Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Did You Know?

Oscar Wild
3 random factoids about that sometimes misunderstood animal, The Writer.

There's no need to ask a writer IF he's working on a new story. The question really should be how many. A writer....wait for it....writes! Currently I've got 7 different story ideas and have started working on 4 of them.

While it's certainly a sweet, sweet accomplishment to attain a gifted critique partner, or an agent, or a publisher, or a 3 book contract, or a Christy Award, or a.... See where I'm going with this? Those things are fantastic and thrill a writer to no end, but in and of themselves they are not satisfying. There's always something more to attain. Only God satisfies.

Honestly, most authors don't know how well their current book is selling. The publisher gets the blow-by-blow numbers, not the writer. Each publisher has a different timetable for releasing that information to the author. For instance, with UNDERCURRENT, I only see numbers twice a year. With GALLIMORE, I hear quarterly.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Here An Edit, There An Edit, Everywhere an Edit Edit

So once a book gets contracted, what's the next step? Editing. Then more editing. Oh yeah...did I mention editing? What's up with all that? Well, there are different kinds of editing, so let's dissect them here today.

Think of this as big picture editing, where a hard look is taken at characters, plot and pacing. This kind of editor suggests structural changes to a story. Does an author have to make those changes? No, ultimately the author has the final say, BUT it really is for the best to use those suggestions. The editor isn't out to get you but to make the manuscript shine.

Example: The copyeditor working on A HEART DECEIVED sent back my manuscript asking me to tone down the hero's anger toward the end of the story. It was an easy fix and I got it done in a day. I have heard of others, though, who get edits wanting huge changes. Moral of the story: buddy up with some good critique partners and work out the bugs before you ever submit a manuscript to a publisher. You'll be glad you did when it comes to the macro edit.

Think microscope. This is when the manuscript is picked apart line by line, making sure each word is right in context and the meaning comes through loud and clear. Sentence structure and grammar come in to play during this go over.

This is the last stage, after the book has been typeset. A proofreader checks a reproduction of the finished product to make sure no typographical errors remain or were introduced during the production stage. This is a task of correction, not revision.

Like I said, putting the effort into your manuscript before you ever submit it to a publisher pays out big time later on. So, rev up your engines and roll up your sleeves, writers...you've got some editing to do!

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Dream Come True

Yep. The big day is here...and I want you ALL along for the ride. Let's do this thing!

And just in case you're wondering what the story is about, here's my Pinterest board.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why Go To A Writers Conference?

Expense. Time. Sheer terror. There are lots of reasons not to go to a writers conference, but none of them are stopping me from clicking the registration button for the ACFW Conference this fall. God saw fit to drop a tiny bundle of cash in my lap (more on that tomorrow--stay tuned!), so this writer is toodling off to Indianapolis in September. Why?

Top 3 Reasons To Attend A Writers Conference

This is the best place to target editors and/or agents with your manuscript. Sure, you can send in a proposal via cyberspace any old time, but face-to-face interaction is way more memorable. And with them all herded into one corral, you'll have a much easier time roping one. You'll also get a chance to hang out with writerly buddies you usually only have contact with online.

Even the most accomplished author can always learn a new trick. Attending a conference is a great way to drink from the water hose of the publishing industry. You can't help but come away drenched with new ideas and insights.

Besides the fact that you can write this baby off on your taxes, other than monetary, going to a conference is an investment in yourself. You never know what connections you'll make that will pay off in the years ahead, or what facet of the trade you'll pick up that will eventually take your writing to a whole new level. There's a good chance you'll hear some publishing insider information that may change the course of what or how you write in the future.

My advice? Google writers conferences and see if there are any that might work out for you this year. Big or small, near or far, the size, shape, or color doesn't matter. What matters is that you go.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Drumming Up Business on Twitter

When it came to selling Girl Scout Cookies, I ate more than I sold. Yeah, I'm one of those kinds of salesmen, otherwise known as failures.

