Jack Cannon's American Destiny

Rachel Thompson

Saturday, September 27, 2014

When It Comes to Bad Reviews, Amy Lewis Says "Let It Go" @AmyLewisAuthor #AmWriting #Memoir

The newbies guide to surviving bad reviews

It was already a bad day when I read her review, only half paying attention to the words, because it was 6 am, and I had not slept well. I got a full three sentences in before I realized, "Wow, this lady really hated my memoir." Not only is she trashing my writing, she's trashing me, and not so subtly accusing me of lying. She suggested not everything in my memoir really happened to me. Despite the good reviews that had been rolling in, as a first time indie author, I could not stop thinking about this lady who hated my book. I knew I shouldn't care. I knew as an artist I put my work out there and welcome good and bad feedback. Art is subjective. I know that. But still my mind obsessed. If my book had been fiction maybe her review would be easier to take. She thinks my heroine sucks - no problem. But this was a memoir. She was basically saying "you're worthless, your story is worthless and you should have written it in a diary and kept it to yourself." Ouch. I googled how to deal with bad reviews. I visited sites that list all the horrible reviews that famous, award winning books received. I laughed and felt in very good company ... but only slightly. I was not a famous writer. I’m guessing bad reviews don't hurt as much when you're sitting on a pile of money and holding your Pulitzer Prize.  I considered writing her back. I know this is a huge no-no. I found myself reduced to age 11 and wanted to say horrible and childish things to her. I came up with many creative insults, but I kept them to myself.

It took a few days for me to cool down and begin to see the bigger picture. I finally got my "aha" moment as people like to say. This lady's review actually could be a huge gift. Huge! I should actually be thanking her.  I have struggled all my life with people pleasing and holding my self-expression back to fit in and be liked. I learned from a young age to read people and give them what they wanted, what would make them happy. I've been aware of my accommodating tendencies for decades, but breaking out of them has been a challenge. The more I relaxed and let go of my anger, the more I smiled when I thought of this book-hating lady and her nasty review. Someone doesn't like me or my book. Big f-ing deal. My world didn't shatter. I didn’t stop breathing. In fact, nothing happened. There is nothing wrong with hating someone's memoir, and there is no crime in sharing in vivid detail your feelings in a book review. I even began to smile at how much she must dislike me to take the time to write that particular review.

The real problem here is not the review or the fact that I got upset. The real problem is when I or when any writer, artist or human chooses to stay silent, to not play the game of expressing what is inside that screams to come out, just because we are afraid we won't be liked or accepted. The world does not need any more people like that. The world needs bold artists whose desire to express and create is way bigger than their fears of how their work will be received. I am happy and proud to say I am one of those artists. And this bad review helped me to realize that.

I leave you with one tip for dealing with bad reviews. When all else fails, get a copy of the Frozen soundtrack, crank up Let It Go and belt it out along with Idina Menzel ...

Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!


Diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder, Amy struggled with depression and an addiction to sharp objects. Even hospitalization didn't help to heal her destructive tendencies. It took a tumultuous relationship with a man named Truth to bring her back from the depths of her own self-made hell.Amy's marriage to dark, intriguing Truth was both passionate and stormy. She was a fair-skinned southern girl from New Orleans. He was a charming black man with tribal tattoos, piercings, and a mysterious past. They made an unlikely pair, but something clicked. During their early marriage, they pulled themselves out of abject poverty into wealth and financial security practically overnight. Then things began to fall apart.

Passionate and protective, Truth also proved violent and abusive. Amy’s own self-destructive tendencies created a powerful symmetry. His sudden death left Amy with an intense and warring set of emotions: grief for the loss of the man she loved, relief she was no longer a target for his aggression.

Conflicted and grieving, Amy found herself at a spiritual and emotional crossroads, only to receive help from an unlikely source: Truth himself. Feeling his otherworldly presence in her dreams, Amy seeks help from a famous medium.

Her spiritual encounters change Amy forever. Through Truth, she learns her soul is eternal and indestructible, a knowledge that gives Amy the courage to pursue her own dreams and transform herself both physically and emotionally. Her supernatural encounters help Amy resolve the internal anger and self-destructive tendencies standing between her and happiness, culminating in a sense of spiritual fulfillment she never dreamed possible.

