Sunday Surprise


“If you are going to devote your life to a music career, you also need to devote your life to having fun with it as well.” Mariah Carey on The Voice.

I know many of you get tired of me constantly saying over and over to have fun with your writing. I know that goes against the myth that sitting alone in a room and telling stories is “hard work.” And that many of you have issues from your past about needing something you make money with to be work.

I got all that.

But making your writing work, making it special, making it difficult to do just leads to the critical voice eventually grinding you down to a stop.

And making writing work never allows the real you to show through your writing. And that real you is what makes your stuff different. Original. And sell.

The real secret to being a long-term successful artist is what Mariah Carey said. Devote your life to having fun with your art, be it writing or music or painting.

Dean Wesley Smith

Money isn’t enough. It never is. You have to START with connecting to your own heart, and telling the stories you hold dear. And if you need your “adult” self to hold down a day job so that your “child” self can play, then DAMMIT, DO THAT. Do NOT make the creative child pay the bills. The child’s job is to play. It is the ADULT’S job to pay the bills.

And…if you are lucky enough that the output of that child finds an audience? Embrace and nurture that connections,a nd be true to it.

And…if you are smart enough to set your “adult” to learning marketing, such that it handles the Outer world with the “child” safe in the Inner? Most of the most successful people I know either split themselves into Artist and Marketer, or find an agent or manager to handle this “adult” role.

But they do NOT whore the children of their hearts. They just DON’T.

Steven Barnes

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.

~ Alice Koller

There’s no map but the one you draw. No process of anyone’s you can borrow. You gain your groove by wearing it into the floor one micrometer at a time. It’s erosion. Water on stone to find its path. It makes it harder in times like these because we want it to be math. PERSIST.

You don’t know you can do it. You don’t know that you belong. You can do it. You belong as much as anybody. You’re an impostor, sure, because we’re all impostors, we’re all here unasked for, unbidden, uninvited, wearing our masks.

Persist anyway.

Chuck Wendig

Creators on social media can feel as if they are expected to present a positive, successful image at all times—and to churn out a steady mix of self-revelation, irreverent commentary, earnest activism, and a smidge of self-promotion. It creates the impression that all of us are doing great, that things couldn’t be better, that we’re all on upward trajectories of success and enrichment.

Unfortunately, for quite a few of us at any given moment, that’s not entirely true.

Creative professions, especially those connected with publishing, are difficult and often low-paying. For persons without other full-time occupations, trying to survive in a gig economy can be brutal, exhausting, and demoralizing. Sometimes we get depressed. The entities some of us rely upon to help advance our careers let us down. Things sometimes don’t turn out as well as we had hoped. Promises made to us get broken; opportunities get rescinded.

Most of us can’t talk openly about such setbacks. In some cases it would do us more harm than good to air our disappointments, so we shield our fans and friends from our bad news.

David Mack

Sunday Surprise


With fiction, the reader wants to escape their life and you’re offering them a way into this other world. Those readers often become loyal to your brand over time.

So when this question comes up for you, it is usually at one of two different points in your life.

If you haven’t written anything yet, seriously, go with your heart.

You need to write the book of your heart. You have to. Why would you do this otherwise?

Writing is not a get rich quick scheme. You write because you can’t not write. You love it. You love reading. You love words. You just want to do this, and even if it never makes any money, you’re going to do it anyway.

Joanna Penn

There’s no use, after all, in beating yourself up for desiring more from your craft than the confines of one small box. The truth is writers write. Sometimes in one vein, sometimes in another.

While others may tell you that you fit this mould or that, it is you and only you that knows what is best. Trust your gut. Accept it’ll change.

At the end of the day, what really matters is not your label but your craft. Write well.

If you do feel like you want to leave one box for another, know that you can. It goes back to number one: set that goal. Learn what you will need to do. Start to take those steps.

Baby steps, dear writer.

Great things take time.

Mackenzie Belcastro

I am prolific for the following reasons.

1… I love to tell stories.

2… I spend more time making up stories than other people do.

3… I don’t waste time writing stories ahead of writing them or going back over a story after it is done. Into the dark one draft clean and I have been doing that for thirty years now.

4… I have set up systems to get my work to readers quickly.

5… I have been at this for over forty years now.

I would love to be able to type faster and over the years my speed has increased slightly. But that has nothing at all to do with me being prolific or selling millions of copies of my books.

