio: why you should think twice before paying for an interview.

With the holidays upon us, Elle Hunt shares the etiquette of gifting books, Lisa Tener has 27 unique, bookish, and beautiful holiday gifts for writers; Colleen M. Story lists 7 ways writers can overcome holiday anxiety, and Erika Liodice has a new approach for the new year: un-resolutions.

Looking past New Year’s, Diana Hurwitz has early registration info for writing workshops and conferences in 2020.


For our poetry writers, Melissa Donovan examines rhythm and meter in poetry.

Are you working on an anthology? Marika Lindholm has 5 goals for making your anthology the best that it can be.

As beginning writers, we are often urged to imitate the greats to learn about style. Sarah Callendar wonders: is imitating the greats harmful or helpful?

Fantasy and science fiction requires creating whole new worlds, but still requires writers to connect with their readers. Gail Carson Levine has tips for writing fantasy, Toni Susnjar talks fantasy fortification technology and materials, and Joshua Rothman tells us how William Gibson, who coined the term cyberspace, keeps his science fiction real.

Writers get many ideas, but how do we develop those into stories? Jordan at NowNovel has 8 exercises to develop your book idea, Stavros Halvatzis discusses story mapping, and Barbara Linn Probst shares visual-spatial tools for mapping and enhancing your story.

You can also help focus and refine your story by examining what Jami Gold calls your core story, and by following Janice Hardy’s advice to plot with Michael Hague’s 6 stage plot structure.

Writers have many craft elements available to them, but in the end the story conveys a meaning to the reader beyond what happens in the plot. Kristen Lamb tackles “voice” and why it is important to storytelling, Jim Dempsey tells us how to manipulate your reader’s point of view, and Kathryn Craft discusses manipulating story time for maximal effect.

Characters are one of the largest elements in our craft arsenal, as compelling characters keep readers turning the pages. Mary Kole has 5 things readers need to know about character in your first pages, Dana Isaacson lays out how to choose the best names for your characters, and Laurence McNaughton gives us a compelling character arc in 4 easy steps.

Rachel McCollin dives into the debate over which comes first, plot or character; Andrea Merrell advises what to do when your characters take over the story, and Yvonne Hertzberger asks: are you in your characters?

Perhaps an even more apt question is: are your characters in you? Christian Jarrett explores how acting changes the brain when actors get lost in a role—and it may apply to writers when writing as well.

There is a lot we need to look for when we edit our manuscripts. Terry Odell has tips for that first editing pass, Geoff Palmer uses zombies to weed out passive voice, Tamela Hancock Murray talks about using dialogue tags, and Daphne Gray-Grant explains what writers can learn from green bean casserole.

Writing as a career takes persistence, strength, and discipline. Heidi Fielder discusses 5 ways to quiet your inner editor when drafting, Krysle tells how viewing her writing as a hobby instead of a job made her more productive, Lucia Tang makes the case why writers, like athletes, should cross train; and Stewart Sinclair explores what it means (and takes) to have a career in writing.

The first book is often hard, but sometimes the second book is the one that is more overwhelming. Beth Kephart shows how to kick the next book blues, and Charity Bradford tells us what to do when you want to quit.

At those times when you want to quit, having a community to support you is helpful. Rachelle Gardner asks: are you a lone ranger writer?, while Carla Spataro discusses finding your tribe.


Porter Anderson interviews Michael Tamblyn on Kobo’s 10th anniversary.

Charlotte Anne Creamore explores the effect of a no-deal Brexit on independent publishers in the UK.

We focus a lot on fiction, but here the ABPA looks at non-fiction trends.

Dominic White peers into the future to discuss changes in the audiobook business in the next 20 years.

Looking to go traditional? Brian Henry tells us why now is not a good time to query an agent.

Marketing is the key to success. Sandra Beckwith has 3 fiction marketing success tips for 2020, and Boni Wagner-Stafford gives us a guide for indie authors of book marketing strategies.

Our books are truly our best marketing tool, so we need to make the most effective use of them. David Kudler revisits the 7 things you should be including in your ebook, while Dan Brotzel discusses review copies, freebies, and author copies.

Internet marketing is tricky to quantify. Sandra Beckwith shares social media tips from the pros, and Rae Steinbach has 4 tips to optimize Facebook ad performance for authors.

If your blog is your reader outreach of choice, Cristian Mihai lists 10 techniques for opening your blog posts like an artist, and Jay Artale gives us 3 proven ways to grow a blog audience.


