February 20

Birthdays: Georges Bernanos (1888), Rene Dubos (1901), Pierre Boulle (1912), Richard Matheson (1926), Sidney Poitier (1927), Ellen Gilchrist (1935), William Bayer (1939), Alan Furst (1941), David Kertzer (1948), Sean Wilentz (1951), Kenn Nesbitt (1962).

Pierre Boulle was best known for his books “The Bridge over the River Kwai” and “Planet of the Apes”

Richard Matheson writes fantasy, science fiction, and horror like “I am Legend”.

David Kertzer won the 2015 Pulitzer for Biography for “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe”

Quote: Once you have your characters, they tell you what to write, you don’t tell them.” – Alan Furst

Tip: Go through your latest manuscript and use a colored pen (or different colors of highlighters) to mark all your main character’s dialogue. Use different colors to mark other characters’ dialogue. Your hero/heroine should be the one with the most to say.

Jumpstart: What might you find in your main character’s trash? In the fridge? Glove compartment? Medicine cabinet, junk drawer, nightstand, pocket or purse?

February 19

Birthdays: Andre Breton (1896), Kay Boyle (1902), Louis Slobodkin (1903), Maurice O’Sullivan (1904), Carson McCullers (1917), Ross Thomas (1926), Terry Carr (1937), Homer Hickman (1943),  Patricia O’Conner (1949), Amy Tan (1952), Siri Hustvedt (1955), Helen Fielding (1958), Laurell K. Hamilton (1963), Jonathan Lethern (1964), Jeff Kinney (1971), Marissa Meyer (1984),

Quote: “It’s a very daunting thing to think you’re going to sit down and write a whole book out of thin air, but you have to work, even when you’re not inspired.” – Laurell K. Hamilton

Tip: Your best characters will rise from personal experience. Dredge up everything bad – or good – that ever happened to you and let your characters experience it.

Jumpstart: Write a scene using: I found out something about my grandfather, whom I adored until then. Or: How could my grandmother…?

February 18

Birthdays: Jean Jules Jusserand (1855), Nikos Kazantzakis (1883), Wallace Stegner (1909), Jack Gilbert (1925), A.R. Ammons (1926), Len Deighton (1929), Toni Morrison (1931), Audre Lorde (1934), Janette Oke (1935), Jean M Auel (1936), Pure Leith (1940), Lisa See (1955), George Pelecanos (1957), Douglas Rushkoff (1961), Frances Osborne (1969),

Jean Jusserand was the first winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1917.

Nikos Kazantzakis is best known for his novel “Zorba the Greek”

Wallace Stegner won the 1972 Pulitzer for Fiction for “Angle of Repose”

Jack Gilbert was a 2013 finalist for the Pulitzer for Poetry

A.R. Ammons won the Nat’l Book Award in Poetry in 1973 and 1993.

Toni Morrison won both the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize

Quote: “The best writing advice anyone has ever given me was to get a first draft down and then edit and re edit afterwards, and then re edit again, and again…” – Frances Osborne

Tip: Re-read one of your stories. Highlight adjectives that merely label or explain and replace them with descriptive nouns that evoke concrete sensory qualities.

Jumpstart: How might your main character react to his or her reflection in a warped mirror or window? Why?

February 17

Birthdays: Andre Norton (1912), Virginia Sorensen (1912), Russel B. Nye (1913), William Bronk (1918), Margaret Truman (1924), Robert Newton Peck (1928), Chaim Polok (1929), Ruth Rendell (1930), Mo Yan (1955),

Andre Norton published her first novel in 1934, and was the first woman to receive the Gandalf Grand Master Award from the World Science Fiction Society in 1977, and won the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) association in 1983.

Virginia Sorensen won the 1957 Newbery Award for “Miracles on Maple Hill”

Russel Nye won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for “George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel”

Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature

Quote: “A writer should bury his thoughts deep and convey them through the characters in his novel.” – Mo Yan

Tip: Louis L’Amour had 350 rejections before selling his first manuscript. Ursula LeGuin sent out her first story when she was eleven; she got her first acceptance at thirty-three. The tip? They didn’t quit. Neither should you.