Dean Wesley Smith

Write something meaningful to you, regardless of imagined commercial implications

This one is hard. As I began putting this book together, with its unusual structure and its potential for being categorized incorrectly as an anthology, I couldn’t help wondering: Who will buy this? Could a publisher get behind it or will it be too odd? Is this what I “should” be writing? Will this be a waste of a year?

I stopped asking. Or at least I tried to. Because the thing is, there aren’t valid answers to those questions until you’ve written the book. Unless your name is so huge that your publisher is going to buy whatever you pitch them, no matter how vague the idea, isn’t it better (I asked myself) to simply write the story you want to write? Then you can show people a completed novel. And it will speak for itself.

So that’s what I did. Because the simplicity is this: every publisher in every country of the world, and every reader who has ever existed, wants the same thing: a good book. That’s all. I don’t think I can write a good book if I’m writing to chase an idea of what people might want. And besides that, who wants to spend time on something that doesn’t make you want to jump out of the bed in the morning so you can get to work?

Happy writing to all of you!

Arwen Elys Dayton

Write what you love. Set up a solid business model of the kind that you want to build. Focus on a slow build, and concentrate on providing books to anyone who wants to read your work.

If you do those things, and stay true to yourself, you will still have a career five years from now. Will you be rich? Maybe. If you figure out what works for you. Will you be successful? Depends on your definition of success. Will you be happy? Ah, hell, how do I know? I don’t have a crystal ball.

But I do know this: You’ll be happier if you do what you love than you will be if you’re just blowing hot air around a room as you try to impress people you look down on.

So shut out the hype as much as you can. Take what little bits of advice that make sense to you from the gurus out there, and apply those bits to your business. But avoid “systems.” Because they don’t work, often not even for the person who developed it.

Do your thing, and you’ll have a greater chance of being around five years from now than that supposedly super-successful person “everyone” is talking about.

Remember that, and you’ll be just fine.

Kris Rusch

Sunday Surprise


I consider there to be very few Actual Truths in writing, in storytelling, in making cool shit — but this, I think, comes as close to Actual Truth as I can muster.

Every story has one original thing about it.

And that original thing is

You.

That sounds like some goofy-ass self-help shit, I know, but trust me, you’re it. You’re the thing. You’re the Original Idea, the Important Discovery, the One Untold Tale, the Unexplored Path, the Savior of Narnia, the Sword of Damocles, the Revenge of the Sith wait I’m getting carried away, sorry, sorry. Ahem. Moving on. Point is, it’s you. Look at it this way —

You’re a bundle of unexpected genetics. Two people fucked, and they made you. And to make each of them, two other people fucked, and on and on and on — you’re at the bottom of an inverted pyramid, the nadir of an unholy host of genetic material that has scrambled itself up and guaranteed that you are a random, uncountable confluence of atoms. And that’s just the genetic side.

On the memetic side — the side of ideas and information — oh my sweet fucking hell, are you ever an infinite, irreplicable* maze. You are a labyrinthine tangle of wants, desires, fears, experiences, anxieties, certainties, questions. You’re the sum total of the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, the things you’ve seen. And you complicate that when you go more places, meet more people, see new things. You never get simpler. You just get more complex. Your uncertainties grow. Your maze grows larger even as you travel it. You’re an amazingly weird, bizarre, wonderful bundle of wires.

Chuck Wendig

I get emails from authors every week asking if they are “too late” to write a book when the world is so crowded with books and more being published every day.

Best time to be a creatorBut it really is the best time ever to be a creator and I am grateful every day to be born at a time in history when the internet enables us to write, publish and connect with readers across the world through free or cheap tools.

When you get bogged down by negative news or get sucked into the drama of whatever authors are worried about next, look at the bigger creative picture and be happy!

Joanna Penn

I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible. It’s best that I be as clear about this as I can—I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves.

– Stephen King

The best advice I can give is this, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it again, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.

– Neil Gaiman

That always happens to me. I couldn’t sustain a week of publicity if I wanted to. I couldn’t go ten days without writing fiction no matter how many concerts or plays or movies I attend. I’m just not wired for it.

I know that wiring is trained. Just like runners who take a week off feel cranky and out of sorts because they haven’t been exercising. (Talk to someone who runs regularly and gets a knee injury—but stand some distance away. They’ll be grumpy.)

