Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2019

Please Don't Buy My Book

Amazon Algorithm Change. If you’re an Indie author, those three words probably provoke a level of dread proportional to the number of eggs book sales you generate from that one basket megastore. Amazon’s latest tweaks involve their “Also Bought” generator. This feature is now much more prominently placed (its placement above the item the page belongs to is being trialed right now – sometimes you’ll see it there, sometimes you won’t), and it takes its data gathering very seriously. If you’re an unknown author, Also Boughts are how potential readers find you. Let’s say you write cozy mysteries involving clever cats that help the investigator find clues. If Amazon customers were browsing for Lillian Jackson Braun or Clea Simon books and your book was featured on that page, it would be an ideal match – you’d very likely get a number of sales from people willing to try something new but similar. Perfect. Once you have more books out, you also want your own books to appear on your

Fear of Writing

We like to call people who flaunt fear and defy death daredevils, like those old barnstormers who flew their rickety biplanes upside down to the delight of the crowds below. But how can what writers do be compared to that? For me, it's not too far a stretch to think of writers as daredevils. I would argue that for many writers, even established ones, fear is the emotion most readily associated with our work. To get anything meaningful accomplished, we have to dig deep, don our daredevil armor and vanquish fear, much as the haints that terrorize us on All Hallow's Eve are conquered by the rising of the Saints on November 1st. Talk with any group of writers and you’ll find they fear the same things... that somehow their work won't be good enough or will never cross the finish line. Or if they do manage to get something written, edited and submitted to a publisher, it will never be bought. Or if their work is miraculously bought, once published, no reader will buy it.

Taming the Fearsome Apostrophe

Ah, dearies, it's so good to visit you in the absence of my sweet niece, the Style Maven. I'm filling in for her because she's quite involved at the moment with another project. However, she sends her greetings and has asked me to share with you some pertinent thoughts on the uses and abuses of the often misunderstood apostrophe. According to The Chicago Manual of Style Seventeenth Edition , the apostrophe—which is not to be confused with its identical twin, the single quotation mark—serves one of three purposes in a sentence: it shows possession; it indicates a contraction, or it signifies the possessive nature of certain expressions. Let's first consider singular and plural possession: The cat's meows awakened me. ( 1 cat) The cats' meows awakened me. (2+ cats) Placement of the apostrophe determines the singularity or plurality of cats. If it sits between  cat  and the s , it denotes just one. If more than one cat is involved, it follows the the plu

Welcome to the Future, or Not

I’ve never been afraid of much. Not sure why. I don’t like scary movies, don’t read horror novels. I used to fear getting old, but I’m kind of there, and it’s not as bad as I thought. But in day-to-day life, nothing much ever made me really scared, until recently. Why could that be? you might ask. It’s the future—the future I probably won’t be around to learn if my fears were justified. The future that my children, grandchildren, and their children face. It’s the banal reality show mentality of the Kardashians and Big Brother. The greed in politics and lack of empathy. It’s people shrugging off the ugliness toward others and normalizing it. It’s a diminished public educational system that only serves those kids who are lucky enough to live in a good district or have the benefit of a private education. A good public education used to be for all kids from grades one to twelve and then affordable college. Now, some people bribe colleges to get their kids accepted, as if they have no

Are Your Characters' Fears Your Fears?

Franklin Roosevelt said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself". Those words from his 1933 inaugural address were intended to encourage and energize the American people, who seemed to have lost all hope of recovering from the Great Depression that had devastated their lives. Now fast forward to October 2019. The world appears to be teetering on the brink of another crisis, one that threatens to break peoples and countries into fragments that seem to be headed toward anarchy. How does this affect your writing? Earthshaking events on the world scene can drive a story or be a backdrop for events in various genres from romances to thrillers to mysteries to science fiction and fantasy. But what about other fears—ones that fall short of a world crisis? Do things that go bump in your night show up on the pages of your novels? Do you and your character share a fear of spiders or snakes? How about fear of the dark? crowds? height? flying? the opposite sex? Why do y

Fear: What Scares You the Most in Books and Movies?

I am no longer in the habit of indulging in self-fright by reading books that are too alarming or watching movies that terrify. But that’s today. When I was young and foolish, I took chances. Back in the day, I read several Stephen King novels that have stayed with me forever. Cujo was the first. Pet Sematary was even worse. I still read Stephen King from time to time, but I read the synopses very carefully before I buy. And I don’t read King novels after the sun goes down. As far as the movies made from King novels, I think the only one I dared to watch was Carrie . If I had watched the others, I might have been scarred for life. My friend and critique group co-member Brian Kaufman wrote a few horror novels and ran the chapters through our meetings. I had to “woman-up” and read critically without freaking out. I can safely say that’s the only way anyone will persuade me read about zombies ( Dead Beyond the Fence: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse ) or a creepy haunted hous

Writers Gotta Read, Right? Scare yourself silly

Right on the heels of our month exploring humor (September) is our month on FEAR (October). So hang onto your hats, turn on the lights, and muffle the screams (or not), because I've rounded up some lists of scary reads for you to indulge in (or avoid).  Let's start at the top and go all out with Daryl Chen's 20 Scariest Books of All Times over at the Reader's Digest site. The post includes covers and short summaries, so you can pick and choose how you prefer your frights. Stephen King is well represented in the previous list, and his works appear as well in Buzzfeed's 23 Books That are Actually Really, Really Scary . ADDENDUM : King also appears prominently in another Buzzfeed article: 23 Books That Actually Freaked People Out So Badly, They Had To Stop Reading. (And here's a shout-out to my local indie bookstore, Towne Center Books , for mentioning this particular list. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay Okay, I'm officially freaked o

Fears That Usurp Writing

Let’s just get that word out of the way now because it and all its ugly friends—worry, doubt, and anxiety to name a few—often play a role in how or why we write (or don’t). We all at some point have fears, and it seems that we creative types have them in constant, overpowering waves. As I moved into my twenties and began to write in earnest, fear was my constant companion. Every year, there is a plethora of stories published. How was I going to compete? How was I different from or better than those who were already published? Those two questions swirled inside my head all the time. Who did I think I was to think that I was good enough for other people to want to read my work? It didn’t help that some editors recommended that I “write blacker.” The fear of writing expanded to me wondering if and how I could pander to the publishing world my blackness for the sake of being published. When you let fear in, it becomes a squatter. It comes not to visit and have some tea, a little

Overcoming Writer's Block

Writer's block is most often internal resistance based on fear which drives writers to self-sabotage and procrastinate. If you expose the source, you can battle it. 1. Your writing isn't good enough. The good news is a writer doesn't have to be perfect. It isn't neurosurgery.  A reader won't die if you make a grammatical error.  You should have a basic grasp of language. If your last encounter with grammar was high school, you could probably use a refresher course. Some writers know how to compose language like a musician creates scores. If you are a true word nerd, you will enjoy learning how to craft masterful sentences and paragraphs. You should also have a basic grasp of story structure and genre expectations, but you don't need a degree to gain them. You can improve your craft in three ways: A. Read and analyze the best.  Read them with an analytical eye. Take notes. What did they do well? What did you dislike? Describe the point of each chapter