Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The bookclub breakfast this past weekend was everything! So appreciative of the engaging feedback about my novel, 'If Ever a Time'. Great discussion with awesome readers! Thanks, ladies! #bookclubbreakfast #ifeveratime #PinevilleNC

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"Write Like an Author & Think Like a Reader" originally posted by Mick Rooney on

It happens a lot. Three, maybe four times a week. Mostly I try to ignore it, but it’s not always easy. Most online magazines and blog sites to do with writing or publishing experience it. Some might simply call it spam. I don’t. Most spam comes from people (or robots) who target websites irrespective of content and deliberately deposit comments about how to get hold of cheap Gucci handbags, medicines or aids to address penile dysfunction. Some of this kind of outright spam manage the remarkable feat of saying absolutely nothing in 50 to 100 words while depositing the deadly link at the bottom of the comment. They may all have their merits on the right website and for the right audience (if you just happen to be looking for a Gucci handbag and also have problems in the bedroom department), but this is not quite the spam I’m referring to. I’m talking about so-called ‘book promotion’ perpetrated by inept self-published authors who don’t know the difference between marketing and squatting.
The spam I’m talking about was never intended to be spam, but it is the equivalent of wrapping the content or back cover copy of your book in a garbage bag and (literally, ahem!) dumping it in your neighbour’s front garden in the hope that they will take the time to open the bag, sift through the ruminants of yesterday’s dinner and soiled diapers to discover your magnum opus.
I call this kind of author promotion — the literary heist! It’s like running into your local Laundromat, slapping down your latest novel on the counter, and yelling, ‘read it, I’ll be back to collect in a few days.’ You are pretty unlikely to win any new friends or readers, and you can be certain you will be washing your clothes at home (washing machine or no washing machine) for years to come. The literary heist has no place in any marketing strategy for a book.
I get the fact that it is tough for self-published authors to get the word out about their new books, but just like the Laundromat, directly sending me details about your book or posting the back cover copy into the comments section of TIPM is unlikely to capture potential buyers and readers of your book. The TIPM audience is unlikely to be the audience for your book. Now, if your book is about self-publishing, the publishing industry or some related area, then I may very well be interested in reviewing it or drawing some attention to it. But even if your book is up my street and something I might want to feature on TIPM; pitch me, explain to me why my readers here will want to read your book, offer to write a guest post and share something of why you decided to write the book. Like any kind of query or submission, it might be a good idea to find out my name. It’s not difficult to find here, and emails I receive beginning with ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ (and to any editor) are usually followed by circular content sent out to tens, hundreds or even thousands of recipients.
Some subtle and constructive things to do and think about that will help make people aware of your book without spamming:
  • Use an email linked to your author/book website and ensure the signature features a thumbnail of your book cover, a ten word hook line and buy link.
  • Make sure you have a Goodreads account.
  • Use your social media accounts to provide readers with information and value — don’t just use them as ‘buy, buy, buy’ loudspeakers.
  • Free is fine sometimes, not all the time!
  • Your readers are the best promoters of your book — encourage them to discuss your book and post reviews.
  • Build a subscription list of readers instead of cold spamming non-readers — respect that not everybody wants to read your book.
  • Most writers love to read, but not all readers love to write — your audience are readers, not other authors!
  • Write like an author and think like a reader when you market your book.

"Five Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid in Business Writing" originally posted on

