Friday, July 30, 2021

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland and The Dark Lord of Derkholm - #FridayReads #WeekendReads

Click to enlarge
Pages 50-51 of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
(OMT stands for "Official Management Term")

We’ve covered the use of tropes in fiction this month, so it’s apt to end July with a review of the ultimate in tropic tongue-in-cheek fantasy fun.

Diana Wynne Jones
wrote The Tough Guide to Fantasyland in 1996, and followed it up with The Dark Lord of Derkholm in 1998, and its sequel, The Year of the Griffin, published in 2000. Derkholm and The Tough Guide go hand-in-hand, although they can be read as standalones without spoilers. The Tough Guide is a dictionary of fantasy tropes, written as though the reader is on a tour of a theme-park-style world – an alphabetical list of what to expect. The Dark Lord of Derkholm is that tour, from the point of view of the world’s “Dark Lord”.

With a twist.

The people and resources of “Fantasyland” have been exploited for generations by Mr Chesney, the owner of a specialist tour company that runs adventure holidays in their extraordinary magical world for the ordinary people of our ordinary world. At the end of their tether, the citizens of Fantasyland have decided to try and sabotage the tours, starting by appointing a wizard named Derk (pretty much the equivalent of Arthur Weasley) as this year’s Dark Lord (i.e., the equivalent of “Voldemort”).

Yes, it’s exactly as hilarious as it sounds.

With the help of his large family (some of whom happen to be sapient, talking griffins) and a whole lot of farm animals (some of which are also able to talk), Derk must harness a demon and a dragon, and convince one of the gods to Manifest to each tour group, before finally succumbing to the Forces of Good (i.e., the tour group du jour) and “dying” in a convincing and satisfying manner.

Despite being a parody, The Dark Lord of Derkholm has surprising depth to it as it deals with exploitation of all kinds. There’s a delightful subplot of the women of Fantasyland staging their own rebellion. If you’ve read even just half a fantasy book in the past, you’ll appreciate the comedic prowess of the late Diana Wynne Jones as she dissects the genre with effortless precision -- and tells a darn good story in the process.

Reviewed by Elle Carter Neal. Elle is the author of the middle grade fantasy The Convoluted Key (first in the Draconian Rules series), the picture book I Own All the Blue, and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at

Photo by Amanda Meryle Photography


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Ask Yourself One Question

Others have started their posts this month on tropes with the definition. I shall be no different. A literary trope: the use of figurative language, via word, phrase, or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs, or clichés in creative works.

How does a writer avoid hackneyed plot tropes? The hard-drinking cop/detective who can’t forget his mistake that cost a life. The single woman who goes back to her hometown to either care for an ailing relative, attend a class reunion/funeral, or for a hundred other reasons, and reconnects with the hometown love of her life who dumped her. The serial killer who kidnaps women and how the latest victim does him in or the persistent detective finds him before he kills her. The female cop trying to prove herself in the face of misogynist male cops who typecast her as a lightweight.

We know there’s nothing new. Every plot has been done before in one way or another. I’ve tried hard to write characters and plots that jump out of the box. It’s not easy. Blind psychologist joins forces with a deaf cop to find a killer; psychic is stalked by a psychic killer, powerful cabal kidnaps infants of brilliant parents to create a superior race, A woman creates a different identity to hide from an attacker who changed her life. I’m sure those plots have been done before, but I keep trying to put a different twist on them. I know many authors who do the same thing. As they say, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Sometimes I think everyone is.

Certain overused phrases and descriptions set my teeth gnashing (see teeth-gnashing below). I’m one of those people who latch onto tics.

Tic: a frequent usually unconscious quirk of behavior or speech. "You know" is a verbal tic.

For example, one talking-news head grunts after every comment made by a guest, like, hmm, only more guttural. Once I noticed that, the tic sounded like a gong. Of course, a tic is not a trope, but it has the same effect on me. In too many books, I find certain phrases repeated often enough that I’ve latched onto those too. See if any of these rings a bell:

he said through gritted teeth (different from gnashing)
lips tightened into a thin line
heart banging against her ribcage
blood rushing in his ears
she released a ragged breath, cleansing breath
squared her shoulders
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

You’ve all read these phrases. I've probably written a few of them early on before I noticed everyone else was writing them too. Not sure readers pick up on repetition like I do (except in my own books where repetition slides by me until the third or fourth reading or my critique partner catches it), but these are only a few of the ones that turn neon yellow when I read them.