But I’m pleased I trained that wiring into place. I love writing fiction more than almost anything else. My job isn’t hard. It’s not even a job. It’s play. And who wants to avoid play?

The rest of this stuff—the promotion, the publicity, the constant striving to rise above all the noise—that’s work.

Writing fiction is great fun.

And has been, for me at least, for decades.

Kris Rusch

Sunday Surprise


Words of wisdom, writers on writing, whatever you want to call them, here’s the monthly feature back for the rest of the year! Have a great Sunday!

12 Reminders You Probably Need Today Because Let’s Be Honest We’re All Struggling

Some much-needed reminders for you, just in case.

1 All writers start out writing things that aren’t very good.

2. Even experienced writers sometimes still write awful stuff.

3. The only way to get better is to keep practicing. No matter how long it takes.

4. You don’t have to do everything.

5. Sometimes, doing your best means not doing very well.

6. Everyone goofs.

7. Other people’s opinions don’t determine how skilled you are. You do.

8. Every rejection is a step closer to success, even if it’s the 10th one in a row.

9. If you enjoy writing, then you should keep writing.

10. If it feels like you no longer enjoy it, there’s probably a reason unrelated to your actual writing.

11. No book, article, script, or writer is perfect. You don’t have to try to be.

12. You can keep writing. And it’s something you’ll never regret.

Meg Dowell

The work doesn’t need your confidence.

The work just needs the work.

What I mean is, if you can manage, push through. Recognize that we all have those days where we don’t believe in the thing we’re writing, but all it takes is to persevere and continue the effort. Your faith in it is invisible and illusory — words on a page are not ensorcelled by how much you believe in it. It’s not a fragile little sprite, it doesn’t require your clapping to come to life. Now, the caveat here is sometimes you still have to take a break and walk away — and that’s okay, too. Don’t walk away too long, but a short, non-permanent vacation from the work is super-cool, and sometimes essential. But then come back to it. Come back to the narrative and renew your effort.

(…)

We are often the worst judges of our own work. Especially as we’re eyeballs deep in it. It’s like trying to figure out if you’re going to die while lost in the woods. You are or you aren’t; worrying about it isn’t gonna fix your problem. What will fix your problem is picking a direction and moving in it.

Just like writing.

Chuck Wendig

“If you think you understand what you’re doing, you’re not learning anything.”

Wow does this apply to writing. Writing, as many have learned in the workshops, is an art that the more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn. I love that part of it and always chase the next level up, constantly learning.

Dean Wesley Smith

I figured I might lose a fan or two with some of the character choices I made. Someone could be angry that a certain character lived or died, or that someone else was hiding a major secret. So be it. I was happy with it. That’s because my primary approach was that of a fan. I am indeed a fan of my own work! And why not? I WROTE IT. IT’S MINE. I should like it. If I didn’t like it, I’d change it or just stop writing it.

So that, to me, is the simple-yet-infinitely-complex solution to serving your audience and writing for fans – be a fan of your own work. Make the decision to change the narrative based on the story you want to tell, because you’ve lived with the story and those characters more than anybody else on the planet could. If you want to write something comforting, then by all means, go for it. If you want to blow shit up, have at it!

Not everyone will like it. But it’s the most honest way to go.

Michael J. Martinez

You’re taking risks just by being a writer. You are, in this modern era, as much of an entrepreneur as the folks who started Chef’d or MoviePass. The difference between them and most writers it that the folks who start big businesses like that know they’re taking huge risks.

You need to understand that as well, and act in the same way.

Many of you who read this weekly blog aren’t writer/gamers. You tried the systems and moved on or you didn’t try at all, just doing your writing and publishing and watching from afar. Good for you. You’re building sustainable businesses.

But you also need to acknowledge the risks of what you’re doing. It’s hard to build a business, whether that’s a restaurant or a retail store or a writing business. It takes day-to-day massaging, and a focus on making financial decisions while nurturing your creative side. Because without the creative side, you won’t have a business that you want…ten years down the road. You’ll be on some hamster wheel. And that’s not what any of us want.

Kris Rusch

Wednesday Weekly Roundup


And welcome to post number… two. Five. Zero. Zero. Yes! TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED posts on this blog since 2009! 🙂 Gone from daily posts to weekly posts, and even though blogging is no longer a thing, I’ll keep going for a little longer.

