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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What I Learned in School

Today, M. J. Lovgren is back to give us another post. (If you recall, she wrote about accidental short stories back in March.) Take it away, M. J...


The great thing about Catholic school is that the survivors always recognize each other. You can be at a party or talking with someone at Starbucks or chatting in an elevator; and they’ll say, “I went to Saint Ignatius or Holy Apostles or Sacred Heart grammar school. It doesn’t matter where those schools were, you recognize each other. “Omigod, you say,” I went to Saint Catherine’s Academy in Podunk, Iowa.” The other person’s school was in Manhattan.

Doesn’t matter. It’s all the same, particularly if you’re of a certain age where there were no lay teachers and the nuns reigned supreme. Pretty soon you’re sharing stories of crowded classrooms, weekday Masses, singing Gregorian chants from phonetic lyrics on the blackboard. This works particularly well if you grew up on the Latin Mass.

St. Ambrose Elementary school is where I learned to write. The best thing about these old parish schools was their emphasis on the arts. We sang, we drew, we wrote. We learned grammar and spelling. We learned how to write essays. But most importantly, we learned something called “creative writing”. And we learned not to be afraid of a blank page.

To this day, I don’t outline, whether I’m writing an article, a blog, a short story, or even a novel. I just do what I learned to do at St. Ambrose. I think a little about what I’m going to write, and then I jot down some quick notes that will be my road map – a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even in my tender single-digit years I was learning classic story structure.

Anyone who’s ever taken a writing class or read a book on how to write knows about the shitty first draft. I learned this in grade school. The important thing is to get it down. Then you can go back and correct it, polish it, dress it up in its best clothes. I still do this. I’ve learned you can’t rush the process. Things will change as you go back over what you’ve written. They’re supposed to. No one wants to read your shitty first draft.

Take your time – even if you’re on deadline. It will come to you. It will happen. But you have to keep at it. For me, rewrite takes about three times what I spent writing the first draft. The third edit is the slowest. That’s where I haul out the Thesaurus, look for the right word, finalize the structure – you get the idea. It’s like polishing the silverware. I want to get rid of the last bit of tarnish and let its essence shine.

I also learned something important in my freshman year in college. I was lucky enough to go to Pomona College, one of the Claremont Colleges. In 1888, it set down in what is euphemistically called the Inland Empire in Southern California. Pomona College looks like New England stuck on the opposite coast. I applied there because I liked the ivy-covered buildings. True story.

I loved the English classes. They were unlike anything I’d previously encountered. The first semester was devoted to Anthropology – don’t ask me why. Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture was quite the eye-opener to a Catholic school girl. But it was the second semester that focused on writing. We were used to fooling our high school teachers with vacuity disguised by padding. I think they must have graded us by the pound. Our professor was having none of this.

Our first assignment was to read and report on Faulkner’s short/long story, “The Bear”. We gave it our all, and I’m sure none of us understood it. I still don’t. But senseless prattle didn’t cut it in this classroom. We reeled under a torrent of “D”s and “F”s. Class discussion centered on our outrage.

“What did you mean by this?” our professor asked, his voice dripping with displeasure as he’d read passages from several papers. The hapless authors always gave answers as inane as their papers. Most common was, “I know what I mean, but I can’t explain it.”

“If you can’t explain it, you don’t know what it means,” he roared back. This man was obviously not going to be fooled by the weight of our papers. What to do? We decided we had to learn to write differently. That was a long time ago, but it’s yesterday in my mind. It’s important to be precise. To understand everything you put on paper, to know why it’s there, and communicate it clearly.

 Whenever I find I’ve written a bunch of pretty words that are actually obfuscation, I will ask myself:  “What does this really mean?” If I can’t answer that, I probably have to throw this out.

So what did I learn from these two classroom experiences? Think about what you want to write. Have a plan, but keep it simple. Just get it down, you’ll have to rewrite.

You learn the most from people who challenge you.

Above all, when you write, be sure you know what it means.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Three Authors - There Be Fantasy Here

Three of my favorite authors have books coming out this spring. Patricia Briggs, Margaret Weis, and Robin Hobbs are contributing to my bottomless desire for new reading.
Margaret Weis. Like other people seek oxygen, I inhaled the books of team Tracy Hickman/Margaret Weis in earlier times. I could never get enough. By the time Ms. Weis released the Star of the Guardian series, I thought I knew what I was getting. Boy Howdy was I wrong. The level of writing, the intrigue, the political morass; it was an amazing set of books, one of the kind of tales that I want to read again and again just to see if I missed something.
Enter Spymaster.
Released March 21st, this tome is sitting in an UPS truck and making its way to my home even as I type these words.