Writers try hard to avoid certain words but it’s hard to find other words to replace them. Nod is one. Head-bobbing doesn’t do it. Waggle makes me laugh. Indicate agreement? (Insert long sigh here.)
Walk: you can stroll, stride, saunter, march, or amble, but sometimes you just walk, dammit.
I read one book where the character fell into a chair a dozen times. Just plunk your bottom down and SIT, for heaven’s sake.

It was a pleasure to read the latest book from one of my favorite suspense writers, multi-award-winning author Michael Robotham. The book, When She Was Good, the winner of the 2021 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, has some descriptions that were so good that I wrote them down while reading in bed. Nothing tropian—is that a word?—about them.

With hands as gnarled as knobs of ginger and eyes that squint into brightness when there is no sun.

A woman answers, sounding English rather than Scottish, with a voice that could polish silverware.

Lenny doesn’t react, and for a moment, we’re like hovering birds, caught in a pocket of wind.

It isn’t easy to come up with original descriptive phrases that stop you from reading, not because they sound like the author went to the Thesaurus to find a word no one ever heard before, but because they’re so darn beautiful you want to savor them. Really, knobs of ginger? I buy ginger root, and nothing could be more descriptive when talking about arthritic hands with gnarled knuckles. Another author who uses descriptions that puts you in the scene is James Lee Burke. You can smell, feel, and taste his descriptive prose. It’s a gift not many writers have, and if you can’t do it right, it’s that neon yellow again.

Many authors try too hard, using words that stop a reader like me because we know what they’re doing. It might be the difference between reading as a reader or reading as a writer, but when prose and dialogue aren’t natural, they land on me with a thud. Readers know dialogue is stilted or when the writer is striving to be creative and goes overboard.

My test is to ask myself one question: Would I speak like that? Would I use that word? Would anyone in normal parlance? Okay, that's more than one question, but they all mean the same thing. The answer usually gets me on the right track.


Polly Iyer is the author of ten suspense novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Indiscretion, and we are but WARRIORS, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. She’s also the author of four erotic romances under the pseudonym, Maryn Sinclair. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can connect with her on Facebook and visit her website for more information and to read the first chapters of her books.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Do I Need to Understand Tropes to Write a Cozy Mystery?

I wish I knew the answer to that question. Maybe by the time I finish my homework, I'll get it.

As a writer who understands rules, guidelines, and beats, I’m never happy when writers and editors come up with new words to describe old concepts. I ignore. I resist. I pretend it’s not happening.

Yes, I do the same thing in life when linguists, academicians, and activists try to alter the language I’m accustomed to. I guess that makes me old-fashioned, stuck in the past, or maybe just plain old.

Regardless of my excuse, I can no longer stick to my guns when it comes to the word “trope.”

Haha, my Word editor just typed “tripe.” 

I’m currently writing a cozy mystery, mindful of the cozy rules: no on-the-page violence, no despicable language, and no graphic sex.


Now must I understand what tropes are to avoid stereotypes in setting, characters, and plot?

If I want to write a series, do I have to learn the difference between novel tropes and series tropes?

Geesh. So be it.

I’m starting with these blog posts to see if I can sort it all out. Wish me luck.

Mystery Tropes I Wish Would Die #2 by T. K. Marnell

Cozy Tropes I Love by Susan McCormick (at I Read What You Write!)

Writing the Cozy Mystery: Series Tropes and Rituals by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Here a Trope, There a Trope, Everywhere a Trope Trope by Maryann Miller


Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is now available in a large print edition, ebook and trade paperback. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” appeared in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West, released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy, and brown tabby Katie Cat.

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Flipping Fantasy Tropes

I read a lot of Fantasy. I love the rich worldbuilding. I love magic. I love fantastical creatures. The ultimate pleasure is disappearing into a rich, enchanting, new world with memorable characters.