An amazing true story, What Freedom Smells Like is told with courage, honesty, and a devilishly dark sense of humor.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Amy Lewis through Twitter

The Write Stuff for Fiction & Non-Fiction with @KSterlingWriter #AmWriting #WriteTip #Thriller

So, you’re pretty darn talented at writing, huh? In fact, your English teachers and professors told you about it your whole life. You have a superb vocabulary, a wild imagination, a flair for the dramatic, and lots of terrific story ideas. Now it’s just a matter of bringing it all together and writing the great American novel.
I run across a lot of people who say, “I have a great idea for a book, but just haven’t taken the time to sit down and write it yet.” Some of those people may actually get it done (I know a few who have), but most never will. Or if they start, they’ll eventually give up on the project.
Why is that?
For starters, writing a book isn’t as easy as it may seem, especially if it’s a full-length novel. And I don’t think anyone understands that until they give it a try. It isn’t just a matter of pounding out the story on one’s computer, writing page after page until the book is finished. Oh, it’s far from that.
I’ve written non-fiction, and while it’s not a piece of cake by any stretch, it’s at least a methodical process. The writer starts with a known subject, understands where the presentation needs to go from start to finish, and creates a detailed outline to make sure all the requisite information is included and laid out in a logical and comprehensible fashion. Then it’s a matter of time and discipline to write each section until the first draft is done. Then the editing process starts.
Fiction, on the other hand, is all about creating something that doesn’t exist. And it better be something original that no one else has ever quite created before! Nothing is “known”, and the author has a moving target until he or she is finished. That’s because storylines have a way of taking their own paths, and it seems like the author is always scrambling to keep up until finally putting a kibosh on the whole thing.
If writing a novel were as simple as sitting down at a computer and pounding out a story, lots of people would do it. But it’s really like any other profession in that it involves a unique set of talents, skills, knowledge, and brain functionality.
What do I mean by “brain functionality”? Well, fiction-writing is both a creative and technical process that simultaneously requires both hemispheres of the brain. So a person who isn’t principally dominant on either the left or right side is usually best suited for the task. Or, at the very least, they need the ability to firmly tap into both.
On the knowledge front, one must learn about publishing industry rules and guidelines before starting on a novel, otherwise someone will have a big mess to clean up. These rules and guidelines pertain to things like first or third-person narrative, point of view (POV), dialogue, tense, punctuation, grammatical flexibility (or lack thereof), and active versus passive writing. A competent editor will help with all these things, but the author should at least take a few writing courses and/or read comprehensive books on the subject to prevent handing over a manuscript that is so nonconforming that no one in their right mind would touch it.
The other important requirement for writing any full-length book is self-discipline. It’s one thing to work on projects at the office with a boss or client breathing down your neck. But it’s another to be at home where no one is cracking the whip, and there are millions of other things screaming to be done, making it oh so easy to put one’s book on the back burner and get to it “tomorrow”. But take my word for it when I say “tomorrow” never comes. You simply have to do it, just like going to the gym.
This is also where we see a major difference between fiction and non-fiction. With fiction, one is far more likely to experience “writer’s block” and/or having no sense of where the story is going. That makes it even more attractive to ignore the book. It’s also easy with fiction to lose control over one’s storyline and let it turn into a mind-numbing nightmare, hence why I am a full believer in using an outline and ALWAYS keeping it in sync with the book, even if I have to stay up until 2:00am to ensure everything is lined up before I go to bed. Otherwise, the amount of willpower it may take to deal with such a huge, convoluted mess could be downright prohibitive.
Don’t get me wrong. My objective here is not to discourage people from writing novels. I just think it’s important to know what they’re getting into. If they do, perhaps the task won’t seem so daunting.
You know what they say about happiness, right? It’s all about reality versus expectations.
Well, there you go.
Happy writing!

"James Bond Meets Fifty Shades of Grey"

Immerse yourself in the world class novels that combine action, mystery & suspense with tantalizing and tastefully written erotica. You’ll find all your sensibilities roused at once with Kevin Sterling’s ultra-sexy, action-packed Jack Lazar Series.

