a weblog for readers and writers

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sandra Brown Writes What She Likes

When you have more than 40 novels to your name -- many of them bestsellers -- you can write whatever you like. That’s what author Sandra Brown suggests everyone do.

"You have to write what you like. It's too hard and time consuming not to enjoy the work. You have to write what you'd like to read.

And what does she like? In the beginning, she wrote romance novels that followed constrained outlines and formulas. "It’s more fun and more lucrative to write my own stuff for a broader audience." She's written under four pen names -- but now, everything is published under Sandra Brown.

She still has a heart for romance, but now she also writes thrillers and mysteries. “A good writer won’t be pigeonholed into one genre. A good writer should stretch out.”

You can stretch out at Sandra’s website.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Baltimore Writers Meet Tonight

Tonight, Monday, March 26, Baltimore writers will come together for the first meeting of the Maryland Writers Association's Baltimore Chapter.

The event takes place at The Watherfront Hotel, second floor, 1710 Thames Street in Fells Point. At 7 p.m. the meeting will begin.

Are you a writer from the Baltimore area? Please join us. To learn more, email Paul Lagassee at plagasse@avwrites.com.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Write Your Memoir Without Boring Your Readers

How many times have you heard it? "You should write a book about your experiences!" Or, “Your life would make a great story!” Or, maybe you feel strongly that your story should be told for one reason or another.

There’s a great place to learn all about how to go about it, and to get an unparalleled head start on your story or memoir. In front of your own computer.

My friend, Sid Smith, convinced writer AND publisher Kevin Sampsell to lead a class on writing Personal Stories and Memoirs.

It's a "webinar" style class (online and telephone simultaneously) with one-on-one editing and guidance throughout the 6 weeks.

The best part is that, as a friend of mine, you'll get a $100 discount on tuition. At only $199 for a six-week class that's limited to only 12 students, you won't find a better deal on a course like this anywhere.

Want to learn more? Visit Sid's web site. To get the discount, you must use the address below.


Tell Sid I said hi.

Monday, March 19, 2007

This Train Needs a Push!

Today at noon, Tracks,, my novel in stories, enters its second week as a contestant in the Gather First Chapters Writing competition.

So far, the response has been very positive. Hundreds of people have read the first chapter, more than a hundred people gave it a rating, and about eighty people have left comments. The feedback has been overwhelmingly good. I sincerely appreciate all of you who have read and rated my first chapter.

But it may not be enough to get me over the hill, into round two. And I’d really like to share chapter two, “A Good Beer Needs a Good Stein,” which I think readers will find stronger than the first chapter. If I’m fortunate enough to share chapter three with you, “One Last Hit,” you’ll begin to see where this train is headed.

After a strong start, this engine may be losing a bit of steam. Can you help me get out and push?
Read and rate chapter one here!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

TRACKS in Operation

It’s official. TRACKS, my novel in stories, is now in operation. Chapter one is available for to read and rate in the Gather First Chapters Writing Competition. It only takes a minute to register; then you can read an excerpt from TRACKS and give it the rating you believe it deserves.

The Gather First Chapters Writing Competition is has been dubbed "American Idol for writers" by The New York Times. The winning entry will be published by Simon and Schuster.

Tracks, my novel in stories, takes place on an Amtrak train traveling from Baltimore to Chicago. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a passenger on the train.

The chapters stand alone as stories, but they become stronger when linked together. A secondary character in one chapter becomes the main character in another. Some stories offer new insights on others. The stories look at the decisions each character faces and how those decisions, as well as each character's interactions with the other passengers, alter the path ahead and cast past experiences and choices in a new light.

Although entirely unique, Tracks is similar in nature to Joan Silber's National Book Award finalist Ideas of Heaven: a ring of stories.

Chapter one, “Reset,” Opens with Gene Silverman, a recurring character who has learned to restart his life when he needs to. Before the novel ends, he’ll need to reset a new course once more. But don’t expect to see him as a main character in chapter two, “A Good Beer Needs a Good Stein.” You may notice him in the background, but you’ll have to see me through to chapter three to focus on him again -- through another set of eyes.