We are tackling tropes on the Blood Red Pencil this month, so I wanted to touch on a few troublesome, perhaps trite, Fantasy tropes and suggest ways to change them.

1. The Chosen One

In a sense, the Protagonist is always the "chosen one." The protagonist is the character who ultimately solves the overall story problem. That said, they don't literally have to be "chosen" or "destined." They may just have the right skills, knowledge, or determination to win the day. I liked the character Kaz Brekker in Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows because he wasn't a "chosen one." She left that up to Alina in the Shadow and Bone series. Kaz was motivated to overcome adversity because of a rough childhood. He wasn't "perfect" or infallible. He was highly motivated and extremely clever.

2. Beauty and Perfection

I may be in the minority on this, but I am thoroughly sick of heroines and heroes who are perfect, the most beautiful, the best, etc. If I read the word "hot" one more time, I will not be responsible for what happens to the book's pages. I tried to read a book recently that had the word "hot" thirty-two times in the first chapter. Can we please have average or interesting looking people as heroes? Perhaps shift the focus of character description from beauty to personality traits, the way they walk, talk, act? What makes your characters unique? I will again refer to Bardugo's Ketterdam world in Six of Crows. There are so many fascinating characters that are not "hot" or "perfect."

3. The Dark Lord

This character is often called "the Dark Lord" or "the Dark Prince." He is usually, well, dark and usually a prince (or pretending to be one). He (or she) has dark hair, dark eyes, and dark clothing. Change it up a bit. Make him a ginger who likes outlandish clothing as a disguise or something. There is also a difference between being a cruel psychopath and someone who is motivated by things that happened in the past. Stoicism and depth are stronger than being completely evil. Whether protagonist or antagonist, the Dark Lord should be interesting as well as having complex motivations. 

4.  Insta-Power

A lowly street urchin becomes a badass warrior in a matter of days or weeks. Granted, if your characters have untapped magical powers, they will need to learn how to use them to save the day at the climactic moment. They don't, however, have to be the most physically adept character or the most powerful fighter. They can delegate some of the nitty gritty and be the one who moves the chess pieces around with their incisive intellect. If they have a talented team, they can work together to overcome the antagonist and his minions. Everyone should have an exploitable weakness. It doesn't make sense that a character who has magical abilities did not manifest them before they arrive on the scene unless your rules of magic require that they come into contact with something, reach a specific day and time, have their powers unlocked by something, etc. Make sure you craft believable rules of magic.

5. Insta-Love

Love at first sight is a Romance trope which is also used in Fantasy. Two characters meet, are instantly infatuated, and are soul mates forever. As with Romance, I would like to see more believable relationship building. Lust may be instant, but love takes building trust and finding commonalities. It requires communication, not just sex. What elements make one character admire another? We can dispense with "hotness" and "I know he is bad, but I love him." You can care for broken people while they do the work to heal, but not cure them with sex. People bond over shared narratives, joint interests, past experiences, and preferences. Allow the relationship to build as the story progresses instead of making them instantly joined at the hip. I will use Leigh Bardugo's worldbuilding to suggest an alternative. In the Grishaverse, which features in both series (Six of Crows, Shadow and Bone), there is a secondary character, Nina, who is being held prisoner by a guard named Matthias. The two of them travel together and must fight together. Despite their extreme differences, Matthias hates magical people, they overcome them in a believable way as the stories progress. What if your "destined" lovers really don't like each other and definitely don't want to "merge?"

6. Gratuitous Sex Scenes

Your characters have just been beaten to a pulp, cut with swords, stitched up, had one hour of sleep and no food, but succumb to insatiable lust anyway. Seriously? Have you ever been injured or had surgery? Sex is the last thing on your mind. Look, even if your characters are magical and have instant healing powers, it would take a while before they felt like performing the ridiculous calisthenics some writers put them through. Make sure your characters have recovered sufficiently from trauma before getting it on. There are other ways to bond than sex. Build up to the act if you must use it. Show the characters feeling desire. It is the longing not the culmination that brings tension to the story. 

