Friday, January 29, 2016

Writerly Expectations

post by Michelle Griep
Expect to fail. A lot.
But that doesn't mean you're a failure. It means your writing failed, which is good news because it provides you the opportunity to start over again.

Expect to rage about technology.
It's inevitable you will lose some copy. Sometimes a lot. A glitch will happen and whammo! Fried mother board or mega-virus or you find out Kylo Ren used the force on your dang computer. At some point you will have to recreate lost copy and that's okay because it just might be better the second time around.

Expect to feel like quitting.
Everyone does. Every writer frequently thinks their writing is a heap of fresh elephant excretion. But just because you feel it doesn't mean you have to act on it. Shoot. I feel like eating an entire batch of chocolate chip cookie dough practically every day but I don't. Well, sometimes I do, but hey, I'm human.

Expect to dance on mountain tops and and lie belly-up in valleys.
The writing life is a rollercoaster. Victories walk hand-in-hand with defeats. It's kind of like being bipolar but without medication.

Expect to lower your expectations.
Every starry-eyed writer starts out with dreams of seeing his books on the shelves, contracts galore, and adoring fans busting down Barnes & Noble doors to snag a signed copy of his latest bestseller. Yeah. About that? Uh, nope. After a few years, those dreams dumb-down into something more manageable, like maybe getting your mom to read your latest manuscript.

Expect to work your fanny off.
Writing is not glamorous. It's shutting yourself off from the world and diving into a pretend story land. And once the story is finally writtten, you get to edit and edit then edit some more. Then there's marketing and squeaking in craft books and workshops so you can write even better.

Expect satisfaction.
True, there are a lot of negatives in a writer's life, but when that one reader contacts you and tells you what a difference your story made in their life . . . ahh. There's nothing quite like that feeling. Own it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

5 Nuggets of Writerly Wisdom

post by Michelle Griep
1. Finish what you start. 
Having half a metric ton of unfinished stories laying about is not only a fire hazard and just might get you on a prime time episode of Hoarders, that mess has a way of messing with your brain. You start to feel like you don't have it in you to create a tale from beginning to end. And guess what? You can't sell what you don't have. So even if you think your plot is an ugly yellow dung beetle, just finish it. That success will be a mile marker in your writerly life.

2. Love what you're doing.
If you can't work up the slightest tingle of hu-hum I-suppose-this-story-idea-is-okay, then don't start writing it (because remember, I told you that you have to finish what you start). Here's the dealio . . . you need to be passionate about the story you're telling. If you're not, then why the heck would you write it? And don't tell me, "But Michelle! I have to get my foot in the publishing door and the only way to do that is by spinning an Amish/Warlord/Ninja Romance." That's a load of hooey. Write the story that's burning inside of you, no matter what it is.

3. Read.
Yeah, I know I've beat your head with this dead horse in a thousand different ways. Okay, so that was kind of a gross visual, but just do it. Read. And don't read only in the genre that you write. In order to dazzle readers with your words, you need to be dazzled by words.

4. Be risky.
Take that feather boa off right now! Sheesh. I said risky, not risqué. Stretch the limits of your writing. Take a craft class or pick up a book on it if you need to. Writing the same way year after year is not only a yawner for yourself but for your readers as well. Explore spoken word poetry then try crafting some of your own. Not that you'll be putting this directly into your stories, but trying different types of writing gives your own writing a different flavor.

5. Don't stress about theme.
You are not Billy Sunday. Your book is not your pulpit so don't worry about trepanning a hole in the reader's skull and inserting your propaganda. Story is king, so write your story. A theme will develop when your back is turned. It always does.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Writing Reality Part II

post by Jonathan Young
Jonathan Young ~ editor extraordinaire

{{If you didn't catch the first half of this sage advice by editor Jonathan Young, click HERE. And if you did, then sit back and enjoy the rest . . . }}

Don't just major in English or creative writing. I have nothing against either major — except they're both fantastic paths to unemployment. If you're going for one of those majors, consider a double major or, at minimum, pick a program that allows you to have an emphasis in journalism or something practical. It might be better to major in journalism or professional writing or something that focuses on practical writing skills.

