Category Archives: Cool blogs

I haz done ‘nother interview! Plus gud readz

My gracious, peeps. I’m sort of out of hand up in here. I went on down to the Cocktail Hour for a Bar Conversation with Andy. We talked about books, writing, writing process, the upcoming GCLS conference, and a whole slew of other stuff. Hope you go and check it out. We had a hell of a good time. But then, I ALWAYS have a good time at Cocktail Hour!

I believe I’m slated to do a readings thingie on the Liz McMullen show in the next week or so. Not sure yet what I’ll be reading of mine, but it’ll probably include some unknown and unseen works-in-progress. I’ll let you know when that’s ready for your listening pleasure.

So now I’m a little lost without Walking Dead to get therapy over. Thank god(dess) Lemony Snicket took over Twitter for a bit to help us deal with our fears. Check it out. It’s darkly funny, as you would expect.

And here’s a cool post at Writer Unboxed by author Erika Robuck on how words can nourish in various ways.

And one of my fave writers/bloggers, Chuck Wendig, points out again that self-publishing versus traditional publishing isn’t some kind of epic war between Orcs and Hobbits. One might not work for you, or the other might not. Who cares? Do what works for you. I’m a hybrid between the two, and I generally tinker and explore all kinds of options and platforms. Oh, and check out his review/experience with Bioshock Infinite.

Oh, and cuz I kind of collect a few comics, here are some cool comics blogs to check out:
Comics Worth Reading (lots of great, meaty discussions here)
Comics Alliance (good info about stuff that’s out there, events, and stuff that’s on the way)
Bleeding Cool (comics news and other groovy stuff like that)

Things readers can do for writers

Hey, all–

Caught this cool post at Writer Unboxed from January 28 (okay, so, most of their posts are great) about what readers can do for writers. Specifically, writer and editor Chuck Sambuchino provides 11 tips with regard to supporting a writer’s new book. Number 1?

Buy the author’s book.

Here’s what he says:

An obvious point, sure, but important nonetheless. Naturally, we must buy new copies of books, not used copies, for the sale to “count” and the author to get a royalty. So buy new. Heck, consider pre-ordering the book. Publishers pay attention to pre-orders to help get a sense of what titles are getting buzz and attention. Impressive pre-orders help the author.
source

No, authors do not make money off of used copies, no matter where you buy those used copies. Just wanted to clear that up. And we certainly don’t make money off pirated copies of our work. Now before you start in on how you can’t afford a new copy and all that, hey. It’s cool. I get it. I understand why you buy used. I also understand why you borrow a book from a friend or a library. I totally get that. That said, I am not down with piracy. Sorry.

At any rate, if you buy used and/or borrow a book, how about if you really like the author, could you do her a favor and tell your friends about her? And about her books and stories? Especially if you buy used or borrow a book. And if you do buy new and you loan your copy out to a few friends so they, too, can discover a new author, THANKS. So yes, ideally, authors REALLY appreciate it when you buy new. But we also appreciate it when you tell your friends about this cool author you discovered and how about giving her a read.

Moving along, Sambuchino also offers these tips (and I’ve been known to do stuff like this for authors I enjoy): face the book out at bookstores and read it visibly. The latter, I’m afraid, is going to be much harder to do these days, because many people no longer read actual physical books where you can show off your book cover. Instead, you’re on an ereader, and that makes it harder. But if you do have a physical copy of a book and you enjoy that author, hey, let the world see the title and author’s name. Another good tip is to spread the word about the book/author via your social media channels.

Basically, Sambuchino offers easy things for readers to do to help spread the word about an author and her new book(s). And believe me, authors appreciate it SO much when readers talk up authors whose work they enjoy. So thank you, readers. Thanks for buying our work, thanks for reading it, thanks for letting others know about your fave authors. You’re part of this whole publishing thing, too. And I think sometimes some writers forget that, much to their detriment.

Anyway. Happy Tuesday!

Helpful writing links plus some other stuff

Hey, kids–

Tomorrow, join me and author Michael Chavez over at Women and Words. We’ll be chatting about his work and he’ll also be giving away a copy of his first novel, Creed. Come on by and hang out with us!

