Seven Links 8/31/19 Traci Kenworth

boy, moon, balloons

Seven Links 8/31/19

Traci Kenworth


1. I do this too.

2. “If you want to become a writer, you must become comfortable with fear.

It’s easy to dismiss the fear of writing. Easier to not recognize fear and writing are infinitely conjoined. You didn’t become a writer for the adrenaline thrill, after all. Writing is not like being a Navy SEAL or a firefighter. You are not risking your life when you write, so you believe. You imagine your fear of showing up to the blank page is silly and unfounded.

One of the top phobias people regularly report is the fear of public speaking. This is often touted to show the irrationality of humans. But modern society is structured in a much different way than the environment we evolved in. Throughout most of our history as a species, social standing has been inextricably linked with survival. If you were part of a small tribe and said something so embarrassing that nobody wanted to speak to you anymore, you might be cast out and starve to death, be eaten by predators, or killed by another tribe.”

3. “The opening words of your novel may be all a prospective buyer will read before making their purchasing decision. Are yours an opening salvo; an opening punch; or an opening sigh, easily dismissed?

They will also be the first words an agent or an editor reads when they see the sample chapters you have pitched.

Every story starts somewhere. Even “once upon a time” is a beginning. I thought it would be fun to have you read some opening lines from ten different books written by a few of our clients. (These were chosen completely at random as we have nearly 1,000 published novels by clients to choose from in the office!)

See if you can match the words with the title and author. Your only prize is intellectual satisfaction for being well read. (I’ll post the answers later today.)

Meanwhile, try to think how they are different. How they suggest the genre. Some may even hint at the setting. What is being set up? What intrigue? What action?”

4. “You probably clicked on this post after rolling your eyes, thinking this was just going to be me complaining about my job or my blog or just life in general.

Yeah, I don’t do that. It would be a waste of both your time and mine to take up space on the internet just to whine about my privilege.

At the same time, this blog exists as a way for writers and non-writers alike to see the real, raw truths of a creator’s life. Sometimes what you see isn’t very pretty. I could sugar coat everything for you and make writing sound like the most fun, rewarding, worthwhile job on the planet, but I’d be lying.

Every job — even writing — has its challenges. And sometimes, in order to face them, we have to look at them from all angles. Question the way we are doing things. Ask ourselves, more than once, if this is REALLY the way we want things to be.

Today, after spending a full Saturday doing what I love — writing about things I love — I am in that place of questioning. Is living a life as a “nights and weekends only” writer really what I want? Is it what I need? Is it what I can handle?” I think it’s fine to take time off writing. Or decide that it’s not for you. Everyone approaches writing differently. Truly, though, if you’re not happy, take a step back. Make it a hobby again. Keep it that way if it’s better for your health. Not all of us can write professionally. And that’s okay. Let writing be fun again. Remember chasing that first thread.

5. “It was summertime 1926a hot steamy night in western Kansas. Peering out from under the table, she looked around her grandmother’s kitchen. Seeing only the bottom half of things—the pie cupboard with the tiny bird-designs tapped into the tin front, the squat legs of the cast-iron stove, the open back door sending a slight breeze into the over-heated room, and the spindle chair legs which pressed up close to her, as she remained hidden under the kitchen table.

Wedged around her were the legs of her family—favorite Aunt Hazel, stalwart Uncle Glen, teasing and testy Uncle Kenneth, plus Grandma, and her Dad and Mom. All were there. Difficult as it was at age five, she remained quiet, melting into a puddle of sweat at their feet, grateful they had forgotten she was hiding there.

Laying her cheek onto the coolness of the linoleum floor, she giggled as hilarity rocked the table. The voices above rose and fell, one after the other, like combatants in a war of words. One joke, then another, one raucous story followed another… and then, laughter would spike the air above. She could make out the chortles from her strait-laced grandmother; the timid glee of her aunt; the gut-wrenching bellows of Uncle Glen; and the quiet amusement from her own father, as her mother’s sighs of disgust filtered down to her ears.  