Practical is the key word ... which brings me to my next point: Get practical, experience and assemble a portfolio. Also known as "clips," a portfolio of published work will go a long way toward helping you get a job. Start with small, easy things, whether book reviews, devotionals or whatever. Get some work published, even if you don't get paid. The school newspaper counts, and oftentimes local newspapers will accept free stories as "contributed articles" if you do a decent job. It's a good idea to check with the editor and ask if he or she accepts community stories for free and if a particular idea you have might be of interest.

Get an internship if you can — or two or three internships. Even if you're not going into journalism, working on a paper is a great way to get practice writing and develop your portfolio. Internships are invaluable learning experiences and also look really good on a resume. If I'm going to hire someone (and I've had to do it), I want them to be able to demonstrate they can do the work (have done some of it), that they really want to do the work and that they're willing to learn in areas where they're not as strong.

Finally, diversify your skills. In journalism, for example, you're likely going to have to do more than just write nowadays. A lot of the journalism jobs out there are at small papers. At my paper, it's me, one general reporter and a sports reporter who put out the whole paper each week. We write stories, take our own photos, layout the paper, manage the website and Facebook page and more. So it's good to take classes in photography, desktop publishing/design, online communication skills etc. The more different things you can do, the better. I'm sure that's the case in other communications fields today as well.

Good luck.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Writing Reality Part I

post by Jonathan Young
Trust me . . . Jonathan Young is way
more savvy when it comes to writing
than he is photogenic.
I don’t usually do guest posts on this blog but when I come across something that will benefit the reading masses of Writer Off the Leash, then doggone it, those rules fly right out the window.

So today, a hearty round of applause for Jonathan Young, editor extraordinaire. He’s hip deep in the publishing biz, namely as an editor for a local newspaper. Yes, they still have those. Sheesh.

I asked him what advice he’d give to an aspiring writer and he had lots to say. So I’ll just be stepping out of the way now and pass the microphone over to Jonathan . . .


My first piece of advice to writers is to make sure you're considering a career in writing because you love writing, not because you want to make a lot of money or become well-known — you're not likely to do either. I'm not saying don't shoot for the stars, but be realistic about your expectations.

Just to give you an idea, the starting hourly wage for an entry-level reporter at my company is around $13/hour. When I accepted my first full-time journalism gig, I had to take a pay cut — and I was leaving a job that didn't require a college degree to do a job that did require a college degree. Again, I'm not saying this to be discouraging, but to be realistic. For me, journalism has been worth the meager salary because I like what I do and I feel like I'm making a difference in the community.

Second, be open to various types of writing that will allow you to make a living. If fiction is your passion, that's great, but you'll probably never make a living at it, even if you write several successful novels. I initially wanted to write fiction. While I was in college, I discovered I was better at telling the story that was there than I was at making up an original plot. I discovered I enjoyed journalism more than I thought I would. Now that's how I make my living.

In any case, don't put all your eggs in the fiction basket — plan to pay the bills some other way, perhaps through a different kind of writing job. Or marry someone rich.

Some ideas for making your living in writing include journalism, technical writing (there's actually some money here) and P.R./marketing. Although journalists often mock the P.R. work as "the dark side," the fact is many journalists end up there eventually. There's also editing for a publishing house, though that is quite competitive to get into.

A lot of people ask me about the future of journalism and if there is one. There's no question that it's been a tough time for newspapers. However, I think there will always be a need for quality journalism, though it has become a more challenging profession and may continue to become so. I do, however, believe community newspapers will be around for a long time because we provide a service and content no one else does.

