Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The 53% Solution

Last year 400,000 books were published or distributed in the U.S., and some 15 million writers were working on some type of WIP. However, 53% of the Americans surveyed admitted that they did not read a single book in 2007. These NEA stats come courtesy of Rachel Donadio's NYT article, You're An Author? Me Too.*

Now, before you get depressed, according to this UK web page, there are 105+ million active internet surfers and 165+ million people with internet access in the U.S., as well as some 450 million internet surfers in 21 countries around the world.

Why should we be happy about this? To use the internet effectively, you have to be able to read. It's not that there aren't enough readers out there -- it's that they're not in the bookstores. They're on the internet.

As an experiment, and because I needed a reliable hosting service, I started moving my free e-books from my private FTP to Scribd* on January 2nd of this year (Scribd is a free service and hosts everything at no cost to me or the readers.) To date, the 22 freebies I've posted over there have been viewed a total of 9,273 times. That's an average of 78 views per day since I started the project. *Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

It doesn't sound like a lot, until you consider the cost of mailing out 78 books every day to people all around the world. With Scribd, there's no paper, shipping, packaging or address-hunting involved. Best of all, only readers who are genuinely interested in reading my work view the stories, so there's no harassing advertising or SPAMming going on. On the reader's end, they get 22 free books and stories that they can read online or download, print out, share, use for educational purposes, etc. Win/win.

Scribd readers have been terrific. They've e-mailed me to ask questions and to request more e-books about their favorite characters (surprisingly, the most frequently requested is Holly Noriko of Lunar Marshall.) I've had a few interesting discussions about the biz with other writers who have contacted me via the site. The Scribd readers are also buying my print novels, because I'm getting a lot of questions and feedback about those as well.

I'm able to access visitor maps for each document I post on Scribd that show me where the viewers are located. Most are in the U.S. and Canada, but I've also discovered that I have new readers in places like Russia, Dominica, Japan, Uganda, and Afghanistan. My print books are hard if not impossible to get overseas, so to have this sort of access to so many readers around the globe is an enormous privilege for me.

The internet, Scribd and giving away free e-books are not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of building a readership during an era when it seems like no one reads. Still, I think it's encouraging, especially for writers who can't afford expensive forms of self-promotion and advertising. I know we can find other creative avenues like Scribd on the internet that can help us reach more readers with our work. We just have to keep thinking in new directions.

*Registration may be required to access the article.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Blogging Days of Old

Tom and I are still fine-tuning the Friday 20 Index (the eighth version of the test post is currently printing out as six single-spaced pages, and we still have about 1/3 of all the questions ever asked to rework/rephrase before it's finished.) I'm hoping to have it done by this Friday, weather and writing schedule permitting.

Going through all the old Q&A posts makes me all nostalgic for those times back when we could talk books and shop openly. Today I look around and most writer blogs seem to have gone completely vanilla or are being run as promo-only sites. Pros who don't want to deal with online hassles or censor themselves as protection against them are shutting down their blogs. I understand why, and I'm not wagging a finger at anyone. I just miss the good old days.

Things change, and they say you have to change with them, get left behind, or give up. I'm more the change-things-yourself-for-the-better type, though, so I'm going to be focusing on accomplishing that, and not on the things that have changed for the worse.

You blogosphere veterans out there, what do you miss from the days of old? What changes would you like to see in the future here at PBW, or with writer blogs in general?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Photo Op Ten

Ten Things to Help You with Your Images

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads for viruses and other bugs before you dump them on your hard drive.

1. If you're looking for copyright free/public domain images to use, try sites like CopyrightFreePhotos, FreeFoto, and FreePhotos -- and always check the site owner's terms of use on any free image site, because while most are free, some don't allow any commercial use. My favorite photo site, Dreamstime, offers photos free to download daily, for example, but there are still some restrictions on use.

2. Fast Image Resize helps you "resize images to any size quickly and in high quality." Might be helpful for those of you who have to create a lot of web site and blog cover thumbnails (OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3)

3. Fototagger "lets you easily add movable notes to individual elements visualized on images. The notes can be hidden in a click of a button so the original view remains intact. Moreover, the notes always stay with the image wherever it is shared." If you've been looking for a way to permanently tag your images, this could work. (OS: Win 2000/XP)

4. Imagelys Picture Styles is "a way of creating an unlimited number of beautiful graphic images in a minimal amount of time. You can create seamless backgrounds for your desktop or your web page, original wallpapers, textures for 3D modelling, skins for your favorite programs, and much much more. You don't have to be an expert designer to be able to produce truly amazing results." (OS: Win 98/ME/NT/2K/XP/Vista)

5. Steve Pan's blog, Slideplay, is his "personal collection of slideshows with music accompaniment and photo stories from the web." It's also the home of Jtvmaker, a "free web slideshow generator and album generator that can remix photo, mp3 and lyric files. You can use it to make a music slideshow for karaoke, or make a simple photo story that can be published easily on the web." For those of you who make your own book videos, could be something you want to check out. (OS: Win 2000/XP/2003/Vista; developer notes on freeware info page that "J2SE 6 is required.")