Person working with laptop and coffee cup on a wood floor by Ivan Kruk

Maybe you’re a small business owner or an entrepreneur, or maybe you’re a finance whiz or a tech genius. No matter where you work or what you do, everyone needs to know how to write effectively for business these days. And yes, that includes paying attention to grammar.
“But wait,” you protest. “I’m not a stodgy English professor. Who cares if I mix up ‘their’ and ‘there’?”
You should care, because good grammar is tantamount to credibility. It’s likely that you spend a lot of time communicating with others, especially in writing, at your job. Your written words are an extension of you, and there’s no quicker way to look sloppy and careless than to send professional correspondence riddled with grammatical errors.
We spoke to Mignon Fogarty, creator of Grammar Girl and author ofGrammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, to get some clarity and insight into why we make certain grammatical mistakes and how we can easily avoid them. Here are five common mistakes to avoid in business writing:
1. “I” vs. “me”
These types of sentences are often seen in business e-mails, but they’re wrong:
  • Thanks for meeting Steven and I for lunch yesterday.
  • Please send the latest files to John and I.
Me is such a tiny word, yet people seem terrified to use it.
“As children, we’re often corrected when we say something like, ‘Christina and me are going the store.’ And mom will remind us for the hundredth time that it should be ‘Christina and I,'” says Fogarty. “Some people think that those corrections cause us to internalize the message that ‘and me’ is always wrong. Remember: there’s nothing wrong with ‘me.’ It’s the pronoun you want in the object position or after a preposition.”
Here’s a fast, simple trick to always get it right: just take out the other person in the sentence and see how it sounds. Would you ever say, “Thanks for meeting I for lunch yesterday”? Nope! You’d say, “Thanks for meeting me for lunch yesterday,” so you should use “me.”
Correct sentences:
  • Thanks for meeting Steven and me for lunch yesterday.
  • Please send the latest files to John and me.
2. i.e. vs. e.g.
i.e. and e.g. are both abbreviations for Latin terms that are confused with each other. Many people think they mean the same thing and are interchangeable, but they’re actually different.
i.e. is Latin for id est, which means “that is.” You can think of it as meaning “in essence,” or “in other words.” It either offers more information or paraphrases the idea in a clearer way.
On the other hand, e.g. stands forexempli gratia, which means “for example” in Latin. Use this when you want to provide a list of examples.
Here are sentences that illustrate the difference:
  • Our bounce rate is pretty high, i.e., visitors are exiting our website quickly and don’t seem interested in our content.
  • We use several important marketing metrics, e.g., bounce rate, time on site, and number of unique visitors.
3. Dangling participles
“You can think of a participle as simply an ‘-ing’ phrase, and they’re usually caught dangling at the beginning of a sentence. They should apply to the word that comes next,” says Fogarty. However, when they modify the wrong noun in the sentence, you can end up with some awkward and confusing sentences.
For example:
  • Bubbling quickly on the countertop, the investors were impressed by the new coffee machine.
This sentence says that the investors were bubbling quickly on the countertop, which makes no sense.
Instead you would want to say:
  • Bubbling quickly on the countertop, the new coffee machine impressed the investors.
4. “Use” vs. “utilize”
Good writing means that you shouldn’t use a long word where a short, simple one will do. Many people write “utilize” in business emails and memos because they think it sounds fancy, impressive, and intelligent. But it’s actually needless, overblown jargon. “Use” is a perfectly good word and works just as well.
According to Fogarty, “‘Utilize’ has some specific, appropriate uses. Biological organisms are properly said to ‘utilize’ nutrients. If you’re a general writer, however, it’s usually best to stick with ‘use.’”
5. Unnecessary apostrophes
Many people often add unnecessary apostrophes to sentences. This sentence, for example, is chock-full of them:
  • That company’s presentation is full of great idea’s, and it get’s right to the point of it’s strategy — you’ll love it.
Apostrophes should be used to show possession (company’s presentation) and contractions (you’ll). But don’t use the apostrophe with an “s” to make regular nouns plural (ideas, not idea’s), and don’t use it with verbs (gets,not get’s).
“I suspect we’re tempted to use apostrophes when we shouldn’t because we’re programmed in elementary school to link apostrophes with possessives. It’s more complicated than that though,” says Fogarty. “You only use apostrophes to make nouns possessive. Pronouns, such as ‘it’ and ‘they,’ don’t take apostrophes to become possessive. Instead, they have different forms: ‘its’ and ‘their.'”
Everything you write, no matter how mundane, creates an impression of you to the reader. Small details do make a difference. Poor writing not only hurts your credibility, but it also signals negative communication abilities to your investors, employees, vendors, and customers.
By avoiding these five common grammatical mistakes in your business writing — whether it’s in emails, letters, presentations, proposals, or memos — you’ll bolster your credibility and become a much more effective communicator.
Photo at the top by Ivan Kruk

Monday, August 24, 2015

Anyone need a cheap agent?!