Patricia Briggs. Already at my side and consumed is Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs. Her continuation of the Mercy Thompson series came out March 7th. I was introduced to Ms. Briggs’ books via a wonderful employee at Barnes and Noble. It was the third book, Iron Kissed, but I was hooked even though I usually don't start a book series in the middle.

Her Alpha and Omega series branches off in another direction without losing the rich history of the shifters and werewolves. My personal favorite is Bran, the Marrok or leader of the werewolves. I sincerely want much more of him.

Silence Fallen


Robin Hobbs. Thanks to the advice of my good friend Marcy, I started a new series The Farseer Trilogy a couple years ago. Little did I know the journey I was about to take.
Fitz

Fitz and Fool evoke such emotions. Scenes about Nighteyes are wonderful, difficult, thought-provoking, and a dozen other emotions. Fifteen books later, my enthrallment has not waned.

May 9th, the release of the last of the Fitz and Fool trilogy is due, Assassin's Fate. The cliffhanger at the end of Fool's Quest was a killer, btw.

Assassin's Fate

If you like the urban fantasy/fantasy genre and haven't tried these, give them a go. It'll keep you in reading material for a long time.


Depending on how fast you read :D




Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Accidental Short Story

A topic that's come up in my writing group is blogging. (Apparently I'm the resident "expert".) I invited one of the members, M.J. Lovgren, to try her hand at writing a blog post. Let us know what you think... 



I saw myself as a novelist, and pooh-poohed short fiction – even though I loved reading it. Then I started writing short stories by accident. Here are some of the things I learned.

Making things shorter can be difficult. As Henry David Thoreau observed, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

A novel, by its very nature, allows the writer more time and more room. Short stories have to entice the reader and make a point within the same rules – a beginning (inciting incident), a middle (main story), and an end (climax and denouement). They just have to do it faster.

Even the definition of what is “short” can vary.  It can be as concise as flash fiction or almost as long as a novella. I’d put Alice Munro in the second category. (And she won the Nobel Prize for short stories.) Yet, one of my favorites is “Dinosaur,” a lovely 300 word tale published by Flash Fiction Online and The Sun.

Here’s the accident part.

I didn’t start out to write a short story. I simply wanted to take a little side trip to discover more about my novel’s antagonist. A nasty piece of work, William was (and is) a middle-aged sociopathic killer. I just couldn’t grasp what made him tick, even though I had done plenty of research. It is generally thought that sociopaths (aka psychopaths) are born not made.

So I tried writing about him as a pre-teen. His anger and frustration with his next door neighbor, Mary Ellen, came pouring out of the computer. The short story is set in the same place and time I experienced as an eleven-year-old tomboy. But this time it’s William and Mary Ellen climbing the trees in the vacant lot behind my house. What happens next told me how William viewed the world and what motivated his actions.

This is one way to develop a back story and biography for a main character – something we are continually advised to do. Approaching this in the usual way, i.e. answering standard questions about the character, didn’t work for me. I found it tedious and boring. But turning this exercise into a short story made me immediately understand this character who had been so elusive.

So, if you find you’re stuck trying to make a character come alive, and the conventional methods don’t work, try writing a short story about him or her. You might like it!

Posted by M.J. Lovgren

...And for what it's worth, I've read a good portion of this novel, and William is... scary...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Time & Circumstance by Theresa Milstein

Today we welcome Theresa Milstein to the blog for the release of her new book, Time & Circumstance. She's been kind enough to give us a "what if?", and scroll to the bottom to enter her contest. 

What if you could control time? What would I do?

If I wanted to control time for my own gains, I could buy stock in Apple when it was low or something like that to make me rich. Then I could write full time, have a cool place to live in the city, and a nice house on the beach.

Or if I wanted to control time so I had more time, I could slow it down and finish all the to-do items on my list. My stress level would go down. Weekends could be mine again!

If I could control time, I would love to relive special moments. One example is the trip my family took to Paris many years ago. We each picked on thing that we wanted to do. My daughter chose the Eiffel Tower. Her face lit up when we rounded a corner and it first appeared before her. I took a photo to capture it. My son chose the Arc de Triomphe. I enjoyed watching him stare at all the details up close. The last night we ate at a restaurant that served all of our favorite foods. I would love to relive that trip again.

