July 21

Birthdays: Ernest Hemingway (1899), Marshall McLuhan (1911), John Gardner (1933), Tess Gallagher (1943), Hart Crane (1899), Michael Connelly (1956), Sarah Waters (1966), Wendy Cope (1945)

Tip: When setting up your author website, don’t include personal photos of your family unless you’re comfortable with everyone seeing them. Pets and scenery are okay. Just remember: this is your professional site, not a “friends” one.

Thought for the day: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Ernest Hemingway

Jumpstart: More than half the population has been turned into were-animals, but you are immune to the virus. What do you do during a full moon?

July 20

Birthdays: Cormac McCarthy (1933), Henry L. Dumas (1934), Kenneth Grahame (1859), Martin Provensen (1916), Alistair MacLeod (1936), Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864), Jess Walter (1965)

Tip: A query letter has to sell your book to an editor or agent in just a couple short paragraphs. Be succinct but include all pertinent information including any publishing experience you have, a short blurb of the book giving the main characters, the conflict, the ending, and any marketing ideas you have.

Thought for the day: “The indulgent 800-page books that were written a hundred years ago are just not going to be written anymore and people need to get used to that. If you think you’re going to write something like The Brothers Karamazov or Moby Dick, go ahead. Nobody will read it. I don’t care how good it is, or how smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different.” – Cormac McCarthy

Jumpstart: On July 20, 1985, Mel Fisher’s crew found the sunken Atocha off the Florida coast. The wreck was loaded with silver, gold, and emeralds. Pretend you’re with them as they bring up the bounty. How do you feel? What do you do with your share of the loot? Or… for a twist, pretend you’re back in time, on the ship. What happened?

July 19

Birthdays: Alice Dunbar Nelson (1875), A.J. Cronin (1896), Stephen Coonts (1946), Jayne Anne Phillips (1952), Garth Nix (1963), Lisa Jewell (1968), Thulani Davis (1949)

Tip: When an agent or editor asks for a three-chapter sample, send the first three chapters. Do not pick and choose non-sequential ones.

Thought for the day: “Just write one chapter at a time and one day you’ll be surprised by your own finished novel.” – Garth Nix

Jumpstart: You buy an antique desk. While cleaning it, you find a hidden cache containing an old letter and a map. The name on the letter is a family you recognize, but you are definitely not friends with them. What do you do?

July 18

Birthdays: William Makepeace Thackeray (1811), Nathalie Sarraute (1900), Jessamyn West (1902), Hunter S. Thompson (1937), Felicia Bond (1954), Elizabeth Gilbert (1969), Elizabeth Jennings (1926), Margaret Laurence (1926)

Tip: Enjoy the ride. You should enjoy what you do. Yes, writing is hard. But there should also be joy somewhere in there. If you worry about deadlines, plot points, sales, reviews, etc., you’ll never get to enjoy what you accomplished. You wrote a book! Congratulations. Celebrate.

Thought for the day: “Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.” – Jessamyn West Jumpstart: Finish this: I rushed to fudge the numbers before he returned… (use: monk, magazine, imagination

July 17

Birthdays: Chris Crutcher (1946), Cory Doctorow (1971), Erle Stanley Gardner (1889), Christiane Rochefort (1917), Shmuel Agnon (1888)

Tip: A synopsis is not supposed to explain the entire book. It is a short piece designed to hook an editor or agent and to show that you know what goes into making a full story. It should contain main characters, conflicts, plot points, and the ending (Yes, the ending!).

Thought for the day: “We are the people of the book. We love our books. We fill our houses with books. We treasure books we inherit from our parents, and we cherish the idea of passing those books on to our children… If anyone tries to take away our books—some oppressive government, some censor gone off the rails—we would defend them with everything that we have.” – Cory Doctorow

Jumpstart: In A Picture of Dorian Gray, the picture ages while the man does not. If offered the chance for immortality, would you take it? Why or why not? What if it meant you would continue to age, but not die?

July 16

Birthdays: Anita Brookner (1928), Reinaldo Arenas (1943), Richard Egielski (1952), Eve Titus (1922), Andrew Smith (1959), Frances Spalding (1950), James Still (1906), Robert Sheckley (1928), Tony Kushner (1956)

Tip: Use a camera or your phone to take pictures of everything—places, people, things—use these pictures for ideas in your writing.

Thought for the day: “I actually do start my stories with a particular quirky idea (like a dead horse falling out of the sky, or how two teens might trigger the end of the world in a recession-wracked Midwestern town) and then build a small universe around that idea.” – Andrew Smith

Jumpstart: Finish this: I ran into the emergency room… (use: bling, fan, teddy bear). Are you the doctor/nurse? Or the patient? Or a visitor?

July 15

Birthdays: Clement Clarke Moore (1779), Iris Murdoch (1919), Clive Cussler (1931), Hammond Innes (1913), Jacques Derrida (1930), Richard Russo (1949)

Tip: What is your main character’s goal? What does s/he want to accomplish? Who stands in the way of this goal? This is the conflict for your plot.

Thought for the day: “Study authors who write in your genre and who are successful; their writing style, structure, characterization, and plotting. It’s all there. You don’t need to go four years to school for a degree in writing. Ernest Hemingway studied and used the style of Tolstoy. Thomas Wolfe delved into James Joyce. I used Alistair MacLean when I started out, eventually moving into my own writing style which is now copied by other authors.” – Clive Cussler

Jumpstart: Your character is with a friend in a store. The friend steals something and gets away while your hero gets caught. Does he give up his friend? Why or why not?

July 14

Birthdays: Irving Stone (1903), Leon Garfield (1921), Laura Joffe Numeroff (1953), Peggy Parish(1927), Brian Selznick (1966), F.R. Leavis (1895), Jeff Lindsay (1952), Natalia Ginzburg (1916), Susan Howatch (1940)

Tip: Plot is a series of events that make up a story. Think of it as a map that a driver follows from one point to another. There should be a sense of building. Check your scenes. Do they map out a logical route, or are there detours that lead to dead ends?

Thought for the day: “A lot of people who don’t write for kids think it’s easy, because they think kids aren’t as smart as they are, or that you have to dumb down what you would normally write for kids. But I think you have to work harder when you write for kids, to make sure every word is right, that it’s there for the right reason.” – Brian Selznick

Jumpstart: We’ve all read directions that come with “some assembly required” projects. Most are terrible. Find something you’ve done and write a step-by-step manual on how to do it the right way.

New reviews

Teresa has added two new reviews under her movie/book tie-ins: Witness for the Prosecution (1957) a standalone, and
King of Clubs (1989) Hercule Poirot with David Suchet

Under “Mysteries” – I just finished reading a rollicking good paranormal cozy mystery with a 1930s mystery flavor (with magic). “Marked Raven” is a 4 sparkler read that you should definitely look at. But do yourself a favor and read the first one in the series first. It will make the second one oh so much better.

July 13

Birthdays: Isaac Babel (1894), Wole Soyinka (1934), Marcia Brown (1918), Carolyn Mackler (1973), David Storey (1933), Jane Hamilton (1957), John Clare (1793), Monique Wittig (1935)

Tip: When making changes to a manuscript, keep a copy of the original in case you need to go back. And always back up everything.

Thought for the day: “Write. Write what you love. Write what makes you excited — journal, stories, memoir, anything. Be honest. Don’t be shy about putting in whatever you want. You can always edit later. And then, once you’ve gotten some significant writing done, throw out, revise, start over.” – Carolyn Mackler

Jumpstart: What are you afraid of? What makes you cringe and pull the covers up over your head? What will you not read or watch because of the way it makes you feel? Write these feelings down and use them for your character.