Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

All my bunny punchers can take today off and be thankful that they are writers.  Now, if you think of a plot twist while munching on a turkey leg and feel the urge to write it down, please try to restrain yourself until after dessert.  If you just can't, then discretely jot the idea on a napkin...but only if it's paper.  And if it's Great Aunt Margaret's fine lace napkins only used once a year at Thanksgiving, then write your idea on your hand.  Be sure to transfer that idea as soon as possible to a notebook for safe keeping.  Otherwise the idea will be lost as soon as you wash your hands.  And all that turkey and dressing and pie will make you sleepy and you'll have forgotten the idea by tomorrow in your rush to beat everyone for the Black Friday sales.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just What Do Those Stars on Amazon Really Mean?

This morning I was checking out the free (and almost free) Kindle books suggested by ireader review ( and I stumbled across these comments:

"Next, some kindle book deals.
BrainRush, a Thriller by Richard Bard. Price: $1. Genre: Thriller, Action & Adventure. Rated 5 stars on 85 reviews. The author has a contest or something where you can email him the receipt of this book to get his next book for free. 584 kb in size.
It’s interesting, isn’t it – an author who is selling his 5-star rated book for $1 also has to run a contest and give away his next book for free. You’re probably tired of me writing this – Soon we will have authors paying readers to read their books (except for the top 2% of authors). Authors’ desire to be read (for 98% of authors) is far greater than readers’ desire to read their books."

Someone left a comment in response to this:

“'Soon we will have authors paying readers to read their books'
Actually, they’re already doing that… :( Some authors will pay you $5 (!) for reading their book and leaving a 5-star review on Amazon. That system has been around for about a year now…"

I'm surprised (and I guess, a little naive) that some people pay readers to post positive comments on Amazon.  I've asked my family and friends to add their positive comments, but all they've ever gotten from me is my undying love.  (By the way, I'm NOT suggesting that Richard Bard pays for 5 star comments.  I am impressed, though, that he got 85 positive comments!)

I've wondered before about books that will have several 5 star ratings and about as many 1 star ratings, with nothing much in between.  In the past I'd figured that the book must be controversial in some way, that it was one of those books you either love or hate.  Maybe that's still true, but after discovering that people pay for readers, it will just make me doubt those 5 star ratings in the future.

So, if I'm now doubting the 5 star ratings, does that mean that the ratings mean anything any more?  If the system has been compromised, is it of any value any more?  What do you think?  Do you trust the 5 start ratings on Amazon?  How do you choose a book?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview with Edie Melson, speaker at AnAuthor World's Writing Conference

Edie Melson will be a speaker at AnAuthor World's 3rd annual writing conference, The Story Continues. She's a freelance writer and editor with over 16 years experience in the publishing industry. Edie’s a prolific writer, publishing over 700 articles in 2010. She also has a popular writing blog ( and is a frequent contributor to many others. In keeping up with the leading edge of all things digital Edie has become known as one of the go-to experts on Twitter, Facebook, and social media for writers wanting to learn how to plug in. Her bestselling eBook on this subject, Social Media Marketing for Writers, is available on Kindle and Nook.

AnAuthor World: Why did you decide to be a writer?

Edie: I’ve always told stories and I actually wrote my first book—long-hand—in 8th grade. It’s funny, I was looking back through some of my old year books and several kids commented about me becoming a bestselling writer.

AAW: How did you learn to write?

Edie: I’ve learned through taking classes, reading books and ACTUALLY WRITING. So many wanna-be writers avoid the last one. Also, I’m still learning, I always have at least one book on writing that I’m studying and I try to read at least one blog post about writing every day.

AAW: How did you first get published?

Edie: I guess officially my first published writing was with my technical writing. But my first freelance article was one I sold through a contact at a writers conference. I sold a short article to Focus on the Family at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (

AAW: How many published books do you have?

Edie: I have one bestselling eBook, Social Media Marketing for Writers and another book due out by the end of the year, Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home when Your Soldier Leaves for War. (

AAW: What else have you written?

Edie: In 2010 I published over 700 articles. In truth, if it’s not illegal or immoral, I’ll write about it. I have a life-long love affair with words.

AAW: What are you working on now?

Edie: I manage and/or write for over 27 blogs and websites. I’m also working on a Science Fiction Novel.

AAW: Do you teach writing? If so, where do you teach and what subjects?

Edie: I do teach writing. I teach freelancing, blogging, writing for the Internet, and writing devotions. I’m a frequent teacher with AnAuthor World and I teach at writing conferences around the country. I’m also the Co-Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference ( and Southwest Christian Writers Studio (

AAW: Have you been rejected? If so, how do you handle rejections?