Many poems in my collection are about recollecting a poignant period of time in my life: “1986,” “First Apartment,” “Un-Perfect Moment,” “Measure,” “Concert,” and “Summer Song.” For me, writing vignettes help me capture those all-too-fleeting moments.


“The trunk of this family is lost to history / Photo fragments remain as shadows”

With subtle wit, and poignant imagery, the unrelenting passage of time connects the vignettes in Theresa Milstein’s Time and Circumstance. This reflective collection of real and imagined poetry and prose, speculates on an erratic childhood, the uncertainty of adolescence, and the reality of parenthood, through flashbacks of love lost and found.

“This everyday, why again, sometimes / ignored tune has measured time in notes, / seconds, minutes, days, years, and so it goes. / It’s a measure of the man he will become.”

TIME & CIRCUMSTANCE is available.







About the author:

Theresa Milstein writes middle grade and YA, but poetry is her secret passion. Her vignette collection, TIME & CIRCUMSTANCE, will be published by Vine Leaves Press in March 21, 2017. She lives near Boston Massachusetts with her husband, two children, a dog-like cat, and a cat-like dog. For her day job, she works as a special education teacher in a public school, which gives her ample opportunity to observe teens and tweens in their natural habitat.


Leave a comment, and you’re eligible to win a prize during my blog tour! 

1 $25 Amazon gift card
1 signed paperback copy
1 ebook

Answer the question:
“If you could relive any moment in time, what would it be?”


Extra entries if you share on Facebook or Twitter and link it to me.
@TheresaMilstein on Twitter.
@Theresa Milstein on Facebook
#ReliveMoment or #TimeandCircumstance

Winners will be announced on April 5, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fantasy Novel Match


So, um, ahem... It's been a while. I meant to post something this week about something, but stress got in the way. Long story, that.

But, when I want to zone out, sometimes I find quizzes to play online. Test my knowledge and all that. So, that's what I'm going to leave you with today. A quiz.

Fantasy Novel Match


It's timed. You only get so many chances. But you'll probably do better than my dismal 60%. Feel free to brag in the comments.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Let's Write a Story


I totally meant to write something this week. And life kind of got in the way. That's kind of how my writing's been going lately, too.

So, let's jump start our writing. You know the game. I start us off with a sentence. In the comments, you continue the story. You may write as much or as little as you like, just so long as you continue the story where it left off with the last commenter.

The doorway shimmered in the fading light until it almost disappeared...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Small Press: How Solvent?

After an agent accepts our manuscript, euphoria erupts. We turn virtual handsprings and tell everyone the good news.

Your words. Your manuscript. You dream of the New York Times Bestseller list, fame, money, news conferences. But, not so fast.

The agent who you worshipped, the one who offered you a contract, just quit her job at the literary agency. And the agency isn’t interested in your baby. So, you begin again to find representation.

Or let’s say you submitted to a small press. They accept and seem to adore your writing. You sign a contract and you are back in business.

Then, the unthinkable happens and the publisher declares bankruptcy and all your efforts are for naught.

So, what are some of the reasons?

My publisher, Musa, was amazing. To all their authors and
employees, Musa seemed solvent. I received my checks on time and they answered emails promptly. Sadly, I didn’t appreciate how fantastic they were until after they shut their doors two years ago.

The publisher seemed to be going strong. They’d hired more staff, publicists, editors, and creative talent. E-books were offered rather than print. An E-zine was popular. And yet, they couldn’t do it. Maybe they tried to expand too much, an overload of authors. Don’t know. Bottom line, it didn’t work out.

But they did right by us. They promptly return our rights and we received our last checks, every penny.

Example of another, less scrupulous publisher is All Romance e-Books, ARe. They gave their authors three days notice and generously offered ten cents on the dollar for the last quarter.

They came to the decision to keep ninety percent for themselves, you see, so they can avoid bankruptcy. Not that they weren’t raking in the cash. They just decided to keep it.

All the time, they were offering gift cards before Christmas and asking authors if they wanted to advertise on their site. I received a request about the middle of December for an advert spot. Imagine my displeasure if I’d taken them up on it.

They knew they were having trouble but chose to slither along. 