The writing is still slow (less than 2K again) because I spent a lot of time editing and formatting and making covers last week, and this week I have guests and some traveling to do. Hopefully next week I’ll catch up, but for now I’m at 220K for the year, so I’m not complaining.

I saw the warning about changed on BundleRabbit and now I’m starting to see what it’s becoming. It’s not fully ready yet, so I’ll post about it next week, when I’ll head there to set up the next curated anthology for Sci-fi July. It has changed (moan) but has added some very interesting features I hope to use in the future (yay!).

For you KU authors, there’s a wake-up call. The ever-changing landscape of indie publishing is going through another shift, maybe not this year, but it’s coming. I have only certain Italian titles in KU (and Lisa’s Odyssey), so it won’t affect me much.

Although I haven’t really built an audience elsewhere, but you can find me on Amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and DriveThru already. Probably more in the future, especially if some of the above features pan out. I hope eventually to be able to sell from my own website, but it won’t be in the next couple of years.

I enrolled all my books in the Smashwords July Summer/Winter sale – everything 50% off from tomorrow and until the end of July, except for 99c titles and the new one coming next week (or possibly earlier, since I’ll be traveling soon).

Now back to prepping those new titles! And since I skipped a month or three, I’ll add some Words of Wisdom/Writers on Writing/what-have-you below! Have a great week! 🙂

***

Kill your darlings.

It is, as with all pieces of writing advice, good advice.

Until it’s not.

Meaning, no one single piece of writing advice is a one-size-fits-all unitasker. Nearly all pieces of writing advice — with maybe the exception of FINISH YOUR SHIT — can easily be Judo-flipped onto its back. Nearly every piece of writing advice and its opposite is true, at some point, for many writers. And it’s vital we not be rigorous with what we feel are these chestnuts of writing advice. These chestnuts must, in fact, be roasted time and time again to bring out their nuttiest, most delectable flavor.

(…)

And as I said above, it’s good advice, until it’s not.

More to the point, Kill Your Darlings (besides from being a great band name) is 101-class writing advice. It’s entry-level, as are most of the authorial platitudes. Show Don’t Tell? Sure, great, until the time comes when you need to tell the reader something. Write What You Know? Go for it, until you realize you don’t know a whole lotta shit, and if you take that advice too literally you’ll never write a goddamn thing that isn’t you sitting at the keyboard writing about writing about writing. Never Use Adverbs, For They Are Wizard Prisons! Great, great advice, perfectly golden always and forever, oh, except the words “always” and “forever” are motherfucking adverbsWriters Write Every Day — except until they don’t, and some write every week, or every month, some write 2000 words a day, some write 15000 words once a month, some write for a couple hours, or four, or eight, some write to music, some write to the screams of the people they have trapped under their floorboards. Open With An Action Sequence, except action sequences don’t always give the proper context, and also, what if you’re not writing action?

Chuck Wendig

The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn’t collapse wen you beat your head against it.

– Douglas Adams

12 Strategies to Help You Deal With the Stressors Blocking You From Writing

Life is stressful. You can write anyway.

1. Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking (usually) doesn’t work.

2. Break big scary tasks into small less scary pieces. Tackle one piece at a time.

3. Prioritize the things that need to get done today. Finish those first.

4. Don’t forget to breathe.

5. Write something that makes you feel good — no “strings” attached.

6. Treat writing as a reward, not an item to check off your list.

7. Speaking of lists … try making shorter ones. Just TRY.

8. Remember that it’s sometimes better not to write than to write poorly. Sometimes.

9. Take a few days off from writing if you have to — but only a few!

10. Or, alternate between writing days and writing “off” days.

11. Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t write. It’s OK to have a bad day.

12. Give yourself a pat on the back for every good writing day. Cherish those moments. Smile.

Meg Dowell

TAKE CHANCES, DON’T JUST PLAY THE MARKET

I need to write what I’m passionate about. If I don’t, the reader knows. Understanding the market is fine, and I’m not saying it’s entirely without influence, but writing is a labor of love. I need to be able to sustain that love over the course of the boring bits, right? Not every scene can be a character returning from the dead or a car chase or a shower scene.

KD Edward

What are the rules of Writer Club? Well, since you asked…

1. The First Rule of Writer Club is that long-term success is always about building readership.
2. The Second Rule of Writer Club is that any success you have in achieving the first rule does nothing to hurt the chances of mine.
3. The Third Rule of Writer Club is that it’s okay to talk about Writer Club.