6. K-3D is a "3D modeling and animation software. It features a plugin-oriented procedural engine for all of its content, making K-3D a very versatile and powerful package. K-3D excels at polygonal modeling, and includes basic tools for NURBS, patches, curves and animation." This looks pretty sophisticated to me, but some of you savvy graphics animators out there might find it fun and/or useful. (OS: Win NT/2K/XP/2K3)

7. Karen's Whimsy is a neat public domain images project. The owner writes: "On the following pages you will find hundreds of scans of beautiful images from my collection of old books, magazines, and postcards. They are all from material printed prior to 1923 and are in the public domain." A very neat colleaction, and definitely worth the time to check out.

8. Visions is "an innovative 3D image management system (3DIMS) which allows you to navigate through your photos in a 3D (three dimensional) world. This way you can view your folders as a collection of boards spread on your screen, allowing you to easily perform cross folder actions such as moving photos from one folder to another, comparing two folders or simply viewing photos from several folders at the same time." This one looks really interesting, especially for you scriptwriters and storyboarders out there. (OS: Win 2000/XP/Vista)

9. WPanomrama permits you to "display panoramic pictures by letting them scroll horizontally or vertically on the screen. You can use this software to view the gorgeous 360° swiss panorama included with the program, the 714 panoramas available on the developer´s site or your own pictures in .jpg or .bmp format." (OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3)

10. XnView allows you to "view and convert graphic files." It's free for private non-commercial or educational use (including non-profit organization); for commercial use, it is necessary to register. The developer/designer, Pierre-emmanuel Gougelet notes: "It is a help for the development of future versions. XnView for Linux, FreeBSD are FREE also for commercial use." (OS: Windows, MacOS X, Linux x86, Linux ppc, FreeBSD x86, OpenBSD x86, NetBSD x86, Solaris sparc, Solaris x86, Irix mips, HP-UX, AIX)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

SF Visual Aids

Drawing inspiration from images is something I think every writer does in one form or another. When you work outside this realm of reality, however, it gets a little tougher to find images that suit your vision.

I started drawing characters and scenes from my SF stories in the eighth grade. I made my own cover art and story illustrations by tracing body shapes out of comic books and magazines before coloring them blue, giving them tusks or a face full of tentacles, etc.

I graduated from pencils and markers to acrylics in high school, and then to oils and watercolors in my twenties. Watercolors eventually won out, although sometimes when I see some of the amazing paintings SF artists achieve I wish I had stuck with oils a bit longer (the mess of working with them is what did me in.)

Here's a watercolor I did a few years back for a book of poetry. The non-human figure is one of my characters from Omega Games:

First watercolor of an Odnallak in shift

I can't paint much these days, so I've moved on to exploring what can be done with photoshopping and digital photography. I am strictly an amateur, but still I'm finding a whole new world of creative possibilities have opened up for me. Even doing something as simple as manipulating the colors of a photo can take a very ordinary image and make it look quite unearthly:

Cover of Joren planet notebook

It's nice to know that while I may not be able to swing a brush around, or remember how to spell planetary correctly, I can still create images that help jumpstart my muse.

What do you all do when you need an inspirational image? SF writers, do you have an special resources you use for things that are out of this world?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Together Again

Now available as a free e-book over on Scribd>*:

The second collection of John and Marcia posts

As with the first John and Marcia collection, I've also added in some articles after each post in the e-book on how to avoid, combat and/or handle the writing problems involved. Click on the cover art to go to the Scribd document page.

*Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. This book and all of my free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


That night John sat at his desk and studied the photographs he had taken of the mystic diamond in the museum in Cairo. If only he'd overcome his natural inclination to be painfully honest and law-abiding, and stolen the damn thing, Marcia would never have been placed in danger of losing her virtue, her soul or her darling little house in the suburbs, all of which she had devoted so many years to enriching and guarding and never, ever letting a demon besmirched, corrupt or destroy with plastic explosives.

A distorted shadow drifted across the window behind him.

Jane sauntered into the atrium, her black curls bouncing in time with her bountifully displayed breasts; her cheeks flushed a pretty pink. "Marshall?" Her pale blue eyes searched the room. "Oh, Marshall, where are you? I need you NOW."

John got to his feet. "I'm sorry, who are you?"