Romance Writers of America, RWA, released a statement that read in part:
RWA finds it unconscionable for the owner of ARe to withhold information so long and to continue selling books through the end of the month when the company cannot pay commissions. RWA contacted ARe but has not yet received a response.
As a last kick in the pants, ARe email to authors stated:
“...published authors are offered rights reversion on condition that they consider this "a negotiated settlement of your account to be 'paid in full'...”
Ain’t that special? Holding the authors' rights hostage?

How do you know if your publisher is running out on you? Given the above examples, the good and the horrible, I'm not sure an author can. Some good links I have posted below might help but in the end, I think we take our chances. 

I'm sticking with self-publishing. Maybe I'm not making a ton of money but it's enough to pay the groceries. I'll be the first to know if my publisher—ME—decides to go out of business. 








Monday, January 2, 2017

Dear Unicorn Bell



Dear Unicorn Bell,

Two years ago, Kristin Smith asked me if I’d like to join Unicorn Bell. Huntress and the other moderators welcomed me with open arms. The fact that you all saw something in what I was doing on my blog, and you invited me to join you here, thrilled me. Thanks, ladies!

And thank you to all Unicorn Bell readers for embracing me and my Dear Writer posts. Your comments, shares, and support were amazing, I was honored to be able to share writing advice and writerly motivation. I truly hope I helped and inspired you.

Today is a new year, though. I am sorry to say that I will be stepping down from being a Unicorn Bell moderator to make room for other responsibilities. I’m going to continue blogging at Write with Fey, but even there I’ll be blogging a little less. This will allow me to focus on writing, freelance editing, and being an administrator for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (my big job with them is the monthly newsletter).

Before I go, let’s take a walk down memory lane. Here are all of my Dear Writer posts published on Unicorn Bell:

  
Writing Advice:

Writing Life:

Writing/Publishing:

Marketing:

Editing/Critiquing:

Goals:

Inspiration:


Thank you again for making my time at Unicorn Bell special.

I’ve cherished your friendship, and I look forward to continuing it. You can sign up for my free monthly newsletter for updates as well as giveaways. (I’m doing a 12-Month Book Giveaway throughout 2017!)

I’ll see you around the blogosphere. :)


XOXO,

Chrys Fey







Author of Hurricane Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.



Friday, December 23, 2016

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Being A Writer






Sorry for the delay of today's post. I waited for my new charger/adapter because it's burdensome to write, format and upload blog posts on my phone. Alas, it came but it was the wrong one. So here I am, working on this post on my phone and no other computer at my disposal as I've started my winter vacation from work.

So here goes...this writing journey we're on isn't always easy. But it's it'd be nice to know a few things before that first step to one day being a published author.


Chrys

I wish someone had told me just how hard it is to be a writer. Being a writer isn’t simply the act of writing a book but rewriting it, revising it, and editing it again and again until you either hate it or it’s as “perfect” as you can get it. Then, if you want to publish, there’s the all-new ball game of querying, rejections, rejections, and more rejections. After that comes the hard work that follows a contract; getting the book ready for publication, which could take a year.

What. You don’t think I’m done, do you? I’m just getting started. What comes next is the hardest part of all. Once you have a book/eBook published, it’s time to market: find readers and get reviews. Unlike the previous steps, these two tasks never end. And sometimes, they only get harder. There’s no one right way to do it. All a writer can do is everything in his/her power.

So, no, it’s not easy being a writer, but those who are passionate will grit their teeth through it and keep on keeping on. Or…keep on writing on.


Marcy

I wish: someone had told me to get involved with other writers, told me that revisions are absolutely necessary (yup, didn't know that when I started, thought a novel should just come out perfect the first time, lol), and that practice eventually makes pretty good :)


CD Coffelt

Things I wish someone had told me... Biggest on my list is how much rejection hurts and how hard it is to overcome. The iron skin comes with time but after publishing, prepare yourself for snarky reviews.

Angi

The first thing I wish I’d been told about being a writer is about how lonely it can be. While I’ve been blessed with a wonderful support system for writing, not everyone has that luxury, and it can make it terribly hard and lonely for them. Even writers with great support systems are bound to run into someone, even within their support system, who isn’t interested in hearing about the latest plight their characters have become mired in. Or that isn’t interested in hearing about all the interesting facts they discovered about the process of rigor mortis, or about life in Ireland in the 1600s while they were researching their latest manuscript. Sometimes they’ll get to share these facts with someone, but other times, they’re going to be stuck with keeping that information inside their own heads. It’s also lonely because often non-writers don’t understand how frustrating the process can be. They don’t understand that you don’t know how long it’s going to take to write it, or how long the book is going to be. They also don’t understand how much research has to go into making certain things accurate. They don’t get the desolation of writer’s block. This is one reason why having a great support group is so important, even if the author has to find an online writer’s community to rejoice with them when the writing’s going well, and to commiserate with them when it’s not.