But recently I came across 3 easy tips for an author to find readers on Twitter. I haven't actually tried them out myself yet, but doggone if they don't sound easy. Granted, losing weight on the Oreo cookie diet sounded easy as well, but hey...if I gave that a whirl, why not this?

1. Do a search of bestselling titles in your genre.
Let's say you write time travel. Search for The Time Traveler's Wife or Timeline, both big sellers. Follow the followers of those books. Not every one, of couse. That would be like a bajillion. Be discriminating...in a good way, of course.

2.  Do a search of bestelling authors in your genre.
Maybe you write paranormal. See who follows Stephanie Meyer or JK Rowling. Then follow the followers (again, after you've glanced at their bios to see if they're someone you'd want to follow).

3. Do a search using the names of places or characters that occur in other bestelling books in your genre.
Perhaps epic fantasy is your thing. Look for Narnia or Aragorn and guess what...follow the followers.

Now then, why the big deal about following other people? Isn't the point to get others to follow you so that they'll be aware of your latest and greatest bits of writing?

Well, the deal is that when you follow others, more often than not, they will follow you back. It gets your name out there in the Twitterverse so that people know you exist. Think of it as networking.

Like I say, this seems relatively painless and if it unearths a few potential readers for your books, blog, or whatever you write, it would totally be worth it. And if not, grab yourself a package of Oreos, unless you can scare up a Girl Scout.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Exactly is Your Elbow Saying?

Plumbers & pipe wrenches. Butchers & knives. Every tradesman has their tool of the trade, so what about writers? What sharp and shiny instrument do they get to wield?

Body language.

Yep. There's not a situation in a book where body language cannot and should not be used. It's so important, you should think of it as another character. This little tool puts the squeeze on showing vs. telling every time.

Need a few of these Craftsmen beauties in your toolbox? Grab what you like and tuck it away for later use.
  • Overly tilted heads can be a sign of sympathy. Add in a smile and they're being playful or flirting.
  • A lowered head indicates they're hiding something. If that head lowering follows a compliment, they're either shy, ashamed, timid, in disbelief, or keeping distance from the other person.
  • People who look to the sides a lot are nervous, lying, or distracted.
  • Looking at the floor is a tip-off they're timid, upset, or trying to hid something emotional.
  • Brushing back their hair with their fingers is a fidgety sign that the person likes you and/or their thoughts conflict with what you're saying.
  • A fast tapping, shifting of weight, laughing, or movement of the foot shows either impatience, excitement, anxiety, fear or that they're intimidated.
And those are just a few. Hungry for more? Check out this extensive list at wikiHOW.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Taming the Plot Beast

Capturing a story in synopsis form is like herding cats, especially if the plot in your head is epic. How do you choose what's important to mention and what's not? How many of those brilliant ideas are really worth keeping in your plot? How do you write a plot that will make a publisher sit up and beg? Disclaimer: I've never actually made a publisher beg or even roll over, BUT I have learned a few plotting tricks that are surefire winners.

Top 5 Plot Tamers

1. Characters must contribute to plot development.
A plot isn't a series of events that happen to your characters. Your characters should change events through their actions and/or personalities.

2. Plot is about tension, and tension builds with denial.
Make clear what your protagonist wants, then throw roadblocks between him and the goal. Without continuing tension, your story will be a yawner.

3. Plot resolution need not be tidy.
Yes, you have to tie up all the main conflict by the end of your story, especially emotionally, but leave a little wonder behind. Something your readers can savor in their minds long after they've closed your book. Suggest how your characters will continue on after the story has ended.

4. A complex plot isn't necessarily better.
Simple plot lines can grab a reader by the throat as effectively as intricately woven tales. The key is conveying the passion behind the situation and what your characters stand to lose. Done well, with feeling and details, who wouldn't cry while reading about a sweet little boy whose ice cream cone has fallen to the ground?

5. Construct a plot that interests you, not one you think is marketable.
If you're not excited to write the thing, I can guarantee no one will want to read it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fire Up Those Brain Cells

I make up a lot of things but honestly, juggling does enhance brain connectivity. The University of Oxford says so here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Looking For A Chance to be Published?

