All posts by R. B. Wood

Writing in the 21st Century

confused1There are volumes to be written on the difference between reading ebooks and paperbacks. Fortunately, the eventual form the book will take doesn’t yet affect the actual writing of it but it no doubt soon will. The writing is still that magical process of getting sucked into your imaginings and spending time outside the everyday world. But once you release the finished article, other processes take over – often as incomprehensible as the creative phase.

For instance, the whole world of selling and publishing baffles me. A book of mine won an award and you can buy it for $10.99 on Amazon USA. Surprisingly, you can also buy 12 new copies of the same book for from $9.15 to $39.17 on the same site. I’ve no idea what ‘added value’ (to use that grotesque marketing-speak term), you get for the extra money, but it must be significant.

Even more so for another of my books which will set you back £8.88 for a new copy on Amazon UK but £39.92 for a used copy. And, best of all, there’s another award winner of mine (forgive the immodesty) whose present cover price for a new paperback is $12.99 but, again on the same site, used copies are available at prices ranging from $98.53 (yes, almost the magic $100) to (and I swear this is true because I checked it again and again) $250.80.

The world of books is absurd and obviously far too complicated to be understood by mere writers.




Before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer, Bill Kirton was a lecturer in French at the University of Aberdeen. He’s written stage and radio plays, short stories, novels, skits and songs for revues, and five non-fiction books aimed at helping students with their writing and study skills. His five modern crime novels, Material Evidence, Rough Justice, The Darkness, Shadow Selves and Unsafe Acts are set in north east Scotland and his historical crime/romance novel, The Figurehead, is set in Aberdeen in 1840. The Darkness won the silver award in the mystery category of the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards and his spoof mystery, The Sparrow Conundrum, was the winner in the humor category.

He’s had radio plays broadcast by the BBC and the Australian BC. His short stories have appeared in many anthologies, including three of the CWA’s annual collections, and one was chosen by Maxim Jakubowski for his 2010 anthology of Best British Crime Stories.

Writing as Jack Rosse, he’s published a novel for children called The Loch Ewe Mystery and, with another Jack alias, Jack Lefebre, he’s written a satire based on experiences in Second Life™ called Alternative Dimension.

He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews.

The Casual Writer

writers-blockI am a casual writer. …Meaning, writing is not how I make my living and I do not follow any schedule for writing and publishing. I do not have a goal of one published work per month and NaNoWriMo may as well take place on another planet for me. I admire people who tackle it, but I would never get into it myself. I publish about one original short story every two-three months, and I think it’s been over a year since I did a full-size book.

The only thing I write on a regular basis is a food page for a friend’s monthly web-zine. …Just a little something with recipes, step-by-step instructions and photos for people who are reticent about cooking.

I hold a full-time job with a large corporation (yes, one of the evil ones that everyone knows about). I work from home, but my work week still amounts to 60 hours. The nature of my job is such that I have to utilize my brain non-stop – that’s analytics for you.

I am a rampant multi-tasker, but original writing is an exception. I usually don’t have anything else going on when I write. Fortunately, once I get an idea for a story, the rest of it forms in my head and I can carry it around until I have time to write it down. I am verbose, in the best tradition of my Russian ancestors, so one story usually equals one Saturday’s or Sunday’s worth of writing time.

In addition to my own casual writing, I also translate books. Casually. I specialize in less-known works of Russian literature. Somehow, having to think in two languages at the same time does not preclude me from facilitating a conference call or pulling together a forecast report. Perhaps, it is because I am not making anything up – I am just interpreting what someone else has already made up.

The same goes for graphic design. I do all of my own book covers as well as design them for other writers. I can have code running on one computer, while I am selecting images for a cover on the other one, or I can be on a call using speaker phone, with my hands free to crop, resize, recolor, overlay, and export.

Somehow somewhere all that casual writing, translation and cover design spilled into illustration work – both for my own books and translations, and for those by other authors. It is not uncommon for me to pop in a movie – something I like but have watched many times and don’t have to follow – and sketch at the coffee table in my living room while having dinner. … Glass of wine in one hand, pencil in the other, and off we go into the drawing land. One two-hour movie usually yields an illustration and a half.

Interestingly, even casual writing requires full-time levels of promotion. Hootsuite is my best friend and I use it to plug relentlessly to three Facebook pages, twitter and LinkedIn. I keep a spreadsheet with a pivot table that summarizes, what I promote, when, and through which channel. I spend 2-3 hours every week scheduling Hootsuite posts, sneaking them in between loads of laundry, walking the dogs, conference calls, making dinners and vacuuming. I do my best to vary the tag lines, promo frequency and grouping to make sure that people don’t get bored or just plain annoyed. Very surreptitiously (and casually, of course), I post on average 120 – 150 promo links a month, not counting specials (like freebies, discounts and new publications).

To keep my support base strong, I don’t just promote my own work, but also that of other writers I collaborate with. Let’s face it, an indie writer’s closest pal is still another indie writer. I tweet a review of someone’s book, followed by a link to one of my own – they tweet out both to their followers. Everyone is happy. I do a book review combined with the author’s interview on my blog – they return the favor by doing the same for me. And then we can both use these blog posts later by posting them during subsequent months as part of our own promotion.

There are little things, of course, like tagging, liking, rating and reviewing books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In addition to written reviews, I also do an occasional video review and post it on YouTube. People like those – they lend a bit more of a personal air to the review process. Of course, I don’t just record and post the videos. Each one gets edited and supplemented with cover images and a soundtrack. A five-minute video review takes up to two-three hours of work before it looks good enough to share with the world.