Edie: Absolutely I’ve been rejected! But I learned getting published on a regular basis is a numbers game. Starting out, the ratio tends to be about 10 queries to every 2 acceptances. The numbers do improve with experience. I actually set a goal of how many rejections I want to get within a month. That insures I’ll get the acceptances as well and makes the rejections a little less painful. But trust me, they always hurt.

AAW: Who are your favorite authors?

Edie: I have so many. Alton Gansky, Ted Dekker, Susan May Warren, Lynette Eason, Pam Zollman, Carolyn G. Hart, Anne McCaffrey, Jody Lynn Nye . . . I could go on and on and on!

AAW: What advice do you have for new writers?

Edie: Write every day. Concentrate on learning your craft and publication will come.

The Story Continues Writing Conference
Date: October 15, 2011
Place: Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Hwy, Greenville, SC
Time: 8:00-8:30 a.m. -- Walk-in Registration; pick up folders
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. -- Conference
4:30-5:30 p.m. -- Autographing
Price: $100 general; $90 AAW Community Members; $65 students
Early Bird Special (until August 15): $85 general; $75 AAWC members; $50 students
Manuscript critiques available: deadline for manuscripts is September 1, 2011

Speakers: Ann Ross, Lynette Eason, Ellis Vidler, Patricia Thomas, Edie Melson, Pam Zollman, two editors from Peachtree Books

Teen Track: Carol Baldwin, instructor
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Teachers: You will receive in-service hours for attending.

Register on-line at and click on the "Events" button.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Story Continues -- AnAuthor World's 3rd Annual Writing Conference

MARK YOUR CALENDARS! AnAuthor World’s third annual writing conference will be Saturday, October 15, 2011, at Furman University.

Here are our confirmed speakers:

Ann B. Ross, author of the popular Miss Julia series, will be our keynote speaker
Lynette Eason, author of 14 books; her most recent book is A Killer Among Us (Book 3 of her Women of Justice series)
Ellis Vidler, author of Haunting Refrain and co-author of The Peeper with Jim Christopher
Edie Melson, author of ebook Social Media Marketing for Writers; has a devotional book, Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home, due out this fall
Patricia Thomas, author of picture book, “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, I’m Going to Sneeze” (an Amazon Best-Seller and has been in print since 1990); recent pictures are Red Sled, Nature’s Paintbox, and Firefly Mountain
Carol Baldwin, author of Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8; she will teach a Teen Writing Track
Pam Zollman, author of 40 children’s books, former Highlights Magazine editor, writing instructor, founder of AnAuthor World and
Katya Jenson, Editorial and Sub-rights Coordinator, Peachtree Books
Jessica Alexander, Peachtree Books Editor, Peachtree Books

The Story Continues, AnAuthor World’s third writing conference
Date: Saturday, October 15, 2011
Place: Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613
Time: 8:00 (registration); 8:30-4:30 (conference); 4:30-5:30 (autographing)
Cost: $90 AAWC members; $100 non-members; $65 students

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL (until August 15, 2011): $75 AAWC members; $85 general; $50 students

Register on-line at

Teachers will get in-service credits.

Manuscript Critiques:
• $40 for the first 10 pages
• 15 minute one-on-one critique with author, editor or agent during the conference
• Please include your name and contact information
• Please state what genre your manuscript is (examples: picture book, short story, memoir, article, romantic suspense novel, YA, nonfiction book, etc.)
• Mail check and manuscript to: Pam Zollman, 406 Plano Drive, Greenville, SC 29617
• Deadline: September 1, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011


What are bunnies famous for doing?

Nope, not eating carrots.

Nope, not being cute and furry.

Yep...for being good at math. Multiplying, specifically.

So, how do you make multiplying bunnies work for you? What if those multiplying bunnies were books instead of rabbits?

1) Writing lots of books.

You've got more than one book in you. In fact, you're probably brimming with ideas for stories. There's a trick to writing lots of books...and that is that you have to actually write them. You can't just talk about them. You can't just jot down notes, although this is an important part of it. You have to sit down at your computer and write.

2) Writing sequels.

When you write your books, don't aim first for writing series. Most editors don't want series from first-time authors. You'll have to prove yourself with your first book. But make sure that your main character, your bunny, is developed enough to produce another book or two or three. That way, when your readers -- and editor -- start asking for more books, you'll have a character waiting for another problem to solve in a sequel. Your first book, though, has to stand on its own merits. If it doesn't attract enough readership, then a sequel won't either.

3) Writing series.

Readers adore series! They invest time and energy in your book and come to love your main character. And they want to spend more time with him or her in more books. However, your main character will have to be developed enough to sustain long series. In stand-alone books, the character grows a lot from the beginning to the end. But in a series, your main character grows slowly...but he does grow and change, just at a different pace.

