May 22 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859), Herge (Georges Prosper Remi) (1907), Vance Packard (1914), Peter Matthiessen (1927), Arnold Lobel (1933), Gary Willis (1934), Max Brooks (1972), Tansy Rayner Roberts (1978)

Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for his Sherlock Holmes mysteries

Gary Willis won the 1993 Pulitzer for General Nonfiction for “Lincoln at Gettysburg”

Quote: “Just do it. Writing, like anything, takes practice and discipline, and I’ve found that discipline comes from a lifetime of repetition. I started writing when I was 12 and it’s made the action as normal as any other activity.” – Max Brooks

Tip: While Americans mostly spell “theater” with an “er” ending, there are some places in the US that use the British spelling: theatre. If you’re using the name of an actual place, be sure to check how they spell it.

Jumpstart: I will never forget his (or her) smile as I… (remember, smiles can be happy, sinister, tentative, etc.)

May 21 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Alexander Pope (1688), Harold Robbins (1916), Robert Creeley (1926), Janet Dailey (1944), Elizabeth Buchan (1948), Maria Semple (1964)

Quote: “I keep an elaborate calendar for my characters detailing on which dates everything happens. I’m constantly revising this as I go along. It gives me the freedom to intricately plot my story, knowing it will at least hold up on a timeline.” – Maria Semple

Tip: Use commas between independent clauses (an independent clause can be a sentence all by itself): The committee will meet next Wednesday, and the head will report to the boss on Friday. No commas with dependent clauses: The committee will meet Wednesday and report to the boss on Friday. (“Report to the boss” is not a complete sentence, thus it’s dependent).

Jumpstart: The ice caps have melted. Welcome to “Water World”. So, what is your life like on a water planet? What does your house look like? Your transportation? Are there underwater cities? How do people get food and get around?

May 20 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Honoré de Balzac (1799), Hector Malot (1830), Sigrid Undset (1882), Allan Nevins (1890), Margery Allingham (1904), Justin Cartwright (1943), Mary Pope Osborne (1949), Michele Roberts (1949), Walter Isaacson (1952), Douglas Preston (1956), Christopner Sorrentino (1963), Jon Meacham (1969)

Sigrid Undset won the 1928 Nobel Prize in Literature

Allan Nevins won the 1933 Pulitzer for his biography of Grover Cleveland

Mary Pope Osborne is most well known for her “Magic Tree House” series

Jon Meacham won the 2009 Pulitzer in Biography for “American Lion: Andrew Johnson in the White House”

Quote: “You can’t believe anything that’s written in an historical novel, and yet the author’s job is always to create a believable world that readers can enter. It’s especially so, I think, for writers of historical fiction.” – Justin Cartwright

Tip: When looking over a contract, if you are doing it yourself, be sure you are aware of the rights you are assigning to the publisher and the length of time they have the right to your work. These can include electronic, audio, translations, reprint, other editions, and more. Learn what they are so you can make informed decisions concerning your work.

Jumpstart: What is your character’s dream car? Describe it in detail. How will s/he get one?

Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Bernadotte Schmitt (1886), Ernest Samuels (1903), T. Harry Williams (1909), Lorraine Hansberry (1930), Paul Erdman (1932), Tom Feelings (1933), Ruskin Bond (1934), Nora Ephron (1941), Jonathan Dee (1962), Jodi Picoult (1966), Jassy Mackenzie (1970),

Bernadotte Schmitt won the Pulitzer for History for “The Coming of the War, 1914”

Ernest Samuels won the Pulitzer for Biography for his work on Bernard Berenson

T. Harry Williams won a Pulitzer for Biography for his bio on Huey Long

Quote: “Here’s a foolproof recipe. Four cups of reading. Two cups of writing. One cup of rewriting, two tablespoons of feedback from knowledgeable people. A dash of humility, a pinch of optimism, and a sackload of perseverance. Finally, write from your heart, or don’t write at all. Passion fuels the process.” – Jassy Mackenzie

Tip: Make sure your manuscript has the same font throughout. Sometimes, in doing different versions, fonts get mixed up. TNR12 (Times New Roman) is the standard, but whatever font you use, make sure you use it throughout.

Jumpstart: Darkness fell, and with it, my nerve… (finish this using: hanging tree, carburetor, teddy)

Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Omar Khayyam (1048), Bertrand Russell (1872), Henry James (1879), Irene Hunt (1907), Patrick Dennis (1921), Lillian Hoban (1925), Fred Saberhagen (1930), W.G. Sebald (1944), Andrew Gross (1952), Diane Duane (1952), Sarah Ellis (1952), Lionel Shriver (1957),

Henry James won the Pulitzer for a biography of Charles W. Eliot.

