Sunday Surprise

And it’s a guest! And he has a book out! Yes, we’re not all lazy like me! 😀 People, let’s welcome and cheer J Andrew Corbett! Let’s see what he has to say, and don’t forget to check out his book! Ain’t it a neat cover (below)? Happy Sunday!

Where do you live and write from?

I live in Michigan in the middle of nowhere, a place called Munith.

What genre(s) do you write?

I started off years ago writing horror, but I’ve moved into science fiction / fantasy.

What does your writing routine consist of?

Most importantly, I can’t have on a radio or a television. Has to be nice and quiet to get started. After that, I usually read the last paragraph or two I wrote, then let the story come out.

What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?

To me, dialogue is what drives a story. Narrative is necessary, but I’m part of the “show me, don’t tell” me school of writing. The stories I write have been kicking around in my head for many years usually before they go down on paper. The characters become almost real to me as they flesh themselves out long before a sentence is ever written.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

Some of my greatest inspiration has come from music. When you hear a song and you see a movie playing in your head… only it’s not a movie you’ve seen, but one you’ve created. Putting myself into my writing does happen. I’ll give a character a personality trait of my own (see Gaius gnawing on his thumb, for instance). It’s a way I heard of to endear your characters to yourself a bit more as a writer.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I do try getting together an outline prior to writing, but it’s usually a very loose one. I know the ending, I know the beginning, but the characters will dictate the pacing and the path to get there. Sometimes I travel in a straight line; other times they travel elsewhere, like Sam and Frodo on the trek to Mordor. Flying the eagles to Mount Doom would’ve been a great idea, but think of all those stories we would have missed out on.

Once the story gets going, I tend to write pretty fast. Sometimes I’ll sit down at midnight and tell myself ‘Self, write for about an hour.’ Around four in the morning I realize that I’m ten pages into a great side story that I don’t want to stop and have to pry myself away.

Tell us about your latest book

Simple Tricks and Nonsense. The best way to summarize the plot: Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad survives an alien invasion. Fifteen million years passes. This is his story.

Ok, it’s a bit more detailed than that, but it’s the quick and dirty way I like to explain it. It’s a sci-fi story about an Empire that was formed under the best of intentions, but has become a mockery of what it stood for. I set out to tell the Julius Caesar story in space. Let’s hope it comes through in the writing.

“Laws followed for fifteen million years are disregarded by a demagogic Emperor in favor of remaining in power. With absolute control over the courts, he is only steps away from seizing power forever…

And forever is what it would be.

For a people who have conquered the stars, traveled to more galaxies than stars in the night skies, who have transcended mortality and made order out of a disordered universe, the sunset of everything they’ve ever known may be at hand. The enemy within is a far greater threat than the enemy without, and it falls upon a now disgraced hero to rise once more and combat the monster he helped to create at the beginning of time. Do you love a thing so much that you will help tear it down and remake it in its former glory? Or would you simply go along to get along? Traitor or hero, those words are defined solely by the victor.”

It can be purchased now at and on Amazon (link to .com).

Any other projects in the pipeline?

Simple Tricks and Nonsense is part one in a six book series. So yeah, there’s a lot of projects coming down the pipeline.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Write for yourself, not for others.

Anything else you’d like to add?

To add to that last question, I’ve always written things that I wanted to see. When I find one other person who gets my vision and enjoys what I’ve written, it’s the best feeling in the world.






Sunday Surprise

Meet some authors of Witches: Cutter’s Final Cut – Issue 4 from Knotted Road Press on Facebook – the bundle Witches Wands and Wanderers is in its final week, grab it now or lose it forever!


And now, here’s an interview from one of the authors of the Cutter’s Final Cut: Witches anthology!

You’ll find the Witches anthology as part of the story bundle, Witches, Wands, and Wanderers.

How long have you been writing?

About forty years, off and on. During some of that time I went back to school, held day jobs not compatible with writing and just basically lived.

What is your favorite work? Tell me a little about it.

The Urban Fantasy series I’m currently working on. It’s about five witches, the McMahon Sisters who live in a magical Queen Anne style house in the nearby city of Everett. The story is told through five novellas, one by each sister, about their war with a distantly-related cousin and the demons he controls. Some of whom are controlling him. Over the five novellas the sisters form a network of witches, shamans and demonologists who help them. Along with magic, love and a pooling of resources, the story is about building community.

What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned while writing?

The most important thing is to trust my gut instincts. They’re always right.

What was the inspiration for this book or story?

This story is set in the same world as my McMahon Sisters novellas but the inspiration came from my volunteer work. Every week I work at a local animal shelter, The Noah Center, with cats. I clean their spaces and feed them. But mostly, I talk to them, socialize them and give them lots of attention. It’s absolutely rewarding to see them go out the door with their new person. And also heartbreaking sometimes. I want to take too many of them home with me but our house is full.

What was the hardest, as well as the easiest, parts of writing this book or story?

The hardest part was getting started. So many distractions and my life is always complicated. The easiest piece was describing the cats. Or perhaps I should say – the most fun.

Tell us one thing about your character that we don’t learn from the story, maybe a secret from their past or a hidden aspiration.

Maggie got burned badly by several bad friendships in high school. Ever since, she’s been a loner. She’s just now taking the first tentative steps towards making friends.

What sorts of superstitions or odd writing habits do you have?