4) Writing every day.

In order to get lots of books written, whether stand-alones or sequels or series, you'll have to plan time every day to write. If you don't plan to write, then there will always be something that claims to be more important that will take that spot of time from you. Make your writing time important. Remember, you have future readers waiting for your book.

Okay, go write and make those bunnies multiply.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Five Things to Look For In a Critique Group

I think critique groups are great! But I think they are also like a pair of jeans. You have to try a few on before you find the right fit. And maybe after a few years, you might have to find a new pair because you've outgrown the ones you own. So how do you find the right fit? What do you look for in a critique group?

1) People who are actually writing.

If no one (or only one or two) is turning in pages to critique, then it becomes a social group. You may talk about writing, but that doesn't make you a writer. Actual writing makes you a writer. Your group members don't have to be published, just writing. I guarantee that if you and your critique group keep writing consistently, you all will be published. How do I know this? I've seen it happen too many times over my forty years of writing.

2) People who have goals.

If your group's goal is NOT publishing, first and foremost, then you're in the wrong group. I would also question a group who is only interested in self-publishing. Too many things that are poorly written and poorly edited have been self-published. Sometimes there's a need for self-publishing, but that shouldn't be the group's goal. You can have the goal of turning in a certain number of pages for each meeting. Your goal could be to finish your manuscript by a certain date and your critique group should help motivate you to meet that self-imposed deadline. Your goal could be to write a certain number of short stories or articles or books. Your goal could be to win writing awards. Whatever your goal is, it should be shared by your critique group.

3) People who will motivate you to write, sympathize you when you fail, and celebrate when you succeed.

If your critique group does not do these things, then it's not right for you. These people will be with you throughout the whole writing process. They should be cheering you on. They should not be envious of any successes you have, nor should they be smug when you get rejected.

4) People who will be honest with you about your work, without being harsh.

Sometimes you'll find that a critique group loves everything you write. While that feels wonderful, you'll also wonder why your work isn't selling. You need people in your group who will tell you when your manuscript stinks like a wet dog, but then also offer suggestions on how to fix that odor problem. You also need people telling you the truth when your work sparkles like polished silver and that it's time to submit it. If a critique group is too harsh on a regular basis, run away! They will not help you grow as a writer any more than the group who loves everything you do.

5) People who want to work hard at writing and who want to learn and grow as writers.

If your critique group isn't taking steps to grow as writers, then you need to rethink this group. If they do things because it's the way it's always been done, they may not be best for you. The world of publishing is changing and you have to be willing to change with it.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Advice from the Past

I found a notebook from my college days at the University of Houston. It's from a creative writing class I took in the fall of 1971 from Dr. Karchmer, my favorite professor. The notebook is filled with lots of basic -- but still good -- advice, as well as short story ideas and first drafts.

Here are some of my notes from my first class 40 years ago:
  • Learn to PROOFREAD! Make it neat -- 1" margins; make it look professional.
  • Write as many short stories as you can. Read as many short stories as you can. Develop your own insights. Read for your own pleasure.
  • Cultivate regular writing habits. Set aside 1-2 hours every day for writing, a time when you are relatively composed. (I laughed at this one -- composed? A play on words?)
  • Write whether you are inspired or not. You must force yourself to write; must discipline yourself. Work every day.
  • Get the first draft down before starting over. Believe in what you're writing. Don't let the critical part of your mind over-rule the creative part.
  • "Emotion remembered in tranquility"
  • Keep a notebook and work in it every day. Keep a journal of your observations and impressions. Character analysis, feelings, emotions, ideas for stories. Can pour out feelings of hostility, bitterness, love, happiness, etc. in journal to clear your system. Vast depository of your thoughts. A storehouse of knowledge for future use. (I had put a big star by this one in my notebook...and this notebook proves that I took his advice. I've been doing this for the past 40 years.)
  • Write letters. Use lots of description in them. (Obviously, this was before email and text messages, but I still love to write letters and send cards.)
  • "Memory is the one paradise from which the writer cannot be driven."
  • "Time destroys; memory preserves." (I'm not sure if what I have in quotation marks are quotes from Dr. Karchmer or from someone else.)
I'll share some more of my notes later. Right now I have to go write.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

There will be no hurting of bunnies today.

Unless they happen to be chocolate.

And then, there may be some nibbling of the ears.

There is nothing that I can do about that.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When to Hurt Your Bunnies

See that cute bunny dancing with a giant carrot? You know you have to hurt him, because otherwise there'd be no story. You also have some ideas on how to do it. But when should you do it?

Often! Whenever you can!

Poor bunny. Happy reader!