Bertrand Russell won the 1950 Nobel in Literature for “A History of Western Philosophy”

Irene Hunt won the 1967 Newbery Medal for “Up a Road Slowly”

Quote: “By all means be experimental, but let the reader be part of the experiment” – W.G. Sebald

Tip: You should get an official copyright for your book. Yes, there is a tacit copyright as soon as you finish the book, but registering the copyright makes sure you’re legally covered.

Jumpstart: On this date in 1980, Mt. St. Helen’s erupted, coating the northwest in ash. Imagine your character was there. What did s/he do? Where did s/he go? Or didn’t s/he?

Spotlight: Mike Owens

IT HAD TO BE YOU by Mike Owens

PHIL Claussen couldn’t very well leave her out there in the middle of nowhere, shoeless and barely dressed, so he offered her a ride. When he asks why she’s hitchhiking on a deserted road, she says, “Waiting for you. I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.” “Impossible,” he says. “I’ve never set foot in Oklahoma before.” He asks more questions but gets very few answers. It’s two days before he learns her name, Dani.  He soon discovers that he’s driven into a realm where events seem to be all set and waiting for his arrival, a place where his own treasured free will means very little. Falling in love with DANI becomes his favorite part of the process. But if it was all arranged so carefully, how does he wind up in jail charged with two murders and Dani as the chief witness for the prosecution? 

Available at:


The Wild Rose Press

Barnes & Noble

About the author:

A native Tar Heel, Mike Owens obtained his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, and later, an MFA in creative writing from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, where he now resides. His topics in fiction vary widely, ranging from science themes to end-of-life issues to erotica…go figure! His new release, IT HAD TO BE YOU follows a man whose self-destructive behavior leads him into a romantic adventure with a young woman who appears to have been waiting for him all along.




May 16 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Note: New reviews coming later today! 🙂

Birthdays: Eric P. Kelly (1884), Douglas Southall Freeman (1886), Gertrude Warner (1890), Margaret Rey (1906), Studs Terkel (1912), Adrienne Rich (1929), Robert Dallek (1934), Bruce Coville (1950),

Eric Kelly’s book “The Trumpeter of Krakow” won the 1929 Newbery Medal

Douglas Freeman won two Pulitzers for his biographies of Robert E. Lee and George Washington

Margaret Rey wrote the “Curious George” books with her husband H.A. Rey.

Studs Terkel won the 1985 Pulitzer for General Nonfiction for “The Good War”

Quote: “Every book is like starting over again. I’ve written books every way possible – from using tight outlines to writing from the seat of my pants. Both ways work.” – Bruce Coville

Tip: In fiction writing, numbers under 100 are generally spelled out: fifteen, twenty-nine, etc. (Not always, though. After all, this is grammar and there are no absolutes.)

Jumpstart: You’re a master spy ala James Bond. What kind of interesting tools does Q provide you with? What are you going to save the world from?

May 15 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: L. Frank Baum (1856), Katherine Anne Porter (1890), Mikhail Bulgakov (1891), Clifton Fadiman (1904), Max Frisch (1911), Norma Fox Mazer (1931), Paul Zindel (1936), Nancy Garden (1938), David Almond (1951), Meg Gardiner (1957), Julie Otsuka (1962), Laura Hillenbrand (1967), (Samantha Hunt)

L. Frank Baum of “The Wizard of Oz” fame. Did you know there are fourteen “Oz” books?

Norma Mazer won a Newbery Honor in 1998 for “After the Rain”

Quote: “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t you think?” ― Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

“If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph, my last page first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I’m going. I know what my goal is.” – Katherine Anne Porter

Tip: all right vs. alright: according to the Chicago Manual of Style, it is not all right to use “alright” – this is nonstandard usage. However…many authors use it in dialogue. While technically not all right, dialog has its own set of weird rules.

Jumpstart: Have you ever been in a relationship that ended badly? Remember those feelings? Embrace them and write them into a scene with your main character.

May 14 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Hal Borland (1900), George Selden (1929), Maria Irene Fornes (1930), Kathleen Ann Goonan (1952), Robert Greene (1959), Eoin Colfer (1965), Jennifer Niven (1968),

George Selden wrote under the name Terry Andrews and was known for his children’s books like “A Cricket in Times Square”

Eoin (pronounced “Owen”) Colfer is best known for his “Artemis Fowl” books

Quote: “I would tell aspiring writers to observe. They already know it is vital to read and write whenever possible, but often people forget to watch what is going on every day in their surroundings. That is where your ideas come from. Keep one eye on your computer screen and the other on the world around you” – Eoin Colfer

Tip: Less vs. fewer: less is used for singular nouns or amounts (less salt, less water) while “fewer” is used for plurals or comparisons (fewer calories; fewer apples). This chair costs less than that one. He has fewer apples than I do.

Jumpstart: Finish the following: Once, I lost my hat… (use: check, firehouse, burp)