Other things I’d wish I’d been told was how much research you have to do. Well, that’s as long as you don’t want to get angry letters from some attorney telling you that your attorney character would have never handled a case the way he or she did, not unless they were trying to get disbarred. Or have some nurse tell you that your nurse wouldn’t have conducted the procedure you had them conduct because they didn’t have the authority to do so, even if they possessed the knowledge to. Or have a forensic expert tell you that there was no way your police officers would have received the DNA results in the timeframe they did, even if the lab wasn’t backed up. Or have some history professor tell you that there was absolutely no way your heroine would have been allowed to do something or own something you claim she did or owned, due to the laws of the time period you set your story in. Or that an article of clothing your character was wearing wouldn’t have been possible because your story was set a good decade or more before that particular article of clothing existed, or that it was called something different at that time and that the name you used for it didn’t exist until fifty years after your story was set. Then you have the joy of deciding how much of your research information to include to be accurate without creating an unnecessary infodump. I’ve had to research the resulting damage from a meteorite impact; proper police procedure when someone finds a body; the procedure for a heart transplant; laws of inheritance (and I STILL don’t have that one 100% clear!); the rate of decomposition of the human body under certain conditions; and what type of impact would be required to break both femurs at the same time. (Did you know that the femur is the hardest bone in the human body, and that it takes roughly 1700 PSI to break it? And that’s an average, since other factors can be involved, such as the angle of the impact, the person’s health and age, etc.)Ah, and number three is a hard one. Dealing with rejection. It stings at the least, rips a hole in you at the worst. There’s no quick and easy cure for it, either. You just have to develop thick skin. But rejection is one of the hardest ones to deal with. Most writers start out because they start writing and they generally get good responses. That opens the possibility to them that hey, maybe they actually have the talent to get published. But then they start sending their babies out into the world and they find that no one else wants them. So then they start second-guessing their capability. Maybe they don’t have the talent everyone led them to believe they have. New writers especially need to find the company of other, more experienced writers. Most more experienced writers are going to tell you what’s wrong with the story, but you need to be prepared to hear the truth, since some writers are more gentle in their criticism and others are less so. I’ve even seen some who are pretty brutal in pointing out the problems with another’s work. Rejection stings. I don’t care if it’s your first time or your 2,001st time. It stings. You just have to realize it’s not personal. Maybe that particular agent had already waded through 50 other horrible zombie apocalypse novel submissions before reaching yours and their eyes were crossing. Maybe they had just signed their third vampire romance and knew their house wouldn’t stand for just one more, even though they loved yours. Maybe they were having a bad day and you misspelled their name. Maybe they knew the market was already glutted with motorcycle-riding PIs. Or maybe you didn’t pay attention to their guidelines and you missed the fact that they just aren’t interested in star-crossed lovers who commit suicide at the end. But you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. And sometimes it hurts to realize that this particular manuscript should just be retired and stuck in a drawer for a while. Maybe you could dust if off after you’ve had several bestsellers. Or maybe you’ll pull it out with that intention, only to discover it actually was pretty terrible and you can justifiably burn it.And I also wish someone had told me about the investment of time. You have to make time to write. It’s not going to come just naturally built into your day. You have to make a conscious decision to write, and then you have to do it, no matter what. You have to set a schedule for yourself and you have to stick to it. Will you take a day off? Will you work short periods seven days a week? That’s up to you, but you have to set it and stick to it. If you sit around thinking that you’ll write when you have time tomorrow, you’ll find that tomorrow comes and you don’t have any time to write. And then you’ll think you’ll write the next day, and then next, and the…well, you get the point.There are other things I wish I’d been told, but this is probably too long as it is. In spite of the things I wish I had been told, I wouldn’t change any of it for anything. Because one thing I knew without having to be told was how wonderful you feel when you finish a manuscript, the sense of accomplishment that fills you. And sometimes that makes all the hard stuff worth it.


Me

What I wish someone told me about writing?