I’ve come to believe that the less I talk or think about a story beforehand (besides building the world and figuring out a character), the more likely I’ll finish it. If I talk to people about it, I no longer feel the urgency to write it. I write to find out what happens during the character’s journey and at the end.

Do you believe in magic?

Absolutely. Magic surrounds us all the time. Most of us are simply too busy to notice or don’t believe in it.

What’s the question you always secretly wish someone would ask, but they never do? And how would you answer?

Can I give you a million dollars? Why yes, you can. No really, I can’t think of anything. I generally volunteer info on my own.

What are you currently working on, and what’s coming out next?

I’m working on the fourth McMahon Sister novella, which will be coming out in January. And then it’s on to the fifth one.

Where can people find you and your work?


Today’s interview is with the lovely Burdock! I’m never sure what story I’ll get from them, but it’s always powerful. They’re a contributor to the Cutter’s Final Cut: Witches anthology, which is part of the current Witches story bundle!

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since about 5th grade. I can remember showing bits if story to my parents, quite proud of my work. I have, shall we say, matured in style since then. I was lucky enough to be a Borders manager for about a decade (during undergraduate and some graduate years), and in the process of working with and becoming fast friends with an incredible collection of authors, I started to take my writing much more seriously. Having a bunch of local authors on hand for an informal writers group was perfect. I first published under my maiden name, and it has been a marriage, going public with my gender, and a name change since. It honestly, cliché aside, feels like forever.

What is your favorite work? Tell me a little about it.

A little over a decade ago I lost my sister. I wrote a story about it. Then I revised it for a few years, shifting it from personal narrative to mythic retelling of tragedy and forgiveness. You can find a version in Pole to Pole Publishing’s Re-Enchant collection. It is a story that still has sharp edges for me, and I don’t reread it often. But of my work, it is the favorite.

What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned while writing?

It took me ages, but I have finally learned that I do not need to tie my writing up into neat boxes. I can leave things unexplained. I don’t have to have a reason for how and why everything is. Some things just are. And they are allowed to be that way. I sometimes think that is a more important aspect of the ‘show don’t tell’ directive. Show how things are. Show what they are. I don’t have to tell why. That happy little rebellion against the sort of formal forms I studied while earning my MA of English has been great for letting me get nice and cozy with writing the weird and surreal that I love.

What was the inspiration for this book or story?

Once upon a time I found a tiny, starving, recently pregnant, little cat while on a walk in a local swamp. We immediately decided she was a witch, but we took her in anyway. I tried to write a bit of whimsy about it and it was terrible so I stuffed it in the ‘maybe later’ folder. About a year later a very good friend uttered the words ‘grieve and release’ while suffering a deep loss. Those words and the intent behind them hit me perfectly. That story came back to me, and I poked at it and ‘Grieve and Release’ was written. I am still trying to take the advice of my friend, when it comes to the content of that title. I think the characters in the story manage it a bit better.

What was the hardest, as well as the easiest, parts of writing this book or story?

My notes, having been from a previous bit of writing, were a mess. My tenses were all over the place. I think I changed POV at least once. The messy backend of trying to work on something over a long period of time. But once I stuttered my way through re-creating the beginning, the rest was much easier. I knew what I wanted to do. I am always worried that it makes sense in my head, but not for anyone else, so there was also some extensive reading and commenting from an author friend that helped me smooth out the wrinkles.

Tell us one thing about your character that we don’t learn from the story, maybe a secret from their past or a hidden aspiration.

She never gave me her name. She never really let me know what she looks like. She is very present in the story. She has a colorful past that twists through and drives everything. And hopefully she will now have a colorful future. I didn’t even realize until I looked at this question that she was never named. I should name her.

Her name is Izzy.

What sorts of superstitions or odd writing habits do you have?

I have always had to fit my writing in around everything I have to do (job, school, farm), so I have had to learn to be able to write at the drop of a hat and take advantage of the bits of time I have. That said, I apparently like to find weird little nooks to write in. A hammock chair next to the pond. Up in the tree house. Middle of the woods. I like to be out away from all the things I get so easily distracted by. If I am really settled in for some writing it can be a bit of a pain to find me. If I have to write indoors (hello, NY winters), I must write to music. And I need coffee or tea on hand.

Do you believe in magic?

Of course. I am an inclusive heathen, and have been active in pagan communities for a couple decades at this point. Mine is an earthy magic. Land wights, the spirit of place, shifts of the seasons, toes in water, hands in the dirt. I keep a statue of Bragi near my main computer.

What’s the question you always secretly wish someone would ask, but they never do? And how would you answer?

People always ask why I would want to live out here in the middle of nowhere. I wish, for once, someone would ask why I would want to live anywhere else. My husband and I are particularly suited to living in the middle of nowhere with our land and our animals and our gardens. I like noticing the shape of the seasons. The way bird song changes between May and August. I love the sound of the wind and shape of the snow when we have nowhere to be but here by the fire. We joke that we have gone a bit feral. But really we are just content and happy with being out on the land here as opposed to doing the sorts of things people assume we want to be doing (movies, drinks, parties, dinners, shopping). It isn’t perfect. We miss a good dinner we didn’t have to cook that does not involve an hour of driving, and we definitely crave the ease of delivery. But not nearly enough to give up all of this for convenience.

What are you currently working on, and what’s coming out next?