7. Rape

Which brings me to the final trope. I would like to see this one die. Rape is a legitimate evil we need to fight in the real world. It sadly happens every hour somewhere across the globe, perhaps every minute. However, I think we should stop utilizing rape scenes in stories, especially graphic scenes. Writers are putting millions of images in people's minds in fiction and film. One could argue verisimilitude, but I argue blow by blow descriptions perpetuates and glorifies the act. I truly hate when writers have a character raped but soon after having sex with her Insta-Lover. Rape is traumatic. It causes PTSD. Your story does not need it.

The wonderful thing about Fantasy is: the only limits are your imagination. Find ways to make your story different. There is a huge fan base waiting for your books. That is the only "Insta-Love" I support.

I have a few mini-courses that can help develop your Fantasy novel.

Mastering Fantasy

Mastering Worldbuilding

Mastering Romance

Mastering Character Development

Posted by Diana Hurwitz, author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Here a Trope, There a Trope, Everywhere a Trope Trope

First, if you're not familiar with what exactly a literary trope is, here is a definition I found online: A literary trope is the use of figurative language for artistic effect, such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.

There's a lot more to literary tropes beyond the fact that a cape is a sign of a superhero and a black hat is a sign of an outlaw, and using tropes in a story is not a sign of weak writing. Quite the contrary. A well used trope, like any other literary device, can enhance a story. One just has to be careful about using ones that are so common they've become clichés.

One that comes to mind is how some of the bad guys are depicted in crime fiction - the muscle to protect the top gangster are so often portrayed as dumb and illiterate. Not that I think a Rhodes Scholar would take up such a job, but I get tired of the ones who don't have a vocabulary beyond, "Should I off him, boss?"

Another overused trope is the love triangle in romance novels. Unless the characters are really compelling, I think the stories are often too much alike to grab my interest.

In The Writing Cooperative, an article by Zoe Nixon shares the Top 12 Overused Story Tropes in Modern Literature. It validated my belief that the love triangle is a tired old trope, and I agreed with her other mentions as well: The reluctant hero who saves the day. The sudden realization of true love and the rush to get someplace in time to tell the person. 

While doing this online research about tropes I found a very helpful article on the site, Your Dictionary. The article, Examples of Tropes and Their Meaning, gives examples of tropes in film and comic books, as well as some literary tropes. It, too, is well worth the read. 

The article includes this list of other types of tropes:

  • Irony - expectations and reality are contrasted (i.e. saying a family is noble then showing they aren’t)
  • Allegory - when images or events are symbolic (i.e. Wall-E symbolizes why it’s important to protect Earth)
  • Euphemism - using polite words to replace harsh ones (i.e. passing away rather than dying)
  • Metaphor - something containing an implied comparison (i.e. drowning in sadness)
  • Metonymy - when a word stands for a concept (i.e. “hand” meaning help)
  • Synecdoche - when a small part represents the whole thing (i.e. “wheels” representing the whole car)
  • Personification - giving human characteristics to an inanimate object (i.e. the stars winked at me)
  • Simile - comparing two unlike things in a unique way (i.e. you’re as tall as a giraffe)
We writers use these tropes all the time, some more consciously than others, like metaphor and simile. They can both be such powerful ways of presenting something to the reader, and ones with fresh and new phraseology can be a delight.

A book I recently read is a good example of some tropes used well and written with that fresh approach. The book is  River Sing Out by James Wade. He uses the trope of impending doom in the form of a storm that threatens to push the river into flooding. The river is important to Jonah, the main character, as well as others who live nearby. They rely on it for food when pantries are bare, and when the rains come and the river rises, it is no longer a friend. “And through these ages untold, the river did act as the lifeblood of all those things alongside it.”

Please do share your thoughts on tropes and perhaps examples of those overused and those used well. 

Award-winning author Maryann Miller has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. She also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her most recent book is a short-story collection, Beyond the Crack in the Sidewalk, released by Next Chapter Publishing and available as an ebook or paperback.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Self-Publishing Options Part Four

 We conclude our exploration of self-publishing platforms.

13. Smashwords offers ebooks only.

Cost: You can upload files for free. Free ebook conversion to multiple formats from a Word.doc. Unlimited anytime-updates to books and metadata

Rights: You retain all rights. They offer a free ISBN or you can use your own. 