"The Minimalist’s Guide to Becoming a Better Writer" originally posted by Demian Farnworth on

From my position writing seems simple. You read, you write, you critique. What’s missing from that simple equation is the hard work.
It took me over fifteen years or longer to arrive here. And I’m still learning. Still growing. Portions of writing get easier, but I still have my challenges. Yet, if you love what you do, time will fly. I promise.
Yet, don’t waste time.
So, if you like simple, but want simple explained (I don’t care what we are talking about — there are always nuances to be teased out of “simple”), then here’s a cheat sheet to guide you in your journey to becoming a great writer. Enjoy.


Writers love to read. And there’s two ways to do that.
  • Read deep. Great writers master their craft. They are not satisfied with understanding the fundamentals. They want to master those basics, and they are always looking to upgrade their talent. Sharpen your saw by reading — and re-reading — classics like The Elements of Style,Bird by Bird. Then work through a list of books that focus on the art of writing: How to Write a Sentence or Advertising Secrets of the Written Word.
  • Read wide. A massive store of ideas, metaphors, peculiar words, superb opening lines, sublime closing ones, and stories will satisfy the monster known as creativity. Read biographies, science fiction, commentaries. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Read the old before the new. You will learn from it all. None of it will go to waste. And the only trajectory you should follow is your interest.


The more, the merrier.
  • First drafts. A whole slew of writing fits into here. Your journal, premature ideas, emails never sent, pages of a favorite story you copy by hand. This is the portion of the iceberg under the water. The words that will never see the light of the day. Your spring training. Daily workouts. The stepping stones toward perfection.
  • Revisions. About one tenth of what you write must see the light of day. You must deliver something if you want to be regarded as a professional. And what you deliver must be honed. Trimmed. Rewritten. This is where the men are separated from the boys. The women from the girls.
  • Copy. Take a page from your favorite author and copy it by hand. Copy it by laptop. Germane to this practice, memorize well-written poems and paragraphs. Absorb their style.
  • Everything Else. Obsess about writing. Find opportunities to write when you cannot write. Need to make a call? Create a script. Need to deliver a speech? Write a draft. Email friends and family. Dust off posts on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook. Focus on a planned and purposeful neglect of everything else but writing.


Perhaps the most potent element in becoming a better writer is constructive criticism. It’s the objective measure you need to help correct your mistakes. It’s not easy, so humble yourself. Grin and bear it. In time you will develop your own sense of objective criticism. But never abandon bouncing ideas off others. We can always grow.
  • Friends. Run your copy by an honest friend who shoots straight from the hip. Avoid the perennial cheerleader.
  • Critique Groups. Join a group of writers with a slight mix of talent to avoid constant frustration. Listen to the feedback no matter who is giving it: beginner or pro. Evaluate everything they say. Keep the good, dismiss the bad.
  • Professionals. Mentors guide you with specific, strategic direction.
  • Metrics. Pay attention to how people are reacting to your content. Are people reading it? Commenting on it? Sharing it? Is your content driving traffic? Showing up in search engines? Subscribers joining?
  • Self Examination. In time you will acquire the ability to judge your own work — to distinguish the best, the worst and the mediocre. You will have ample amounts of the latter two. Be ruthless. No free lunch.
  • Publication. Submit to traditional and online journals. Send your work to literary agents. Package a work as an ebook and release it. Measure the response.
By the way, when you feel confident, join a group, committee, or company where you are the dumbest writer in the room. Let the talent and the competition spur you to new heights. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

"3 Things Your Novel’s Narrator Needs to Accomplish" originally posted by John Mauk on