Hop aboard! Visit the link to read and rate Chapter one of Tracks! Sit back and enjoy the ride.


Monday, March 12, 2007

John Sanford Goes to Camp

Or Rather, John Camp went to Sanford. The two Johns are one and the same. One name is his given, the other he uses for marketing reasons.

John’s not alone. Other writers do it too. John writes two types of books, and instead of confusing or disappointing readers who have come to love one kind of book, he simply sells them under different names.

He uses his grandfather’s name for his adult fiction and his real name for children’s books.

What’s in a name? A lot when you’re a bestselling novelist.

Learn more about the two Johns at his website.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Let the Dialogue Begin!

Earlier today, I announced my intention to enter TRACKS, my novel in stories, into the Gather First Chapters Writing Competition. The New York Times dubbed this “American Idol for writers.” I’m in, and I’m in to win!

But I’m not just starting a campaign; I’m starting a conversation -- with you. With my readers and fellow lovers of literature. Because we all need to be a part of the discussion if we expect Tracks to win.

Hop aboard. Let’s talk about Tracks, what you like about it, what you don’t like. Let’s discuss ways to improve the writing and ways to garner higher ratings.

I grew up in middle-class America believing that I was going to become a published novelist. I believed in that promise. I still do. I’ve spent my entire life trying to make good on it.

Now, thanks to you -- the literary community -- we can make that dream come true.

Just go to http://www.gather.com/, register (it only takes a minute), read Tracks Chapter One and rate it as you see fit -- the higher the better. And leave a comment if you’d like.

So let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it’s going to be a very interesting ride.

NOTE: This is not meant as a political statement, but special thanks to Hillary Clinton’s speech writer for the use of this inspiring language. See it in its original context at the link below.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Are You a Regional Writer?

Sue Monk Kidd is the bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. Coming from the small southern town of Sylvester, Georgia, there is no question that place is a preeminent part of her writing. But would she go as far as to consider herself a regional writer?

This question came up when she appeared at the National Book Festival in Washington DC. Her answer?

"I don’t consider myself a Southern writer, but I’ll claim the title. I think where you are and where you came from become a part of a novelist’s writing whether intentional or not."

Good writing often begins as regional writing, as Sue Monk Kidd implies. And many authors get their starts as regional writers. Are your favorite writers regional writers? Are you?

Learn more about Sue Monk Kidd at her website.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Books Begin from the Simplest Things

E.L. Doctorow writes books that can be described as many things, but seldom as simple. Yet he’s the first to admit that the ideas for his novels can often be seeded from the simplest of things.

“An image, sound, idea,” he elaborated. “You explore it and see where it goes. It’s not a rational thing, to write a book.”

He wrote City of God, for example, when he saw the image of a cross on the top of a synagogue.

“A novel, among other things, is a mixture of opinions.” Popular opinion is that Doctorow’s books are well worth reading.

See what Salon had to say about Doctorow’s City of God at the link below.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Wolfe: Fact or Fiction?

Tom Wolfe knows all about reporting, and all about writing fiction. He's done both quite successfully in his career. And he's even been able to marry the two by producing the novel as social commentary as well as non-fiction as creative narrative.

That's why Wolfe suggests young fiction writers try to get a bite of news reporting first.

"News is stranger than imagination and it triggers ideas," he says. "Find detail to help your imagination."

As an example, Wolfe mentions socialite Paris Hilton. "The unaided imagination of a novelist needs to know what he's going to read in tomorrow's newspaper. Who would've thought Paris Hilton's scandalous video would be the very thing to launch her career?"

He strongly encourages writers to do their homework before writing. "Blend in and live with people you want to write about. Learn about them before you write about them. Write about something real, something that relates to the world around you. Many great American novelists began as reporters."

No doubt, he includes himself in that lot.

To see more of Paris Hilton, go to … on second thought, that's not the best idea.

See what Tom Wolfe had to say about the state of the novel, the Internet, and Paris Hilton in his interview with The American Spectator.