{{STAY TUNED FOR MORE GREAT INFORMATION TOMORROW WHEN I’LL CONTINUE WITH JONATHAN YOUNG’S SAGE ADVICE}}

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Pros and Cons of Literary Awards

post by Michelle Griep
My name's popped up on a few lists such as a Best of 2015 and nominations for several other awards, such as the Inspy's. Does that make me feel special? Heck yeah. But it's starting to wear a little thin around the ol' homestead. I suppose I should stop making my family address me as Your Majesty and maybe -- just maybe -- let them quit bowing and curtseying every time I walk into a room. Oh yeah. And maybe the rooty-tooty trumpeters are a bit over the top.

But other than an ego booster, are literary awards really all that important? Is fame and fortune sure to follow? No to the latter, yes to the former, and here's why . . .

Why Literary Awards Are Great

Validation
The best thing about a book receiving an award is that it's a validation for the publisher and/or all those who support that book. Those who believed enough in a story to get it into the hands of the readers, and the readers themselves, deserve a pat on the back via a little recognition. Note that I didn't mention this is a validation for the writer. If an author is writing simply for the kudos of a gold star, then that author ought not be writing at all.

Recognition
While winning an award doesn't necessarily mean a hike in sales, it does mean that the author's name and title of the book will get a boost in marketing. So it could sell a few more books, but even more importantly, the name of the author will be in the public eye . . . and when your next title comes out, hopefully your name will be remembered.

Appreciation
Writing is a lonely affair. An author sits for hours on end alone with nothing but fake characters in fictional settings with make-believe problems, wondering if any of their words even make sense. An award is a pat on the back from the real world.

Why Literary Awards Are NOT So Great

Pride
Receiving an award can take an average Joe writer and turn him into a tutu-wearing diva, and a lazy one at that. Writing goes stagnant when an author thinks too much of himself and/or his writing.

Mood Swings
Some writers live and die by awards, and when their name doesn't make a list, it's hara-kiri time. On the flip side, winning creates a mountaintop experience--but a writer can't live on a peak forever. You've got to come down some time. All these emotions take a writer's attention away from what they should be doing: writing.

Subjectiveness
Books are art, and art is subjective. Who's to say what stellar writing is and isn't? That's an awful lot of power to hand over to a group of judges. Is creativity something to be sifted and measured?

As for me, yeah, it's great to see my book in the spotlight, but you know what's even more great? Just knowing that there are readers out there who got to experience a bit of history mixed in with some timeless truths.

Friday, January 22, 2016

It Is Personal

post by Michelle Griep
Sometimes life for a writer is el stinko, especially when:
-  you get a review disparaging your novel, your morals, and your pet parakeet
-  you don't feel like your writing is being championed by your agent, or your editor, or even your mother
-  you can barely garner a like on your Facebook page while other writers are winning awards left and right

When trials such as these dog a writer's life, the kneejerk reaction is to pat the poor little writer on the head and say, "Cheer up, my writerly friend. Don't take these things so personally."

And at that point, the writer ought to to deliver a roundhouse kick to the head. Why? Because not only is that sentiment nothing but a big fat platitude, it's a bald-faced lie. These things are personal, there's no getting around it.

Again . . . why?

Because it's impossible to pen an authentic tale that touches a reader's heart and soul unless the author pours out his own heart and soul into the words. A writer stands before a reader naked; parts of his psyche are embedded in the characters, the dialogue, and especially in the internal monologue. When that creation is rejected -- or worse, ignored -- it's normal for the creator to take it personally.

But that doesn't mean you have to wallow in sorrow. Go ahead and feel the sting, grieve if you have to, then cut your losses and move on. Not everyone is going to "get" your writing. Writing is art and art is subjective.


(Go ahead. Steal the graphic. You know you want to. And you have my permission.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The 5 Rules of Write Club

post by Michelle Griep
Rule #1: Write. 

Talking about writing is not the same thing as writing. If you want to be a successful writer, you've got to actually write.

Rule #2: Write a lot.

Just because you produce a lot does not necessarily correlate with you publishing a lot. The point of this rule is that sometimes you simply must write to fail, to practice, to stretch the boundaries of what you think you're capable of, to freaking grow as a writer.