 And then, it began all over again. Attempting to outdo each other, they repeated stories they’d read; jokes they’d heard; poems they’d memorized; and, of course, the height of the evening were anecdotes made up on the spur of a challenge. Every night was the same; something a body could count on. The rich banter, the lightning-quick repartee, the good-humored jibes—all were like salve on the sunburned skin of my mother’s childhood.

“Always the stories,” my mother recounted to me and my siblings years later. “We always had stories.” Therefore, my life, too, was formed by stories. The experience of families coming together, sitting down at the table, eating hearty meals of meat and potatoes, but knowing the mirth that would follow was the dessert everyone loved best.”

6. “Honestly, if I saw this post out there by anyone else I’d be the first person to start throwing rotten vegetables at it. Of course you can’t randomly generate a novel—a work of art—using some computer program or set of charts. That’s crazy talk! Everything has to be a part of an organic whole, a pure representation of the author’s innermost thoughts, feelings, desires, fears…

But wait… could you?

I’ve actually been thinking about this for a while now and I wonder if this might be worth trying.

So, okay, everybody knows I’ve been playing D&D and other role-playing games since 1978 and I’ve got a swell collection of classic RPGs still on my shelf. I have a particular nerd love for the classic Judges Guild D&D game products—the enormous world, the hyper-detailed cities, the crazy weird dungeon adventures… all of it. And I have the same nerd love for all the random tables in various Judges Guild books and in the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide—one of which I even quoted in my book Writing Monsters.”

7. “The internet loves reading about — and writing about — morning routines.

This probably comes from the fact that those of us who don’t have productive morning routines wish we did, and those of us who do are constantly wondering if we need to change them.

People are especially interested in the morning routines of the world’s most successful people. The Bill Gates and Oprah Winfreys of the universe absolutely must have spotless morning routines, since they’ve somehow managed to accomplish so much throughout their lives … right?

Well that’s one reason I’m not going to bore you with my morning routine. I’m not a highly successful person. I’m just a human with a flawed relationship with sleep and too many thoughts.

But what I WILL tell you is, as a writer, whether or not you will succeed throughout your life isn’t solely dependent on the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. It’s about the habits, attitudes, and strategies you adapt throughout your days, weeks, and months to maintain productivity without burning yourself out.”

Research & Fun Bits:

1. “Fiction was my first love and I was loyal to it for many years. Crime and horror made up the largest percentage of my literary diet. Then, once I started college, nonfiction crept into my life. I had never been a fan of reading historical accounts or long biographies, but then I discovered a world of amazing stories that had actually happened, and that captured my attention. 

Fast-forward fifteen years or so and I’m regularly reviewing nonfiction for a few venues. I love it. As a journalist, I’m interested in stories that illuminate, expose, and educate. I love narratives that expand my view of the world and show me realities I’ve ignored. Lately it has also shown me or reminded me of things that can improve my fiction writing. Here are some of them.

People are almost always at the core of your story 

We get creative. We go crazy with worldbuilding. We invent technology. We divert into info dumps. All of that is okay as long as we remember the heart of most stories is made up of characters we want our readers to connect with (plus you can edit all that other crap later). I think too many authors get caught up in their plot and forget that there are individuals inhabiting said plot. Excessive typos/grammar mistakes and flat characters are the easiest ways to get me to give up on a book, so I try to evade both. Most of the nonfiction I’”


3. “It’s a common experience across the Blogosphere: you’ve made a commitment to your readers that you’ll post consistently on certain days, but, every once in a while, as the day approaches, you can’t think of a topic to write about; or your post is boring, even to you. What should you do?

What to do:

  • Recommit yourself to blogging regularly, but to be realistic, give yourself permission to miss one post a year. But unless you’re experiencing a life-crisis (like a death in the family, a birth, a move, a fire, surgery, prolonged illness, a flood), you only get one pass a year. Work on the following tips starting today, so you won’t become a habitual slacker.
  • Keep a notebook where you jot down your brilliant ideas. I know from personal experience that no matter how vivid my ideas are, if I don’t actually write them down, they dissolve into the ether. Elizabeth Gilbert says something to the effect that if you don’t diligently take the idea and do something with it, it will go away and find someone else to birth it.
  • Don’t have any ideas stockpiled? Brainstorm. On a blank page, write down any idea that comes to you (even if it’s stupid) and let it suggest other ideas, along the same lines or totally unrelated. Make it a game to come up with at least twenty, then chose the five best to craft into posts (and you’re allowed to fine-tune them as you work).”