Ron Collins

That blaming of the writer, and that emphasis on the words is reflexive. It’s what we were taught in school.

However, this craft we call “writing” isn’t about words. It’s about telling stories. And there is no secret scale that makes one story better than another.

It’s all about taste.

So it’s time, writers, to stop blaming your colleagues when one of their books doesn’t satisfy you. Maybe the book isn’t to your taste. Maybe you don’t like that sort of story. Maybe the writer didn’t tell the story the way you would have told the story.

All valuable ways of looking at fiction. But you as a writer have to stop using that invisible scale inculcated in us when we were children—in a different world, one run by a handful of people who had a stranglehold on publishing. That scale does not exist. It never existed. There is no perfect novel. Nor is there—from a writer of Nora’s caliber—“merely adequately readable prose.”

If you start admitting that a book isn’t to your taste, you free yourself up to read—and write—things that take risks. You can write books that don’t belong on that imaginary scale. You can drop the chains that force you to struggle with that scale, and start writing things that interest you.

You can find the freedom to write what you love. But only if you stop blaming other writers.

It’s all taste, folks. And your taste is as valid as mine. It’s just different. And that’s okay.

Kris Rusch

Sunday Surprise


Words of wisdom, writers on writing, more writers’ quotes than ever! Happy Sunday!

I am more and more aware of this dichotomy in the indie community. There is a pervasive focus on vanity metrics like sales ranking or number of books sold over profit and money in the bank.

Many consider it ‘better’ to reach number one on Amazon in a category where they have paid for a ton of advertising than bulk sell thousands of books that no one will ever know about but have thousands of dollars extra in the bank.

As Orna Ross noted in the Blockchain for Books white paper,

“Many authors crave attention more than money and overvalue their work emotionally while undervaluing it commercially.”

Orna is a literary fiction and creative non-fiction author, poet and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, and told me that the biggest challenge for authors is “to understand that you are in business and what that means, as well as knowing the value of what you create.”

Orna has challenged herself to understand her ‘comps,’ or comparison titles, and to dig deep into the micro-genres around her books. She also stressed the importance of looking outside the publishing world for ideas – definitely something I felt coming out of the fair. I think we have more in common with the tech community than the publishing world most of the time.

Joanna Penn

 

And here you might be saying, WHOA WHOA WHOA, WHY ARE YOU NOT TELLING ME TO CONSIDER MY CAREER, OR THE MARKET, OR TO CONSULT THE ORACLES OF PUBLISHING.

Listen, you can care about that stuff.

Maybe you even should, I dunno. It’s certainly not the worst idea to try to imagine what things might sell and what things might not. But… the reality is, nobody actually knows anything? I’ve made this point before but it demands a return visit: nobody knows anything inside publishing. They can make guesses. Many can make educated guesses based off insight and experience. But there’s no answer. And by the time you actually write the thing that might serve the market, the market will have changed. As I’ve said before, you’re aiming your spaceship at a star that has already burned out — the light from it just hasn’t caught up yet. The market is an unknowable entity. It is a lightless, doom-filled eye whose only language is chaos. It’s Sauron, it’s the Death Star, it’s Kanye West’s Twitter account. My advice is to stay away from it.

Chuck Wendig

 

After innumerable rounds of revisions, when the stress of ‘will it sell or will it die?’ had disappeared, I finally began to chip away at a new idea. And you know what?

I wrote another book. Sometimes I wrote for eighteen hours on both Saturday and Sunday, every weekend for a month. And sometimes I didn’t even open the document for four weeks. But eventually, it became a book shaped thing, and I realized that I didn’t have to write every single day to be a writer. I have to write when the ideas won’t simmer anymore and come to a boil. I have to write when I’m able to devote my thought processes to the project at hand, and not the one that hasn’t sold, or the one that I need to revise. I have to write when my job or my kids or my yard work or any of the other responsibilities I have aren’t dragging at my thoughts. Sometimes that happens every day, and sometimes it doesn’t happen for a month, but the fact is, just because my life gets in the way sometimes does not mean that I’m not a writer. If book shaped things eventually come out of my brain, then I am, by definition, a writer.

Stacey Filak

 

Leave your creative voice alone, folks.

Change to positive. And how do you do that with so much training in the other way? Actually, simply do three things…

1… Stop caring so much about the final product, just do the best you can.

