This Week’s Writing Links

DoctorSleep2This Week’s Writing links feature Stephen King’s sequel to ‘The Shining’, 10 must reads for March, a matchbook version of Fahrenheit 451 and a list of Sci-fi writers who were awesome inventors too.

After 30 years, Stephen King is finally returning to the universe of ‘The Shining’ with his new novel ‘Doctor Sleep’. Read more about the release over on Sf Signal’s page, but for now, here is what we know about it from the posted synopsis:

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

Make sure to keep an eye out for ‘Doctor Sleep’ when it releases September 2013. Until then, here are some links!


– Stephen King’s Shining Sequel ‘Doctor Sleep’ Coming in September 2013 (sfsignal)

– Matchbook Version of Fahrenheit 451 (imgur)

– 5 Sci-fi Writers Who Were Awesome Inventors Too (inktank)

– 10 Must Reads For March (flavorwire)

– 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far By Douglas Brunt (writersdigest)

– AV Club Reviews Karen Lord’s ‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’ (avclub)

– Joe Wright To Direct Adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Ocean at The End of the Lane’? (avclub)

– The Best Places To Be If You Love Books (buzzfeed)

This Week’s Writing Links

This week’s writing links include the release of John Scalzi’s Redshirts, the first five minutes of Aaron Sorkin’s new show The Newsroom (which in true Sorkin fashion makes you sit up and listen – language makes it slightly NSFW though. HBO has put the full first episode up for free now on youtube too), a cool tool/community to help you remember those long forgotten books and of course, a cool list of the greatest female science fiction and fantasy authors.

I haven’t had a chance to read John Scalzi’s Redshirts yet (my copy is in the mail and due on my doorstep tomorrow), but I have been intrigued with the book since it was first announced. For those unfamiliar with the term Redshirts, it is an old Star Trek reference for the red shirted crew members on the show that were more or less cannon fodder. They were the people who were there to get hit by stray projectiles that always managed to miss William Shatner while he winced and fired back blindly. The term was eventually popularized and found itself into the vernacular of pop culture.

Scalzi’s book attempts to explore the lives of these ill fatted lemmings through the tale of Andrew Dahl, one of the aforementioned redshirts, who starts to become aware of the disturbingly low survival rate for people of his rank. The book seems to be getting solid reviews and I look forward to checking it out later this week.

I am also currently chugging along on my second book, tentatively titled Illustrious Gentlemen of the Scholarly Type (which for all I know could be titled Magic Bakery Spaceship Vampire Night Cowboy Hat by the time I finish). For now though, it is a YA sci-fi comedy about a time machine. It is quite a different process writing this one compared to Exiles. Comedy, even when dark, requires such different attention and pace. I find myself paying a great deal of attention to the tone changes in the story, trying to soften some of the edges so that it is not a lump of polarized material. We’ll see how it turns out. I am also working on a screenplay. It is a Western. I will never finish it and it will always be called Gunnar. I think everyone dies in it too.



– AV Club Reviews John Scalzi’s Redshirts (avclub)

– Awesome Books To Replace Your Favorite Cancelled TV Shows (io9)

– What was that book again? (livejournal)

– The Greatest Female Sci-fi/Fantasy Authors Of All Time (flavorwire)

– Literary Agent Interview: Ann Behar of Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency (guidetoliteraryagents)

– How I Got My Agent: Benedict Jacka (writersdigest)

– SF Signal Podcast: Books That Changed Our Lives (sfsignal)

– Reading Offers Brazilian Prisoners A Quicker Escape (chicagotribune)

– The First Five Minutes Of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom (youtube – NSFW)

90 Secrets Of Bestselling Authors

The always reliable Writer’s Digest has provided this handy list of quotes from bestselling authors, chronicling their advice on writing, including how to find and corral inspiration, craft effective characters, discover your writing style and finally getting that manuscript published. Definitely a useful tool if you are in a rut!


—No. 1—
“Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.”
—Peg Bracken

—No. 2—
“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.”
—Ray Bradbury

—No. 3—
“Good writing is remembering detail. Most people want to forget. Don’t forget things that were painful or embarrassing or silly. Turn them into a story that tells the truth.”
—Paula Danziger

—No. 4—
“I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.’”
—Stephen King

Make sure to check out the rest at their site.