Distribution: Smashwords Store as well as global retail distribution to Apple Books (51 countries), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Walmart (via Kobo), OverDrive (reach 20,000+ public libraries), Gardners (reach hundreds of small ebook stores and 2,000+ public and academic libraries), Scribd, Libri (powers Germany's largest ebook stores), Baker & Taylor,  Odilo (2,100+ libraries in North America, South America and Europe), Bibliotheca CloudLibrary (3,000+ public libraries in the US, Canada, U.K. and Australia), and Enki by Califa (supplies over 100 California libraries; acquires a subset of Smashwords titles).

Services: Audiobook production and distribution via their partnership with Findaway Voices. Participate in exclusive Smashwords promotions such a Read an Ebook Week and the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale, and the Smashwords End of Year Sale. Free exclusive marketing and selling tools such as our Smashwords Coupon Manager, Special Deals, Smashwords Alerts, Smashwords Series Manager and Smashwords Interviews. Run private and public presales. Generate custom coupon codes to enable free downloads or discounted promotions. Create and track campaigns. Alerts automatically notifies your readers of new releases. Preorder distribution to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo up to 12 months in advance of your release. Audiobook production and distribution: you can transmit your ebook and metadata to Findaway Voices where you can begin auditioning professional narrators. Once you produce your audiobook with Findaway Voices, they can distribute it to their growing global network of over 20 sales outlets including Apple iTunes, Audible, Kobo, OverDrive and more. Series Manager improves discoverability of your series titles. Smashwords proudly supports libraries, and they're working to make ebooks available to every library in the world.

Payment: Monthly payments with one penny payment threshold (via PayPal). Daily sales reporting from Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive and the Smashwords Store.

14. Wattpad is a unique platform where you can upload any kind of writing, including works in progress. You can upload one chapter at a time or serialized fiction. It is on the platform only. No ebook distribution.

Cost: Free to upload your stories. 

Rights: Wattpad doesn’t ask for the rights to your work, and it doesn’t decide where it gets published. From start to finish, you’re in control of the what, when, and where of your project. If you publish using “advanced options,” you can also add copyright language to the story like “All rights reserved” or a “Creative Commons” license. They have strict rules about copyright infringement and posting content that is obscene or hateful. Read those guidelines carefully before creating content. Writers get direct interaction and feedback.

Distribution: Only on Wattpad.

Services: Create an account and upload any of your writing. Anyone can read it or comment on it. . Wattpad Studios works with untapped Wattpad writers to facilitate connections to their publishing and multimedia partners. Over 1000 original Wattpad stories have been published, produced, or adapted to TV or film. And with their own direct publishing division, Wattpad Books, they’re bringing Wattpad stories to bookshelves. They make it easy for readers to share stories via email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts. They have some articles for writers about marketing, self-publishing, etc. 

Payment: None.

15. BookLocker is a different type of publishing platform. You must submit your book for their approval. Your book may not be approved. They have a non-exclusive publishing contract with the author. They offer print on demand paperbacks, hardcover, children's books, and ebooks.

Cost: They have a list of services you purchase from $150 to $1200 and up. There is a further fee for inclusion in the Ingram catalogue. Ebooks are listed at no additional charge. For authors submitting a second book to BookLocker, the set-up fee is reduced. There is an annual fee to keep your book listed on their POD service and through Ingram. There are fees to change and re-upload files. A 25% cancellation fee applies to all fees that were paid. However, if any file transmissions have occurred, or work has begun on your book or cover art, no refunds are permitted. The expedited plan cost is $1199 (that includes original paperback cover design) to get a book to market within 2 weeks of the author submitting their final file to them. You can request the hardcover add-on at a discount with the program but black-and-white-interior paperback is the only format eligible for the Expedited program.

Rights: BookLocker does not include copyright and library registration. They provide an ISBN and bar code or you can use your own in your print book(s). You retain all rights. However, authors using the Payment Plan Program agree to only sell their book through BookLocker until their balance is repaid. Those authors can, of course, purchase print copies at their author discount(s), and re-sell those. You can terminate your contract same-day by contacting them through your author account. Payment Plan authors need to reimburse their balance to the company before their book can be terminated.