So what particular elements convince us? How does a story compete with the real world and all of its lures: air, cell phones, family crises, food, and drink? For me, it all comes down to the narrator, to the storytelling voice. Narrators don’t simply say what happened. They create a reality, a world that readers believe, keep on believing, and want to keep believing. Whether first, second, or third-person, good narrators make fictive worlds real, which takes a lot of persuasive power—more than all the politicians in Congress. And while the list of persuasive elements is long, here are three small but crucial moves, things that narrators do when they most successfully convince us:
Create Memory: Most people, on most days, wake up in the same room, with the same insufficient hairdo, wearing or staring at the same clothes. We see the same stuff and forget to ask, “Am I still me? Is the world still here?” Memory is a persuasive force on consciousness—a reflex that keeps convincing us of this reality. Narrators get to use that force. They get to create and then call on memory. They establish a detail (the way a family cat limps or the fact that Melissa spilled a full cappuccino in her Toyota Corolla last Tuesday) and then bring that detail back at some later point: there’s Limpy the cat again and that milk has created a serious funk now that it’s a week old. Each time the cat walks through the house, every time that dead milk smell wafts up from the floor, readers nod along. They are comforted by what they already know and reminded that they belong here in this world.
Create Horizon: Every reality has a place where vision stops, where the walls, mountains, trees, or curvature of the Earth won’t let us see further. The basic feeling of location comes only because we can’t see everything at once. The same goes for readers. If they are to belong, they need horizon, a way to distinguishhere from everywhere else. There are countless ways to make this happen—a small stream of facts that murmurs of faraway business, a finger of smoke, something we see in the distance, anything that lets us know that a factory is churning, that a reactor is reacting. The most stunning and explicit version of this—at least in my mind—is Love in the Time of Cholera. Even the title suggests the up-close and the faraway. In the story, the narrator occasionally reminds us of some distant affairs—national turmoil, sickness, and brutality writ large. And those affairs occasionally haunt the immediate.
Sometimes, horizon is crucial to the narrative tension—to the way we feel while drifting with Huck and Jim, romping with Ennis Delmar and Jack Twist, or romanticizing AntonĂ­a. The narrators in these stories create horizon differently, but it’s there and it’s crucial each time. Scenes are often imbued with a sense of up-close and faraway—in other words, space. And without space, there is no reality.
I should, though, admit that this might get dangerous. A clumsy or self-involved narrator can abandon the main characters in favor of abstract exposition. But horizon doesn’t require lengthy passages. It needs only a quick turn of the head, a brief glance into the distance, or a squint over someone’s shoulder. If characters are like people, they’ll look up from their own laps—even their own cell phones—often enough to remember what’s out there.
Disclose All: The best narrators tell all. They say so much right out of the gate (in the first five pages, for instance) that they establish an agreement with readers: if you stay with me, I’ll tell you everything as soon as I know or remember. That’s an attractive promise. Consider how Annie Proulx’s narrator in TheShipping News heaves so much at us, how that torrent of facts about Quoyle’s sloppy life comes rushing out in a few pages. The sheer volume and intensity of terrible stuff demands acceptance.
Of course, we have to acknowledge the unreliable narrator, the voice that’s intentionally holding back or shifting facts for personal gain. But I stand by the notion that the promise still gets made. Whether or not the narrator keeps it is another compelling matter.
In closing, I’ll admit: these three strategies can be characterized as artistic rather than rhetorical. But that nasty old distinction doesn’t help us. In fact, I believe it hurts fiction writers and poets alike. When I imagine my narrators as persuaders, they develop voices of their own. They get real. In short, there’s much to be gained when we see our narrators as the ultimate rhetoricians, when we make cuts, additions, and tweaks based on the single most important goal: to create a coherent reality, one more solid and factual than all the news and history channels can conjure.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

If you're surfing the web right now...