In this fourth action-packed thriller, Jack travels to Denmark for a business venture, but what seems to be a textbook transaction turns into a nightmare after he gets involved with Katarina, a vivacious Danish girl who apparently lacks a moral compass, not to mention an off button. After naively believing their liaison was just a random encounter, Jack discovers she’s connected to his business deal, and there’s a dangerous political group with skin in the game, too.
Katarina makes a convincing case of being a victim, not part of the conspiracy, but can Jack really trust her?
The firestorm gets out of control as Jack digs deeper, unearths the convoluted plot behind it all, and discovers that innocent people are being heartlessly killed. He’s not only horrified by the reason why it’s happening, but how it’s being done, and there appears to be no way to stop it from occurring again.
Then the scheme’s real objective emerges, launching Jack into action with intelligence operatives to prevent it. But that’s not so easy with assassins on Jack’s tail, forcing him to struggle for survival while trying to prevent Katarina from getting caught in the crossfire.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Action, Mystery, Suspense
Rating – R
More details about the author
Connect with Kevin Sterling on Facebook & Twitter

Friday, September 26, 2014

@KimberlyShursen Shares the Ups & Downs in the Life of an Author #SelfPub #AmWriting #Thriller

Five Things “Thou Shalt Not Do” as an Indie Writer
By Kimberly Shursen - Author of Itsy Bitsy Spider, Hush, and Lottery

Oh the ups and downs in the life of an author. You’ve released your first book, and finally it reaches 29,000 on the Amazon rankings. Your stomach is doing continuous somersaults. Suddenly, the novel soars into the top fifty books in your genre. OMG! Is there any sweeter feeling? And then wham, it plummets to 298,000. Hang on, my friends, as we all know this gig is an unending exciting, yet many times torturous roller coaster ride.

Raise your hand if you want to give up. I’m waiting … that’s what I thought. No hands up. Once you’ve given birth to a plot, and created characters you swear you know better than your own mother, there is no escape. You’re hooked.

The pitfalls, however, are many. Starting with your first novel, avoid the dangers of being what many refer to as ‘just another indie author.’ Believe me, I’ve fallen into the pits, and will go to any length to avoid that frightening, dark abyss again.

  1.  Do not employ a friend to be your editor. Let me reiterate: Don’t do it! Save a friend, and avoid the reviews that, even if the book is well edited, might come back to drive a wedge between your friendship. Employ someone who has a proven and successful background in editing in the genre you write. Check their references, and ask them to edit at least one chapter before you start. Even after all this, send that edited chapter to someone else to review before you commit.
  1. Do not tell another author you will trade reviews; a five-star for a five-star. These are easily spotted, and hold absolutely no merit. In fact, I have heard that an overall four-star review holds more merit as readers will believe the reviews are honest.
  1. Never respond to a bad review. Hit a pillow repeatedly, throw several glasses across the room, or bite down a bullet as it is what it is; even if it isn’t factual or true. Read it once and never read it again.
  1. Do not underestimate a “street team.” I started a street team a year ago and they are indeed “the wind beneath my wings.” There are only fourteen of us that make up the Hush team. And it is a hush team. No one shares anything we discuss, and the page is totally private. The purpose for starting the Facebook page was duo fold; they shout out news about my books, or book signings, or interviews, and we share what we wouldn’t share with our regular social network friends. We value friendship before my work. We all know, however, that if someone else shouts out our praises, their words hold more merit.
  1. Do not tell everyone you have written the next greatest American novel; not even your best friend. Humility carries more clout. You write because that’s what you do. Period. Finish your first novel and make the next one even better putting to use comments from reviewers, authors, friends, and even enemies. Find two or three beta readers willing to read your book and then compare notes. Suck in every piece of advice you hear or read and then apply it.
Publish your book, sit back, draw in a breath, and say, “I’m a damn good writer. Even if I’m never well known, and at times people nail me to the cross with reviews, I am a damn good writer.”


Soon after Ann Ferguson and Ben Grable marry, and Ben unseals his adoption papers, their perfect life together is torn apart, sending the couple to opposite sides of the courtroom.

Representing Ann, lawyer Michael J. McConaughey (Mac) feels this is the case that could have far-reaching, judicial effects -- the one he's been waiting for.