4. “My first thought was ‘oh my god, it’s walking on water!’. Then I read the title. Then I looked past the beautiful Huskies and saw the lake and its surroundings. That’s when my jaw truly dropped. Whether there are a million Earth-like planets or just this one, beauty like this deserves to be preserved.

We are already in heaven, my friends. Let’s not turn it into  hell.”


6. “This article on space battles is part of the Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy blog series. Each week, we tackle one of the scientific or technological concepts pervasive in sci-fi (space travel, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, etc.) with input from an expert. Please join the mailing list to be notified every time new content is posted.

The Expert: Michael Mammay

Michael Mammay graduated from the United States Military Academy and served as an Army officer for 27 years. He holds a masters degree in military history is a veteran of Desert Storm, Somalia, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his spare time he writes science fiction and fantasy, usually with military influences. He is the author of two books published by Harper Voyager: Planetside (July 2018) and Spaceside (August 2019). You should follow him on Twitter.”

7. “I always wanted to be a writer. That’s not unique. Many writers have their destiny revealed in childhood. Like others with this particular itch, I read voraciously, and when I bought my first Asimov’s magazine at the age of sixteen—a moment embedded in my senses more vividly than my first kiss—I knew I had to be a science fiction writer.

But it took me more than thirty years to become one. And by that, I don’t mean I was thirty before I published my first fiction. I was forty-seven. By anyone’s measure, that’s late for a first publication.

Most of us have preconceived ideas about how a writer’s career should proceed, and we judge ourselves harshly if we don’t achieve the various benchmarks on time. I married an SF writer who hit her milestones at a pace most people would consider ideal. Alyx sold her first story in her early twenties, made her first professional sale later that decade, and her first book came out around forty. By the end of this year, well before she’s fifty, she’ll have five books out, three of them in hardcover, nearly forty stories, and two national awards.

As for me, I just got started last year. My first story came out in the February 2015 Clarkesworld.”

Something More Serious:

1. “This week, a short question generates a long answer.

How seriously should midlisters take the pressure to finally write that breakout novel?

—Mystified in the Midlist

Good question, Misty! The sad, short answer is that any pressure one need not take seriously is no pressure at all. If you feel this pressure to write that breakout novel, you must take it seriously.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to sit down and try to write a breakout novel.

First, let’s talk about what a breakout novel is: it’s not necessarily simply a best-seller. I know plenty of best-selling authors—most of them managed it by writing a work made for hire about Boba Fett or whatnot. And, of course, you can always write a best-selling non-fiction about carbohydrates (they’re bad!) or Jesus Christ (He’s good!). A breakout novel is a best-seller, or potential best-seller, that comes from your own imagination and ingenuity. What makes it a breakout is that is captures the imagination of everyone in the publishing process.”

2. “I spent the past several days listening to and speaking with retailers at the CPE International Christian Products Expo in Murfreesboro, TN. My impressions are many.

One question not asked often enough in our day-to-day writing is “What does a retailer need from an author?”

A clear way to inform their customers about your books

Store staff are much more likely to hand-sell your book if they have a clear and concise way to describe the book to customers. That 15-30 second description is useful as an elevator pitch (in a two-story building). It is vital for the sales and marketing team to use. When an author talks with readers, libraries, or retailers about their book, it’s gold.

When an industry professional hears an author taking a long time to explain their book, the assumption is that the author doesn’t yet have a firm grip on how to interest a potential reader, agent, editor, or retailer in the project.”

3. “It’s hard to see the flaws in our own work, and the ending is especially a problem.  We know ourselves how it’s supposed to pack its punch, or we hope we do, but will the reader?

Here’s a handy test.

You’ve seen arrests in movies. And you know, don’t you, that a person may harm their defence if they don’t mention any evidence they later rely on in court.