As the end of the decade looms, Emily Temple and LitHub compiled the 10 best literary TV adaptations of the decade and the 10 best literary film adaptations of the decade.

Jane Austen continues to fascinate. Kathleen Keenan has the best Jane Austen sentences, while Hilary Davidson goes deep on the fashions of Jane Austen’s time.

In Italy, women writers are ascendant thanks to the Ferrante effect, according to Anna Momigliano.

Here’s how to spend a literary long weekend in Chicago.

The dead do speak to us, whether it be a dead author to a reader or a dead loved one to an author. Julie Dubrow muses on the light as she saw it: on sitting in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom, and Gillian Gill discusses how Virginia Woolf’s mother haunted much of her writing.

Pairing a story-telling game with storytellers, McKayla Coyle envisions what famous authors would look like as Dungeons & Dragons characters.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We will have our annual “Best of” links roundup next week, and see you again in the New Year!

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

Top Picks Thursday! For writers and Readers 12-12-2019


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, fog at dawn, winter dawn

Foggy dawn


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! The moon has long inspired artists of all genres, and if the sky is clear where you live, you can see the beautiful full moon tonight. (For those intrigued by numbers and people who enjoy interesting facts: today’s full moon occurred at 12:12 am … on 12/12. Wonder how often that happens!)

The month is almost half over, which means shopping time is slipping away. For those looking for gift ideas for a writer, Kayleigh Brindley suggests gift for writers, Jami Gold shares the 2019 edition of her ultimate gift guide for writers, and Brian Henry offers seventy-seven great gifts for writers.

Winter is a good time for reading. James Scott Bell contemplates curling up with a good book.

With the end of the year upon us, Emily Temple gives us the Literary Hub staff’s 50 favorite books of 2019 and Literary Hub‘s list of the 78 best book covers of 2019.

We don’t find this surprising: Eleanor Busby reports that children who own books are six times more likely to read above their expected level.

In Memoriam: legendary Star Trek writer/producer D. C. Fontana, one of the first women to write TV screenplays other than soap operas and comedies, dies at age 80 [reported by Chris Arrant for];  Robert Massie, biographer who popularized Russian history, dies at age 90 [reported by Hillel Italie in the Los Angeles Times]; and prolific children’s author Andrew Clements dies at age 70 [reported by Shannon Maughan in Publishers Weekly].


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, snow-covered trees, snowy dawn

A kiss of snow at dawn




In this last month of the year, Roz Morris suggests 5 ways to use the holidays to keep the new writing habits you developed during NaNoWriMo and not revise too early, and Fae Rowen shares her best writing advice for the next decade.

James Scott Bell ponders whether it’s necessary to write every day, Natalie Campbell shares 3 things you need to become an author (plus a 4th to keep in the game), and for established writers hitting a snag, Donald Maass suggests reinventing your fiction.

Sometimes writers and other artists need a boost to their creativity. Melissa Donovan advises consuming art to fuel your writing, and Cathy Yardley advocates taking time to play.

Writers find inspiration in many places. Natalie Jenner tells us what running a bookshop taught her about writing, while Joanna Penn reveals what writers can learn from bodybuilders.

Are you a plotter a pantser? Ray Rhamey celebrates the fun of pantsing.

Self-knowledge can help a writer improve craft and process. Helen Betya Rubinstein considers what your draft (and its problems) says about you, while Jami Gold ponders what our reading choices tell us about our writing.

Angela Ackerman concentrates on mastering show, don’t tell, while Lori Freeland brings us the 3 most misunderstood words in a writer’s vocabulary: show, don’t tell.

Gabriel Valjean takes a look at five writing crimes and how to get away with them.

For those writing fantasy, B. K. Bass explores the origins of the mercenary.

Elizabeth S. Craig focuses on the usefulness of a series bible.

Nathan Bransford gives us the 8 essential elements of a story, while Janice Hardy explores creating plot twists, and Stavros Halvatzis addresses how to merge story strands.

Susan Spann goes over using foils in fiction, and PJ Parrish takes a look at what makes the perfect ending.

Tracy R. Atkins highlights special formatting for nonfiction books in Microsoft Word, and Gwen Hernandez walks us through creating custom Scrivener templates.

Janet Reid contends that using sensitivity readers is not just about making sure you don’t offend readers but also about finding the blind spots your own worldview can bring to your writing.