I am always tinkering with short stories, and looking for anthologies to participate in. So chances are I will keep popping up in anthologies that way. I am hoping to get myself organized enough to get a collection of my work out within the next year or so.

The story that is currently demanding my attention is full of crows.

Where can people find you and your work?

I have a web presence at

I can be found on FB, and I have an author page on Amazon.

Should anyone be interested in natural soaps and such, I have a storefront and Facebook and Instagram page for Twigloo Farms.


Today’s interview is from Dayle A. Dermatis, who has both a collection of stories in the Story bundle, as well as a short story in the Cutter’s Final Cut: Witches anthology!

How long have you been writing?

Well…when I was in 3rd grade I wrote a story in which I invented GPS…although it included the element of being able to beam anywhere as well, because I was already a Star Trek geek. I started my first novel at age 12, received my first professional rejection slip at 16, and at 17 I submitted my first completed novel to NY publishers.

What is your favorite work? Tell me a little about it.

Of my own? Isn’t that like asking me which of my cats I love the most?

Probably the one that I’m currently working on…or the one that’s currently sitting in my lap.

What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned while writing?

How much my subconscious already knows about the story. I’ll just be typing along and suddenly something happens that even I didn’t expect.

That said, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received about writing is that if I knew everything that was going to happen, it wouldn’t be a surprise to readers either.

What was the inspiration for this book or story?

The bundle coordinator asked me for a collection of witch stories, and I had three stories in each of two serieses about witches.

What was the hardest, as well as the easiest, parts of writing this book or story?

I got a lot of positive feedback when I wrote the first “Desperate Housewitches” story, and for a while that made writing the second one difficult—was it as funny? Would it be as “good” as the first one? So I had to shut those voices down and just trust my subconscious again.

Tell us one thing about your character that we don’t learn from the story, maybe a secret from their past or a hidden aspiration.

Holly, in my Portland Hedgewitches series, has a prickly personality, but inside she has a soft spot for her beloved sister, Willow. And possibly other people.

What sorts of superstitions or odd writing habits do you have?

None that I can think of. I tend to write in an easy chair in a cozy, slope-roofed little room attached to my office, but in truth, I can write just about anywhere. I often get a lot done on planes.

Do you believe in magic?


What’s the question you always secretly wish someone would ask, but they never do? And how would you answer?

Hm… I’ve answered this from the perspective of my erotica-writing nom de plume, Andrea Dale, but I’ve never really considered it for other fiction. I suppose it would be, Would you like an historic cottage in Snowdonia, Wales, to which I would reply, Yes, please and thank you.

What are you currently working on, and what’s coming out next?

I’m currently finishing up Shaded, book 2 of my Nikki Ashburne series about a former Hollywood party girl who briefly dies and when she’s brought back, can see ghosts. (Also, she’s very snarky.) My plan after that is to dive right into book 3, Spectered. I’ve got a story forthcoming in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, I believe in the November/December 2022 issue. I also publish a story a month, available at all the major retailers.

Where can people find you and your work?

My work: (where you can sign up for my newsletter and receive free fiction). (where you can get my monthly story for a modest donation).


• Rambling around the Pacific Northwest or the Adirondacks in New York.

• At a Styx concert.


There are a few more coming out on the Knotted Road Press Facebook page, so mace sure to follow them! Have a great Sunday!

Sunday Surprise


If you step back and think about babies as books, you’ll see that in the modern era, books can have similar lives. They can develop slowly, and naturally, finding their own way and their own audience, often years after their birth. Or their parents can force them onto the world stage.

Sometimes the parents force the book-baby onto the world stage too early, and after that early flood of publicity, the book-baby returns to its natural growth level. Stage parents get worried about this, and many of them micromanage their book-baby, forcing it into earn its way too early and maybe, just maybe, warping it the way that kid actors get warped—unable to cope with real life unless they know that a built-in audience is already there.

Then there are the book-babies that are part of the cultural zeitgeist, like kids of famous people. These book-babies get their start from a completely different platform than other book-babies. Their parents might be already-famous authors, so there’s a built-in audience. Or their parents might be already-famous people who have ghost writers, and again, they have (or hope to have) a built-in audience.

Kris Rusch

If you nurture your book-baby and let it grow naturally, then you can tailor what you do with that book-baby to the book-baby itself. To where it fits in your oeuvre, where it fits in the culture, where it fits in your career plans.

Your books should be around for twenty or thirty years at minimum. Generally speaking, writers and writer/publishers don’t plan for that. Because we take our cues from traditional publishing, which deems a book a failure if it doesn’t take off within two months.

If you take the long view, let your book grow from a book-baby to a mature adult book with a long history (of licensing and readership and maybe related books), then you will have so many more opportunities for that book. You won’t give up on it, and you will be able to reclaim those two months of pre-launch and post-launch for writing the next book, which is what you should be doing—and what your readers want you to do.

Kris Rusch

Once writers accept that there is no right way to write books, no right way to promote books, and no right way to start word of mouth, the writer will be better off.

There is only…your way.

There’s no point in writing books about topics you hate just because they’re trendy.

If you don’t think in short series books, then don’t write them.

If you like a subgenre that is “out of style,” write it anyway, and maybe your books will be the books that “bring the genre” back. (Chances are it was never really gone—just dismissed by critics and tastemakers.)

Only write short stories? So be it. Figure out how to market them in collections. There are a lot of famous short story writers in the world. Collections and anthologies sell all the time; no reason why yours can’t.