What Would The Soundtrack To Your Book Sound Like?

For writers, music can be a great aid to the creative process. It can evoke a certain mood, set the scene for the story and even bring out new emotions in your characters. Chronicled in an earlier post, what music you listen to while writing can greatly influence the overall tone of what your book becomes.

However, today’s post addresses the topic of music entering into the actual reading of a book. Certainly, the union of music and reading can have its problems, as reading requires a great deal of concentration which can be easily disrupted by an influx of lyric heavy music. It is absolutely not necessary for reading to have an auditory component. I pose this more as a hypothetical. I know plenty of people prefer to be left alone with their thoughts and the words on the pages, and that’s absolutely fine.

But that doesn’t mean reading with a soundtrack can’t be done and isn’t done quite frequently. I mean, just look at the woman in this picture, she seems to be totally on board with it. That, or the stock photo people paid her to look like she’s having a good time.

Either way, I must ask authors out there, for those readers that enjoy reading while listening to music, what would the preferred soundtrack to your book sound like?* What would play during the action? What would play in the heart wrenching moments, like at the end of your book when your protagonist must release his trusty domesticated ocelot back into the wild? What about the funny scenes? If you know your soundtrack, let us know what it would sound like.

*Note: Claiming it would sound like a Wes Anderson movie might be a mild copout.

What Makes A Good Author Website?

Before we start, let me just get this out of the way. I would never presume to tell anyone that they do not have a good author page. If you have a personal website for your writing and people can extract information on how to contact you, buy your book and attend any appearances you make, I believe you’ve accomplished the major goals of an effective author page. But, since we’re already here, I’ll give you my ten cents on how to craft a great author page.

As I mentioned, I believe the main goals of author pages are to promote your work and give people a means to contact you if they so choose. Also, your site should give readers the chance to learn a bit more about you as a person and provide access to some sort of avenue to find and purchase your work, whether it be a widget or a separate page dedicated to your books, poetry or short stories.

Having said that, I’m not a huge fan of websites that are “busy” design wise, in the sense that they have seven thousand buttons, twelve widgets for cat pictures (maybe trim it down to two), five gifs loading and background music from your self-titled piano and rainstick album from the early 90s autoplaying. If this is your site, this is totally cool, just not my thing. I prefer a simple clean design template that can be easily understood and navigated. Again, a personal preference, but I think a clean look helps first time visitors acclimate themselves better to your page.

Another effective way to orient new visitors to your site is through the use of a splash page. A splash page is essentially a general greeting page that for the most part operates as a bit of a mission statement. Even if you have a blog and other info pages, splash pages do a better job orienting and directing visitors than a blog entry you wrote the day before about how your new blender is your favorite thing in the world. If a blog entry is the first thing they are greeted with, they will judge your site based on the latest entry, and that may not always be the best representation of what your site is about. I don’t personally have a splash page, which again proves that you can do whatever you want with your site, but I plan on getting around to making one some day. For now, I get by because my site is simple enough to navigate and my contact info is pretty easy to extract. So, needless to say, I don’t toss and turn at night and have splash page related nightmares. But if people are finding themselves lost or confused on your page, try out a splash page.

Although I may have come off as anti-widget a couple of paragraphs ago, I should point out that there are a number of them which are very helpful, especially sharing and following widgets. Having a way to easily share your stories through facebook, twitter and other means of reposting is an important way to build exposure, especially when visitors enjoy a particular post you have written. Follow buttons and RSS feeds allow visitors to essentially bookmark your site and be alerted to your updates through the convenience of a feed. This goes a long way toward eliminating the one visit, one comment, disappear forever from your world visitors that may be plaguing your comments section. It will help you build up a dedicated readership and cultivate more of a community on your site.

One of the more effective ways to introduce visitors to your writing is by infusing a little bit of your personality into the site (I didn’t say you had to get rid of all the cat picture widgets). It’s your page, so have some fun with it. If you’re a mystery/thriller writer, have a mystery/thriller oriented theme, just as Da Vinci Code scribe Dan Brown’s website does. Certainly, it is possible to go too far overboard and alienate readers if they feel you are running a forum for your non-writing hobbies, but if you’re too conservative about asserting your personality, you miss a great opportunity to promote your work through the site’s content. If people like reading your posts, they may be more willing to check out your books. Try to find the happy medium between making your site a hobby corner and a sterile contact page.