"You don't recognize your own girlfriend, honeybunny?" Marcia, who secretly thought of herself as Jane, stepped into the library's overhead lights, which revealed that her black hair was actually dark brown. Her dark eyes, which sometimes only looked pale blue in the moonlight, met his. How silly she'd been, she thought, blushing, to mistake his library for an atrium, of all things. "I've had a very hard day at the law office, Marshall, and I'd love to unwind with a Manhattan. Would you make me one, sweetie pie?"

Two shadows darted past the window behind John. One was man-shaped, the other resembled a goat dressed in Armani.

John frowned. "You work at a library, you don't drink alcohol, and I'm not a Marshall -- I'm only a detective."

"Oh, you big silly!" Marcia laughed as hot color flooded her cheeks. "I meant to say, I'm tired from a long day at the library where I stacked a lot of books and remembered how I used to do the same thing when I worked at a law office a long time ago. And I do drink now and then, sweetie pie, I just never told you before now because I didn't want you to think I was a breast-flaunting lush." She tilted her head to look up through his sky light at the stars. "I thought he was called Marshall?"

An enormous shadow slithered across the window behind John's desk, unnoticed by Jane or Marshall. The shadow might have been that of a forty-foot-tall cobra, if cobras came with four heads and little pickles sticking out of their chests. If cobras have chests.

He came around the desk. "John. The name's John." He glanced up. "Why are you looking at the ceiling?"

"I could have sworn there was a skylight to the Story Goddess up there." Marcia popped open the first two buttons on her skimpy blouse as desire made her face hot. "Forget about it. Comere and give my babies a nice kiss. Don't be shy -- you'll never see a bigger or a better rack than this, sugarlips."

An army of shadows marched across the window, blocking out all light and hope with their evil numbers and dark, dismal, demonic, destitute, dirty desires, all of which they directed toward Marshall's nicely-shaped fanny.

John glanced down. "Actually, I have. Frequently. Sometimes hourly."

Marcia tucked in her chin, saw two small but nicely rounded breasts, and screamed. "Oh my GOD!" Her face reddened as she tore open her bra. "What happened to my implants? I paid twenty grand to have Dr. Sue gimme big beautiful bountiful bouncing bazooms!"

John carefully and respectfully covered up her nakedness. "Marcia, you don't have implants. You don't even have twenty dollars left in your checking account after you pay your bills every month. You give it away to charity, remember?"

"My name is Jane!" Marcia snarled, her color high. "I'm heiress to the Acme Slaughterhouse fortune! I don't even like books or charities! And why do you insist on calling yourself John, Marshall? What am I, a hooker?"

"No, darling Marcia." John took her gently into his arms. "You're a victim of a salvaged scene. Just as I am, darling Jane."

"But, Marshall!" Jane turned red with her distress and clutched at John's lapels. "We can't throw out all this work! It took her months to write that first draft. It must be saved!" She pressed her enormous breasts against his bare chest and parted her scarlet lips, panting on him a little as desire tinted her face a beautiful rose. "We'll just have to wing it, you hunka burning love."

"Stop acting like your first draft!" John thundered. "You've evolved! You're better than that slut!"

As the tsunami of dark shadows tried to cross the window behind him, John drew his gun and shot out the glass. The early morning light from the non-existent atrium hit the shadows, which went POOF! and were no more.

"Damn waffling shadow creatures. Now." John cradled Marcia's thin sweet face between his palms and kissed her pale pink lips. "Repeat after me: You are a nice girl librarian, I am a troubled but valiant cop. You are modest, I am obsessed with my penis. You are virginal, I should be a walking STD. You are Marcia, I am John."

"You are Marcia, I am John." She smiled shyly. "Just kidding." She glanced down at her small but nicely rounded breasts, which were almost buried under all the clothes she now wore. "I give all my money away to charity, for real?" When he nodded, she swallowed hard and eased open her tweed jacket, twill vest, white lace blouse and exposed her plain white cotton bra. "You could still, you know."

"Comere and give your babies a nice kiss?" John teased.

"No." Marcia blushed furiously. "Lend me twenty thousand dollars."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

BookWish Winner

The winner of the BookWish giveaway is:

Cheryl S. (aka cas2ajs)

Cheryl, when you get a chance please e-mail your BookWish, full name and ship-to address to Thanks to everyone for joining in and making so many interesting book recs.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dissing the Advantages

I'm getting a lot more of that irate e-mail about the stories I write for my readers and make available online for free. The general misconception is that I've just started doing this, when in fact I've been doing it regularly for the last seven years.

It's true that I have certain advantages over other writers: 1) I write quickly, 2) I write every day, 3) I produce a huge amount of work and 4) I enjoy playing in the worlds I create and hanging out with my characters on the page.