Plus, short stories are great loss leaders for newsletters, places like Patreon, and, um, a weekly free fiction giveaway.

I think the way to write in the 21st century is to write what you love. Commit to it, enjoy it, and write from the heart.


Writing is a journey, particularly if you want a long career. You won’t be the same writer at the end of that career as you were in the beginning—not if you’re striving to grow and change and become better with each work.

The heart of the journey comes from being true to yourself. The best writing comes from who you are, not the originality of your plots or the lovely sentences you compose.

The sad part about it all, though, is that you’ll never recognize your own voice and your own originality. After all, you’ve lived with that voice and that perspective your entire life. It’s familiar to you.

But it’s not familiar to anyone else.

Be yourself, and trust in that.


It’s easier to follow a set of rules, but rules don’t guarantee success. They feel comforting, though. They make the writer feel like she’s doing something, even if that something isn’t working.

So, sadly, my advice in 2020 is no different than my advice was in 2015 or even 2010. Write what you love. Be yourself. Find your own voice. And be the best writer you can possibly be. Keep learning, keep growing, and most importantly, keep writing.

Stop trusting editors and gatekeepers (even the ones you pay) to tell you how to write. Write for yourself. Enjoy your work.

Kris Rusch

Storytelling got me through childhood and my teen years. Storytelling has been central to my life for decades now. Sometimes I think of storytelling as my business and I get very serious about it. But the very best days at my “job” are days when I sink into the story, when I lose myself behind the words, and find other lives, other ideas, and other worlds.

My world at the time of the writing doesn’t have to be a bad place, a place to escape from. It’s just nice to go somewhere different, and spend some time, even if—especially if—that difference is imagined.


We didn’t become writers because we wanted to be rich and famous. We didn’t become writers of stories and novels because that was the only choice available. There’s a million ways to tell stories—from YouTube to podcasting to stand-up comedy. We chose this one, probably because it’s a nice quiet way to imagine yourself elsewhere, to take yourself on an adventure.

After all, you can’t lead others on an adventure that you’re not enjoying. The lack of enjoyment shows in that instance, and readers bail out.

But if you love what you’re doing—even if it’s dark and challenging—readers will travel there with you. In the words of Heyman “not so much for bland happiness but for the jewel that is hope.”


Storytelling is an act of hope.

Kris Rusch

To be a successful artist today is to be comfortable with your own ubiquity, but to be an icon is to turn that ubiquity into something that breaks barriers. It’s to consistently pull off something uniquely your own. It’s to do what Beyoncé did at Glastonbury, on Lemonade, on Beyoncé, at Coachella. It’s to consistently raise the bar until it’s no longer surprising when you do.


What fans enjoy, no matter the genre or the art form, is something that gives them a new perspective as well as entertains them. In fiction, they want a voice that they haven’t heard before, along with that voice’s take on the various stories that we tell each other.

What good writers do is make familiar stories new, so new in fact that they seem breathtakingly original. Musicians use the same notes in different ways using different instruments and rhythms to create stunningly unexpected works. Visual artists use color and light and shadow in ways that suggest a perspective that no one else has seen before, or will see again.

The toughest thing we do as artists is trust our own vision. If we don’t, we will not end up with a long career. Even as I was writing in other people’s universes, I was still writing my own novels and short stories, taking that learning and applying it to what I did, not what others had envisioned.

The key word in that passage is learning. I’m still learning my craft, and I hope to until the day I die. Every artist who has had a decades-spanning career says the same thing. Santana’s mantra is “Reinvent yourself every day.”

You can’t reinvent yourself without moving forward, without fresh experiences and new ways of looking at the world.

Kris Rusch

Sunday Surprise

Find what works for you. Do it. Keep doing it until it’s natural.

If you find yourself stuck, ask if you’re doing what works for you. If not, why not? Did it stop working? Or did you just lose the habit?

If you lost the habit, pick it back up, and do what works for you.

In the past four days, I’ve dictated at least 12,000 words. I haven’t counted yesterday’s and today’s words yet, but I’m confident I hit 18,000 words, possibly 20,000 (some on another project, because that’s how authors take a break: we work on another book). Adding in the weekend before that, I’ve written probably 36,000 words in the past 11 days.

All because I stopped fretting and just got in the Aldrin Express and started driving and dictating. That’s what works for me.

That burst of productivity far outstripped anything I have written in months. The only time in recent memory that I’ve been productive like that was last September — when I jumped in the Aldrin Express, drove completely around Lake Michigan (1,000 miles), and dictated the last half of The Last Campaign.

That’s what works for me. So I’ll keep doing it.

Find what works for you. Do it. Keep doing it.

Martin L. Shoemaker

I’m often wont to say that plot is Soylent Green – it’s made of people. Meaning, people make decisions, and that’s what forms an overarching plot or story, not some external hero’s myth, not some skeletal framework of A to B to C. And that’s in narrative, yes, but it also translates to the real world. Science and history are both driven by people – their decisions, their choices, their observations and recordings.

Chuck Wendig

The main things to remember when asking yourself “How can I improve my writing skills?”

1. Remember, free writing advice comes from the heart.

2. But watch out for ignorant advice.

3. Beware of teachers who hold back vital information.

4. Even the greatest writers can be poor teachers.

5. When seeking wisdom, search widely. Test the advice.

– David Farland

Tonight I read a story by an author. A really old idea, one I had seen a hundred times and rejected almost a hundred times. But the difference?