Opposing counsel knows this high profile case happens just once in a lifetime.

And when the silent protest known as HUSH sweeps the nation, making international news, the CEO of one of the top ten pharmaceutical companies in the world plots to derail the trial that could cost his company billions.

Critically acclaimed literary thriller HUSH not only questions one of the most controversial laws that has divided the nation for over four decades, but captures a story of the far-reaching ties of family that surpasses time and distance.

*** Hush does not have political or religious content. The story is built around the emotions and thoughts of two people who differ in their beliefs.

 EDITORIAL REVIEW: "Suspenseful and well-researched, this action-packed legal thriller will take readers on a journey through the trials and tribulations of one of the most controversial subjects in society today."

Katie French author of "The Breeders," "The Believer's," and "Eyes Ever To The Sky."

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Kimberly Shursen through Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, September 18, 2014

THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN by Marilyn Holdsworth @M_Holdsworth #Historical #Fiction #TBR

from my novel, THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN, by Marilyn Holdsworth

“Oh, no,” she wailed the moment the door opened revealing the two guards. “The guillotine,” she cried. “It is to be today. Dear God, dear God, have pity on my soul.”
“Oh my dear, my dear,” Elizabeth Monroe soothed, pushing past the two guards and rushing to Madame LaFayette’s side. She stooped down, took the trembling woman’s hands in hers, and knelt down beside her. “No, no; it is nothing like that. I am Elizabeth Monroe. My husband, James, is the United States minister to France and a longtime friend of your husband. They fought together in our revolution,” she explained. “I have come to visit you, assure you how very concerned for you my husband is. We are going to do all we can to help you.” She placed her arms around the sobbing, frightened woman’s shoulders, continuing her reassuring words in soft, flowing French.
I stood watching from the doorway as Mistress Monroe calmed and comforted Adrienne LaFayette. Disregarding the filthy surroundings, Mistress Monroe continued to crouch down before the distraught woman, holding her hands as she spoke. When at last she rose, she drew Madame LaFayette to her feet and embraced her.
“Merci beaucoup, thank you for coming,” Adrienne LaFayette whispered, wiping her eyes. “I was sure they had come to take me to the guillotine. I was so very frightened. My family is all gone. I thought for sure they had come for me too,” she said, fighting back the tears.
“Of course you did, my dear, but have courage. Be assured that James will do all he can for you,” Mistress Elizabeth promised, patting her gently on the shoulder before joining me at the door. “We must go now, Jasmine, get back to the Folie as soon as possible. We must tell James of this poor woman’s deplorable state.”
She glided gracefully back down the long dingy, hall, past the guards to the prison door, where Michael was waiting to escort us safely back to the carriage.
You can read more about The Beautiful American, by Marilyn Holdsworth at: http://marilynholdsworth.com/the-beautiful-american/

As a novelist, I draw on many real life experiences to provide background for my books. After completing studies in Literature and History at Occidental College, I became a staff writer on a travel magazine, and throughout my career I have traveled extensively all over the world. Because I love horses, I owned and trained them. I support horse rescue and wild mustang preservation. Based on my experience with horses and my research on abuse issues, I wrote Pegasus.

As a descendant of James Monroe, I did extensive research at the James Monroe Museum in Virginia about him and his wife Elizabeth Kortright Monroe. I also visited their home, Ashlawn/Highland in Albemarle County. This resulted in my novel, The Beautiful American. Making Wishes, was based partly on my experiences as creator, owner and operator of a greeting card company.

Making Wishes

Elloree Prince is an attractive, creative young woman who marries a wealthy businessman, Tom Randall. After courting his bride with unrelenting determination, Tom moves her into old-moneyed Oak View, where generations of Randalls have lived for years. Outwardly, Elloree appears to settle into raising their two sons within Oak View's stifling social structure, but inwardly, she yearns for her artistic work. 