So, now that you’ve built what you feel is a good author page, will it determine your success as a writer? Absolutely not. Really wildly successful writers have some pretty minimalist/non-existent websites and they do just fine. The late Isaac Asimov’s website is a testament to websites not dictating popularity. But good web pages can help and if they’re really good, not only can they keep your current readers informed and interested, but they can create new readers altogether.

What Kind Of Music Do You Listen To When You Write?

Writers need inspiration in their work. Inspiration can come in many forms, whether the muse be a person, a place, a memory, a film or a song.

Music is one of the greatest aids a writer can have. I know there are those who can only stand to write in silence, but for some, words seem to flow once the music begins.

Because I mostly write science fiction, I tend to listen to a lot of film scores (mostly science fiction) when I write. Sometimes I can listen to more lyrical things, but the words from the songs tend to unintentionally permeate into what I write, and that can be a bit of a problem.

For the last manuscript I wrote, I mostly listen to the soundtracks from Sunshine and The Fountain. Over and over and over. There was something about these two soundtracks that seemed to fit with what I wanted to write, so I played them both to death. On the project I am currently working on, one that is more of a comedy, I have a completely different playlist in order. And I’m sure each future project will have its own unique playlist.

So, what do you listen to when you write? Can you listen to anything with lyrics, or can you only tolerate instrumental tracks? Do your choices change depending on what genre you’re writing?

Would You Stop Writing If You Knew You Would Never Have Anything Published?

In the past I’ve asked people how they define success in their writing careers and there were a lot of differing opinions offered on the subject. Some people attached commercial goals to their definitions, while others were only really interested in gaining readers, regardless of any monetary reward. There is of course no right answer to such a question, but it was great to hear from everyone on the subject.

This line of questioning still has a great level of interest to me. I am again, not looking to poll people in search of a correct answer or some sort of accepted norm, rather I am genuinely interested in hearing what drives people in their writing. So, today’s question posed to you is if you knew that you would never have any of your work published in the future, would you stop writing?

This is a concept explored in Robert J. Sawyer’s book Flashforward (which would go on to become the bad Flashforward TV show on ABC). The setup of Flashforward is basically that when the Large Hadron Collider is turned on, the whole world experiences an event where for two minutes, they blackout and see a glimpse of their future twenty-one years from now. Some people see that they are not with their current wife/husband, some see that they never reached the job that they were chasing and others see nothing at all, which implies that they will not be alive in twenty-one years.

The whole event creates this great debate, especially amongst married couples that won’t be together in the future. If they know that they won’t be together down the line, is there any reason to continue the relationship, even if it’s a supremely happy union at the moment? One of the main character’s brother is a struggling writer. He waits tables while he tries to break into the business. His vision of the future informs him that in twenty-one years he will have not reached his goal and will still be waiting tables. Armed with this knowledge, the brother takes his own life in a moment of despair.

Now, I absolutely do not want to explore something as dark or morbid as this scenario, but I think the question in itself is an interesting one. If you knew that you would never have anything published and would experience no real commercial or critical success in your writing career, would you stop writing? And I know this question is about to be answered by a slew of people defiantly responding somewhere along the lines of, “Of course I’d continue! Writing is my passion! Writing is my outlet! Writing is my life!” and this is fine. I would probably respond the same way. Most of us genuinely enjoy writing and need it as an outlet.

So, to preempt this response, I would pose an amended question then and ask, if you knew you would never have anything published, how would it change your writing? And by this I mean would it change how much you write in a given day and what you write about? Would you no longer sit in front of a word processor for seven hours straight banging out the days thousand words, instead maybe favoring carrying around a notebook which you scribble in from time to time? Also, would the subject matter of your writing change? If you knew that you were writing just for yourself and maybe a select number of friends and family, would you trim the fat from the things you wrote about, only confronting subjects you wanted to with no consideration for making it commercial or mainstream?