So I'm fast, prolific, and I basically write my own fanfic. Those are pretty much my only advantages in this biz. Since I turned pro, I've used them to help me achieve a modest amount of success. Until last year, no one ever complained to me about the free stories I posted online. Frankly, no one cared what I did, which allowed me a lot of freedom to experiment, give back to my readership for their support, and become the writer I wanted to be.

I didn't follow the herd. I did what I wanted to do. Some of it worked, and some of it didn't, but I learned a lot. I'm still learning.

Over the years I have been pressured to make the con rounds, enter contests, maintain a web site, hold booksignings, pay for book videos, trade advertising, blog tours, and other expensive forms of promotion that come and go as trends. I was told -- repeatedly -- that I would never be a bestselling author unless I did all those things.

I did a few things early on in my career, but I couldn't afford to do most of them, so I said no. A few years ago I quit doing everything but what I wanted to do, which was write an online journal, give away books, and write stories for my readers (and became a bestselling author anyway. Go figure.) Even though I'm still regularly pressured to do the latest trend thing, I still say no and do what I want. Oddly enough, they haven't thrown me out of publishing because I say no to them. In this business, believe it or not, you are allowed to say no.

Despite that pressure, not once have I ever said "That's unfair" to writers who produce clever book videos, or whose work wins important industry awards, or who attend conferences and dazzle readers with their wit and workshops, or who have a gorgeous pricey web site and thousands of readers posting on their discussion boards. They're simply making choices, using their advantages, promoting their work and competing with me for readers. If they get more readers and sell more books, I'm not going to suggest that by doing so that they're selling out and/or being unfair to me because I don't do those things.

I understand how promo trends drive the herd. We've seen hundreds of authors start blogs, create MySpace and FaceBook pages, produce book videos, do podcasts, not because they wanted to, but only because it seemed to be working for another author. If you're going to try something, don't do it because everyone else is. Do what you're comfortable with, what inspires you, and what makes you happy. Use the advantages you have, and be the writer you want to be, not the writer you think you have to be. Maybe you'll come up with an idea that will get you a lot of irate e-mail seven years down the road.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I need to do something positive today, how about you? I tried calling the Publishing Fairy to see if she'd sprinkle some gilt dust on us, but it went right to voice mail. There's a rumor going around that she's absconded with a cover model from RT. I hope she got one who's interested in more than her magic wand.

The heck with her, let's have a giveaway. In comments to this post, tell us what you're currently reading (or if your TBR stack has vanished, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on April 21, 2008. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates, and grant the winner a BookWish*. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*A BookWish is any book of your choice that is available for order from an online bookseller, up to maximum cost of $30.00 U.S. I will throw in any applicable shipping charges involved.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lost Biz Ten

It's funny what you find when you're cleaning out your virtual filing cabinet. I found three stories I can't remember writing, along with an e-mail I drafted as a reply to an angry pinhead that I'm very glad I never sent (and whenever you write a letter like that, you should let it sit somewhere until you cool off, then look at it again.)

Here's a freeware ten list I wrote eight months ago (thus no OS notations) that never made it to the blog:

Ten Things to Help Take Care of Business

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads for viruses and other bugs before you dump them on your hard drive.

1. 100 Letters freeware provides one hundred form letters for home and office use.

2. Take control of your code with Araneae text editor freeware.

3. Bitlets freeware stores and manages your text notes.

4. Design your business cards online and generate a .pdf for printing with the Business Card Marker.

5. Easily keep track of your daily expenses with GCS Budget freeware.

6. The free trial of OfficeBooks will help you design and print your own office stationery (business cards, CD labels, address labels, letterhead, envelopes and more.)

7. OpenProj is "a free, open source desktop alternative to Microsoft Project. If you are managing a group project we recommend Project-ON-Demand. If you want a free replacement to commercial desktop software then OpenProj is perfect and avail[a]ble on Linux, Unix, Mac or Windows."

8. Manage your personal business/financial records better with the free version of QuickBooks.

9. Reminder-Organizer freeware is a "powerful personal information manager. The program can help you organize and plan your business and personal life. In short, this is a reminder, notebook, address book, passwords and calendar, combined into one powerful, easy-to-use application."

10. In search of a free, powerful word processor? Take a look at WordWright freeware.

Friday, April 18, 2008

There Can Be Only One

Thanks to Rosina Lippi, I've become hooked on One Sentence, a site devoted to telling true stories in one sentence. These extremely short stories range from the funny and silly to the touching and tragic, but most of them share one thing in common: they make an instant connection to the reader.

The one that got me on my first look: As a kid dripping in mud, I couldn’t see why bringing four frogs home in a zip lock bag was bad idea. — Cam. That brought back a lot of memories of my daughter, who never met a reptile she didn't like. After school I used to have to take her lunchbox outside before I opened it, just in case she brought home a new friend.