Distribution: BookLocker's home page directs traffic to 30+ advertised titles. If you pay the fee, the book is submitted to Ingram. Print books are currently listed on,,, Indigo, and many other smaller, online bookstores across the globe. Ebooks are on Amazon (for the Kindle), (for the Nook), Apple (for iPads, iPods and iPhones), Kobo (Canada’s popular ebook retailer), Overdrive (which sells ebooks to more than 40K libraries and schools in 70 countries), and

Services: BookLocker offers a distribution database listing, custom cover, ISBN, set-up, and internal/external layout. They offer interior formatting and cover design. Authors are responsible for promoting their own books. All authors are provided with a free copy of their how-to-market booklet. BookLocker does not offer promotional and marketing add-on services but they will happily advise authors on a one-to-one basis in these areas.

Payment: Only available to USA clients. Print Royalties are 35% of the list price for public sales of print books sold through and15% of the list price for print books sold through other distributors/retailers/etc. Ebooks earn 70% of the list price for ebooks priced $8.95 or higher and 50% of the list price for ebooks priced under $8.95. Third-party Ebook Royalties (Amazon,, Apple and Kobo) are 65% OF THE NET AMOUNT is paid for each ebook priced $10 or higher and 55% OF THE NET AMOUNT is paid for each ebook priced under $10.They pay royalties on the fifth business day of the month to authors with an unpaid royalty balance of $40 or more on the last day of the previous month. You can access your account at any time. Sales dashboard includes all sales for which they have been paid, sales are credited instantly, and a list of all payments made to the author within the last 24 months.

Many of the skills needed for self-publishing are easy to learn or acquire. There are a wealth of premade and custom cover designers, vetted editors, and templates for interior design. There are valid options for audiobooks as well. You can read about all of them here: Mastering Book Design

As to what services to pay for, you have to calculate whether you would recoup your upfront investment. If you only earn $2 per book, you would have to sell over 500 copies to recoup a $1000 investment. Then you should deduct the cost of pesky income taxes.

It has been said that the average traditional novel never earns back its initial advance. On average, a self-published ebook sells about 250 copies in its lifetime. By comparison, the average traditionally published book sells 3,000 copies, with about 250-300 of those sales in the first year. A publisher considers a book a "success" if it sells more than 10,000 copies over its lifetime.

The beauty of self-publishing is there is no limit on the shelf life. While traditional books disappear off store shelves after a specific length of time, your self-published books don't have to worry about reprints and are always for sale. You can update covers, reformat, change tags, etc.

My fiction series has sold thousands since 2008 with almost no marketing and my nonfiction series has sold ten to twenty copies every month since 2008. Marketing is my Achilles heel. They would probably have done better if more people knew about them.

So, what about hybrid publishers? Is there such an animal? Well, yes and no. For writers who want to self-publish but need editing, interior design, cover design, upload assistance, etc. it may be attractive to pay someone else. Book Baby offers packages for some of those services. A true hybrid company would offer their services for a stipulated payment agreement. You can read the specifics here:

It is tempting to hand over your manuscript to someone else to do the technical stuff and marketing. That is why there are so many predatory companies. You can research individual publishers and see who to avoid here:

Self-publishing has never been easier. Some of the stigma has faded. Write a riveting story, find your tribe of readers, and you can easily exceed the traditional publishing definition of success.
Posted by Diana Hurwitz, author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Golden Years of Writing…

…Or perhaps the title should be Writing in the Golden Years. After reading this article, please tell me which title you think better fits this post.

In the past I have mentioned that the golden years are more often fool's gold than a precious and coveted ore. While both can function as standalones, they frequently appear as a mix of the two — good days and bad days. Since we have been featuring lists in our recent posts, let's list a few ways silver-haired writers have changed (or not) in their golden years.

1. Inspiration: As younger writers, we often overflowed with a plethora of story ideas. Sometimes, however, life got so busy we couldn't sit down at the typewriter (or word processor or computer) or pick up pen and paper to jot down those wonderful thoughts. Busyness often dictated our schedules, pulling us back to reality. Children have the unique ability to distract even the most focused of parents. Jobs demand a huge chunk of our waking hours. Domestic chores create never-ending repetitions: laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and the list goes on.