An unexpected phone call from Mark Williams, her former employer, offers her the career opportunity of a lifetime, and she must make a choice. She is torn between her devotion to her sons and her love for her work. Her decision to return to Wishes, Inc. brings dramatic life changes to her and the people she loves.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Women's fiction
Rating – PG-13


"Abby Long is thrilled when she offers the winning bid for an antique desk at an auction. With its intricately inlaid woods and elegant style, the desk is perfect for Abby; it is the gift she promised herself to finally celebrate her thriving antique business. She has no idea that the antique desk holds a secret that will lead her on a fascinating, life-changing journey back in time.
When Abby discovers a hidden diary stuffed inside a secret compartment in the desk, she can hardly wait to read the spidery, faded script. As she carefully turns the tattered pages, she reads the captivating story of two remarkable women from opposite backgrounds who somehow manage to form an unforgettable bond against the backdrop of a fledgling America struggling to find its place in the world. Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, the wife of James Monroe, and Jasmine, a young slave girl, develop an extraordinary relationship as they are united by pivotal historic events, political intrigues, and personal tragedies.
 From a bucolic Virginia plantation to the bloodied, starving streets of post-revolutionary Paris, this powerful tale follows the lives of two courageous women from the past as they quietly influence—and inspire—a woman of today’s world."

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Historical fiction
Rating – G


Widowed at thirty, Hannah Bradley is a successful journalist focusing on animal abuse issues. An accidental meeting introduces her to lawyer, Winston Caughfield III. Drawn to Hannah’s gentle beauty and fierce commitment to her work, Win joins her in a fight to save wild mustangs from slaughter. Together they rescue a badly injured horse with a mysterious background. Hannah’s search to discover the animal’s true identity leads them into a web of black marketeering and international intrigue. 
Action packed with crisp colorful dialogue the story propels the reader to a race against time conclusion. Marilyn Holdsworth delivers a gripping tale of mystery, adventure and romance guaranteed to hold the interest and capture the heart. She brings true-life characters together with real-life issues to create a fast-paced irresistible story.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Contemporary fiction
Rating – PG
More details about the author
 Connect with Marilyn Holdsworth on Facebook & Twitter

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jennie Goutet on How to Write a #Memoir Like a Pro @ALadyinFrance #AmWriting #WriteTip

The difficulty in fiction writing is to come up with a plot that keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat. In non-fiction writing, the plot is already in place - at least it is in case of a memoir.

So the difficulty in non-fiction writing lies not so much in the organization of it all, but in helping the reader to feel passionately about the story. In the case of memoir, it cannot simply be about telling the story as it happened. That is more of a diary entry than a memoir. The author has to approach the events from a bird’s eye view and guide the reader to a place where they can process the events and make sense of them, and even be moved by what occurred. I followed this process throughout the book, often using the beginning and/or end of each chapter to step out of the story and explore the signification of what was happening.

It helps to get down the facts first. Let me give you a concrete example. The following is the first draft of my opening chapter, that had been edited for mistakes, and which I felt was good enough to send to my beta readers:

My story begins in Avignon, which seems like the perfect place to start. Our family is staying in the Alpilles of Provence this week, and today I walked the broad cobblestone streets towards the plaza of the Palais des Papes for the first time in 23 years.

I kept holding off from taking pictures, confident that I would stumble upon that special square or shop or street that would unleash all my memories. I kept looking around for something to hold onto that would bring me full circle from where I came from to where I am now, but two decades soften the details. Time shrouds in foreignness what was once a significant city to me.

I was 19 and studying abroad my junior year. I walked along the country road from the small town center, which was a suburb outside of Avignon - grateful for once, that I lived so far outside of the city. The sky was such a deep blue and the leaves on the tall trees such a brilliant gold that the sight begged for me to pause and soak it in. The Fall colors last much longer here than they would in Paris or New York, and it was already November with hardly any bare branches on the trees. I stepped off the bus alone, as my roommate had decided to linger a bit in the city on this particular day. On my right side was a small hill with sheep grazing, and to the left of me was a field with a perfectly straight row of tall trees in the middle, dividing the space in two.

This first draft wasn’t . . . bad, but it wasn’t exceptional either. There were a few platitudes and it was missing the magic element that would transport the reader.

Fortunately I was able to profit from a good friend’s wisdom to understand this. This is how it reads now.

I was destined to take root in France. I know that now, even if I didn’t know it back when I had the dream. This path was ordained for me as surely as my brown hair and green eyes, my ample flesh set on an Anglican frame. My path was ordained for me as surely as yours was, even if it’s just a whispered promise from a distant dream. 