"Up From The Ashes, A Public Library In Sri Lanka Welcomes New Readers" originally posted by Julie Mccarthy on

The Jaffna Public Library, destroyed in 1981 and rebuilt twice since, once sat in a no man's land between warring forces. It's been fully restored and become a haven for readers young and old.
The Jaffna Public Library, destroyed in 1981 and rebuilt twice since, once sat in a no man's land between warring forces. It's been fully restored and become a haven for readers young and old.
Julie McCarthy/NPR
Rising two stories and capped by three domes, the Jaffna Public Library looks a bit like a stately wedding cake. Gleaming white under the Sri Lanka sun, the building's classical lines and beautiful proportions make it one of the architectural standouts of the South Asia region.
That it survived at all is a testament to resilience. The fact that it was restored to such pristine condition, including its lush gardens, and modernized (it now offers Wi-Fi) makes it all the more remarkable.
The library's renovation is as exquisite as its history is turbulent. The building sits in the heart of the provincial capital that was wracked not so long ago by battles and bullets.
A three-decade civil war pitted Sri Lankan forces against rebels fighting a brutal campaign for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils. The rebels, known as Tamil Tigers, were crushed in 2009, in the closing months of the fighting.
Incinerated History
At the library's front entrance, a statue of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, beckons visitors inside.
Past the lobby, on the left, oversized teak windows frame an airy reading room that pulls in an Indian Ocean breeze and patrons who pack the place on Sunday afternoons.
Perhaps it's not unexpected in a country with a 92 percent literary rate.
This framed picture depicts the library in 1981, after it was destroyed in a fire that Sri Lankan Tamils suspect was set by government police.
This framed picture depicts the library in 1981, after it was destroyed in a fire that Sri Lankan Tamils suspect was set by government police.
Julie McCarthy/NPR
Looking at the library today, you wouldn't know that this landmark was gutted in a mysterious fire in 1981.
"It was completely destroyed. And at that time, nobody knows who was inside the library," says S. Thanabaalasinham, the retired chief librarian. He says six rooms full of material — 97,000 volumes — were turned to ash.
S. Thanabaalasinham, the library's retired chief librarian, says 97,000 volumes were lost when the library was destroyed in 1981.
S. Thanabaalasinham, the library's retired chief librarian, says 97,000 volumes were lost when the library was destroyed in 1981.
Julie McCarthy/NPR
"The history of the Tamil people" was incinerated, he says, including "valuable books of Hindu philosophers, irreplaceable ancient texts, scrolls written on palm leaves," as they had been for centuries. Previously, these works had been housed in Hindu temples, which in some ways served as the precursor to libraries on the island.
Sri Lanka's mainly Hindu Tamil minority suspects that police from the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority set the 1981 library fire. It foreshadowed the bigger conflict to come between the government and the Tamil Tigers.
With donations from well-wishers around the world, the library was fully renovated in 1984.
But within a year, Jaffna was engulfed in the civil war. With the newly refurbished library at ground zero, shells careened over the roof. Thanabaalasinham says it wasn't long before the building was assaulted head-on, targeted because Tamil insurgents took up residence "in what was left of the lending room."
"It became the place where the rebels billeted themselves," he says.
From No Man's Land To New Beginning
They operated just yards from where the government forces were stationed in an old Dutch fort that sits along the coast.
"The un-man zone," the former librarian calls it.
It would remain a no man's land through much of the 1990s, when fighting intensified and civilian casualties in the war climbed into the thousands.
In 1990, Thanabaalasinham, who had studied at the Jaffna library as a young man, returned as its librarian. With the main building shuttered, he struggled to fill the gap by setting up five smaller branches around the city.
Burned, rebuilt and then bombed into ruins, the main library improbably rose again a second time. Beginning in 2000, blackened floors were hauled away and gutted rooms repaired in a $1 million face-lift, financed by the central government and international donors.
When political rivals could not decide on the size of the reinauguration, Thanabaalasinham took matters into his own hands and personally threw open the doors in February 2004.
Library patrons fill the main reading room on Sundays.
Library patrons fill the main reading room on Sundays.
Julie McCarthy/NPR
"The students came every day to the gate and said, 'We need to get in; we have exams coming up and we need to study,' " recalls the 67-year old public servant.
According to the National Library of Sri Lanka, there are some 1,135 public libraries for the country's 20 million citizens. A small municipality can house its modest collection in the town hall. The country's only two major libraries are the Colombo Public Library, in the capital, and the library in Jaffna.
Today, Jaffna's shelves groan under the weight of books on computer science and mathematics, along with best-sellers from Peter Wright's Spycatcher to Bill Bryson's Made in America.
The library once at the heart of so much turmoil teems today with the young and the old. Fifteen and wide-eyed, Shareeq Ahmed marvels at the historical collection. "I got to see what happened on the day I was born," he says. "I've never seen a library like this."
Shareeq is too young to remember much of the war years. But for another patron, 75-year-old Rajenthiran Selvanayagam, spending time at the library is a peaceful contrast to that era. He lost his wife to the war. His son went mad.
Selvanayagam visits the library three times a week. "Having a book in my hand," he says, "is more than meditation to me."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Overcoming Writer's Block" by E. M. Jerkins