I had not seen this story, this idea done by this author before.

Understand that simple statement?

I had seen the plot, a very old plot, and the setting, a very old setting, hundreds of times. Cliche didn’t begin to describe it, and normally I would have stopped reading when it became clear it was going to be the same as all the others because the writer was imitating and rewriting. But this writer allowed personality and voice, both author and character, to come through the story from the first moment. And what was old to me became new and wonderful.

Each of us is what makes a story unique.

It is the writer that creates a story that will sell. Not some genre or some sort of plot or some sort of secret marketing handshake. Nope, it is the writer, if the writer allows himself to be in the story with the character.

Dean Wesley Smith

If you think about things like questioning the premise of, let’s say for instance, ‘writers write.’ Some writers think and some writers need to think to write. If I’m forcing myself to write just because somebody said writers write and it felt very resonant to me or they believed it a lot, they had a lot of certainty about it and I never think to question like, ‘Does that actually work for me?’

Or, ‘You can’t edit a blank page,’ is another one. People edit blank pages in their head all the time. It’s just, for about 50% of people, we found editing a blank page does not actually help them be more productive. But for about 50% of writers, it does help you be more productive if you allow yourself to edit before you write.

So there’s so much of this advice that we hear for writers that we just accept without thinking about it because the person who is telling us is either very certain and worth sensing their emotions of certainty or they sound smart or they’re successful. We assume if they’re successful, we should listen to what they say.

And, again, it’s not to say no one should give advice. That’s definitely not what I’m saying. It’s to say, when it doesn’t work for you as an individual, don’t assume you’re at fault and you’re stupid or unmotivated. Assume that that advice is not for you because no advice is for everyone.

Becca Syme

Sunday Surprise

And I’ve said as much myself, that for me, plot is Soylent Green: it’s made of people. Characters do shit and say shit, and they do so in pursuit of solving problems, chasing desires, and escaping fears. As they do this, they create plot. It’s watching an ant colony forming — they’re making art, chewing those tunnels. Characters are doing that. But of course, lots of folks also write differently and consider plot considerations first, and then slot in characters who fit that plot, and that’s fine, too. It’s all fine. The only bad way to write is a way that stops you from writing and readers from reading it. That’s it.

Chuck Wendig

(…) what also doesn’t change is creating valuable intellectual property assets, which is, I think, how I’m framing it for 2020 in my goals is “I create intellectual property assets,” which goes beyond “I write books.” That’s how I’m really trying to think about it going forward, which again, it’s two parts of the brain, I know, the creative side, the business side, but they have to go together. And that’s how we’re going to do this for at least another decade.

Joanna Penn

What do you do if you don’t have an insider team? You find one. This is the age of the internet. You offer to read for others first, in your genre. Don’t make the mistake of taking anything you can get. And you read as a reader, not as a budding author trying to show off your chops. Would you keep reading or not? That is what you’re looking for. Keep reading, need to know what happens. That is the epitome of a minimum viable product. It makes no judgment of your grammar or spelling. That’s what editors are for, unless your writing takes the reader out of the story, then you need to do better before you float it past someone.

No one said being an author was easy, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable barrier either. There are story elements and basic writing skill that one can learn before moving forward to discover whether your book will sell before you’ve written it. And that is not science fiction.

That is how professional authors get the most from their time investment.

Craig Martelle

So if you’re having trouble pacing yourself, try switching gears. Perhaps you could start your day by writing a fifteen-minute “blast” where you get ideas on paper. Then time yourself and do some “stress-free” writing using the technique that Dan Wells does, then finish off for another hour to two working to use my precision-driver method.

That’s what I’m going to try this morning.

David Farland

Writing advice: Read and reread. Think of a story you have never read but wish you had; then write it as carefully as you can. Finish it, and send it around till it’s published.

Samuel R. Delany

Sunday Surprise

How do you make the paradigm shift from powerless writer to powerful owner of IP? The first shift has to happen in your own mind. Just because you haven’t yet licensed much of that IP doesn’t mean that the IP lacks value. The IP is waiting there for you to work with it, inside of publishing and out.

Seeing yourself and your work as valuable is tough for writers, particularly those who went through the “rigors” of an MFA, followed by all those years of begging traditional publishers to “buy” their work. All those experiences did was browbeat the writer into feeling unimportant and valueless—which couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’m a lot farther ahead on this road than most writers because I know business, and I’ve stood up for my writing for decades. I still ended up feeling battered and bruised because of the unhealthy relationships I had with some of my traditional publishers.

And if someone like me, who really didn’t want people to trample on my IP, could feel battered and bruised, I’m sure writers with no knowledge of business and no understanding of the legal sides of intellectual property, feel even more out of control and downtrodden.

When someone like that—like me, in some instance—is told they’re the one in control, they have a hard time believing it. But you can’t exercise control unless you know you have it.

Kris Rusch

Winning Edge and Finding Your Pace

Some books are like fine wine, and need time. They require a certain climate, fine weather, nurturing and an aging process. Michael Crichton, Larry McMurtry, Ken Follet, Amy Tan, etc. didn’t churn out books every two months and no one expected them to so.

Granted, some of the greatest works of literature were actually written VERY quickly (as I pointed out in my tongue-in-cheek post ‘Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish). Not all writers have the same pace. Not all stories require the same operational tempo.