I know a lot of this is highly subjective and I don’t mean to once again call in to question your motivations for writing, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. I also absolutely don’t mean to suggest that your writing should be devalued if it is not published, self-published or doesn’t sell well. Writers should never stop writing, especially if it is truly something they love. Even if it’s the worst prose committed to paper, the most cliched characters ever conceived or the most derivative plot ever crafted, this outlet should never be taken away from a person.

Which Social Media Websites Work Best For Writers?

It’s tough to tell which social media websites are most effective for writers in regards to promotion of their work. Sure, there are tools that allow you to track traffic, feedback and referrals, but that isn’t always telling as to the quality of the people you’re getting. If your site is being visited mostly by Armenian spammers and only a handful of interested writers/readers, it might not be working all that well.

You have to remember, numbers don’t mean everything with promotion on the internet. Maybe it does with advertising, but not promotion. You want to make sure that you are putting more time into keeping up with your community than expanding it. It’s better to have 100 dedicated followers than 1,000 people who could care less what you have to say. And just as a quick note, I’m discounting personal websites/blogs from this feature. Let’s just assume they’re a given.

Facebook: Facebook is a great tool for writers. It has the capability of being the most effective social medium for writers to promote their material and connect with their readers, if not just for the amount of people they will have access to. You can also pay to put up ads for your books, which can also draw attention to your work. But because there is such great possibilities with facebook, it is probably the most dangerous social medium. While you have the possibility of creating an entirely new base of fans, you also run the risk of alienating your fans altogether. The most common way of doing this is turning facebook into a spam feed for your updates. You will quickly run into problems if people perceive your updates as overwhelming or solely focused on self-promotion. This can be a problem in any medium, but especially on facebook.

Facebook is worthwhile, but just be very careful how you handle your online persona. You can just as easily alienate your readers as attract them. Tread lightly.

Twitter: Twitter is facebook for those of short attention spans (which is arguably everyone these days). It is a great way to promote your book and keep people in the loop if you have a dedicated following. Depending on what sort of updates you post, it can also work towards personalizing you a bit more. Twitter is a lot safer than facebook in a way, because it is not really as intrusive. You can rifle off five or six posts in a row and no one will bat an eye/unfollow you. Twitter really caters itself to letting you throw up a glut of content all at once without really annoying those following you.

Twitter is the safest of the social media sites. Give it a shot. Just be careful. Whereas facebook is a known time eater, twitter can be a deceptive time eater. Monitor your time spent on twitter and don’t let it keep you from working on your manuscript.

Linkedin: Linkedin is the most professional of the online portfolios. It is more useful if you are looking to find some freelance work doing copyrighting, ghostwriting, editing or proofing. It may not be the most useful tool for authors to connect to fans, but it can’t hurt to have a profile. Also, it doesn’t require much maintenance/upkeep and it won’t really suck too much time from your day.

Sure, why not? Give it a try. Maybe one of the Jersey Shore cast members will contact you to ghostwrite their autobiography. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though.

Book Blogs: There are a lot of abandoned profiles and interaction that borders on spam with book blogs, but at the same time, there are still some very dedicated and helpful communities operating within the site.

I would only tackle this one if you really want to take that extra step in promoting your work/site. It’s not a gold mine of opportunities, but there are always diamond in the rough.

Myspace: Myspace is a graveyard. It’s really only useful if you are a 14-year-old girl or have a My Chemical Romance cover band to promote.

Skip this one.

What about you? Which social media sites do you use and how effective are they? Are there any that I missed with this list? Do you find yourself spending more time promoting your books than actually writing them? If you are a self-published author, do you feel an obligation to spend more time on these sites?

Promotional Materials For Authors: Bookmarks

Promotional bookmarks are the equivalent of business cards for writers. Sure, you can still have a business card made from really cool paper stock, but bookmarks are the true mark of a writer, because they’re intended to be put in books and that’s what you do, you write books. But do they really work? And if they do, what sort of information should you put on them? In this day and age, how will readers use your bookmark to mark their page on the Kindle? Can they tape it to the screen?