2… Write one draft, clean with cycling in creative voice, and release with a promise to yourself you won’t touch it again.

3… Have fun. Make writing fun again. Make it play.

Then stand back because you will be writing stories you never expected to write and having a blast doing it.

Dean Wesley Smith

 

It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.

– Ernest Hemingway

 

But as a writer, you most likely will begin to tire of writing the same kind of thing over and over. As we age, our tastes tend to change. The lighthearted stories of wonder that we told when we were young might not become as interesting as other genres, and so many authors will want to explore—much to the dismay of their fans, who will feel disappointed and betrayed.

And so the mounting pressures from fans, publishers, agents, and spouses all combine to a point where the author just says, “Screw all of you!” and has to walk away for a while.

But here is the thing: If you’re an artist, it is not a lifestyle that you can choose. The truth is, those creative fires keep burning within you, and you have to come back. You will be different, will have grown and evolved, but you’re still a creative.

I believe that you will find that your inner joy is still tied to the arts. So the old band gets back together, minus a player or two, with a couple of new faces. Or the painter picks up his brush and begins a new work, or the writers wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t get a dream out of his head until it transforms into a story.

The thing that I want to say is this: In life, we undergo creative highs and lows. At the highest points, we might sit and write for sixteen hours a day and it feels as if the book is merely “writing itself” while all that we do is type. At a low point, we might wonder if we will ever be able to write again.

David Farland

 

If you think of stories as conversation—gone after the words are uttered—you won’t be as tempted to go back and tweak. Just let the words represent that past moment. Move forward. Move on.

Realize that there are lot more important things in the world right now than some perceived literary transgression.

And because we’re all stressed and terrified and grieving, we need fiction. A lot of it. Some people want entertainment that they call mindless. (I don’t think any entertainment is mindless.) Others want an incredible challenge. And still others want to have their buttons pushed in fiction, so their buttons don’t get pushed in real life.

Our job is to provide all of that. Write. Write a lot. Give the stressed and grieving a different world, something else to think about, a different preoccupation, if only for a few hours.

There’s value in that. A lot more value than we writers usually give credence to.

So write the tough topics. Write the easy topics.

Just write.

Because that’s what we do.

Kris Rusch

Sunday Surprise


Words of wisdom, writers on writing, whatever you want to call it a monthly feature of this blog! 🙂 Here go the writers’ quotes!

I don’t believe in a zero-sum game for books. I believe EVERYONE should write a book, because every person who writes a book will buy and read far more books than they could ever produce, and in that way, we are a self-sustaining industry.

So there should be no competition among writers. It should be co-opetition, co-operating, co-marketing with people in your genre. We are stronger together.

This is certainly the way I have always run my creative business. It’s why I interview other writers on my podcast, feature them on my blog, tweet them on social media, and promote their books to my email lists.

But paid ads have changed things because we ARE now competing with each other. Pay-per-click ads are all about competing for keywords, upping a bid until you win, and then doing it again and again. Prices go up, your return gets sliced, and in the end, the advertisers come out on top.

Joanna Penn

Because, as a friend of mine once said, becoming a professional writer is easy (relatively speaking). Remaining one is hard.

Your job is to have a writing career, not to publish a single book. So be careful who you partner with over the years. Make sure that person, that company, the conglomerate is trustworthy. And if you can’t make sure of that, then guard yourself as best you can.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Because, in truth, that’s the only way to survive the traditional publishing jungle. Even now. Even as the stories are starting to come out.

Because the change is just beginning. We have a whole lot of reckoning to go through yet. And I’m not sure we, as a culture, are ready for all of it, no matter how much I hope we are.

Just be honest with yourself as you move forward.

And good luck.

Kris Rusch

Bear with me here a sec. I promise this is going to get someplace that’s about the workshop eventually, all right? But let me start this bit by saying that a lot of writers seem to join critique groups because they want people to tell them what’s wrong with their work. That’s an understandable, but—in my probably not particularly humble opinion—deeply flawed approach.

The whole idea is just wrong-minded to begin with.

I mean, you can find beta readers to do that without being required to reciprocate by spending time cutting into someone else’s work, right? So, no, joining a critique group so you can have someone tear into your work is the wrong way to go. There is only one reason to be in a critique group as far as learning is concerned, and that reason is so you can get your hands on and break down as many raw manuscripts as you can. That’s right: The ability to deconstruct stories is the real reason to be in a group. That’s it. Sure, there are social values, and its nice to have people you can lean on when things are down. But when done right the real learning of a critique group is in deconstructing other writer’s stories so you can get better at deconstructing your own.