Then the children are grown. Grandchildren come to visit, but, sometimes thankfully, they go home and leave us to renew our creative endeavors. Remembering that numerous story ideas vied for expression when we were younger, we may struggle to find even one now that piques our interest or starts our creative juices flowing. Those we do remember may not draw us in as once they did. I've recently completed rewrites of my first two novels. While still liking the story lines, I felt the need to let the characters mature, expand their horizons, become more three-dimensional, appeal to a wider audience. Why? Perspective changed. Now comes the fun: several stories were begun but never finished. They're next on the agenda. Do you have incomplete novels that call out to you?

2. Perspective: Do you remember the song "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell? The assertions in the lyrics also fit authors. As young writers, we often see life a certain way, which may be reflected in our characters and story lines. Our passions, political views, social consciousness, and many more subtle qualities frequently express themselves in the tales we tell. As we mature, our perspectives change. We see life — and our characters — differently. Is this a good thing? In my opinion, it can be. Check out this link:

Just as we may mellow with age, our perspectives may also mellow. We don't necessarily change what we believe, but those beliefs mature, ripen, perhaps become more accepting of other views, or perhaps are solidified by what is happening today. Did we participate — mentally, emotionally, or literally — in the marches during the Vietnam War? Did we fantasize about living in a commune, sharing the work and the fun of such close community living? Did we sympathize with the students participating in the Kent State peace rally in 1970, where four unarmed young people were killed by the National Guard? That was the first such incident in which students in the U.S. died while participating in a peaceful anti-war protest. Appalling as it was then, similar incidents today are so commonplace we almost seem to take them for granted as a normal part of living at this time. How has this affected us as writers? Did the mentality of the sixties and seventies color our writing? Do our stories and our characters reflect the horror of this sad loss of life then and now? Or do we write about times farther removed from the present, when such unacceptable occurrences rarely happened? Do you incorporate the stark reality of today's world in your stories? Or do you take your readers on a journey to a place where they can find reasons to hope for something better? Do you, through your characters, show them a way to resolve or contend with difficulties so many of us face?

3. Physical realities:
 It has been said that aging is not for the faint of heart. This is true, and I speak from experience. The body that, hopefully, served us well during our younger years, may now insist on regular maintenance and care. Muscles, bones, joints, even skin let their presence and needs be known. No longer silent partners in our well-oiled human machine, they stab us with various ailments and many pains, sometimes severe enough to distract us from our chosen profession — writing. Mental acuity may wane, especially when we're trying to recall a name or the details of an incident or where we put our car keys. We're tired, and it's a different kind of tired than we experienced in our earlier years. While we used to write well into the night, we now need an afternoon nap to get past the supper hour. Writing after dinner is relegated to the past, with an occasional rare exception.

Despite the above realities, we bring to our hard drive (or whatever method we use to preserve our words) a different kind of story, one more rounded, more inciteful, more thought-provoking, more real to our readers. We subtly share the wisdom of years, wisdom we could not share when we were young because we had yet to learn it. We share passions and joys and sorrows that mean so much more to us as we grow older. We give our characters the value of the wisdom we have acquired over the years and thus share it with our readers. The Vineyard, a novel by Barbara Delinsky, includes two strong characters in their eighties. It's worth a read. How do you share the gifts growing older bring to you?

We may view things differently today than we did in the past, but we still have much we can share with a reading audience. Once we may have put "pen to paper" to make a living. Now, we may write to share something: hope, joy, understanding, acceptance, insight, sorrow, or a host of other reasons. Who else can share life's lessons learned or a bright new future for upcoming generations from our perspective? People are struggling as never before during our lifetimes. Reaching out to touch their troubled hearts by sharing our stories brings them gifts they may not find elsewhere. In our golden years, we still have something of value to offer our readers.

Linda Lane is currently updating two previously written novels and is laying the foundation for her new cozy mystery series with a twist, the first book of which should be out in late 2021 or early 2022. She also has a number of partially finished novels that are scheduled to make their debuts in 2022 and 2023. Although still doing some fiction editing, she now focuses primarily on writing and on encouraging beginning writers to hone their skills and read, read, read. You can contact her through her writing website,