Of course it’s only now, mid-journey, that everything starts to form a picture that resembles something—the rich-hued threads of identity woven together, the nearly forgotten events tied in tiny silk knots—all this has transformed itself into a tapestry of a story, almost without my perceiving it. 

My journey begins in Avignon, on the bare fringes of adulthood. It seems fitting, somehow, that my story would start in a place that was both the beginning of a path taken and the source of closure—the healing of a wound that had been gouged out by grief. It wasn’t with any set purpose that I returned to Provence in the time of my sadness, but our family’s visit there collided in sharp contrast—who I had been, with who I was now—the hope with the loss, with the hope again. And it was with this sense of heightened awareness that I walked down the broad cobblestone streets towards the Pope’s palace in Avignon for the first time in twenty-three years. 

I kept holding off from taking pictures, confident that I would stumble upon that special square or shop or street that would unleash all the memories from a period I now regard as a turning point. I kept looking around for something to hold onto that would bring me full circle, but two decades soften the details. Time shrouds in foreignness what was once a significant city to me. 

I was nineteen when I landed on French soil for the first time, shedding everything that was familiar and comfortable in my decision to study abroad junior year. And in the strangeness that had given way to daily habit, I stepped off the city bus in the small town center of Montfavet, and started walking towards the house I was staying in for those few months. I was alone on this particular day, as my roommate, Jamie, had decided to linger a bit in Avignon. The small non-descript square, which held the bus stop, led to the country road away from city traffic and bus fumes. And I was grateful, for once, that I lived so far outside the city.

My surroundings were delightfully foreign to me. The pastures on the right where sheep grazed were quartered into small, green patches of grass by low-lying trees and tall bushes. The scent of burning leaves brought gentle notions of fall to my senses, without accosting my nostrils. A few large stone manors intermingled with more modern houses—the former set back on the hill and the latter bordering the street with thick cement fences. Just ahead on my left was a larger field with a straight row of tall trees, dividing the space in two. Breathing in the crisp air on this deserted road was like breathing in the spirit of adventure.

It’s a bit long for an example, but I wanted you to see what I was talking about. Now the readers know right off the bat that a dream was involved in directing my steps. They know that some tragic event sent me back there, even if my return wasn’t intentionally timed. They get a hint of how I felt as a young student - that I was experiencing culture shock, but that I had a taste for adventure.  This will (hopefully) encourage the reader to continue reading and find out where the adventure led me, how the dream came into play, and what sad event led to my wishing to return and begin telling my story. The desired result is that the reader is kept on the edge of his seat by your life’s events.

I suppose in this way memoir-writing does not differ all that much from fiction!


At seventeen, Jennie Goutet has a dream that she will one day marry a French man and sets off to Avignon in search of him. Though her dream eludes her, she lives boldly—teaching in Asia, studying in Paris, working and traveling for an advertising firm in New York.

When God calls her, she answers reluctantly, and must first come to grips with depression, crippling loss, and addiction before being restored. Serendipity takes her by the hand as she marries her French husband, works with him in a humanitarian effort in East Africa, before settling down in France and building a family.

Told with honesty and strength, A Lady in France is a brave, heart- stopping story of love, grief, faith, depression, sunshine piercing the gray clouds—and hope that stays in your heart long after it’s finished.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Jennie Goutet on Facebook & Twitter

Friday, September 12, 2014

Craig Staufenberg on Becoming a Better Writer @YouMakeArtDumb #SelfPub #WriteTip #Authors

10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer
Become a better person. Writing is truth serum. All your biases come out. All your good points and your bad points. You can’t always see your personal warts in your own writing, but other people are likely to. Sometimes clearly—they’ll know exactly what’s messed up about your perspective on the world. Other times your readers just feel like something’s off without being able to put their finger on it. But in both cases, unless they share your exact biases, your readers will see any ugliness in your heart that you’ve spilled out on the page. So try and work on being fair and kind to people within your own heart before you start opening it up.

Live a better life. Your inspirations, your reference points, and your obsessions all have to come from your lived, direct experience. Or, second best, the lived, direct experiences of someone you know personally. Otherwise you’re drawing from some other writer’s interpretations. And that’s a photocopy of a photocopy, at best.