Have I found a contest for you! If you've got a manuscript languishing on your desk or tucked away in a drawer, dust it off and enter it in the Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest. First place wins a contract! 

Deadline: Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Categories: Adult or YA Fiction

Entry Fee: $30

First prize receives a publication offer from Leapfrog Press with an advance, in addition to the finalist awards ($150 and two critiques of the manuscript form judges, permanent listing on Leapfrog Press contest page).

Submit any previously unpublished adult, middle grade or YA fiction, either novella- or novel-length, including short story collections. Minimum length is 22,000 words, no maximum length. All unpublished stories submitted in short story collections will automatically be considered for publication in Crossborder. Submit via email only.

Contact Information:
Leapfrog 2013 Fiction Contest, P.O. Box 505, Fredonia, NY 14063

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

Contrary to popular belief, storks do not, in fact, deliver story ideas all bundled up in a blankie. Sometimes coming up with a new story idea is stinking hard work (emphasis on the stink). Other times, they pop up out of nowhere, faster than any bird could drop one in your lap. Which begs the question...where exactly do story ideas come from?

UNDERCURRENT came from an old family tale about a forefather who took his 3 year old daughter by the hand and just disappeared out the door. No one knows what happened to them. Where in the world did they go? Or in my twisted brain, where in the time did they go? The best place to hide where no one could find you would be in a different era.

My first story idea came from a horrific drive through an F5 tornado. Okay, so that may be a bit of a stretch, but I was alone in the car when a super freaky storm broke. I expected to see Dorothy or at least a cow flying past my windshield...and I live in the city. I did see a lot of weird things hurtling past my headlights and it got me thinking. What if I saw something really out of place--like a knight? Hence, GALLIMORE was birthed.

I grew up in a family of liars. I know what I'm talking about when I say it sometimes only takes a lie to be spoken once for it to be believed as truth...which can be really ugly and have lifelong effects when that lie is spoken to a little girl. As a result, the concept of truth and deception has always intrigued me. My third finished manuscript, A HEART DECEIVED, explores the damage that a single lie can inflict.

It's no secret I love history. Look on my bookshelf and you'll see tons of English history. One of these books mentioned briefly the tale of a magistrate who was sick to death of crime on the streets of London, so he hired a few men from his own pocketbook to fight against it. This group became known as the Bow Street Runners, a fledgling police force of sorts. What kind of man would take on criminals for litte or no pay? That question birthed my hero, Nicholas Brentwood, in BRENTWOOD'S WARD.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point that story ideas can honestly come from anywhere. A dream. A what if. A phrase you heard in passing at the coffee shop. The sky's the limit...hmm...now there's a story idea!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Reflections

The bombing in Boston yesterday definitely puts writing woes in perspective. Dealing with rejection letters. Perplexity about what to do with a stuck plot. Not having a contract or agent or a finished manuscript. Trivial, all.

Tragedy has a way of sifting out that which is temporal. A second before a great accomplishment, none of the marathon runners or spectators knew of the coming carnage about to blow them away.

Neither do we. As I reflect on the stunning display of evil that ripped into the lives of so many, a few thoughts come to mind...

Live in the moment. 
Time's too short to wallow in regrets. Repent before God and be washed clean. Neither waste your days pining for what 'might' happen but set your hope on the solid promises found in the Bible.

Write from the heart. 
If writing is the plow God's set your hands to, grip it tight and forge ahead, giving it everything you've got. Write the themes and stories God gives you, not what the fickle market dictates. What's trendy now will change.

Most of all, pray.
Pray that God will draw many to Himself, granting life where death has been unleashed.

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Are You Writing For God's Glory?

What does it mean to "write for God's glory?" I hear that phrase thrown around a lot, probably because I hang out with Christians. But the thing is, I even hear it in my head every time I sit down to write...which begs the question how, exactly, does a mortal man accomplish such a huge feat? I hyperventilate just thinking about it. Who can capture God's glory in a net made of letters and words? Why would anyone try the impossible?

Because God is a God of impossibility. In fact, the more impossible, the better. That's where His glory is really showcased.