Rule #3: Write some more.

If you want to make money at this writing game, you'll have a better chance of racking up dollar signs by putting out more books. The more titles in print, the more your name gets out there, the more you'll sell.

Rule #4: Write. Edit. Repeat.

But all this talk of writing doesn't mean you should shovel out piles of steaming literary manure. You are not an alchemist. Your words are not gold. So cut them. Tweak them. Make that prose sing like a mermaid beneath a silvery moon.

Rule #5: You DO talk about Write Club

Be an encourager to all the other writers around you. There's more than enough negativity out there. Be a beautiful writing beacon and share this information with others.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Long Live Nancy Drew

post by Michelle Griep
I was a nerd. Okay, so I still am, but back in junior high, I was the nerd queen of Nerdsville. Every Friday night, when other little punks were hanging at the mall, I holed up in my room with an open-faced tuna sandwich and a Nancy Drew book. I started at 7 p.m. and generally finished up by 11. Ahh. Now that's living.

But all good things must come to an end. After 56 weeks of my Friday night ritual, my tuna sandwich evenings screeched to a halt. Sure, I could've read the knock-offs after I finished the original series, but it just wasn't the same.

So imagine my surprise when I came across a tidbit of news that CBS is planning on pulling together a new adaptation of Nancy Drew. They'll portray her as a 30-year-old detective who works for the New York Police Department. Hmm. Not sure how I feel about that. It definitely won't be the same.

Still, if it airs on a Friday night, I just might open me up a can of Chicken of the Sea and give it a whirl.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

At the Corner of Broke and Passion

post by Michelle Griep
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how much money I make writing. Really? Do you ask your doctor that? Your garbage man? The clerk at the local WalMart? Sheesh.

But I suppose it's a valid question in the sense that everyone's got a book in him and wants to know how much money that book is worth. Honest answer? Not much. I've been at this game for ten years and I'm just now starting to turn a profit. 

I suggest that the real question isn't how much money will you make, but how out of control is the passion inside you to write that book?

I figure it comes down to this . . . if you truly love what you're doing, you'll keep doing it unless God pries your fingers off that plow and shoves a different one into your hand -- and that has absolutely nothing to do with money. Until then, go after your passion with wild abandon.

Monday, January 18, 2016

5 Editing Tips to Spitshine Your Manuscript

post by Michelle Griep
Most folks in Minneapolis are hibernating because of the cold. I don't blame them. It's warmer in Siberia than here. Not even exaggerating (this time).

But I'm not hunkered down because of a nippy windchill. Currently I'm squirreled away because I'm in the middle of edits. It's the ol' pedal to the grindstone, nose to the metal time . . . or something like that. Yeah. Editing is very important. Besides looking for and cutting crappy mixed-up cliches, there are a few tricks I've learned that help the editing process go a little easier.

5 Editing Tips to Spitshine Your Manuscript

1. Have 3 or 4 other sets of eyeballs read your work and offer notes.
This step is essential. You need to know what you're really dealing with because at this point you won't be able to see the trees in the midst of that godforsaken forest you call a manuscript. Is it a masterpiece or a piece of manure? Nab some honest Joes by the collar and ask them for their unadulterated opinion.

2. Read those notes and decide which ones you'll use.
Some comments on your writing are 100% awesome. Others? Not so much. How do you decide which advice to listen to and which to shove down the garbage disposal? You're the author so go with your gut. If adding or cutting something is a hill that you'd die on, then ignore the advice. But if you're not willing to fight to the death over some words, then change them.

3. Decide on a plan of attack.
Now that you've heard back from your beta readers, how are you going to implement those changes? Biggest changes to smallest? Easiest to hardest? Front to back, plow right through, beginning to end? There is no "right" way to do it. The point is that you pick a way and just get 'er done.