Stephen King has written works that took eighteen months and others that took only a few days.

Publishing isn’t One-Size-Fits-All, or at least it shouldn’t be. But we are still enduring the birthing pains.

This said. With this drive for writers to push out content faster than a cartel meth lab, quality has taken a major hit. It’s also deluding a lot of people into believing they can take shortcuts.

That what we writers do is not an art, an artisan craft, a skill that requires YEARS and DECADES of training, learning, practice, classes, reading, and training to refine.

I believe we’ve gone far enough down this digital highway to come to a crossroad where we’ll need to choose.

When I began my journey years ago, the greatest hurdle I had was to get authors to understand we were in the entertainment business and that half of that word was business.

Now that has flipped.

We are still in the entertainment business, entertainment being half of that word. And I am actually excited about that, because I LOVE teaching craft.

Kristen Lamb

This next point is critical for authors to understand. In the new indie era, more millionaire authors have been created than in all prior publishing history. There will be even more in the future (woohoo) but your probability of becoming one has not changed (what?). Here is what I mean, and this has been validated by surveys I have done, author earnings I have received, as well as other sources.

The distribution of earnings has not changed, only the (n) population has changed.

The distribution (bell curve) is exactly the same as it used to be when it comes to the percentage (probability) of attaining a certain revenue level as an author. What has changed is the population that the distribution is applied to. The cold, hard facts are that 80% of authors will never make more than $10,000 in a lifetime from writing. Sixteen percent will make around $10,000 a year; everyone else making more is in that final four percent, including the millionaires.

Joe Solari

Continuous learning is critical for creatives and entrepreneurs. We need to keep filling the creative well, but also learn new skills and ideas and meet people outside our immediate niche. We cannot stay in the safety of the indie author echo chamber or we will find ourselves blindsided by changes to come.

– Joanna Penn

So don’t believe everything you hear. And if somebody tells you something about self-publishing, test it, try it for yourself. Because we’re all different. We all have different readerships. We’re at different stages in our career. And as we can see, things are constantly changing. So the only way to know whether something works or not for you is for you to give it a go and do everything in the spirit of “I’m trying this out. If it doesn’t work out, no worries I’ve learned.” So I take that learning into the next thing. Trying to get it right, trying to second guess the market, trying to do something that somebody else did. I see that not working all the time.

And understanding that we are in business. I think that’s the other core fundamental. It’s not the same to be in businesses as to have a career. They are two different choices in life. And if you’re running a business, up your business skills a little bit. I know a lot of authors have an aversion to business skills as a concept. The way they’re taught a lot is very dry and very boring. I get all that. I am that kind of person myself, but knowing the fundamentals of how business works, and what, you know what a good business person does.

Orna Ross

Sunday Surprise

That’s what the critical voice does. It makes writing hard, unpleasant, and something to be avoided, rather than embraced.

All of us who write face that. We just have different battles with our critical voices. Some writers battle the voice in the words on the page. Other writers battle the voice in the types of stories it’s okay to tell. And apparently, some, like me, battle the voice on expectation of production.

So I need to revamp. Again. As I seem to do annually with that pesky critical voice.

Since I had the realization so soon after the workshop, I thought I would share.

As is always true with any workshop I teach, I suspect I learn more than the students do. And I never know what I will learn.

Although I usually do learn something new about myself.

Kris Rusch

I’m still here. Which, in the digital age ,says A LOT.

Still HERE, in your corner. Here to give you tough love, more love, hard truths, more laughs and let you know that you matter. Your writing matters—regardless the reason you do it—so do yourself a huge favor and take time finding your WHY.

Then once you find it, always keep searching. The world needs more dreamers, more storytellers and more stories.

Kristen Lamb

That’s writing a novel into the dark. Buckle in and believe you will end back up in the station, breathing hard and laughing.

Yet so many writers have bought into the myth that writing is “work” and you must suffer for your art. And that you can’t make a mistake or have a wrong word and everything has got to be planned out ahead because, heaven-forbid, you write extra words.

And, of course, everything has to be rewritten, edited by someone who doesn’t write, rewritten again, and so on in search of a perfection that never can exist in the arts.

That’s torture and writers who write that way seldom last for more that a few books or a few years.

Sitting alone in a room and making shit up is fun. Plain and simple. Sometimes fun because of how well a story is going, sometimes rollercoaster fun of pure terror and worry and fear (and maybe even panic).

But fun.

So go have fun. Gets some words done. It’s Friday night and I have a movie to watch.

Dean Wesley Smith

Being a great writer takes a lifetime. There are hundreds of skills that all work in tandem, and then there’s the mental and emotional maturity earned from experience that makes your fiction resonant.

It’s very tempting to get to a point where you’re pretty good and just stop. You’ve found your comfort zone. You say to yourself, “I’m a good writer now, this is the kind of stuff I write, and it’s working. I’ve found my place and I’m going to stay in this lane for life.”

It’s such a relief. No more struggle. No more failure. Consistent success.

At least that’s how it seems.

In reality, your comfort zone as a writer is a path to stagnation, to atrophy, to becoming a plagiarist of yourself instead of a creative writer.

The temptation of the comfort zone is exacerbated by the publishing industry. Publishing is a business first and foremost, and the strategy is usually “this made us money, so do it again and again!”