Once you’ve finished that first draft, it’s time for revision and editing. Spencer Ellsworth advocates a different approach: outlines are for revision, and Martin Wiles urges writers not to ditch the comma, while Ali Luke shares five signs that you might be over-editing.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, unusual cloud formations





In publishing news, Porter Anderson reports that US publishers and the Copyright Alliance back a congressional letter on copyright restatement.

Attention science fiction and fantasy authors: Erica Verillo tells us that DAW Books is opening submissions to authors from underrepresented or marginalized communities who have no agents.

Are you looking for an agent? Lisa Lowe Stauffer delves into the agent-search game, and SCBWI’s Lee Wind offers a resource for finding literary agents of color. To help you get that agent, Dawn Field looks at the value of a great book synopsis.

For a bit of fun, Electric Literature help us write the perfect personal essay pitch with their handy chart.

Steven Spatz points out five self-publishing mistakes you need to avoid, Karen Williams offers five tips for creating audiobooks, and Michele DeFilippo takes a look at the best fonts for books.

Marketing your book? Sandra Beckwith gives the scoop on why you must have a press release that announces your book, and Nate Hoffelder stresses cleaning up your newsletter’s subscriber’s list.

For those who have blogs, Adam Connell sets out 17 high impact tasks to prepare your blog for the new year, and Cristian Mihai gives tips on how to beat blogging burnout and lists 90 super easy tips that will turn even a novice blogger into an expert.

For writers who dreads online marketing, Kristen Lamb wonders if it’s possible to sell books off-line.

Let’s face it—we all make mistakes. In a social media world where the past never dies, Janet Reid considers the case of Linda Fairstein and ponders the ethical question of how long people’s mistakes should be against them.


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

Dramatic sunset clouds




Fifty years after the founding of New York’s Greenwich Village Historic District, Andrew Berman shares 31 literary icons who lived in Greenwich Village.

Libraries in the news: Greta Rainbow writes about the Brooklyn Public Library’s telling the story of Zimbabwe’s subversive creatives; and the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Stephan Salisbury tells us that children’s author Ashley Bryan, who led the way in featuring people of color in children’s books, has gifted University of Pennsylvania with a massive collection of drawings, journals, sketchbooks, and much more.

The Baltimore Sun‘s Chris Kaltenbach reports that Baltimore’s Poe House is officially Maryland’s first “Literary Landmark.”

On Literary Hub, Umberto Eco considers the elusive concept of ugliness.

Kevin Young examines Ralph Ellison’s slow-burning art.

Holly Quinn says the Delaware Art Museum is safeguarding the state’s only remaining indie bookstore.

In Glamour, Samantha Leach wonders why the billion-dollar romance genre is still so overlooked.

Erika Mailman tells the true tales of Nick Petrulakis, a literary bartender.

Amalia Beckner reveals why she started a book club in the Harris County Jail.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, late fall, meandering stream

Meandering stream on a cloudy day


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, sunset clouds



Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 5, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-05-2019

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 21, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-21-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are all gearing up for Thanksgiving this week. We hope you have someplace to go spend time with family and friends over the holiday.

In the spirit of the holiday, Sari Feldman says let’s be thankful for libraries, while Laura Raicovich examines why libraries have a public spirit that most museums lack.

In a related post, Lloyd Alter answers the question which is greener, books or ebooks?

Former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith rediscovered poetry’s power while crisscrossing rural America.

Victoria Strauss comments on a scandal engulfing independent publisher ChiZine Publications.

Doing NaNo? Amy Jones has 5 NaNoWriMo prompts for mid-challenge motivation.


If you are writing picture books, read Leslie Helakoski and Darcy Pattison’s 9 picture books topics to avoid.

Any crime writers out there? E.V. Seymour has crime writing tips for you.

Every step of the writing journey has things you should and should not do. Kassandra Lamb gives us 7 dos and don’ts for writing a series, while Anne R. Allen lists 6 dos and don’ts of writing your final chapter.

Every writer has a process. Paul D. Marks outlines his in pantsers anonymous, Joshua Lisec explains how to outline a non-fiction book so readers can’t put it down, and Peter Leavell cautions you must prepare to define yourself as an author.

Many elements of craft have to come together to make an outstanding story. Barbara Linn Probst gets to the heart of a novel (its “aboutness”), Allison Brennan says pacing is the key to scintillating suspense, September C. Fawkes urges surprising your readers in every scene, Melissa Donovan explores the setting of a story, and Laurence McNaughton has 3 secrets to writing vivid settings.