And other stuff I’ve found that I’m going to pass on to you:

Writing sidekicks and henchmen, by author Sophie Masson. I love to write strong secondary characters, so I dug this post. Read the comments, too, because there are other examples and tips in there.

Let’s talk (ha ha) about dialogue! Yet another useful post from author Catherine McKenzie: 10 tips for writing impactful dialogue.

Here’s one of my earlier posts on dialogue, for more tips. I think dialogue is super hard to do well, so any time I see a blog about tips for writing it, I’m all over it.

Are you guys familiar with literary agent Sara Megibow? She’s with Nelson Literary in Denver, and does a greatly informative and fun Twitter feed (@SaraMegibow). Every Thursday ’til the end of the year, she does this thing on Thursdays on Twitter at the hashtag #10queriesin10tweets. Check it out. And follow her on Twitter, because she has great tips for approaching literary agents, writing query letters, and writing. Plus, she and the crew over at Nelson Literary are always doing helpful webinars. I highly recommend you get on their newsletter list.

Oh, and I just finished reading Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr, a collection of his first three Bernie Gunther detective novels. I’ll be doing a write-up on it at Goodreads soon, but in the meantime, check it out. This is hard-boiled noir, and it takes place in Nazi-era Berlin. Go have a looksee. If you’ve read it, I’d be interested to get your thoughts on it.

All rightie! Happy reading, happy writing!

So you want to be a writer. Bless your heart.

Hi, folks–

I’ll be on the road in the next few days, so I won’t be able to check in as often as I’d like. But DON’T WORRY! I’ll be back, and probably with some tales to tell.

Anyway, I follow Broadside (because it’s an awesome blog. Hello.) and today, Caitlin Kelly (the woman who does Broadside) had a super good post about what it takes to be a writer. READ IT. Not that I’m pushing you or anything.

She didn’t use the term “stubborn,” but I sure will (Caitlin used “persistence”). Because that’s important. You must be stubborn and stick to it, if it’s what you want to do. And you must continue to do it, in the face of what some days feels like you’re wearing a pair of concrete cowboy boots in a shit tornado. In spite of these things, you must persevere, if this is what you want to do.

You will be rejected (and some of those will hurt). You will be dissed on the interwebs (and you must not respond). You will submit your work a gajillion times and only one of those times may garner you a notice. But it may not land you a contract. You must, as Caitlin points out, have a hide the thickness of a fossilized dinosaur’s (okay, she’s more eloquent) but the sensitive heart of a Bambi-eyed puppy. You must suck it up and smile, even when you’re in the middle of that poo typhoon, and exhibit graciousness and humility because people remember what you say and do. Readers like to know that you’re not some cranky-ass sodden heap of negativity spewing thunderbolts of judgment at everybody who wanders across your time/space continuum. And if you are, readers remember. Hell, everybody remembers. Why bring that on yourself?

And, a couple of my favorites from Caitlin: be curious, and be generous. I’m intensely curious about everything and everyone. How could you not be? The world is an endlessly fascinating place and we are a totally mondo-bizarro species doing all kinds of wild stuff. I also like giving of my time and energy to others, because you never know who you’ll meet. Plus, it’s just good ju-ju to share the love.

Caitlin also supplies some links to other blogs about what it takes to be a writer. Check those out. And here are a couple I liked.

(the always irreverent and happy sailor-mouthed) Chuck Wendig’s 25 things he wants to say to aspiring writers

And another Chuck post about things writers lie about to themselves

And here’s Chuck’s secret to writing:

source (re-sized here, and he did register it with a Creative Commons license, so share away!)

Dude, where’s your story?

Hi, peeps–

Hope everything finds you groovy. I’m currently working on my latest novels. One is the third installment of my science fiction series and the other is the fourth book in my New Mexico mystery series. And I like to keep up with blogs that offer tips and writing hints/fun stuff for authors. To that end, this post by writing guru Lisa Cron over at Writer Unboxed has some excellent advice.

The post, titled “The Biggest Mistake Writers Make and How to Avoid It,” notes that STORY is the crapfall for writers. That is, many writers don’t know what that is or how it works within the framework of their plot. You’re scoffing. But wait. Hear Lisa out.