Many successful authors fall into this repetition pit and spend the rest of their careers regurgitating their past successes ad nauseam. Authors need to make a living just like anyone else, and a comfortable life doing what you love is an admirable goal for a writer. Right?

I would posit that this is an unfulfilling life for a writer. A life of diminishing returns, and of slowly, steadily waning quality.

The only way to grow as a writer is to consistently step out of your comfort zone.


Writing is not something you do in your room alone. It’s not an excuse to hide from the world. Don’t let your home become your comfort zone. Get out and experience life or you won’t have anything interesting to write about.

Fail. Learn. Grow. Repeat.

It’s the only way to become the best writer you can be.

Dave Terruso

Sunday Surprise

The real key for time management with licensing is this:

Your primary job is writing. Your secondary job is to make sure the public sees your storytelling in one form or another. For most of us, that’s in book form.

After those two jobs, then you’ll need to learn licensing/negotiation because you will need those skills down the road, no matter what. I was a baby writer with a handful of stories out when a theater in LA approached me to license the rights to use one of my stories as a monologue. I had no idea what I was doing. But if I had known then what I know now…

And that’s the key. Make learning your third job, followed by some kind of schedule. You might have time to figure out how to license one teeny part of a property. So schedule that first. Then move to the next, and the next, and the next.

The key here is this:

You can’t do this all at once. None of us can. Nor can you do everything. Again, none of us can. But you can get started.

And you can stop being afraid of licensing. It’s part of your business. In fact, licensing is how your business reaches the public and earns money. So you need to learn how to leverage licensing in the way that is best for your business.

Manage your time using the formulas above along with the WIBBOW test. Keep track of what you do in some kind of spreadsheet/calendar/diary.

You’ll be surprised what you will have accomplished by this time next year.

Kris Rusch

Talent is so utterly subjective. How can we know if we actually have it? Recently, I was chatting with my cousin who’s an incredible artist.

She mentioned how, no matter how many compliments or how many sales, she can’t help but feel like an imposter.

I, of course, responded that authors suffer the same malaise. Imposter syndrome is alive and well, and it doesn’t matter how many books we write, the titles we earn or how many books we sell. For a lot of us? We still can’t help but feel like a fraud.

That we don’t actually have any talent. Oh, and that any moment someone might find out we’ve fooled the world and have no talent at all.

Kristen Lamb

Being a writer is not just about typing. It’s also about surviving the rollercoaster of the creative journey.

– Joanna Penn, The Successful Author Mindset

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 writer 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.

I think that there are some things that young writers can do to protect themselves from burnout.

First, don’t obsess about your writing. If you don’t give yourself time to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, the truth is that you run a risk of stifling yourself as an artist.

Take care of family and social problems when the fire is still small, and don’t wait for it to consume the house.

If you have creative differences with an editor and an artist, and that person is too immature to handle them gracefully, recognize that it might be time to terminate the relationship as gently as you can.

And if you do burn out, recognize that this, too, is just a phase that you’re going through.

David Farland

“My jump is not high enough, my twists are not perfect, I can’t place my leg behind my ear.” Please don’t do that. Sometimes there is such an obsession with the technique that this can kill your best impulses. Remember that communicating with a form of art means being vulnerable, being imperfect. And most of the time is much more interesting. Believe me.


Sunday Surprise

I’ve blogged at length about the differences between goals and dreams, but TLDR: goals are within your control, dreams are what you want but beyond your control.

While self-pubbing has allowed writers unprecedented control over how we publish and promote, there are still four things beyond our control that writers seems to get stuck on.


You should go to conventions and meet like-minded authors and have coffee-break/beer-rant conversations with them. If you find a kindred soul, you should trade manuscripts with them for critiques (they aren’t critics, they are fellow artists) and attempt co-writing a few times. It’s helpful, and fun, and a nice break from all of the lonely solitude of being a writer.

But it’s okay if you don’t make any lasting friendships, or co-write any stories, or trade manuscripts.

It’s even okay if your peers don’t like you.

Other writers aren’t necessary for you to succeed in this business, and their acceptance of you isn’t necessary for you to feel good about yourself and your career.

Friends in this biz are great, but don’t worry if you don’t have any.

Joe Konrath

After we choose a genre (or genre fusion like mystery-thriller, historical romance, dark fantasy, etc.) then we need to refine the experience another level. This helps us pitch to the right group of people.

How long is our work? How dense? What book(s) are most like ours? Do we specialize in long, heavily researched books with a lot of world-building (Michael Crichton) or are we prolific, focused on shorter works of fiction that cater to those who inhale pulp novels (Louis L’Amour)?

Or are we somewhere in between? Maybe we do both?

Crichton didn’t compete with L’Amour. They had vastly different audiences with diametrically opposite expectations.

***No one expected Crichton to release multiple books a year. Conversely, L’Amour wouldn’t have become a legend if he’d only released a book every eighteen months.

Kristen Lamb

I also know that being scared is part of owning a business. There’s no guarantee of success. No guarantee of continued success. No guarantee that if you do A,B, and C, you’ll be as rich as Nora Roberts or as famous as Stephen King. So what?

Be your own writer. Be your own business owner. Be someone who tries, and eventually you will succeed.

Stop making excuses.