Novelists are spoiled by the fact that we usually have four or five hundred manuscript pages to tell our stories, so I think this is an excellent writing exercise. Here are a couple of mine:

I couldn't stop CPR long enough to convince one of the morons standing around and watching me to call 911.

It rained on our first date and on the last day of our marriage.

He kept bugging me to sign their stock until he saw that my kid had to hold the pen for me just so I could sign the credit card slip.

All right, you guys, it's your turn -- post your one-sentence story in comments.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Next Up

So far all of the collection e-books I've posted over on Scribd* are made up of stories from the old web sites or e-stories I've published in the past. The next free e-book will be a bit different, as most of the stories in it will be those that no one has read but me:

Cover art credit - Photographer: Bertrand Benoit, Agency:

Ravelin is the world I used as the setting of my fantasy stories Red Branch and Throw, as well as about a dozen others. I wrote all of these stories as character and world-building exercises back when I played around with the idea of pitching an epic or byzantine fantasy series.

It was an interesting experiment, because while I had no problem with the setting or the characters and their individual stories, I never hit on the one major concept that I felt would tie them all together and make them work as part of a successful novel series (that and there aren't any dragons, hobbits, magic, orcs, quests, trolls, witches or wizards on Ravelin. I kicked them all off the planet before I started writing.)

I should have this one put together and posted some time in May or June.

( Cover art credit: © Bertrand Benoit |

*Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

(Finalized) Friday 20 Index, V 2.0

Tom and I are about a third of the way through retuning the Friday 20 Index to make it more user-friendly, and today I'm going to post what we have done so far so we can see how the links survived the switchover. This is just a test version; it's not finished. It is what the final index will look once it's done, just with a lot more questions, so I guess we'll call it a preview.

Don't worry if there's a broken or erroneous link; that's what we're testing to try and find.

[Note to Tom - 10:20 AM: Replacing A version with B Version ~ 4/18/08- 11:51 AM: Replacing B version with C version 4:56 PM: Replacing C version with D version 4/21 11:02 PM Replacing D Version with E version 4/22 8:40 AM Replacing E version with F version 4/28 1:47 PM Replacing F version with G version 11:33PM Replacing G version with H version 4/29 7:05 AM Replacing H version with I version 8:48 AM Replacing I version with J version 4/30 10:36 AM Replacing J version with K version 5/1 12:00 AM Replacing K Version with Final Version]

Friday 20 Index, Final Test Version

This is an index by topic to the questions asked by my visitors and answered by me during the sixty-odd sessions of the Friday 20. In hopes of providing the most useable information, I've omitted all questions that were not related to general writing and publishing topics. Note: Tom and I will be checking through the links one more time today to make sure they all work, so if you find any that aren't working, bear with us.

Most of the questions have been edited and/or paraphrased here for length and clarity. Click on the "Q" prefacing each question to read the original question in comments. Click on the "A" to go to my answer. In some cases I've also linked to other, related answers to similar questions. My visitors often provide answers to the questions posted as well, so do check out the entire thread if you'd like to see if other writers weigh in.

Q: Do you have any recommendations on how to choose an agent? A
Q: Does an agent who no longer represents you still receive commission on series books, even future ones the agent didn't personally sell? A
Q: Do you have a checklist of any sort as to when a book is ready to be sent to an agent? A
Q: How do you decide between two agents? A
Q: In the agent-querying process, when should a writer bring up the "I'm-not-wild-about-the-idea-of-self-promotion" subject? A
Q: Is there anything you think should or shouldn't be in an agent query letter? A and A
Q: How can I approach a published author for an agent referral without putting her in an awkward position? A

Q: Do you have any advice for a writer starting a blog? A
Q: What advantage is there for an unpublished writer to keep a blog? A

Q: What should I do when a minor character tries to take over the story? A
Q: What do you do when one character has to give another character information that the reader already knows? A
Q: Do you have any suggestions or writing exercises to improve using all of a character's senses in a story? A
Q: What can you do when one of the characters' scenes doesn't seem/feel right? A and A
Q: After you've outlined a story, how do you deal with a logic problem with the protagonist's motivation? A
Q: How much presence does a character from book one need to have in book two before his/her storyline picks up again in book three? A
Q: How do you keep your characters from sounding like cliches? A
Q: How do you depict a character who is the strong, silent type without having him simply stand around and look at other characters? A
Q: Do you ask/answer your three questions for every character, or just the main(s)? A
Q: Do you ever give in to the urge to be horrible to a character rather than stick to your outline? A
Q: To what degree do you give your characters backgrounds? A
Q: How do you get your characters to behave? A
Q: How do you go about making sure your characters actually "grow" during the story? A