Lower your expectations. It’ll make you happier in general. It’ll also make you happier about your work. It’s hard to like your book if you expect it to sell 100,000 copies and it sells 100. When you set high expectations you’re giving your book more work to do. Suddenly your book needs to make you a lot of money, and get you a lot of awards and prestige, and attract amazing partners of your preferred sex, and all that external nonsense. And all that baggage you’ve attached to the book will change your writing. You’ll write a different book if it needs to pay your rent than if you’re just writing from your heart. Your book only has one goal, and that’s to connect with your heart. That’s the only expectation you should set. That it’ll connect.

Learn some of the technical aspects of writing. Not necessary, but it helps. Your writing just needs to communicate clearly. If it already does, than you’re golden. If not, then brush up a little bit on how to write effectively. You may have a few “bad habits” that bog you down. But don’t clean up your writing too much—you want to keep your voice.

Write a lot. Now, the definition of “a lot” varies from person to person. Some people are such natural communicators they can write well without a lot of practice. Some people are just so interesting, or have such a gripping story to tell, that their book could be scrawled illegibly on cocktail napkins and you’d be glued to your seat reading it. But for the rest of us, writing lots will give you a good sense of your voice, and your thoughts. Most importantly, it will keep you from feeling scared about writing. In my early freelance days I wrote 10,000-20,000 words a day. It wasn’t great writing, but I put it down day after day. And I haven’t been scared of writing since then.

Share your writing with other people. Friends can be helpful. Especially friends who are successful enough creative pros that they won’t feel threatened by you and your work. In that vein I don’t recommend sharing with friends who wanted to be writers, or who sort of fancy themselves writers but don’t really make anything. Those people will have a hard time getting over their internal bullshit to help you out. And any feedback they offer will come from a theoretical place that is totally unhelpful. You’ll get your best feedback from absolute strangers. I hire strangers off Task Rabbit to read my books and give me honest feedback. It’s an indispensible part of my process.

Listen to what they say. If a lot of people say the same thing about your book, then they’re right. Especially if those people have no contact with each other or each other’s opinions. Public reviewers are often influenced by each other. And people who read reviews often parrot the language or tone of the reviews they read. But strangers in isolation give feedback from a genuine place. Listen to them. They won’t always offer helpful suggestions on how to fix your work. But they can tell you where it hurts.

Solve your personal problems outside of work. This is another way of saying what I explained in number two. But it’s important enough to drive home. Writing isn’t going to fix your life problems. Don’t burden your writing with the need to solve your problems. And writing isn’t therapy. When you write from your heart, you will naturally go through emotional experiences that can be challenging, and you may even find clarity and peace with some aspects of your life. But there’s a big difference between writing honestly from your heart, and treating your manuscript like a therapist’s couch.

Don’t try and model yourself on anyone else, especially on any other writer. This one relates to number two up there. You live a better life so you have real, direct experiences to pull from. Otherwise you’re pulling from other writers. But there are two other warnings in here. First, don’t try and replicate another writer’s process and expect it to work for you. Feel free to grab elements as you tinker with your own process, but copying Kafka’s writing process won’t make you write like Kafka. Second, if you hold writers up to a pedestal you’ll never become one. “Becoming a writer” will always be this lofty dream out of reach. Even worse, when you worship authors you never get to clearly evaluate if you even want to actually become one in the first place. You might not. I’m still on the fence. 

Relax. You’re not fighting a war here.

The Girl Who Came Back to Life

When you die, your spirit wakes in the north, in the City of the Dead. There, you wander the cold until one of your living loved ones finds you, says "Goodbye," and Sends you to the next world. 

After her parents die, 12-year-old Sophie refuses to release their spirits. Instead, she resolves to travel to the City of the Dead to bring her mother and father’s spirits back home with her. 

Taking the long pilgrimage north with her gruff & distant grandmother—by train, by foot, by boat; over ruined mountains and plains and oceans—Sophie struggles to return what death stole from her. Yet the journey offers her many hard, unexpected lessons—what to hold on to, when to let go, and who she must truly bring back to life.

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Genre – Middle Grade
Rating – PG-13
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