So even though they have a great idea and their prose is gorgeous, there’s no story, thus no sense of urgency, and ultimately, no reader. It’s as simple – and heartbreaking – as that. And it’s extremely common.
(from “Biggest Mistake“)

Does that make sense? Really think about that. No story = no sense of urgency. Lisa tells us that THIS is what her definition of a story is:

A story is how what happens (the plot) affects someone (the protagonist) in pursuit of a difficult goal (the story question) and how he or she changes as a result (which is what the story is actually about).
{from “Biggest Mistake”)

A story, she says, is not about the plot. It’s about how the plot affects the protagonist. It’s thus INTERNAL, not external.

Thus, first and foremost, a story is about how the protagonist makes sense of what happens, and how she then reacts as she pursues her goal. In short, it’s not about what she does, it’s about why she does it.
(“Biggest Mistake”)

Cron then notes 5 reasons that can make your story go astray. I’ll give you Point 3, here:

3. Good novels very often trick us into believing that the writer never ventured into the protagonist’s mind, when in fact, that’s where the story unfolded.

Pull just about any novel off your shelf and look specifically for how the writer is conveying the protagonist’s internal reaction to what happens; you’ll see it everywhere. When reading for pleasure it’s nearly invisible, precisely because it’s how the novel gives us the sense that we’re in the protagonist’s skin. That’s why it’s maddening that writers are often warned not to include internal thought. Why is this advice given? Because when done poorly, internal thought can turn into long, rambling, irrelevant monologues that derail a story. So the best advice is simply this: learn to write internal thought well. After all, it’s what lets us know how the protagonist is really responding to what’s happening, and that’s where the power of story lies.
(“Biggest Mistake”)

Author Joan Opyr and I had a conversation about writing and writing styles a while back. She observed that good writing and good structure means that a reader is caught up in the reading. She said it’s when all the moving parts work seamlessly together. When they don’t — when there’s a little hiccup or a grinding of the gears — that means the novelist missed something in the telling of the story.

I struggle with story myself, and I know I’m not the only author out there who does. Cron leaves us with this advice: “. . .in the beginning, it’s all about nailing the story. When you get to that last draft (which will most likely be many drafts away), it’s about polishing the prose.”

Good reminder. Thanks, Lisa.

Happy reading, happy writing!

Groovy Writing Links!

Hi, kids–

Got some groovy linkage here you might find useful for your writing and publishing selves.

Keith Cronin tells us: DARE TO SUCK! Great advice, because all writers (at least all the ones I know) go through a phase where everything they write or try to write feels like it’s no better than drunken monkey poo thrown liberally across greasy burger wrappers. That’s okay! Write it anyway! Or skip the scene that’s giving you nervous hives and write another one. The important thing is to keep writing, because you need that momentum (and if you want to find out more about Keith, click here).

Lydia Sharp says: It’s okay to watch movies and TV shows! Cuz you can learn cool things that translate into fiction writing! I agree. Catch her post about 5 ways novelists can benefit from doing that. And find more Lydia here.

Meg Wolitzer at the New York Times gives us some food for thought about the state of women’s fiction and women writing fiction. Go see. And find out more about Meg Wolitzer here.

The problem of knock-off ebooks at Amazon (that is, copy-cat books based on legitimate titles that Amazon posts). Check the comment thread, too, on that one. I guess my question on that one would be: If you know the title and author of the book you want, why would you buy a knock-off with a slightly different title/author? Hmmm.

And Stevie Carroll has a discussion about female friendships in fiction going over at Women and Words. Readers, you might want to check that out and offer suggestions to Stevie and others about books that have female friendships. Find Stevie at her LiveJournal here.

All right, friends. Happy reading, happy writing, and happy Tuesday! And please do feel free to provide links you think will benefit us here in The Situation Room in the comments. Cheers!

Letters to friends

I was looking for something writer-ish, maybe a tip to share with all of you who are writing or want to write. But instead, I found these two amazing blog posts that I wanted to share instead.

The first is by Victoria Oldham, who blogs here. Vic generally gets me thinking when she posts, even if it’s something humorous. She has a lyrical writing style, whose cadences are reminiscent of poetry. This post is no exception. Here, she writes a letter to a young butch, and it’s about claiming space, living, nurturing your identity, and finding your armor.