4. Be a hoarder.
More than likely you're going to be cutting a lot of unnecessary description, maybe even some dialogue or action, to make the story flow better and trim it down to a svelte form. Open up a blank file and save all that cut verbage. Why? A few reasons . . . you might want to put it back in later when your editor notices a gaping hole. Or you could use the copy as "extras" -- tidbits to toss to your raving fans. Or you might even have a brilliant bit that could go into a different story later on.

5. On your last pass edit, read it out loud.
Sure, you may feel like a babbling idiot reading your entire novel out loud, but trust me on this, it's worth the embarrassment. Your tongue will stumble over phrases that your mind skips over like a freaking little lamb. Why does it matter? Because believe it or not, changing those mouthfuls will help with the pacing and rhythm of the words, if even subliminally.

Once you've completed these steps, it's time to unleash that puppy into the world. At some point you have to call it quits and move on to another project.

Friday, January 15, 2016

On Writerly Motivation

post by Michelle Griep
I was asked a question the other day, and interestingly enough, this time it didn't involve Pop Tarts. I know, right? Anyway the question was, "What motivates you to get up and write each day?"

Short answer: Coffee

Long answer: Honestly, this is a very strange question. What does it even mean? Do you need motivation to breathe? Does someone force you to put food in your mouth every day? Why would you need incentive to do something that you not only love but is as much a part of you as your big toe? Do you spend time thinking about your big toe? No, it's just there. It's you.

But I think I get it. Some days it is harder to get the ol' writerly motor moving. There is a cure for that though . . .  you have to write. It's what writers do. They write. Whether they feel like it or not. Granted, more often than not they feel like it, but even if they don't, they still put words on paper. I'm not saying all those written words are stellar, mind you. In fact, sometimes they're slices of stinky cheese. But the act of writing begets more writing, kind of like Star Trek Tribbles. Type one word, then another, and pretty soon you're rolling along, laughing maniacally while your fingers pound away.

The bottom line is that you don't need to wait to be motivated to write. You don't need to look for motivation like it's a package to be delivered by a FedEx fella. You just need to write.

So do it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quirky Book Facts

post by Michelle Griep
I'm all about quirk and I'm all about books . . . so what happens when you marry the two? A Google search, of course. And you get to reap the benefits.

8 Quirky Book Facts 

The first book bought on Amazon was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.

There's a book in the Welsh National Library that measures 1 mm x 1 mm. The title, Old King Cole, is so small that the pages can only be turned with a needle.

Author James Frazer had to move out of his Great Court, London, home because the floor was about to give way under the weight of his books.

One of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, asked out a bookstore clerk for his first date ever. They married in 1947 and stayed married until her death in 2003.

Tsundoku is a Japanese word that means buying a load of books and then not getting around to reading them.

Bibliosmia is a word that means the enjoyment of the smell of books.

China used to ban Alice in Wonderland because, "Bears, lions and other beasts cannot use a human language," said General Ho Chien in 1931. "To attribute to them such a power is an insult to the human race."

Dr. Seuss said he expected to spend "a week or so" writing The Cat in the Hat. It took him a year and a half.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Who Says Bookstores Are Dead?

post by Michelle Griep
Fair Trade Bookstore, Red Wing, Minnesota
What should one do when the weather dips below zero? Visit a bookstore, of course, and today I found a hot shop to warm the cockles of any booklover's heart.

Fair Trade Books in Red Wing, Minnesota, about 50 miles south of Minneapolis/St. Paul, is well worth the drive. Located in the heart of small town America, this little bookstore is awesome.

The first one to greet you with a smile and handshake is owner, Rick DeVoe. And right on his heels is Reveler, a pile of fur and love.

Fair Trade's Owner, Rick DeVoe
After greetings, Rick asks if you're a first-time visitor, and if you are, you're in for a surprise. He goes on to discover what you like to read, lets you browse around, and then he awards you with a free book that he's chosen based on your answers. How many bookstores do that?! Like none. The only catch is that he has you proclaim in public, "Books make great gifts."