But in what format? Must one sit down to write an epic analogy like Narnia? Or should one only write Biblical fiction? Where does that leave steampunk and blogging? Can one write for God's glory by penning a murder mystery?

Yep. Take a look at the Bible, at all the different forms of writing. There's poetry in Song of Solomon. Narratives just about everywhere. Jesus told fictional tales with a truth woven in. Some of Paul's writings read like blog entries and the book of Revelation, if sold in today's market, would classify as a fantasy.

I don't think God is interested in the style or format of your writing any more than He's particularly bent out of shape about what you ate for breakfast today. God's business is heart business, and if your heart/mind/soul belong to Him, you don't need to stress about about how to write for His glory. You will.

"The good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart."
Luke 6:45

Friday, April 12, 2013

Snow in April

Disclaimer: Despite my best efforts, the Minneapolis Airport Commission remained belligerent in pausing air traffic in the filming of this vlog.... sorry!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hosting a Perfect Writing Day

Chawna Shroeder, Brenda Anderson, John Otte, Sharon Hinck
Love to write or to encourage other writers? Have I got an idea for you!

Once a month I run away to author Sharon Hinck's house. She invites a few other writerly types as well. In advance, she sends out an email list to those she knows are able to attend, and each person sends out a sample of their writing to be critiqued. It can be anything from a chapter in a WIP to a synopsis or proposal. Before the day arrives, everyone prints out and critiques/edits each others' work.

Here is a sample Writing Day schedule...

9:00 Arrival & Chit-chat

9:30 Prayer
Honestly, if God doesn't show up, what's the point?

10:00 Writing
Everyone spreads out to their own little corner and writes, writes, writes. No internet connections or cell phones allowed.

12:00 Lunch
Each person brings a bag lunch and we eat together, discussing what we've written or sharing what's going on in our writerly lives.

12:45 Game
Ever played Liebrary? What a fun game! The premise of a book is read and each person then writes down what they think the first line should be. The reader writes down the real line from the book. Then the reader reads all the entries and you vote on what line you think is the real deal. Super fun and sometimes wacky.

1:00 Critique Time
Go around the room and give feedback on the pieces that were emailed out.

2:00 Writing
Two more hours of blessed, uninterrupted writing time.

4:00 End

Doesn't that sound like a great day? It sure is. I go once a month. If you know some writers in your area, give it a whirl. You won't be sorry!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why Writers Write: Mountain Climbing Syndrome

Sometimes writing is just plain old hard. The words don't flow. Fleshing out a story idea is like lifting weights, searing your brain. 99% of the time, writing is grunt work. So why do it? What compels a person to go through that much work when the payoff is little or nothing?

To see if it can be done.

It's the same reason geared-up climbers dot the peaks of Mt. Everest. The challenge is irresistible, even if it might cost them their lives.

Yeah. I hear you. No one ever died writing a book. Maybe not, but there are dangers aplenty. Last time I went to Starbucks to write and there was only 1 seat left in the place, I almost pulled a muscle sprinting to nab it. Why go to all that trouble?

The Top 3 Reasons Why Writers Write

1. To see if you've got the guts, stamina and raw courage to finish the dang thing.

2. A sense of supreme achievement when you move from the crowded camp of I-want-to-write-a-book into the wide and open plains of I-put-my-money-where-my-mouth-is.

3. Addiction. If writing is in your blood, once you start, you're hooked.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Home Run Writing

What if you were given the assignment to take a screenplay for a movie and make it into a novel? How would you do it? Could you do it?

Travis Thrasher did...and with style!

I'm not into sports. I wouldn't know a touchdown from a hole in one. Okay, so maybe that's exaggerating, but reading a book about a baseball star and his messed up life is seriously NOT my first choice in fiction. But here I am, recommending a novel about a baseball hero who's an alcoholic deadbeat dad. Why? Because Home Run has a powerful message of redemption (and the writing is drool worthy).