Enjoy.

The second is by Jack Andrew Urquhart, a gentleman whose writing I just discovered today. He blogs here. In this, his short story “Letter to a Friend,” the main character (told in first-person POV) remembers a man with whom he fell in love, something that caught him completely off guard, as you’ll see. Urquhart has a hypnotic, gripping narrative style rich in imagery, sparse and clean in language, but deep in impact.

Enjoy.

Word therapy, for this Easter and Passover weekend.

Happy reading, happy writing.

An ordinary, extraordinary life

Hi, folks–

Major hat tip to Caitlin Kelly, whose blog, “Broadside,” I follow. She posted about an amazing article from the Toronto Star. Or rather, a wonderful tribute to a woman who loved and lived fiercely, and who touched many lives.

Here’s the direct link to this astonishing piece of writing and journalism, this rumination over a woman’s life through those left behind. A reporter at the Star became interested in Shelagh Gordon through her obituary, and decided to find out more about her. The Star interviewed more than 100 friends and family members, to show how a seemingly ordinary life can have an incredible impact.

I’ve posted the beginning below, but please do click the above link to read the rest of it.

“Shelagh was here–an ordinary, magical life”
by Catherine Gordon

I met Shelagh Gordon at her funeral.

She was soap-and-water beautiful, vital, unassuming and funny without trying to be. I could feel her spirit tripping over a purse in the funeral hall and then laughing from the floor.

She was both alone and crowded by love. In another era, she’d have been considered a spinster — no husband, no kids. But her home teemed with dogs, sisters, nieces, nephews and her “life partner” —a gay man — who would pass summer nights reading books in bed beside her wearing matching reading glasses.

Her relationships were as rich as the chocolate pudding pies she’d whip together.

She raced through ravines, airports and wine glasses (breaking them, that is). She dashed off dozens of text messages and emails and Facebook postings a day, usually mistyping words in her rush to connect.

Then, every afternoon, she’d soak for an hour in the bath while eating cut-up oranges and carrots and flipping the damp pages of a novel.

She called herself a “freak,” at first self-consciously and, later, proudly.

But my sharpest impression of Shelagh that day, as mourners in black pressed around me, was of her breathtaking kindness. Shelagh was freshly-in-love thoughtful.

Godspeed, Ms. Gordon. The world is a richer place for you having been in it. May we all live ordinary, magical lives.

Gratitude

Hi, folks–

I know, Thanksgiving has come and gone. But I’m one of those people who doesn’t really think about the historical context of Thanksgiving so much as the spirit of it, and the time to think about the winding down of the year and the things for which I’m grateful.

And that’s why I’m giving you this link to The Rumpus, and the amazing-ness of people offering their thoughts about what’s made them grateful. I guarantee, you will not be unmoved, whether by the stories themselves or the gorgeous prose that some of these people use to tell them.

Go. Read. And find within yourself that which makes you grateful.

Happy Monday, and many thanks to Kelley Eskridge for the link.

Friday Reads: Benjamin Buchholz

Hi, friends–

When I come across provocative things to read, I like to pass them along.

In this case, I came across this article in HuffPo, by a man named Benjamin Buchholz, who served with the Wisconsin National Guard in Iraq. He’s got a book out called One Hundred and One Nights, told from the perspective of an Iraqi.

source: Paperback Swap

Here’s a quote from the piece Buchholz wrote for HuffPo:

The window of opportunity for me to make a difference in Safwan had passed while I was still learning to navigate the culture. This failure made me realize that our armed forces in general, and myself in particular, must develop greater cultural acuity and must be willing to commit to more than a single year of service in order to truly make a difference. As such, I resolved to obtain this sort of further preparation through the Army’s Foreign Affairs Officer (FAO) program.
Source

Intrigued, I went to check out Buchholz’s blog, “Not Quite Right,” in which he chronicles his experiences with immersion in the Middle East. It’s a travelogue, history, analysis, and examination not only of the Middle East, but also of his own views and ruminations about where he fits in the world.

Happy reading!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,552 other followers