And they do. I went on to purchase two as gifts and a few for myself.

This is more than simply a bookstore, though. This is a community bedrock, bringing neighbors together for all kinds of readalicious events.

Reveler, the resident bookstore dog.
January highlights range from an open mic night featuring music, poetry and comedy, to an author signing, and even a game night where anyone can come and play cooperative board games, featuring the locally created game 3 Seeds. They're also sponsoring an evening for a new initiative to conserve and invest in renewable energy.

Okay, enough gushing from me. Fair Trade Books is in the running to be one of my all-time favorite bookstores, but if you're not in the area, I challenge you to go out and find a bookstore that captures your heart. You might as well. What else is there to do in January?


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Facts on The Writing Life

Go ahead. Steal it. You know you want to . . . and you have my permission.


Monday, January 11, 2016

What Writers Do on a Friday Night

post by Michelle Griep
There's always 1 dork in the bunch: me.
Erica Vetsch at center;
Gabrielle Meyer on the right.
Some girls go out clubbing on the weekend. Others do the movie and popcorn thing. But writerly girls hang out at a historical society lecture event -- and LOVE it.

Erica Vetsch and Gabrielle Meyer joined me on a visit to the Alexander Ramsey House (first governor of Minnesota) for an evening of Crime and Punishment.

The night's lecture focused on the Ann Bilansky murder case. Ann went to the gallows in 1860 for the supposed murder of her husband, Stanislaus. And can I interrupt to say that's a pretty sweet name?

Anyway, the story goes that her neighbor accused her of poisoning Stan with arsenic so that Ann could run away with her "cousin" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Ann plead innocent. And our entire evening visit to the Ramsey House presented all the known evidence for and against.

Was she guilty or wasn't she? No one really knows . . . not even me. Makes a person wonder, though.

And that, folks, is why visiting historical sites, partaking of their lectures, experiencing the sights and sounds up close and personal is crucial for a writer. Check out your historical society today even if you're not a fiction author. You just might learn something.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Writerly Lessons from The Revenant

post by Michelle Griep
Have you heard a faint drumbeat lately? Tat-tat-tat-tat-tat. Actually, that was no drum. That was me, tapping my toes while waiting impatiently to go see The Revenant . . . and today was the day.

And indeed, it was worth the wait. If a gritty man-against-nature combined with man-against-man epic story makes your heart pitter-patter, then this is the movie for you. But if you're at all squeamish, don't got see it. It's pretty graphic.

The Revenant tells the true story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper/frontiersman/explorer in the early 1800's. Yeah, this is a movie, but there are plenty of takeaway values for a writer . . .

5 Writerly Lessons from The Revenant

Up the Stakes
One bad thing after another happens to the hero, Hugh Glass. Winter's coming, all he can do is crawl because of a severe mauling by a grizzly, and oh yeah, there are merciless savages at his back killing anything that moves. Oh, did I mention the rest of his buddies left him to die, with no gun, no water, nothing? His life is seriously on the line, which glues the viewer to the screen. Do that, in writing, of course.

Relate at an Emotional Level
Not many people can relate to being a fur trapper. What makes the hero super relatable, though, is the tragedy he faced in his past. His wife was killed. Who hasn't experienced the loss of a loved one? Using a universal feeling such as grief creates a connection between fictional characters and readers.

Lob a Surprise Hand Grenade
Don't worry. I won't give a spoiler here, but there's one scene that faked out pretty much everyone in the audience. That kind of surprise endears a reader to the author.

Weave in Backstory
As I mentioned, Hugh Glass's wife is dead. She was killed in an attack on their village. But all that information wasn't up front or in one big chunk. It was sprinkled throughout the story, kind of a story within a story, if you will.

Give the Reader Something to Ponder
At the very end of the film, Leonardo DiCaprio looks right smack into the camera lens. This is the first time he does that. What does it mean? Is he finally letting go of his past? Is he dying? What? It's up to the viewer to decide.