Characters—they keep readers coming back for more, and the good ones live in readers’ memories long after the book is done. Tiffany Reisz examines a character we know well in You Need More Scoundrels in Your Life: How to Write a Han Solo Hero in Six Easy Steps. Kristen Lamb goes in the other direction and reminds us that the villain can be much like you—or her. Stavros Halvatzis discusses character flaw in stories, Janice Hardy looks at how to make an unhappy character likeable, and Jim Dempsey asks: what really drives your characters? Once you’ve got your characters, Janice Hardy returns with how narrative distance works in your novel.

No matter where we are along the writing path, we always have more to learn. Meg LaTorre has 11 tips for newbies to improve your novel writing, Elaine Viets shares mistakes many writers make, and Angelica Hartgers highlights 3 areas of your fiction craft to hone.

Productivity is key to a successful career. Lydia Davis shares 10 recommendations for good writing habits, Elizabeth C. Spann suggests some writing resources, Jess Keating advises creating an imaginary panel to get unstuck, and Ellen Buikema tells how to nurture creativity through sleep.

Robert Lee Brewer has compiled 10 Lisa Scottoline quotes for writers and 10 Tess Gerritson quotes for writers, while Isaac Bashevis Singer wonders: who needs literature?

Writing can be a long journey, and it can be a mental and emotional slog sometimes. Shanna Swendson encourages us to not get discouraged—have stepping stones rather than setbacks; James Scott Bell says to delete naïveté from your writing life, K.Maze has the wellness wheel, Bill Ferris touts the hack’s guide to playing the waiting game, and Kathryn Craft advises career writers to embrace paradox.


Barbara Linn Probst delves deep into what makes readers give an unknown author a chance.

Want to do an audiobook? Take a look into the secret life of the audiobook star.

Christina McDonald shares how she hit the bestseller list with a traditionally published book.

With a look to the not-so-distant-future, Frantzeska Papadopoulou examines inventorship under the light of AI.

Self-publishers need to know the technical point of how to produce a book. Orna Ross has the 7 processes of book publishing, Reedsy tells us how to format a book (the free and easy way), Lee Foster looks at how publishing your ebook on Smashwords is changing.

Indie authors also have to know the business side of publishing. Melinda Clayton explains where to buy ISBNs, John Doppler demystifies mistakes in royalties, and Tim McConnehey explores copyright for indie authors.

People seeking traditional publishing have a great deal to figure out as well. Janet Reid discusses how to pick the best words for a query and how to know how much to leave out, Rachelle Gardner answers if age matters for writers, Nathan Bransford has the best strategy for sending query letters, Janet Reid explains why people might not want to rep a book, and Jessica Faust gives the agent’s side of preparing to make an offer of representation.

There are many marketing avenues available to authors today. Sandra Beckwith tells how to promote your books with local collaborations and gives us 10 free book promotion ideas, Jessica Strawser has 10 pro author tips for book fairs and festivals, while Sue Coletta tackles book blurbs: the good, the bad, and the hilarious.

Online provides opportunities, as well. SCBWI looks at if you are using your Twitter and Facebook headers to full potential, Emma Lombard explains how and why to build a Twitter following while unpublished, Lyn Wildwood lists the 6 best video hosting sites for content creators and entrepreneurs, and Stacey Corrin serves up 44 copywriting formulas to level up your content marketing.


Open access is important to information sharing, and it is up to librarians to make open access happen.

Love the smell of old books? Zee Krstic explains how the smell of old books could actually help experts preserve them.

Take a look at 10 stunning Scottish literary locations that inspired the setting of well-known novels (Note: Site does not work with an ad blocker turned on.)

Nicola Gardini argues that Latin is not useless, and neither is it dead.

Sadly, Venice’s legendary “waterproof” bookshop is overwhelmed by the recent floods.

Looking for something to read over the holidays? Emily Temple lists the 10 best translated novels of the decade.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We will be taking Thanksgiving off, but we hope all of you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 14, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers and Readers 11-14-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! It’s gotten very cold here, so it is perfect weather for curling up with a hot drink and some writerly links!

This second week in November is National Young Readers Week, so go encourage the young readers in your life! For those of us perhaps not so young, Steven Spatz explains why you should set a reading goal for 2020.

Perhaps read some of the works of these two writers who passed away this week: William Branch, a leading black playwright of the 1950s, died at age 92, and Stephen Dixon, prolific writer of experimental fiction, died at age 83.

In world author news, publishers and writers welcomed the release of imprisoned Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan.