Like how the bible wasn't faxed straight from heaven, all those books on the bookstore shelves didn't appear out of nowhere. You can think that you can write a book or write better than a particular author(s). But you're not just writing a book. You're doing so much more. You're giving yourself with every word, edit, revision, beta testing, querying, rejection and doubt, rewrite, etc. again and again again. You might have a better chance at getting hit by lightning than making a living writing. Even with all or lack thereof the marketing and publishing at your disposal once you do get a deal, there's no guarantee you'll be a successful or bestselling writer. Yet you can't help but to write anyways. Because you're a writer.


What do you wish someone told you before you started writing?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Best Gifts You Should Give a Writer




It's part two of this week's special roundup with the UB bloggers. And with Christmas days away of course today's post is about gifts. And in particular, gifts you'd like to receive, as a writer.

Chrys

Well, I wish I could get an agent for the book I’m shopping around, but that’s not something anyone could give me. Although, it is my biggest Christmas wish.

A few good gifts for writers are a couple of ink cartridges, a portable keyboard, a lifetime subscription for Microsoft Office Home and Student, a bookcase, and Scrabble. But the best gift of all would be purchasing one of their books (if they’re published), reading it, and posting a review on Amazon and Goodreads. This gift is priceless.

Marcy

Gifts: Definitely buy an author's books (and tweet about them!), a good pen (I like the Micron 005, which is probably too fine for many but I draw, too, and it is so smooth AND it's archival), maybe a wireless mouse (those pesky wires), Roget's Thesaurus (if they don't already have it), or any one of the following: Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale, and a foreign language dictionary (very helpful if you write fantasy, imo), an adult coloring book with some good colored pencils, and hand lotion (the good stuff you get at the nice shops that smells divine).

CD Coffelt

Gifts for Writers. Easy-Peasy. Notebooks, pens. How about an external drive to backup your precious manuscripts? An Amazon Prime membership. Or a gift card to Dreamtime or IStockphotos.


Angi


There are several things that I feel would be the best gifts for a writer. First, there are the obvious big-ticket items. A new laptop or computer; writing or editing software; enrollment in one of the proven writing workshops, like Clarion; an external drive for storing previous works and the current WIP; a new printer; or ink and paper for the new printer or for their current printer.

Yeah, those are all dream items, but not everyone has the finances for those types of purchases. So for those whose funds are a bit more limited, there are always other options. Notebooks; pens and/or pencils; writing books like Writer’s Market, On Writing Horror for your Horror writers and other genre specific books for writers of other genres, as well as police procedurals for writers who might write mysteries. On second thought, police procedurals are great for any writer to have, simply because police procedure might pop up in other genres as well. There might be a murder in a romance, or someone might be arrested in a horror manuscript, and that author needs to know just enough about police procedure to know if their scenes involving the police are accurate. Medical references are also good, so the author will know if the injuries they described from a car accident are in keeping with the description of the accident. They also need to know if any activities they described the character doing after the accident would be possible with the described injuries. Other books would include Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, and On Writing. On Writing doesn’t take you through proper grammar and sentence structure, but there’s some sound advice in it, along with a good dose of humor as you read about the early life of Stephen King. And we can always use some comic relief in life, right?

Other great ideas are gift cards for Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or other bookstores. Those are great because if you’re not sure what types of books the writer wants or needs, they can decide for themselves. They might even choose to pick a book for reading pleasure, and I agree with Stephen King’s assertion that writers should both write a lot and read a lot. Filing cabinets can also be a good idea for the author, depending on the individual writer’s needs.

And don’t forget the nice little gifts that will allow the writer to pamper herself or himself! A favorite perfume or cologne; a day of R&R; or something else that you know is near and dear to the writer’s heart.

Hope this gave you some interesting ideas for the writer in your life!

Me

Books. Books, books, books. Did I already say books? Everyone knows I'm a book lover but for the life of me, only once did I receive a book as a gift. And that was when I was a little girl and the director of the daycare I went to, who noticed I loved to read, gifted me Fudge-A-Mania. Loved that book so much that it became in tatters. Unfortunately, I don't have that book anymore because it was thrown out one day by my mom/aunt during a move. Hint, most writers like to read. So even if you don't know which book to get, they pretty much make it easy for you. Just check out the writer's Goodreads library shelf. And whatever they haven't read yet and what they want to read, you get. Another good gift to give a writer are pens. Yes, pens. And I'm talking about the nice ones that seems to siphon the words from you like flowing water. Also, giving a good review. There's no greater gift than that too. You can also give extra adapters (especially in my case), USB drives or a tablet with keyboard works too.