These are all relevant questions, but not really your concern. What readers do with your bookmark after they get it from you is out of your hands. Sure, you might stumble on a trashcan outside a writers conference brimming with your discarded bookmarks, but don’t be deterred. It’s going to happen. Really, it’s only your job to put great content on your bookmark and get it in the hands of as many people as possible.

But again, what should you put on your promotional bookmark? I included a preview of what my promotional bookmark for The Exiles of the New World (designed by the impossibly talented Lizelle Din) will look like as an example. You definitely want to have something to draw the viewer in, whether it be part of your book cover or some other form of illustration. If you’ve had any positive reviews from notable literary figures/reviewers, you can also include them on the front to assure people that you didn’t print this book off in your garage after watching a spirited marathon of Castle.

I also wouldn’t recommend muddling up either side with a lot of copy. Keep it simple and always make sure your contact info is visible and easy to locate. This may mean trimming down your web address as much as possible and removing /blogspots or /wordpress/kittenlovers for a condensed and accessible address. No one wants to type out a novella length website to get to your book. Make it as easy as possible for them to find your product. Attention spans on the internet or otherwise are fleeting, so don’t chance it.

One of the nice things about bookmarks is their price. They’re relatively cheap to order. So, if your publisher isn’t providing promotional material or you are self publishing, you can get 100 high quality double-sided bookmarks for about $25 at Overnight Prints. There are even cheaper options if you don’t mind low quality printing or single-sided marks.

All in all bookmarks are an affordable alternative for marketing your book that really has no downside to trying it out. It won’t break your entire marketing budget if it doesn’t pan out. It exists as a more reasonable and economical promotional tool than services like AuthorBuzz, which might have you busking in the park for funds.


Bookmark/Promotional Links:

-Do Promotional Bookmarks Work For Authors? (Author Promo)

-12 Things You Can Do With Promotional Bookmarks (Associated Content)

– What Types of Promo Work For E-books? (JA Konrath)

– How To Promote You And Your Book (Guide To Literary Agents)

– 5 Things Authors Should Know About Promotional Items (Stephanie Dray)

Kickstarter Projects That Need Help: The Falcon (children’s book), Dog Whistle (sci-fi film), Atlantis: The New Hope (sci-fi/fantasy book)

Does The Internet Make Book Tours Irrelevant?

Book tours used to be mandatory for authors. If you wrote a book, you had to get out there to promote it, shake hands, kiss babies, pose for black and white photos of you staring off into the distance and maybe sign a couple of copies. But now with the power of the internet and sustained web presences, book tours have waned in importance. In fact, some authors almost refuse to do them anymore. Self published guru JA Konrath wrote a great post about why he really doesn’t do too many appearances anymore. Others cite financial costs and the convenience of promoting your novel from the comfort of your home/transcendentalist shack as reasons for saying no.

I would personally be afraid to go on a book tour. I think it’s because of a persisting fear of sitting in an empty room with no one to sign books for. That just scares me to death and I know it’s not an irrational fear. Even a superstar author like Neil Gaiman had an incident where he went to a signing and no one showed (apparently it was in France and the bookseller told no one about Neil’s appearance and had only set it up as a means to meet Tori Amos through Neil, but still…).

The expenses associated with a tour would also cause me to balk at going through with it. It can be very expensive depending on where you go, how you get there and how big your entourage (whichever of your friends/significant others you can convince to come along and pose as your publicist/bodyguard/adoring fan depending on what the situation calls for) is.

Then again, I think there is undeniable power in meeting someone in person, shaking their hand and exchanging a few words with them. Sure, receiving an email response from a prominent author is nice, but it can’t compare to good ol’ human interaction. And the seed placed in meeting just one person can have ramifications you may never fully understand. Maybe that one person recommends your book to an entire book club. Maybe they are Oprah’s doorman, who happens to be her go-to guy for book recommendations. You will never be able to tell unless everyone who buys your book fills out a survey of how they stumbled upon your work.

What about you? Do you believe you can promote your book effectively in your pajamas while watching reruns of Modern Family? What is your most effective internet/social media promotional tool? Have you ever been on a book tour? How was it? Did you feel like it paid off? Have you been tricked into any book appearance in France by manipulative booksellers, only to find out they really just wanted to meet Tori Amos?