Timothy Inkelbarger examines how the Chicago Public School strike affected Chicago school librarians.

Lots of writers enter their work in contests or award competitions, either before or after publication. Victoria Strauss cautions people entering the very lucrative Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award contest—they get rights to your story even if you don’t win, so weigh if that is worth it to you. Meanwhile, Kimberley Woodhouse explores the more positive side of the world of author awards.

Daphne Gray-Grant questions if you should do your MFA in writing?

If you are in the midst of National Novel Writing Month, Jami Gold has these NaNoWriMo resources if you need help.


If you are a memoirist, beware this common problem that confronts memoirists: an overabundance of material.

We all want to write a page-turner, but how to you do it? Jodie Renner shares a workable plan for adding tension, suspense, and intrigue, while Janice Hardy shows how to keep readers hooked through story revelations.

Compelling characters are another way to keep readers reading. Donald Maass talks about the two types of archetypes, James Scott Bell suggests giving your character a dream, Chris Winkle has 18 ways for protagonists to contribute, Kristen Lamb discusses crafting a villain of legendary substance, and Sharla Rae gives us a comprehensive guide to writing about hair.

Predictability will kill your story…or will it? Chris Winkle looks at how predictable a story should be, and Becca Puglisi explores saving your story from predictability.

Writers often struggle with what to cut from their novel when editing. Nathan Bransford discusses how to know what to cut from a novel, but Dario Ciriello alerts us when NOT to kill your darlings.

When editing, attention to detail counts. Christina DesMarais has 43 embarrassing grammar mistakes even smart people make, Dana Isaacson has infographics of often-used crutch words, Toni Susnjar explains how to get your fantasy fortifications right, Beth van der Pol urges us to stop trying so hard to impress our readers with big words, and Roz Morris tells us how to find the editor that’s right for you.

If you are looking for ways to be more efficient, Writehacked lists 3 helpful tool types for writers.


Michelle Rial gives us Publishing a Book by the Numbers, while Steph Coelho ponders the current state and future of Goodreads.

In Amazon news, Jim Milliot reports that Amazon is reducing orders to publishers, and Ed Nawotka shows that translations pay off for Amazon.

If you are a self-publisher, there’s lots of nuts and bolts elements to understand. Michele DePhilippo explains typesetting and why it matters, Melinda VanLone gives us tips for book cover typography, Andre Calihanna lays out what goes in the front matter of your book, and Tracy Atkins continues her series on preparing your manuscript for publication.

Self-publishers and small press publishers also need to understand what’s happening in their markets. David Wogahn dissects Bowker’s Self-Publishing Report, while Rachell Gardner has questions to ask a small publisher. David Kudler guides us in pricing your book, and Christina Hoag explains the importance of genre.

But not all authors want to self-publish. Karin Beery discusses why she chose the long road to publication.

The long road usually involves querying agents or editors. Janet Reid evaluates the first sentences of potential query letters for novels, while Nathan Bransford has an example of a good nonfiction query letter.

Most queries include comps (competing titles). Penny Sansevieri shows how to find and use competing book titles, and Paula Munier has a know your comps quiz for you.

If you are pitching articles, Robert Lee Brewer lists 3 ways to make your nonfiction article pitch stand out.

Once you’ve got your book, the marketing starts. Ray Flynt has tips to build your indie author brand, but Eliza Green ponders what happens when readers rebel.

In person events can be a great way to get the word out about your work. Boni Wagner-Stafford shows how to engineer your book launch success with a DIY strategy, Elizabeth Ducie explains how to promote books and have fun on the radio, and Karen A. Chase describes getting speaking engagements.

Other ways to market are effective, too. Sandra Beckwith has 6 ways to promote your book as a holiday gift, and David Wogahn tells us how to use endorsements well.

Online, there are many ways to reach readers. Stacey Corrin defines what a blog is in an essential guide for beginners, while Dave Chesson walks us through how to create a Facebook author page and how to use it wisely.


Here’s a job for you poets out there: Benjamin Aleshire on writing poetry on demand at a New Orleans tech convention.

How many have you read? BBC’s list of 100 novels that shaped our world.

K.M. Weiland has 23 tips for a zero waster home office.

Early writing was often a male domain, but Alison Flood finds that women’s writing began much earlier than previously supposed.

Speaking of women writers, intrepid reporter Nellie Bly committed herself to an insane asylum just to get the story.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay warm and we’ll see you next week for more literary links.

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