What other gifts you'd like to add to give to a writer?








Monday, December 19, 2016

Social Media Hashtags Writers Should Follow and Why





More than a few blogs posts ago I did a post about Twitter hashtags on my blog. About which ones a writer should follow and why. Then I had a crazy idea, well maybe not crazy. More like cool. What if I had everyone on Unicorn Bell pool their knowledge. And share their nuggets of information on the same subject. But this time on a broader scale.

So that’s what we’re doing today and for the rest of the week. We’re doing a writerly roundup this week and today’s post, see the post title, are about hashtags.


Chrys

Two Twitter hashtags I believe all writers should follow are #MSWL and #StoryDam.

Using #MSWL, you can find out what agents and editors are looking for. These tweets let writers know what kind of manuscripts are on their wish lists and when to query. You can also check their website www.manuscriptwishlist.com for agents’ profiles with a more detailed list of what they’re looking for in general.

#StoryDam is a weekly chat that happens on Thursdays at 8pm ET. Every Thursday, there are 6 new questions that you can answer using the format A1: (Your Answer) for one tweet, A2: (Your Answer) for your next tweet, and so on. Tweet, retweet, favorite. Get to know other writers, make friends, and gain advice. The questions are posted on their blog/website. www.storydam.com.


Marcy

Twitter: I don't tweet much but I do like #MSWL - it's very helpful!


CD Coffelt

Hashtags. Many hashtags I followed in the beginning are extinct. The one hashtag I still follow is #querytip. A writer never knows when something good might pop up.

#amwriting is one of my all-time-favorites, if not for information then as a virtual hug and encouragement.

Facebook is more “buy my book” screaming but Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors is great for advice. As a sidebar, I belong to several family groups that are closed to the public. It is a great way to exchange information and photos. I love that aspect of FB.


Me

I’d said it once already and I’ll say it again. Definitely think about participating in #WIPjoy. Your story feeling stagnant? Your writing journey is making you feel isolated? #WIPjoy is a month long event. And a good way to rejuvenate the feelings of love and passion you first had when you started writing. Like finding out that the love is still there in a relationship. Plus, you get to network with and befriend other writers. The next #WIPjoy part is January 2017. Just follow @simmeringmind for the details. And follow the daily prompts and post on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Have any social media hashtags you’d like to promote? Why?






Friday, December 2, 2016

100 Best Novels Quiz

Like Monday and Wednesday, today I'm giving you another quiz to play.


This one is a bit of a challenge. And they give you 15 minutes to do it in... 

Modern Library Board's Best 100 Novels


This quiz only shows 55 of them, but it's kind of particular. The titles are between 2 and 9 words long, and the full title (including all articles) must be entered for it to read. But, all the words in all the titles are given. Just...in alphabetical order. 

A few tips:
  1. Just type titles into the typing bar. It'll fill in the correct spot for you. 
  2. Spelling...counts. But, all the words are on screen, so you can check your spelling.
  3. The top 100 novels by the Modern Library Board is a thing. I bet you could look it up. Not that I'm advocating cheating or anything... 
Again, I'd love to know how you did in the comments. I didn't cheat, and it shows in my score... 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Guessing the First 200 Words

It's the end of NaNo. Tomorrow's December with holidays and parties and decorations and stress. Let's take a load off...


...with a random quiz. This one is going to take some time (15 minutes), but it's not as hard as you think.

First 200 Words: To Kill a Mockingbird

A few tips: 
  1. You'd be surprised how many "and" and "the" are going to show up. As well as the other usual words that we use to make sentences make sense. Start there.
  2. You don't have to go in order. Start with the obvious words. And all instances of the same word fill in at the same time.
  3. It reads down in columns, so the first word is in the first box, the second word is below the first word, etc. 
  4. Spelling counts. Capitalization doesn't matter. They fill in the punctuation. 
Good luck. Let me know how you did in the comments.
As for me...

(Full disclosure: I did cheat. A little. If I had the book, I would have cheated a lot.)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Books by Their Covers Quiz

Did everyone have a pleasant Thanksgiving? Since it's Cyber Monday and the end of November (for all you NaNoers out there), I thought I'd keep things easy. How about a little literature quiz?

(c) Scott McLeod

This quiz shows you a book cover, and you have to come up with the title. Some of them should be familiar. Some of them might not be.