Q: Are conferences worth the time and money? A and A
Q: What's the secret to giving great workshop? A
Q: What is a legitimate conference (as opposed to one that nickel-and-dimes you into the poorhouse)? A

Q: Does posting up a work online affect your chances of later shopping it to an agent or publisher, by using up your electronic rights to a story? A
Q: How can I build on an idea I get from another author's work while avoiding writing something too similar? A
Q: If you write under a pen name should you copyright under your own name? Could you get the copyright in your pen name? A
Q: What do you think of the current state of copyright, particularly the current duration of copyright? A

Cover Art
Q: Who has the final say on the cover of a book, how is it decided, and how much control does a writer have over it? A and A

Q: Is it a bad thing to have a hobby totally unrelated to writing? A
Q: How do you know when a story idea is ready to be written? A
Q: How can a writer improve their ability to visualize a scene? A
Q: Does drawing or illustrating a story help or hinder the writing of it? A
Q: How do you deal with going through creative cycles? A

Q: How can I teach myself to write dialogue that isn't on-the-nose (candid/blunt/painfully honest)? A
Q: Will it date a novel to use slang in the dialogue? A
Q: Any suggestions on how to practice dialogue writing skills? A

Q: What's your opinion of a writer who says they never have to revise their work? A
Q: How do you shut up your Inner Editor? A
Q: How can I edit and revise my WIP in a short period of time? A
Q: What's your opinion on hiring an outside editor/book doctor? A, A and A
Q: How much editing do you do at your publisher/editor's request? A
Q: Should I revise my first WIP, even though I don't think any amount of revision will fix it, as practice? A
Q: How do you handle revising/editing issues, small and large? A
Q: What is the etiquette in dealing with your editor's requested revisions, especially if you don't completely agree with them? A

Q: Do you know of any good books or sites that can help teach me to develop a story worth telling? A
Q: What's the worst piece of writing related advice you ever received? A
Q: What can a writer with some writing experience do to improve their craft? A
Q: What's something you've learned recently about writing that you wish you'd known years ago? A

Q: Should writers be depressed about shrinking publisher advances? A
Q: It's harder than ever to break into the business -- is it still worth the earning potential to fight to get in? A
Q: I'm doing all the right things -- why aren't my sales getting better? A
Q: What's the reasoning behind an author receiving an advance? A
Q: What makes a publisher offer an extremely high advance for a book which doesn't make an outstanding performance on the market? A

Q: How do you know if you're writing in a genre that's 'right' or 'wrong' for you? A
Q: How rare or common is it for a writer to be successful in multiple genres? A
Q: Can you address the pros and cons of writing different sub-genres under different pseudonyms? A
Q: What things do you suggest doing to keep current with what's happening in a particular genre? Other than reading voraciously? A
Q: What can give me a feel for the current style/voice in writing urban fantasy? A
Q: What advice do you have for someone wanting to move into a new genre, pertaining to referring to past work? A
Q: Do you think publishers will become more genre-driven than acquiring manuscripts from 'known' authors? A
Q: Any tips on writing a love story, as opposed to a an adventure with a romantic sub plot? A
Q: How should a multi-genre writer establish themselves? A
Q: How do you handle both mental switching from one genre to another and the business side of it? A

Q: How does a writer know when an idea is viable enough to sustain an entire novel? A and A
Q: How do you remain focused on one project when you have other story ideas impeding your progress? A, A, A, A and A
Q: How can I keep from being distracted by my Muse so I can focus on one WIP? A
Q: How do you overcome being bored with your WIP? A
Q: How do you choose between two ideas for the same novel? A

Q: Which hair color (real or fake) brings the most respect/authority to a writer? A
Q: Given that there are more women than men reading, do you consciously write for a female market? A
Q: How, in your opinion, is writing for women different from writing for men? A
Q: Does a writer have to "live a little" before attempting to write about life? A
Q: Why is it so difficult to write about myself? A
Q: What do you anticipate being the next big thing? A and Q: Who are the writers to watch? A
Q: Any advice on a neo pulp fantasy novel protagonist who indulges in "competitive swiving" to choose between two love interests? A
Q: How do I keep from killing my back during NaNoWriMo? A
Q: Who is the oldest person to (recently) publish a novel? A
Q: How come some writers who claim never to read other peoples' books, ever, are wonderful writers anyway? A
Q: What do you think about using signature tags in e-mails? A
Q: Why is it impolite to say that you've never read another writer's work? A
Q: Define the 4th Rule of Write Club (Only one coincidence per novel.) A
Q: How do you know that a book is officially out of print (as opposed to just hard to get)? A
Q: I'm debating pen names. At what point do you start using one? A
Q: Is there any difference between an ARC and a store bought copy? A
Q: How do you determine your word count? What is your best advice on length? A
Q: What's the right way to go about getting blurbs/cover quotes? A
Q: In a query letter, should you give away the ending of the novel? A
Q: Where do you use your pseudonym in your submission (and when do you use your real name?) A
Q: How do you find your market? A
Q: Does watching market trends ever make you feel torn over what to write? A
Q: What makes you give up on reading a book not worth your time? A
Q: What's the stupidest thing you've seen writers do? A
Q: What is the most useless technique, process or bad habit that you see writers fall into? A
Q: What sort of printer do you use? A
Q: Do you recommend joining writer organizations? A