Jumpstart: “Please forgive me, but you… (finish this by using: curt, bingo, belly flop)

Guest Author Spotlight: Margot Johnson

Let it Melt is book two in the Merilee Tours series.

Merilee reinvents her boring life by launching a tour business which leads to fun adventures and surprising romance. In Let it Snowball, she takes her guests to bakeries in three different towns to sample Christmas cookies. In Let it Melt, she hosts a Valentine’s Sweetheart Tour to a country restaurant and to a café in another town for dessert.

About Let it Melt

How on earth did Jill, a single divorcee, land on a romantic Valentine’s Sweetheart Tour for couples? Worse, she’s paired with Jack, her daughter’s brash father-in-law, and everyone thinks he’s her valentine. Stranded in a Canadian prairie blizzard, how soon can she kiss this awkward evening goodbye?

Long divorced, Jack would love to charm Jill with his toned body and dynamic personality, but his wisecracks and obsession with fitness get in the way—especially when he nabs a post at the same school where she teaches.

Even the most romantic month of the year can’t melt their differences and sweeten Jill’s feelings….or can it?

Author Biography:

Margot Johnson writes feel-good stories of dreams, family, and romance. She is the author of two sweet romance novels, LOVE TAKES FLIGHT and LOVE LEADS THE WAY, and two novellas, LET IT SNOWBALL and LET IT MELT. Her characters can’t possibly find their happy endings…or can they?

Before turning her focus to the fun writing life, Margot held leadership roles in human resources and communications. Her motto is “Dream big and work hard.”

When not writing, she loves to connect with family and friends, volunteer with SK Writers Guild, and walk at least 10,000 steps a day (except when it’s minus 40!)
Margot lives in the Canadian prairies with her amazing husband and adorable golden retriever.

Social Media

Website: margotjohnson.ca

Facebook: MargotJohnsonAuthor

Twitter: @AuthorMargot

Buy Links:


Barnes and Noble




February 15 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Sax Rohmer (1883), James P. Baxter III (1896), Normal Bridwell (1928), Gregory Mcdonald (1937), Jack Dann (1945), Douglas Hofstadter (1945), Art Spiegelman (1948), Phyllis Root (1949), Linda Grant (1951), Paul O. Zelinsky (1953), Maile Meloy (1972)

James Baxter won the 1947 Pulitzer in History for “Scientists Against Time”

Norman Bridwell is best known for his “Clifford the Big Red Dog” books.

Douglas Hofstadter won the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction for his book “Godel, Escher, Bach: And Eternal Golden Braid”

Art Spiegelman is best known for his graphic novel “Maus”

Quote: “Set aside time to write, even if it’s only an hour or two a day, and think of the time as the requirement. So you just have to be there, and it doesn’t matter what you finish.” – Maile Meloy

Tip: Identify your characters by showing not only what they own, but how they treat their possessions. Make a list of character traits that show this.

Jumpstart: On Feb. 15, 1946, the first digital computer, ENIAC, was dedicated in Philadelphia, PA. Computers have become essential to our modern lives. Imagine you will be moving to a place where you are allowed only five electrical devices. What can you not live without? Remember, stoves, fridges, and other appliances, are electrically based – even gas ones. And for many people, water comes from electric pumps in private wells. Think carefully.

February 14


Birthdays: Andrew C. McLaughlin (1861), Harry Matthews (1930), Carl Bernstein (1944), Phyllis Root (1949), George Shannon (1952), Paul O Zelinsky (1953), Claire Cook (1955), Lucinda Riley (1965),

Andrew McLaughlin won the 1931 Pulitzer for “A Constitutional history of the United States”

Carl Bernstein (along with Bob Woodward) broke the Watergate scandal story

Quote: “How do you know when it’s ready to submit? My advice is to polish, polish, and polish, then put it aside for a while, take it out and polish it again.” – Claire Cook

Tip: Stop pressuring yourself. Very few writers can write brilliantly from page one. Go ahead and write “junk”. You can come back and edit it later. You can’t edit a blank page.

