July 21 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Ernest Hemingway (1899), Hart Crane (1899), Marshall McLuhan (1911), James Cooke Brown (1921), John Gardner (1933), Tess Gallagher (1943), Wendy Cope (1945), Michael Connelly (1956), Sarah Waters (1966), Christopher Barzak (1975)

Ernest Hemingway won the Pulitzer Pirze for Fiction and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Christopher Barzak’s novel “The Love We Share Without Knowing” was a 2009 Nebula nominee.

Quote: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Ernest Hemingway

John Gardner is known for his retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s point of view—Grendel.

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.

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 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864), Martin Provensen (1916), Thomas Berger (1924), William H. Goetzmann (1930), Cormac McCarthy (1933), Henry L. Dumas (1934), Alistair MacLeod (1936), Thomas Friedman (1953), Jess Walter (1965)

Eric Karlfeldt won the 1931 Nobel Prize for Poetry.

William Goetzmann won the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for History.

Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 2006 book “The Road”. He also wrote “No Country for Old Men” which was made into a movie.

Thomas Friedman has won the Pulitzer three times for his journalism.

Quote: “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

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.

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?

New Reviews

There are a lot to get through. Several weeks ago, I had surgery on my hand. My dominant hand. The one I type with. Though I am healing, it has been a long, challenging time, but I did get a lot of reading done. So, here we go:

Under Fiction:

The White Hare by Jane Johnson – 4 Sparklers for this 1954 British paranormal historical.

Cold Snap by Marc Cameron – 4 Sparklers for this thriller set in Alaska

Forever Texas by William Johnstone – 3 Sparklers for this historical Western based on the famous King Ranch in Texas

Under LGBTQ+

Fire and Sand by Andrew Grey – 4 sparklers for this gay romance

Under YA

Small Town Witch by Kristen Walker – 3 Sparklers for this teen paranormal first part of a series

Under Romance:

Tough Justice by Tee O’Fallon – 4 Sparklers for this K-9 centric romantic suspense

Under Fantasy:

The Enchanted Crossroads by Dora Blume – 2 Sparklers for this good vs. evil fantasy

Under Mystery:

The Postman Always Dies Twice by Zara Keane – 5 Sparklers for this fun cozy

Die in the Wool by Katherine Hayton – 3 Sparklers for this small-town cozy

Give Up the Ghost by Jane Hinchey – 4 Sparklers for this paranormal cozy

Grave New World by Demitria Lunetta et al. – 2 Sparklers for this paranormal cozy

Restoration Murder by Lucy Branch – 4 sparklers for this very British cozy

Witcher Upper by Amy Boyles – 4 Sparklers for this paranormal cozy

Cozy Cat Caper by Paige Sleuth – 3 Sparklers for this trio of shorts

Ice Cream and Guilty Pleasure by Amber Crewes – 3 sparklers for this cozy novella

Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern – 4 Sparklers for this cozy

Killer Spring Fling by Mollie Cox Bryan – 2 sparklers for this short cozy

Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Note: I will be posting a lot of new reviews later in the day. Please check back.

Birthdays: William Makepeace Thackeray (1811), Nathalie Sarraute (1900), Jessamyn West (1902), Elizabeth Jennings (1926), Margaret Laurence (1926), Hunter S. Thompson (1937), Joseph J. Ellis (1943), Steven Hahn (1951), Felicia Bond (1954), Elizabeth Gilbert (1969),

Joseph Ellis won a Pulitzer Prize for History for his works.

Steven Hahn won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for History for “A Nation Under Our Feet”.

Quote: “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

“Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential.” ― Jessamyn West

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.

Jumpstart: Finish this: I rushed to fudge the numbers before he returned… (use: monk, magazine, imagination)

July 17 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Shmuel Agnon (1888), Erle Stanley Gardner (1889), Christiane Rochefort (1917), Phyllis Diller (1917), Robert V. Remini (1921), Olive Burns (1924), Karla Kuskin (1932), LaVyrle Spencer (1943), Chris Crutcher (1946), Mark Bowden (1951), J. Michael Straczynski (1954), Cory Doctorow (1971),

Shmuel Agnon was the co-winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Robert Remini won the 1984 National Book Award for Nonfiction for his biography of Andrew Jackson.