Writer’s block is something that every seasoned writer has experienced and every novice writer has to look forward to. While there is no general cure for the mental affliction, I can share what usually works for me when my mind draws blanks on a current project. What I tend to do is switch what I’m working on.

As a fiction writer I am always imagining ideas for book or short story plots. In the middle of novel writing, when the block sets in, I instantly move into a totally different story line. I do that because writer’s block, to me, feels like I’m stuck…limited so to speak. So by transitioning to a different script, I liberate my mind to think beyond the realm of what I was originally writing when writer’s block hit me.

Eventually, as I work on an alternate piece, something will come to mind concerning my previous endeavor and I will be able to apply it. At that point I’ve not only overcome writer’s block, but I’ve also started or continued progress on something else. This means that there’s never any unproductive downtime spent wracking a brain that temporarily doesn’t have any more ideas in it.

Of course when you are on a deadline this tactic may not be the best one, however for those who write fiction continuously this hint may be the best approach to defeating the nemesis known as writer’s block. 

A little literary boost!

You Know You're a Writer When...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Do I Really Need a Print Version of My Book?"

Book Genres, by E-Book or Print Book Preference
Book Genres, by E-Book or Print Book Preference
In a word, yes. Market share varies by genre, but this market share data from the book category called "trade publishing," where most self-published authors introduce books, should help you decide:
  • Print books account for approximately 70% of all books sold
  • Amazon sells 64% of all print books that are sold online
  • Amazon sells 67% of all ebooks (all online, of course)
  • Amazon sells 41% of all books sold, online or offline
  • Amazon sells 65% of all ebooks and print books that are sold online
One conclusion you can draw from this market share data is that readers generally prefer to purchase print books--and that Amazon sells the most print books of any online retailer. So if you were to decide to place the print on demand (POD) version of your book in only one store, you should place it in Amazon (via Createspace). Placing your POD book in the Amazon store gets you exposure to the biggest group of print book buyers assembled in one place.
But wait--another important consideration is whether YOUR readers prefer to purchase the ebook or print version of your book. Here, the answer isn't so clear. Readers of certain genres indicate that they prefer to buy ebooks rather than print books, but this isn't the case for all genres. This graph, from a DBW article on the most recent industry study, illustrates readers' preferences by genre:
Book Genres, by E-Book or Print Book Preference

Looking at these results leads you to the reasonable conclusion that for many genres, POD isn't a must-have. If you write in one of the top five genres in this list, POD may be a small market for you.
However, we believe that after your ebook has been out for a while, and you're certain that it is text-complete, with no further edits needed, it's still a good idea to bring out a POD version for a number of reasons.
Having a POD version of your book will:
  1. Make your book look professionally published on your Amazon sales page
  2. Give you access to online purchasers who prefer print editions
  3. Expose more potential reviewers to your book
  4. Make your book available to order in most physical bookstores
  5. Make it easy to order copies to sell at events
  6. Give you an inexpensive option for obtaining a printed copy of your book for your personal bookshelf
Have you created a POD version of your book? If not, why not?