The only path to success is a path of risk-taking and failure. Instead of fearing that failure, learn from it. Try again. Try smarter. Eventually those risks will pay off. That failure will help you carve the path you need to walk. Failure will teach you how to be better and stronger, and prepare you for the difficulties of success.

Because there are a lot of difficult elements to success, things you can’t plan for until you’re there.

Most of you won’t get there, if your comments to me are any indication. Because you’re all searching for reasons not to try.

Kris Rusch

Whatever the case, with this book and with Wanderers, it has been proven resoundingly that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m actually quite happy about that. It makes each book its own peculiar journey, and it also releases me from a certain kind of pressure. If I enter every book feeling like I need to have everything locked down, if it needs to be a well-trod path, it’ll be frustrating. There’s a level of performance anxiety there. But if every book is a portal into a whole new place with all new rules, I can be forgiven for having to stumble around blindly for a while.

(It’s amazing the things to do inside our minds to make this process feel better, to absolve ourselves of certain stresses and sins. We do what we must because we can, as GlaDOS said. Also, but there’s no sense crying over every mistake, you just keep on trying till you run out of cake.)

Chuck Wendig

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

– Stephen King

Life is an unending stream of extenuating circumstances.

– Clayton M. Christensen

Sunday Surprise

If you want to be a writer, then the first thing you need to do is define yourself as a writer. Then you give it your best effort.

When you write a manuscript, you have to think of it as an investment. You create an “intellectual property,” one that may or may not sell.

Sometimes the property doesn’t sell for years. It just sits like an empty building lot, ready to go.


So when you invest your time in writing a novel, you don’t know how or when it might pay off. I had a friend once who wrote six books and began sending them out. She felt that she was at the end of her rope when she suddenly got offers from three different publishers in two days. Another author I knew tried publishing for several years, but gave up because she wasn’t making any money. Two years after she quit writing, her novels went huge and she made millions.

In short, it can be a crazy business. If you believe in yourself and you keep on pushing, then you’re a real writer, regardless of whether you’ve ever made a nickel at your job. You shouldn’t let anyone try to tell you different.

– David Farland


No one can predict what will sell. If they could, every book would be a hit.

Everyone can tell you why a book sold well after it has already sold well, pointing to various things that were done that they claim led to the book’s success. They are full of shit.

NOTHING guarantees success.

Not quality.

Not past success.

Not a big advertising budget.

Not a big marketing budget.

Not publicity.

Not social media.

Not any sort of plan that you read anywhere.

You can write the Best Book Ever, do Everything right, spend a Fortune, and not even come close to making any sort of money.

Joe Konrath

For the past ten years, I’ve been saying that the changes in publishing have given writers a real shot at doing what they want to do. We can write what we want, publish what we want, and make more money at it than we can in traditional publishing.

But, with those changes has come yet another upheaval on the ways we measure success. And I use the word measure on purpose.

I’ll wager that, if you ask Adam Levine, he’ll tell you that Twitter saves and overnight live votes, stirred up by social media accounts, aren’t the way to measure what makes music successful. I don’t know what he considers as successful. I just know how frustrated he got with the way that someone tinkered with The Voice. It wasn’t what he had signed up for, so he left.

Clearly it’s not about money for him either, or he wouldn’t have left $30 million on the table. He would have (grumpily) stuck it out until the end of the new contract.

But television, like music, like publishing, is trying to find a new metric, one that everyone will agree measures the audience in a way that we all believe is accurate. The key word in that sentence, by the way, is believe since we never had accurate measures in the past.

As artists, we can continue our search for a new metric or we can just tell our stories and put them out there, letting them build organically, and finding the audience in their own sweet time.

Eventually I’ll read all the books on my TBR pile. I have some books by new-to-me writers there. If I like those books, I’ll buy more from the same author. But it might take me two or three years after I bought the first book to do so. And by then, no metric will be able to track that first sale as something that led to the latter ones.

Maybe we should stop trying to find the perfect way to measure, and focus on our writing. After all, that’s what we love. That’s why we got into this business. And, I assume, that’s what we all do best.

Kris Rusch

Agents have never done marketing, even before digital. And actually people are reading more now than ever. Paper sales are increasing. As the data is coming in that screen time should be limited with adults and PARTICULARLY children, we are seeing a LOT more parents who are going for good old-fashioned paper books. This is why the remnant indies are coming back strong.

Yes, we need to do the hard work. WRITE. Write good books and lots of them. But marketing and advertising hasn’t been effective since the 90s. Brand and platform are totally different creatures and ones we—the artists—can control and grow.

And if mankind and readers are evolving, then I think it’s fair to say writers should evolve, too. This isn’t 1955 where we can use a typewriter and write a book every year and a half and make money to live off of while we do book tours. Might as well get in the horse and buggy business.

If a writer wants to write for pleasure? Sure. Go for it. Don’t change or evolve. Want to make a living? Then there is a LOT we need to do well and a TON of new niches that are paying very well.

Kristen Lamb

Be as true to yourself as possible. Create the work you want to create! People will try to get you to water down your style, be more like someone else. Politely say no. If a client wants you to be something else, they are not your client. You are where you are right now because of who you are. Do not change that. Listen to others, but ultimately, follow your own instincts. Be kind. Be humble. Don’t hold grudges; we are all flawed human beings trying to make our way through this crazy world. Stay laser-focused and follow your dreams. Do not let anyone create your life for you. You hold the power. Take ownership and get out there and do it!

Clinton Lofthouse

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