Q: What is the industry standard definition of a novella and a novelette? A
Q: How can I successfully make the transition from writing short stories and other short-form fiction to writing novel-length fictions? A
Q: If your book seems finished but you still feel something is missing, how do you identify what's wrong with it? Is it better to try to fix an old novel that's completed and had promise or start something new? And finally, how do you go about setting goals? AAA
Q: What are the merits of writing a standalone novel versus a trilogy or series? A
Q: Do you approach short stories the same way you do novels? A
Q: What is the ideal chapter length? A and A
Q: What are the merits/drawbacks of being published in hardcover versus paperback versus “paperback originals”? A and A

Q: Any advice or posts on pitching? A
Q: How should I pitch my series novel? A
Q: How do you manage to put together multiple proposals simultaneously? A

Q: I'm stuck on plotting, and bored with it. Advice? A
Q: How do you avoid "tea party scenes" and inject more action into a story? A
Q: How does one find a good balance--planning without stifling the fun of writing and writing with enough of a plan to stay on track? A
Q: How do I prevent a novelette from growing into an epic novel? A
Q: I think I'm plot blind -- is this normal? A
Q: Do you plot in key suspense points? A
Q: At what point do you fill out your character worksheet, gauge how much story each outlined event will take up, and add details to the outline? A
Q: Any suggestions on how to actually get more into the habit of plotting something out? A
Q: How do you come up with plot twists? A

Q: How do you make promotional bookmarks? A
Q: What can I do with the promotional postcards my publisher sent to me? A
Q: What are your thoughts on writers' newsletters? A
Q: How do you get your publisher to be okay with the fact that you'd rather write than promote? A
Q: Where is it okay to announce you've landed a book contract? A
Q: What are your top suggestions for promoting and marketing a new release? A
Q: How can I figure out what sort of promotion will work for me? A

Q: How should I handle a call from a publisher who's interested in my work if I'm unpublished and don't have an agent? A
Q: Do publishers attempt to keep their writers from taking their sub-genre books elsewhere? A
Q: Regarding profanity, is there an unspoken rating system for publishers? A
Q: What phrases or tricks do publishers have that allow them to keep their authors restricted as to what genres they can be published in, or at least published by that one company? A
Q: Any advice on how to deal with a former publisher that's being sort of difficult? Not responding to email, that sort of thing. A
Q: Can you clarify the conditions of the standard "Options on Next Work" clause in a publishing contract? A
Q: Is there a right way to self-publish? A
Q: What does it mean when a publisher says your novel is good, but “not good enough for a first novel”? A
Q: What are the benefits of publishing with a major publisher versus self-publishing? A

Series Writing
Q: How do you write a series so that it could end at any time and yet stays open to more books? A
Q: What do I call (and how do I market) a nontraditional trilogy? A
Q: What are the pros and cons of writing a series versus stand-alone books? A and A
Q: What's the knack to making a series just arced enough, without being impossible to pick up 12 books through? A
Q: What are some of the challenges of writing a series of standalones set in the same universe, and how do you handle them? A and A
Q: Do you need to publish a stand-alone before a series if you want any chance of sale/representation? A
Q: How do you handle a publisher not wanting anymore books in a series you want to continue to write, and if you do press on, how many series books per year should you publish? A and A

Q: Can you write SF/F about ordinary lives versus the extraordinary? A
Q: Is there an easy-to-read source out there for physics research? A
Q: How do you plan out a SF novel? A
Q: How do you find out all of the different things you needed to make your SF books believable? A and A
Q: What happens when you can see the alien race in your mind - but can't think of a way to describe them without sounding oh-so-20th/21st century? A
Q: How do you think the SF market is doing these days? A
Q: How explicit can you go with a sex scene in an SF novel? A
Q: Is it an unwritten law that the character has to learn something this life-changing at the start of a SF series and not later on? A
Q: When you're creating a science-fiction universe, how do you put in a lot of description without losing the pacing? A
Q: What do you think of futuristic romances? A

Q: Do you have any advice as to what kind of VR software works well, or how to use it to best advantage? A
Q: What writing software do you recommend that is content-appropriate for teen writers? A
Q: Any scriptwriting software suggestions? A
Q: What VR software do you recommend? A, A, also Taming the Dragon, also Links to alternatives to the Dragon
Q: Is there a tutorial on MS Word for its editing features? A
Q: What sort of software programs do you use for writing? A