Jumpstart: Today is Valentine’s Day. Your character is going to meet her love at the top of the Empire State Building ala An Affair to Remember—will he be there? Why or why not?


New reviews are up on these pages:

Under Mysteries:

Gone Before by Terry Korth – a thriller mystery that will keep you guessing

But Knot for Me by Betty Hechtman – a cute cozy with a muffin recipe

Under LGBTQ for Adults:

Least Resistance – a M/M contemporary romance from Andrew Grey

Under Romance:

Twisted Lies by CB Clark – a romantic suspense story

Let it Melt by Margot Johnson – a short (142 pages) contemporary romance perfect for Valentine’s Day

February 13 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Eleanor Farjeon (1881), Georges Simenon (1903), Simms Taback (1932), Elaine Pagels (1943), Simon Schama (1945), William Sleator (1945), Janet Taylor Lisle (1947), Denise Austin (1957), Peter Heller (1959), Maureen F. McHugh (1959), Henry Rollins (1961),

Simms Taback won the Caldecott Medal for “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat”

Quote: “I write a thousand words a day, and I always stop in the middle of a scene or thought, and it makes it easy to pick up on the next day.” – Peter Heller

Tip: Character names are very important. Make a list of names – you can gather them from newspapers, magazines, etc. But be sure to mix up first and last names so you’re not writing about real people.

Jumpstart: You’re at work, bored to tears with entering data into yet another spreadsheet. You get up to grab a cup of coffee and glance out the window, and see something you never thought you’d see…

February 12 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Charles Darwin (1809), George Meredith (1828), Fred A. Shannon (1893), Alan Dugan (1923), Donald Kingsbury (1929), Judy Blume (1938), David Small (1945), Ray Kurzweil (1948), Jacqueline Woodson (1964),

Fred Albert Shannon won the 1929 Pulitzer Prize in History for “The Organization and Administration of the Union Army, 1861-1865”

Alan Dugan was an American poet, National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner for “Poems”

David Small won the 2001 Caldecott Medal for “So You Want to Be President?”

Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor in 2015 for “Brown Girl Dreaming”

Quote: “I hate first drafts, and it never gets easier. People always wonder what kind of superhero power they’d like to have. I wanted the ability for someone to just open up my brain and take out the entire first draft and lay it down in front of me so I can just focus on the second, third and fourth drafts.” – Judy Blume

Tip: A redundancy is the use of a word or words that are not necessary and can be eliminated without losing the meaning of the sentence. “That” and “of” are often not needed. Go through your story and eliminate them where possible.

Jumpstart: Make a list of every place you’ve been in the past 24 hours. Describe each location in detail and the feelings associated with it. If you’ve not been anywhere, pick the last time you went somewhere and describe that, even if it’s just the grocery store.

February 11 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Sidney Sheldon (1917), Gordon Lish (1934), Jane Yolen (1939), Joy Williams (1944), Pico Iyer (1957), Mo Willems (1968),

Quote: “Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” – Jane Yolen

Tip: Go to a library and browse the stacks. Check out areas you don’t normally go. What can you find that’s new and different for you?

Jumpstart: Make a list of images you find disgusting or ugly. Choose one and write a description that redeems that object.

I’ve read a lot of Sidney Sheldon and Jane Yolen. Love them both. But one of Jane’s personal favorites? “Take Joy” about finding the joy in writing when you’re struggling. “Are you a writer longing to rediscover the joy that you once had in the craft (or even find it for the first time)? In this inspiring guide, Jane Yolen, an author who has been called America’s Hans Christian Andersen, shows writers how to focus on aspects of the craft that bring them joy.

She remarks in the first chapter, “Save the blood and pain for real life, where tourniquets and ibuprofen can have some chance of helping. Do not be afraid to grab hold of the experience with both hands and take joy.”

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