Ron Collins

When I was 16, I wrote to my favorite author, whose books are still a source of inspiration for me. Stephen R. Donaldson was kind enough to write me back. He gave me the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever gotten, although it took me almost 30 years to apply it. His advice was to apply the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair and write.

I’ve learned that writing consistently not only gets the job done but that the act of writing makes you a better writer, just like practicing dance makes you a better dancer. You can’t expect to be a good writer if you only practice once or twice a year or when you feel like it. Writing every day (or as close as you can manage) hones your writing muscles. It teaches you that the blank page is not an obstacle. It teaches you that you can write when you’re mildly sick, when you’re not in the best mood, and when the muses are giving you nothing but drivel. You sit and write like you go to work every day. It’s a job, and some days are better than others. Thankfully, with writing, you usually get at least one chance to go back and polish or even redo it, but you can’t do that until you get it on the page to begin with.

J. Elizabeth Vincent

If I thought about my brand I’d never write anything.

Second, it bears mentioning that I no longer write my ideas down. I used to. I used to hoard them like jewels until I realize they weren’t gems — they were bits of aquarium gravel. They’re dross, they’re dribble, they’re just a building material like dirt or concrete. Not valueless! But also not precious. Ideas ping my brain daily the way we’re all pelted by solar radiation. I submit ideas to Idea Thunderdome, and only those ideas that emerge victorious — by which I mean, they are persistent, like carpenter bees thumping against the window-glass — get to stay. And even then, I don’t write them down. If the idea is good, it will continue to percolate. It will bother me. It will live with me, lingering in my head like a beautiful or traumatic memory.

I usually have four or five of these ideas swirling around my head at any given time. Fireflies in a fucking jar. So, when it comes time to figure out what I want to write — I look at these effulgent little weirdos to see if there’s anything there, and if there is, I pluck it out, smash its glowy butt, and smear the bioluminescent innards onto my face like phosphorescent war paint.

Chuck Wendig

Sunday Surprise


A signal boost in case you didn’t get enough books for Christmas. My story, Olympia Nights, is in The Phantom Games. Helios of Sparta, the full novella, will come out some time next year. Happy Holidays.

Available Now! The Rest of the Excalibur Books Catalog …

The Dimensions Unknown series –

Mind-bending journeys into tomorrows that never were, and yesterdays that are yet to be …

Go here for Volume One

Go here for Volume Two

Go here for Volume Three

Shipwrecked and alone in haunted Japan … Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts, by Charles Kowalski

Alien science meets ancient Japanese mythology in this epic battle across time and space …

the Sword Mirror Jewel trilogy, by John Paul Catton.

Go here for Book One

Go here for Book Two

Go here for Book Three 

Hina Takamichi was a girl of two worlds … but only one would survive …Zero Sum Game, by Cody Martin

The Nihon Gothic series – a set of standalone supernatural thrillers set in Japan, by Zoe Drake

Book 1: The Mists of Osorezan
In Venice, in London, in the deep Japanese countryside … the sleepers are awaking …

Book 2: Dead Hand Clapping
A bizarre serial killer is stalking Tokyo’s sleazy underworld …

Book 3: Dark Lanterns
A collection of 15 chilling Tokyo ghost stories featuring the Yokai – grotesque creatures from Japanese folklore and mythology …

Until next time, keep healthy – and keep the faith!

Sunday Surprise


And it’s the last words of wisdom or writers on writing of the year! Next “episode” in 2021, hoping these wise words don’t become obsolete by the time I publish them… Have a great Sunday! 🙂

Being an entrepreneurial author gives me the freedom to write what I want, to work the hours I choose, and to say yes to the partnerships and opportunities I want to while graciously declining the rest. There are no gatekeepers that get to judge my work or tell me its not commercial enough to attract advertisers, and no investors that want me to push their agendas. It’s just me, writing what I want, sharing it with the world the best I can, and empowering my readers to think, dream, and live differently.  And that makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Doing these things while writing your books and building your author brand will give you higher levels of joy, happiness, and fulfillment along the way. Happy writing!

Sheri Fink

Six stories in six weeks clears the head.