Q: Any advice on coming up with titles for a novel? A and A

Web Sites
Q: Do authors really benefit from having lots of things on their websites? A

Writer for Hire
Q: How do you get started doing WFH work? A and A
Q: How do you go about finding a writer-for-hire job? A and A
Q: If my publisher approached me with a WFH project, is it okay to tell them NO without damaging our 'real' relationship? A
Q: Is money the only reason a writer goes writer-for-hire? A
Q: What types of projects are generally WFH work? A and A

Q: How should I handle ending a first draft? A
Q: Should first drafts be rewritten until they are perfect, or is okay to write one that isn't so polished? A and A
Q: What do you do when you get lost in plot, and you realize a good portion of your WIP has to be rewritten? A
Q: What do you do when you know what you want to write but can't settle on the right words to express it? A
Q: Any advice for writers aspiring to pen a historical? A
Q: How do you deal with your inner critic/editor while you're cranking away on a first draft? A
Q: Is a writing process that has you producing scenes with approximately the same wordcount a bad thing? A
Q: How do I overcome forgetting to add in setting and other descriptions when I write a scene? A
Q: Is it possible to fake your way through a scene? A
Q: How much detail should you use to establish setting? A
Q: What's your opinion on collaborating with another writer(s)? A
Q: What do you do when you have difficulties with the final scenes of a novel? A
Q: Any advice on how to write that 'perfect' ending to a story? A
Q: When do you know you've done enough preparation and you're ready to start writing the story? A
Q: How do you go back, fix and begin writing again on a partial WIP that you stopped working on? A
Q: How do you practice to write in a totally different style? A
Q: Does voice grow and change and evolve as you write? A
Q: Do you have any tips on how to help add description to your work? A
Q: How do you think a writer can better define their voice to bring it to the level that you have without killing the natural tone? A
Q: How much world-building do you recommend someone do before they get into a novel? A
Q: When writing an as-yet-unsubmitted standalone that may have a sequel or series potential, can you leave a few plot threads unresolved? A
Q: How do you decide whether or not to put sex in your book? A
Q: How can a writer learn to develop narrative voice? A
Q: Do you have any pointers for writing good action/fight scenes? A
Q: How do you handle writing a scene that may be too intense or inappropriate (pushing the envelope) for the genre? A
Q: When should I move on to writing my second novel? A, A and A
Q: How do you know if what you're writing is interesting? A
Q: What do you think about using flashbacks? A
Q: Do you have any tips on how to write comfortably in third person? A
Q: What are your thoughts on writing in first person present tense? A

Writing Life
Q: How do you manage to make time for writing when your life is extremely busy, chaotic, etc? A
Q: How do you manage anger? A
Q: When you get stuck on a project, how do you break loose? A, A and A
Q: How do you get back into a project you've set aside for a while? A
Q: How do you block out negative influences while writing? A and A
Q: How do I get back to actively writing after taking a significant break from it? A
Q: Should I wait for feedback from an interested agent on a submission before I begin a new project? A
Q: Any advice for writers who are about to become new parents and want to keep working? A
Q: Any tips on writing in the presence of small children? A, A and A
Q: Do you have any recommendations about how to improve self discipline? A
Q: What do you do to plan your output for the upcoming year? How do you work in the inevitable changes to your plan? A
Q: Just took six months away from my paying job to write my first novel ... any words of advice? A
Q: What do you do to keep the doubts at bay? A and A
Q: What do you do with a book you believe in but you can't sell? A
Q: How do you avoid writer burnout? A
Q: With a busy life, how do you find time to write? A
Q: What do you do to minimize/ignore/avoid distraction? A
Q: How do you keep up the momentum for your work when you're swamped and tired? A
Q: How do I deal with the people who say that e-publishing isn't 'real' publishing? A
Q: Is it normal to go back and work on a novel you haven't written on in years? A
Q: Have any encouragement for a writer starting to *enjoy* writing for the sake of it again? A
Q: How do you handle work, home, getting in enough exercise AND writing? A and A
Q: Can you get a day job in publishing? A
Q: I'm feeling pretty down lately about my writing. Any tips on rejuvenating? A
Q: How do you get back into your writing after a long, unplanned hiatus? A
Q: How do you know when to let a project "go?" A
Q: What do you do to avoid burnout? A, A and A
Q: If you're shy or afraid of fame, how do you deal with the public side of being an author? A
Q: Do you ever lose motivation to work on something, or did you in earlier years? How do/did you get over it and keep writing? A
Q: How do you make a shift from writing at night to writing during the day? A
Q: What do you do when worries get in the way? A