Whether or not you go see The Revenant, these five tips are valuable skills to master for any storyteller.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Three P's of Writing Back Cover Copy

post by Michelle Griep
Stand in Barnes & Noble and watch what prospective buyers do. Note: It's probably best not to wear a trench coat and definitely lose the sunglasses. What were you thinking, you big creeper? Now that we've got that straightened out, what do you see?

First, a potential buyer pulls off a book with a jazzy front cover. Yeah, pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. Two seconds later, if the cover grabs him, it's time for the big flip. He turns the book over in his hands, scans the back copy, and:

A.) Zingo! His eyes widen. He's hooked. He reaches for his wallet and races to the nearest cashier.

OR

B.) Yawn. Book goes back on shelf. End of story and any royalties for the author.

What made the difference? The back cover copy. And trust me, writing that copy is not as easy as it looks, folks. But never fear, I have a handy-dandy list-o-rama to help.

THE 3 P's OF WRITING BACK COVER COPY

1. PACK A PUNCH WITH POWER WORDS

If you've only got a limited amount of words to use, then use those that are powerful. Emotional. Shocking. Controversial or evocative. Those are the kinds of words that make a reader curious and leave them drooling for more. Examples: daunting, courage, beguile

2. PAINT A PICTURE

Use your sweet writing skills to create a vivid image in the reader's mind. Give them a taste of what's in store for them if they purchase the book. Leave them with a teaser, a big question as to what will happen.

3. PITHY IS PERFECT

Nowadays everyone's got ADD, especially on the internet. Chances are your book will be sold on Amazon, so that means you've got to be short and sweet, baby. Make your description as easy to understand and as pared down as possible.

It also helps if you read examples of back cover copy from books that are out there on today's shelves. That's not stealing. That's smart detective work.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bookish Crafts

In my spare time, I like to craft. Okay, so really that amounts to about fifteen minutes once every blue moon, but hey, that still counts. More often than not, my crafting involves words. Go figure. Here's a few . . .





Did that inspire you? If not, then maybe this will. It's a how-to video on making a tiny book pendant that's super cute.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why Do You Read?

Successful people read. Bill Gates says:

“Reading is one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid. These days, I also get to visit interesting places, meet with scientists and watch a lot of lectures online. But reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

So I'm starting off the new year with a new read. Here's what I've got going . . .
And here's a blurb . . .

In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.

Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?

Now then, what's on the top of your reading docket for 2016? Share in the comment section.

Monday, January 4, 2016

How Many Facts Are Too Many?

post by Michelle Griep
There are two trains of thought on the writing of historical fiction . . .

One is the tight-lipped, whack-your-knuckles-with-a-ruler, accurate-to-a-fault stance. Characters speak, act, and think in an era-appropriate sense. And doggone it they better wear period-correct underpants or your writerly goose is cooked. For the reader this kind of storytelling can be a tad cumbersome and – dare I say – boring.

The other style formulates motivations and dialogue using a more contemporary twist. No thee’s and thou’s. Women think and behave as if they’ve burned their bras. Men are pretty tame and kind of wussy. This can yank the reader right out of the historicity of the drama, making it nothing but a soap opera in petticoats.

So . . . which one is better? Yeah, right. That’s like a woman asking her husband if her dress makes her look fat because there is no easy answer.

But I’ll give it a whirl.

Historically accurate tales and those that take contemporary license are both valid in their own ways. The trick is to not veer too far one way or the other, to blend them seamlessly together.

The goal of a historical writer is to make the reader believe they’ve entered a new reality and keep them there, staying as true to the era as possible without beating the reader over the head with too many facts. This, my friends, is no task for the timid. In fact, it’s dang hard.

So next time you read a historical fiction book that you really love, drop the author a short note and pat them on the back. Trust me. They need it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy 2016

It's a new year. Be awesome. Wear a helmet. And don't forget to call your mom. Or your therapist. Whatever.


 
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