Quote: “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

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!).

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 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Kathleen Norris (1880), Arthur Bowie Chrisman (1889), James Still (1906), Eve Titus (1922), Anita Brookner (1928), Robert Sheckley (1928), Sheri Tepper (1929), Reinaldo Arenas (1943), Frances Spalding (1950), Richard Egielski (1952), Susan Wheeler (1955), Tony Kushner (1956), Andrew Smith (1959),

Arthur Chrisman won the 1926 Newbery Award for “Shen of the Sea”—a short story collection.

Anita Brookner won the Booker Prize for her 1984 novel “Hotel du Lac”

Richard Egielski won the 1987 Caldecott Medal for illustrating “Hey, Al” by Arthur Yorinks

Quote: “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

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

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 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Clement Clarke Moore (1779), Thomas Bullfinch (1796), Walter D. Edmonds (1903), Hammond Innes (1913), Iris Murdoch (1919), Jacques Derrida (1930), Clive Cussler (1931), Lydia Davis (1947), Richard Russo (1949), Jeff Jarvis (1954), Marcia Jones (1958),

Clement Moore is most well known for “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (‘Twas the Night before Christmas)

Thomas Bullfinch is best known for “Bullfinch’s Mythology”

Walter Edmonds is best known for “Drums Along the Mohawk”

Richard Russo won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “Empire Falls”

Quote: “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

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.

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 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Owen Wisler (1860), F.R. Leavis (1895), Irving Stone (1903), Natalia Ginzburg (1916), Leon Garfield (1921), Peggy Parish (1927), E.V. Thompson (1931), Pema Chodron (1936), Susan Howatch (1940), Christopher Priest (1943), Jeff Lindsay (1952), Laura Joffe Numeroff (1953), Joe Keenan (1958), Brian Selznick (1966), Ranj Dhaliwal (1976)

Peggy Parish is best known for your books about “Amelia Bedelia”

Owen Wisler is considered the father of the Western novel.

Laura Numeroff is best known for “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”

Brian Selznick won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”

Quote: “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

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?

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.

July 13 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: John Clare (1793), Isaak Babel (1894), Marcia Brown (1918), Louis R. Harlan (1922), David Storey (1933), Wole Soyinka (1934), Monique Wittig (1935), Jane Hamilton (1957), Carolyn Mackler (1973),

Isaak Babel was a journalist, Russian translator, dramatist and more, but was arrested and executed during Stalin’s purges.

Marcia Brown has won the Caldecott Medal three times.

Louis Harlan won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for “Booker T. Washington”

Wole Soyinka won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Quote: “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

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.

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.

July 12 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Henry David Thoreau (1817), Johanna Spyri (1827), Pablo Neruda (1904), Donald Westlake (1933), Delia Ephron (1944), Elias Khoury (1948), Joan Bauer (1951), Adam Johnson (1967), Amanda Hocking (1984),

Johanna Spyri is best known for her book “Heidi”

Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Adam Johnson won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Quote: “My biggest word of advice to any new, future writers thinking about diving into self-publishing: Edit. I don’t care what you think, you didn’t edit enough. Some people won’t care that there’s errors, its true, but enough of them will. And they paid for it, so they have a right to. So edit more. And then again. Really….Self-publishing is great, but it’s not easy.” – Amanda Hocking

Tip: What is your tagline? This is similar to branding. Use as few words as possible to define your writing. For instance, a friend of mine uses: “Mystery, mirth, and mayhem” for her offbeat cozy mysteries. Another uses “Love with a shot of adrenaline” for her action/adventure romances. What is yours?

Jumpstart: Finish this: There she stood, at the door to the cabin, looking like… (write it first as a mystery/thriller, then as a romance, finally, as a comedy)