And if reading just isn't your thing, don't worry. You can go see the movie. Home Run is out April 19th in theaters. Check it out and see if there's one near you. Let's show Hollywood we don't need over-the-top violence and sex to make a movie a hit. Let's show them it's about the message.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dickenson, Sandburg, Frost... You?

Love poetry? Love cash prizes? Have I found a website for you!

I've been following Joy's Notepad for quite awhile. If you read a few of her posts, you'll understand why. She's so warm, so real, and well....dare I say it? Joyful! Plus she's a dang good photographer. She mostly blogs about her life in Norway, which is interesting because she's originally from the Philippines and she's married to a Norwegian seafarer. She loves the Lord with all her heart and that spills over into her writing.

Now then, what does any of this have to do with poetry and prizes? She's decided to run a poetry contest with these parameters:
"My contests is not about me. I will ask you blogfriends or readers to define God or write a poetry letter or just a letter to God. It can be thankfulness, heartaches or whatever one wanted to say to God."
So go ahead. Whip out a pen and wax poetical on a piece of parchment. Whether or not you even enter the contest, you'll have spent some time focused on the Creator Himself--and that's the best prize of all!

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Heroic Effort

Sharing your character's experiences ought to make for richer detail and depth...right?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sniff Sniff

Incorporating all the senses into your writing is important, but today I'm going to single out one. Smell. Though some would argue that taste is the most overlooked sensory experience in many books, I land on the sniffing side of the debate. Scents are definitely an underdog.

So let's work on a few ways to connect with a reader's nose, shall we? And I'm not just talking your garden variety the-roses-smelled-sweet kind of thing.

3 Unique Ways to Incorporate Smell

Connect a scent to that character's personality.
Let's say you've got a villain who's a high-stakes Wall Street fella. What's he going to smell like that will make an impression on your reader? Obviously expensive aftershave but don't be afraid to kick it up a notch and include greed in that description.
Example: The scent of fine cigars and indulgence clung to Baxter Huxley, fitting him as neatly as his pinstripe suit.

Connect a scent to a memory.
This is a fun one and a great way to incorporate snippets of backstory. When your character sniffs something in the present, it can recall a one-line memory from their past.
Example: The spring rain left behind a moist, fresh aroma in the air, pulling Emily back to happier days of digging up worms in her gramma's backyard.

Connect a scent to a feeling.
Ready to go outside the box? Of course no one can actually smell a feeling, but a smell can sure invoke a feeling. I suggest you simply do it all in one fell swoop. It might annoy those Amelia Bedelia types who read everything literally, but annoyed or not, it will leave a mark on your reader.
Example: The bowl full of lemons might smell zingy to others, but all Becca inhaled was sour loss.

Here's my challenge for the day...try using one of these techniques in your current WIP. And yes, you have my permission to reward yourself with a big bouquet of flowers for all your hard work.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

To Be or Not To Be...Staying True to the Heart While Writing for the Market

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."

"What's the point of writing a book if it's just going to sit in your desk drawer?"

Now then, with those quotes in mind, consider the following dilemma...

You spend a year constructing a story. It's somewhat of an intricate plot. The characters are flavorful and well developed. Your voice is strong. The writing is as well. You know all this because of feedback you've received from publishers. All is good...except your story is more Dickens than Austen. It's a little edgier, a little darker, spending more time on the streets of London than in the ballrooms and dining halls. There is a publisher willing to pick it up--if you completely change the plot and focus on high society instead of the vulgar commoners.

Would you rewrite the book? Should you?

Here we are, back to the same old predicament. Should an author write to fit the market or stay true to their inner self? This isn't a problem for those who are Austen or Amish on the inside, but for the many who are rebels at heart, this issue is a constant demon to battle.

I contend that unless you write a story you're passionate about, your lackluster attitude is going to show through. Who's got time to read a milquetoast novel? Who would even want to?

That's not to say, however, that one cannot write to the market as well. It's just trickier to find your niche. How in the world does one accomplish this? Buckle up. Here we go...

First, focus on a theme and/or truth that fires you up. If your central message falls flat, it doesn't matter what genre you've chosen to write in. It will fail. Does justice make your heart beat? The act of forgiveness? Unconditional love? Getting excited about a message has a way of getting your creative juices flowing.