This is like story endings.

A good ending

First of all, what’s a good ending? It has a feeling of ‘rightness’, even if it has surprises, leaves questions or unresolved issues. It must be fair (to the reader, not”

4. “From the fairy tales read to us when we were children to the latest bestselling thriller, rogue characters are what keep us enthralled.

  • From the Wicked Witch to the Superhero.
  • Cinderella to Gone, Girl.
  • Christian Grey to Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo.

The Black Swan—or the Black Sheep.

He/she/they/it will never do the expected. They will zig when others will zag. They’re the black swan—or the black sheep. Rogue characters can be good or evil—or better yet, somewhere in between, because every villain must have a weakness.

Protagonist or antagonist, hero or anti-hero, the rogue character is the engine that provides forward momentum, the jolt of energy that revs up a plot.”

5. “EY, CHUCK, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” you might ask me, out loud, in all caps for some reason. And I would say, “Well, fellow human, human fellow, I’ve been digging deep into the word mines, deeper than I’ve ever gone before, lost in the dark, following a rich and mysterious vein of story ore to its conclusion.” And you might say, still in all caps, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS,” and there I’d roll my eyes, and I’d sigh, and I’d answer more accurately, “I’ve been editing a really big book, and it was hard.”

Because writing books, and editing books, and re-writing books, and re-re-writing books, is hard. It’s curious that I haven’t found it gets any easier. In fact, it’s maybe gotten harder? On the one hand, that makes me feel like a dipshit, because if writing is getting harder, it seems to suggest I’m somehow getting worse. But the reality, I suspect — and I hope — is that it’s because as I write more books, as I get older, I’m reaching out and writing bigger, sprawlier, stranger things. Things that are attempting to reckon with larger, crunchier ideas while still also ideally being first and foremost a damn entertaining read.”



Teaser Fiction & Poetry:








Book Reviews, Cover Reveals, & Author Interviews:

1. “I love fantasies set at colleges, so when I heard about Linda Haldeman’s Esbae: A Winter’s Tale (1981), I had to track it down and read it. The titular Esbae is a spirit who is found wanting by some greater power, and cast down to earth. It attaches itself to an awkward college student, Sophie, and is caught up in a magical battle between good and evil.

The three main human characters are all to be found in Dr. Leo Ernst’s history class. (We know that this is fantasy, because even after an ice storm, everybody goes to class!) The first is Sophie Claiborne, a clumsy but brainy young woman. The second is Chuck Holmes, big man on campus, who is in danger of flunking out of school. Finally, there is Leo Ernst himself, a mild-mannered, music-loving professor who is attracted to Sophie. Leo’s interest in, and later relationship with, Sophie feels kind of sketchy when reading it in 2019. I told myself, “well, this is an old book, and anyway, these things do happen sometimes.”

2. “The second in Maggie Stiefvater‘s THE RAVEN CYCLE, and a direct sequel to The Raven BoysThe Dream Thieves(2013) focuses on the character of Ronan Lynch, a teenage boy who — in the last sentence of the previous book’s final chapter — reveals to his friends that he can pull real objects out of his dreams.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. The gist of this four-part series is that four students of the prestigious Aglionby Academy are on a quest to find the resting place of Welsh king Owen Glendower. Their de-facto leader Gansey believes that he’s buried somewhere in the small town of Henrietta, Virginia, built on one of the powerful ley-lines that criss-cross the countryside. Gansey has devoted much of his young life to finding the crypt, and his friends Ronan, Adam and Noah (each with secrets of their own) have been helping him.”

3. “The end of summer is traditional coming of age time. Your new best friend is going home. Your new boyfriend starts pretending not to know you. Your parents discover your secret hiding place and turn it into a mudroom. You move to a new town. Your dog dies. You pushed your best friend out of a tree and he broke his leg and now you’re dealing with the guilt. When you’re young, you don’t measure time in calendar years—you measure it in school years. So, as we embark on a new one, the Literary Hub office put their heads together to consider some of the greatest coming-of-age novels ever written, for discussing in the halls and reading under the covers.