It’s simple. Straightforward. It cuts the noise by giving a writer who is flailing something to focus on. I know this is true because that’s where I was when I came to me second Anthology Workshop. I knew what I wanted. I knew I wasn’t getting there. There were so many moving parts going on around me, so many things to think about. Six deadlines in six weeks settled me out.

Looking back, I realized I needed those deadlines to get myself into a healthier headspace. Focus, remember? Production Writing is about focus, not wordcount.

And once I got there, I came to the workshop fully prepared for the whole learning experience–an experience that, since I was ready, I can probably say went a very long way toward changing my life.

Ron Collins

Write. Write. Write. So many people come to me wanting to talk about how to break into publishing, and my first question is always the same—how many books have you written? Inevitably, they are still working on their first, which is fabulous, but they aren’t ready to talk about publishing. They need to be focused exclusively on honing their craft and making their books as good as they can possibly be to give them the best chance of finding readers who have thousands of authors to choose from. If you get them to read your book, you want to keep them, and the only way you will do that is to continue to write great books that keep them coming back for every new release. There’s no shortcut, get-rich-quick scheme or weekend workshop that will make that process “easier.” It just takes time and perseverance to get your books to the point where readers are clamoring for them.

Marie Force

The amateur continuously rates himself in relation to others, becoming self-inflated if his fortunes rise, and desperately anxious if his star should fall. The amateur craves third-party validation.

– Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

Advocacy is what you are truly chasing, rather than those reader eyeballs or even dollars – an army of superfans who do the selling for you.

David Gaughran

Start by realizing that you can only compare yourself to who you were as a writer last year. We are all at different points on the writer’s journey and we only ever hear the highlights in the media.

We don’t know what happened to that suddenly-famous debut author before their breakout book and we might be mistakenly comparing ourselves to someone who has been ghostwriting under another name for ten years, or have five novels that were rejected before the one that hit big.

(…)

You could even turn what you learn into a blog post or journal entry or add items to your To Do list.

If I read a book by an author I have been jealous of and I like it, I’ll always promote it to my own audience in the ultimate reversal of jealousy.

Celebrate the success of other authors and it will make you a happier writer, plus it will build your network over time.

Joanna Penn

Stop looking at what other people are doing and look at what you’re achieving. Stop looking sideways, look at where you’re going.

– Jocelyn Glei, Manage your Day to Day

Sunday Surprise


And it’s a guest! And since she’s in all three of the Nightly Bites anthologies, you get three covers! But this particular interview refers to the newest anthology, Volume 3! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Joleene Naylor!

1. What is it about vampires that draws you to them? 

The variety. The stories can be gothic, contemporary, historic, futuristic. It can be scary, funny, romantic. Anything you feel like doing. As to why the vampires themselves are appealing, it’s the immortality, isn’t it? If I could live forever, I’m pretty sure I’d jump at the chance. So much time to get to do all the things you want to do.

2. What is your story in the anthology about? 

Jamie: Blood of Betrayal is the origin story for Jamie. A rebel in Scotland, Jamie is wounded and nearly dies in battle. He manages to return home, sick with fever, only to wake fully healed. He isn’t the only thing changed. In his absence, his wife died, and his father was murdered by the British, who then turned the lands and title over to his brother-in-law.

3. What inspired your story? 

My mother, actually. Jamie is one of her favorite characters so I told her if she wanted to make his past up for me, I’d use it. She did quite a bit of research, so it seemed a shame to waste it. Plus, you meet both Jamie and his master in one of the novels (Masque of the Vampire) so it seemed like a good idea to introduce readers to exactly what their story was.

4. Do you always write about vampires? If not, what do you write about? 

I can write about other things, though I haven’t been just because of the branding. I’m a lot slower than some prolific writers I know *cough*Barb*cough* . But most of my writing has a darkness to it. I find it very hard to write cheerful, happy things. I once started a poem about a bunny. I won’t go into details, but by the end I made myself cry.

5. What should readers know about you? 
I’m not trying to teach you anything in my books or stories. I’m not trying to expand your worldview, or make you question your beliefs, or the way our society works. I’m just trying to entertain you.

6. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I’d like to say thanks to Barb for having me! Other than the anthology, I’m not really promoting any releases – I’d need to get the book finished first (Did I mention I’m slow?).

Last minute addition: we now have also a Nightly Bites bundle, that includes another of Joleene’s stories! Check it out!

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