Next, think about traditional mainstream genres that could possibly work with your theme. Just brainstorm at this stage. You're not committing any vows here. This is simply an exercise to bend and stretch your authorly flexibility.

After that, ponder some of your favorite stories. What are the plots of the novels you love? Imagine those plots in a different genre. Same story, just different trappings is all.

Now that you've loosened up a closed mind (hopefully), write down a 2-3 sentence story idea in one of those mainstream genres (such as romance, mystery, contemporary, historical, etc.).

That's all. Now set that piece of paper aside. Pick it up next week and see how you feel about it. Either it will have grown on you by then, or chuck it aside and repeat the process. Eventually you WILL land on a story that will resonate with you on the inside while being something more marketable than Regency Amish Zombie Aliens. Run that story idea by an agent or editor before you commit to writing the entire manuscript. If their eyes light up, you've got a winner that just might sell AND a story that's coming from your heart.

Of course, that's great for new story ideas. It doesn't help when you've got a finished manuscript such as the dilemma at the beginning of this post. In that case, if you can't cheerfully rewrite the story, then cut bait and move on...or self-pub and move on.

Which is a whole other topic.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Stepping Aside

It's important to get out of your own way.
~ Ray Bradbury

Sometimes when I think I have things figured out, God throws me a curve ball and I have to lean the other way. Sometimes when I think I know exactly what story to write next, it's the agent or publisher chucking a four-seam fastball at my head. That's when I duck. Many times it's prudent to simply get out of the way--of myself, especially.

As much as I'd like to blame my writing struggles on God or the publishing industry or even on a bad hair day, most often it's simply myself that is the root cause. Not all the stories floating around in my head need to be written. Not every character chatting away in my mind needs to have their voices heard in public.

And so it boils down to...what should I write? What should any writer write? How does a writer 'get out of their own way' so that the story that should be told is told?

Sometimes it helps to spew all those ideas down on paper so they don't clog up the head as much. Write fast. Think furious. Scribble away. Then set that page away for a week or so and see which of those items sticks with you the longest.

Talk to critique partners. Ask an agent. Meet with an editor at a conference and pick their brain. Get up-front reactions so that you'll know how readers would react to your story idea.

Yeah, I know. This sounds like a lame one. The ol' just-turn-it-over-to-God cop out. Guess what? That's a lie. It's NEVER a cop out to bring things to the throne of the One who's in charge of everything. He will answer. He always does.

The best advice I can give is don't overthink any story idea. Forcing a novel to life makes it episodic and painful to read. It's the stories that flow from the heart that will capture a reader's heart.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Web Site Construction

How do you know when you need a complete TLC makeover of your web site? When your photo is at least 25 haircuts and 10 pounds ago. Yeah. Check this out...http://www.mmgriep.com/

So, I've been snooping at other author sites and sniffing around Google for ideas to freshen up a stagnant home page. Here's a list of some items that are 'must haves'...

Exclusive/Fresh Content
Lasso visitors and keep them captive by offering something new every month or two. Maybe a free ebook (just a short one). Or a giveaway of your latest release. This can even be something as simple as a 5 minute phone call to the winner to chat with them on a topic of their choice.

This is a non-negotiable. Include info on here that they can't find anywhere else pertaining to your characters and to stories.

Give a reader a few clickables to spread the love about your site. Make sure they are catchy and short.

Yeah, you should have an updated pic of yourself, but don't be ego-centric. Encourage your readers to send in pix of themselves with your books.

Even if it's sparse, readers do want to know where you'll be signing books, speaking, or even going to a conference.

Contact Info
Readers need to know where to find you...and this includes all the social sites as well (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Yada-yada).

Have your blog right on your site or a link to it.

If your a historical writer, toss out some juicy websites that you've used. Contemporary? How about some issue sites? Writing sites and other authors who are in your genre are a great idea as well.

That's my list so far. What would YOU like to see on your favorite author's website?
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