First: what exactly is a coming-of-age novel? Of course, it’s a novel in which someone becomes an adult, literally or metaphorically. But does a coming of age novel require demonstrable maturity in the end? Does said coming of age need to be the primary focus—in plot, in emotional weight—of the novel? Does the main character have to be a literal adolescent in the beginning? Under 21, maybe? The answer to all of these, I decided, was “usually, but not always.” Like you-know-what, we all know coming of age when we see it. Or at least we know it once we’re on the other side.”

4. “When everybody is against them, it is tough being a lifeliner, as Nash
Bannon found out. Lifeliners are ordinary people…almost. They can
draw energy from another person; they live longer and are smarter.
Scientists claim that Western high-pressure living and growing
sterility in developed countries has triggered the rise of
lifeliners, and homo sapiens will replaced by homo renata within ten
generations. So, what’s not to like about lifeliners? Protest
marches by extremist groups, riots, attacks against lifeliners,
repressive laws enacted by governments everywhere, were portents of a
dark future. Young, successful, Nash Bannon did not like what was
going on, but he thought he had the world at his feet and life in
Australia was good, provided no one found out he was a lifeliner. A
chance encounter with Cariana during a lunchbreak develops into
something he considered important. The Australian government calls a
snap election, and Nash stands as a Senate candidate on the Lifeliner
Party ticket. Unless lifeliners rise up and fight for their rights,
they can expect sterilization, incarceration, and possible
extermination as democracies everywhere turn into autocracies. To
survive, the Lifeliner Party must employ the same dirty tricks the
government used against them, but they were not prepared for what
awaited them.”

5. “Karina is Indian American and has lived in America her entire life, yet she still gets targeted with prejudice comments from the school bully. Her long-time neighor Chris is a causasion boy who has never gotten to know Karina or her family. But, when Karina’s grandfather comes to live with them, he starts tutoring math at the local school and Chris is his first student. Karina and Chris are forced to spend time together and unexpectidly become friends.

The alternating perspectives between Karina and Chris allows the reader to get a full understanding of the thoughts and feelings of both races. This is especially important when they become victims of a hate crime and Papa ends up in the hospital.”

6. “Hey y’all. It’s time for another Tuesday Book Share. I’ve been able to wheedle down my TBR list in the past few weeks. One of the books I read was Marcia Meara’s Swamp Ghosts, the first of her Riverbend Series.

Marcia published this book five years ago, but if you haven’t read it, I highly encourage you to do so. I’ll be reading the rest of her Riverbend Series and more.


Wildlife photographer Gunnar Wolfe looked like the kind of guy every man wanted to be and every woman just plain wanted, and the St. Johns River of central Florida drew him like a magnet. EcoTour boat owner Maggie Devlin knew all the river’s secrets, including the deadliest ones found in the swamps. But neither Maggie nor Gunn was prepared for the danger that would come after them on two legs.

On a quest to make history photographing the rarest birds of them all, Gunnar hires the fiery, no-nonsense Maggie to canoe him into the most remote wetland areas in the state. He was unprepared for how much he would enjoy both the trips and Maggie’s company. He soon realizes he wants more than she’s able to give, but before he can win her over, they make a grisly discovery that changes everything, and turns the quiet little town of Riverbend upside down. A serial killer is on the prowl among them.

My 5 Star Review:

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7. you ever truly love someone who robbed you of everything?

Sixteen-year-old Claire Williams spends most of her days feeling angry and alone. After a car accident took her mother and Claire’s ability to walk, life in a wheelchair is the new normal.
When she’s sent to live with her grandmother, away from school and friends, Claire has a chance for a fresh start. Just when Claire thinks she can handle things, she runs into Todd – the son of the man who caused the car accident.

At first, Claire wants nothing to do with him, but the more time they spend together, the more she hates to admit her feelings. She’s slowly falling in love with Todd.

Now, Claire’s father wants to move and take Claire with him. But she can’t go. Not now when everything is falling into place, and she’s just now finding herself. Claire’s defiant. She won’t leave Greenwood, her new friends, her grandmother, or Todd.”

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