Books by Their Covers Quiz

A couple tips: 
  1. You don't have to go in order. If you recognize a cover, just type the title into the typing bar. It'll fill in the correct box for you.
  2. You don't have to worry about "the" or "a". I skipped all sorts of articles, and it still found the correct box. 
  3. No one will know if you cheat... 
Please let me know how you did in the comments. If you want to know how I did, feel free to click on the "spoiler button":

(And no, I didn't cheat. If I cheat, I get 100%.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Three Writerly Dohs!!


As a writer and blogger, I’ve stumbled down many an alleyway mostly due to naiveté. And chasing squirrels. Lots of squirrels.

I recognize how stooopid they were, those instances of Doh! and I cringe. Of the multitudes of *facepalm*, three big Don'ts stand out. And since most writers have little time to dink around with long posts, here is:

Monumental Advice Number One

Tell no one you are writing/have written a book. If you have a spouse who supports you, it’s okay to tell them (she said grudgingly) but use digression. If he's a talker, well...

By keeping your writing career mum, you will avoid these Questions.
“So where is your book? I keep checking the NYT bestseller list but *insert the snark here* haven’t seen your name." 
“I saw this ad about publishing your own book. They call it a vanity press. Why don’t you use them?” 
“It’s been three months since you finished the book and still not published? Wow. “*insert pitying expression*

Advice Number Two:

Do not disparage agents, agencies, or your fellow authors on your blog. Self-inflicted wounds, i.e. shooting yourself in the foot, lose their charm after the first direct hit. No good can come of offending your potential clients and backers.

Last of the Three For-Heaven’s-Sake-Don’t-Do-This Rules

Posting rejections, the number of queries sent, the extra pages requested might seem like a good idea. But do you really want your followers to see this? Anytime I consider posting my stats, I refer to the Number One and the inclination dies.

Do you have any deep regrets since starting this business? I’d love to hear more from writers who committed the First Mistake, their friends and family’s responses, and how they dealt with them.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Dear “I Hate Grammar!” Writer


Dear “I Hate Grammar!” Writer,

Many writers hate grammar. I used to be one of them. But to write well you have to understand grammar to some extent. In this post, I am providing quick rules, examples, and tips to help you understand some areas of grammar.

Image from Pixabay


1. You and I or You and me?

The quickest way to figure this out is to cut out “You and” from the sentence. Does “I” sound better or does “me?” Whichever one makes more sense is the correct pronoun.

Ex: Where would you like Mary and me to stand?

Sounds good. "Me” is correct.

Now let's look at it this way:

Ex: Where would you like Mary and I to stand?

Sounds bad. “I” is incorrect.

TIP: The POV we are in is always mentioned last. Ex: Mom and I went to the mall.



2. Italic letters or quotations for the names of songs/books/movies/TV shows?

The names of songs and other short works part of a bigger work (chapter titles, names of TV show episodes) are always in quotation marks.

EX: I listened to “Baby One More Time” on repeat.

The names of whole works such as books, movies, and TV shows are italic.

EX: I watched Gone with the Wind last night.



3. Who or whom?

Who – he/she/they

Whom – him/her/them

Ex: The woman who hit my car.

She hit me car. (Who is correct.)

Ex: To whom do I address this letter?

Do I address this letter to him/her/them? (Whom is correct.)



4. When to capitalize titles with names.

Always capitalize titles when they appear with a name.

Ex: President Obama, Queen Elizabeth, Dr. Cristina Yang, Chef Ramsey.

Capitalize titles used as a substitute for a name. When it’s like this, it’s like a nickname.

Ex: I looked at the Chief and knew the criminal got away.
("Chief" is referring to one person and is in place of a name.)

Lowercase the title when the term is used in a general way, not for a specific person.

Ex: The duties of a president are daunting. 



7 Fast Tips:

-       Seasons (summer, autumn, winter, spring) are lowercase.

-       Directions (north, east, south, west) are also lowercase.

-       Use em dashes at the end of dialogue when there’s an abrupt stop, such as when one character cuts off another character’s speech.

-       Use single quotation marks inside double quotations when a character is quoting someone.

-       No question mark for an indirect question.

-       There’s no such word as “alright.” Correct: All right

-       “Already” means it happened in the past. “All ready” means prepared. 




Author of Hurricane Crimes, Seismic Crimes, 30 Seconds Before, and 30 Seconds. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.