Every scene has three parts: goal, conflict, disaster. You can hurt your bunny during the conflict part; that's obvious. he has to fight a bully, scale a mountain, or survive a hurricane. You can also hurt your bunny during the disaster. That, too, is obvious. A bomb goes off, the boogie man jumps out of the closet, he gets a huge pimple on his nose just before his big date with the head cheerleader. Youch!

Every sequel has three parts: reaction, dilemma, decision. You can also hurt your bunny during the dilemma, as he tries to decide what to do. That, again, is obvious. You can make him agonize over what to do. Does he pull the plug on his brain-dead son? Does he confront the bully? Does he run into the burning building to save the child?

You can hurt your bunny as soon as he's made a decision about what to do. How? Make that decision a poor one. Perhaps he's made the choice to have it out, once and for all, with the fellow employee who is always stabbing him in the back. But, perhaps, that choice is the wrong one because he doesn't know yet that he doesn't have all the correct information, and it's the wrong fellow employee being accused. Perhaps the information he's using is out of date, so the choice to not vaccinate his child is based on incorrect data. Perhaps he assumes the head cheerleader won't mind the huge pimple and will like him for who he is inside.

What about hurting your bunny during the goal? Perhaps your bunny in the previous sequel has made a decision about what to do next. His goal now for the next scene is to implement that decision. So how do you hurt him? By allowing him to have the wrong goal. What follows will hurt him. He's decided to confront the bully, which is a good decision, but his goal to do it during lunchtime when the bully's friends are there to help him, is a bad idea.

You get the idea. Hurt your bunny often. Chase him up a tree and throw rocks at him. Remember, though, that your bunny must grow stronger during each time of "hurt." You're hitting him with his weaknesses, his flaws, his fears. As he works out how to survive each onslaught, he gets a little stronger. So, by the end of the book, your bunny has grown as a person, has grown into a stronger, wiser rabbit. What didn't kill him will make him stronger. And at the end he can dance with the giant carrot. Or maybe eat it

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to Hurt Your Bunny

Now that you've decided that it's in the best interest of your story to hurt your bunny, your main character, how do you do it?

1) Physically
This is the most obvious way. You can make your character sick with the flu or pneumonia. You can break his leg or sprain his ankle. You can give him a rash, a bee sting, or allergies.

2) Psychologically
This one can be divided into two closely related illnesses: mental and emotional. I'm not a psychologist, but I've watched one on TV. So, you'll probably have to do some research on these to be sure you're calling the illness the correct name.

a) Mentally
Your bunny could have a mental illness, such as multiple personalities (and since bunnies multiply rapidly, your bunny might have a dozen or so before your story is over) or an eating disorder (too many carrots). Perhaps it's depression or OCD or post traumatic stress disorder.

b) Emotionally
You might have your bunny suffer from a bully who steals his lunch money or has low self-esteem. Perhaps your bunny can't tell the truth and just has to exaggerate everything he says. Your bunny might be a hypochondriac. Maybe he fears small spaces or is afraid of tornadoes.

3) Spiritually
That's right; you can even hurt your bunny spiritually. Things can get so bad for him that he may doubt God...or the conflicts might turn him toward God or toward something else.

Now, when you hurt your bunny, don't do it randomly. Plan on ways to hurt your bunny that will also advance your plot. Before you write, it's a good idea to do a character sketch of your main bunny. Figure out what your bunny's strengths and weaknesses are, what his dreams and fears are. Now you hit him where it hurts: confront him with his weaknesses and his fears, make his dreams appear to evaporate, turn his strengths against him.

Your reader will love you for it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Hurt the Bunnies?

Look at that sweet bunny. Could you really hurt it?

I coined the phrase "hurt the bunnies" after reading so many stories where there was no problem to be solved, no conflict -- nothing happened. It started when I judged a contest and every single entry was a picture book/short story about bunnies...except one that was about groundhogs (and this one actually had a problem to solve). The bunnies basically hopped around all day holding hands, picking flowers, and remarking on what a wonderful world they lived in. I have to admit that after reading dozens of stories like that, I really did have an urge to hurt those bunnies.

But the phrase "hurt the bunnies" actually is for the writers, to remind them that stories aren't interesting unless we can in some way identify with the main character -- or main bunny -- and feel sympathy for him. We have to care what happens to him. If nothing happens, then we feel as if we've wasted the time we invested in that character/bunny. So the writer needs to "hurt" that character/bunny in some way. The "hurt" doesn't have to be physical. It can be a need, a desire, a wish, a goal...but it can also be a physical or emotional "hurt." A "bunny" without a problem is a boring bunny, and no one wants to read about boring bunnies.

So the answer to the questions that introduced this blog post is: Yes! I can hurt that bunny!