All writing needs editing – be it my own stuff or the translated stuff. Editing is hard work. I value it highly and, whenever possible, compensate people who edit my work in some shape or form. English being my second language, I outsource my editing to the native speakers. Most of my short stories are edited by my husband, which is fair, considering I help him run his business and do all the promotion work for another business that he and I run together. I also review his books and articles, when he needs a sanity check. For my longer works, I work with my fellow writers. We either settle on a price with a reasonable payment plan, or we barter. For example, a friend of mine currently has one of my translations in for editing, and I have volunteered to help her out with beta reading.

At the end of the day, even with infrequent and irregular publications of my own, there is always something going on that is a) related to writing and publishing, and b) requires time and effort. Perhaps casual writing is not all that casual after all.




Maria K. is the pen name of Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova – a writer, translator, and blogger of Russian-Ukrainian decent. Maria came to the United States in 1994 as an impressionable 19-year old exchange student. She received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY).

Maria covers a wide range of topics from travel and fashion to politics and social issues. Her science fiction and fantasy works include Limited Time for Tomato Soup, The SHIELD, The Elemental Tales and others.

A non-fiction and science fiction writer in her own right, Maria is also a prolific translator of less-known works of Russian and Soviet literature into English. Her most prominent translations include her grandfather Vasily Kuznetsov’s Siege of Leningrad journals titled The Ring of Nine, and Thais of Athens – a historic novel by Ivan Yefremov. Both works quickly made their way into the top 100 Kindle publications in their respective categories and continue attracting consistent interest and acclaim from readers.


Write a Better Book

I read an interview recently where a writer mentioned how much emphasis is placed on marketing these days, as though marketing will sell your books. She went on to say that better writing was more important. There are a lot of people who are linking and tweeting and tagging their brains out, but haven’t written anything worth publishing. That doesn’t mean they’re not published, of course. It just means that what is published is unreadable, even if you know very little about writing.


Here’s the insane part: most people don’t know anything about writing well. They just know whether or not they liked the story. Maybe that’s all it’s about. Maybe writing isn’t about art, it isn’t about writing well. It’s about getting the blood pumping inside a teenaged girl’s heart, or teenaged boy’s adrenaline flowing, or some old pervert’s sex drive humming along.

I hear so many people (and read them online) complaining about writing versus marketing, vampire stories versus literary stories, Kindle versus print, large press versus small press. I want to scream, “Who the fuck cares?” I know we all want to make a living. I know we all think our shit (or writing) doesn’t stink. We think we have the next Twilight or Harry Potter or that we’re the next King, or Grisham, or that somehow God is shining His flashlight on us and that we should be next, next!

Well, get in line. Here’s the truth: marketing helps, but if you’ve written a book that no one wants to read, it isn’t going to sell. In case you haven’t been paying attention, anything goes…or doesn’t go, all dependent upon the moon’s phases, the stars lining up, your marketing genius, the number of hours you spend on twitter tweeting your fucking brains out, etc. I’m just saying, if you want readers to spread the word about your book, then you might want to consider writing a better book.



Terry Persun writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy. His latest novel, Cathedral of Dreams is a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist in the Science Fiction category. His novel Sweet Song just won a Silver IPPY Award, too. Terry’s website is: or you can find him on Amazon at:

Write What You Know

eroticaHow does a writer get an idea for a story? The old saying “Write what you know” comes to mind.

Recently, a new follower on Twitter sent me the tweet “You’re really beautiful, so I take it you write all your novels from an autobiographical standpoint … Research & all.”

She was sweet, and I took it as a compliment, but it got me thinking. Was she suggesting I’d lived my characters’ lives?

I write erotica. It’s fiction, though a lot of who I am shapes my female characters. They’re strong women who love deeply, travel the world, and have sex with men—sometimes multiple men at the same time.

So … is my writing a thinly veiled autobiography? And if you write fiction, what does “Write what you know” really mean?

It’s not about events, as I can assure you I have not experienced everything I’ve written. For me, it’s about the emotions associated with events. The extent to which I can connect these emotions to an experience, whether real or imagined, is what breathes life into characters and their stories.

How I can write about the beauty of Thailand without actually having been there? Research it. But how can I convey the magic of falling in love there if I’ve never set foot in the country? The answer is I’ve fallen in love before—that is the part I know. Along with fear, longing, lust and a range of other emotions, I weave stories from my imagination.

The measure of good writing is how successfully you connect your fiction to your readers—on an emotional and an imaginary plane.





Eden Baylee writes erotica incorporating all her favorite things: travel; culture; and sex. She enjoys weaving together stories with edgy themes, and sex is but one way to do it. Her first book, Fall into Winter, a collection of four erotic novellas, is currently available on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites located on her website.

Her second book, Spring into Summer is set for release July 2012.

Connect with her via her Website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

A Writer’s Website Strategy

DecoderFor writers, the rule is ironclad. All the experts tell us we absolutely, positively must have a website. So you do it. You register “,” fire up WordPress and you’re in business. But it’s the next step that can give you pause. It has to do with basic website strategy. And that boils down to a simple question.

“What do I write about?”

There’s the rub. What do you write about on your site? I think this question is key for two important reasons.

The first reason deals with the purpose of your site. Chances are, you’re not writing your site/blog purely because you love it to death. As a writer, you’re blogging to support your real writing. You know, the writing you pour your heart and soul (and maybe even a little more) into and which you sell with varying degrees of success. Of course, some writers love to blog and work very hard at it. But for many of us, the blog is there to support our other writing – the stories, novellas, novels, trilogies and mega-volumed epics and doorstops for sale at Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. As such, we need a blog that entices potential readers and returning readers to take a chance on buying our writing. We also need to provide information about where to find our stories and books, about appearances we might be making, on special deals we’re running, etc., etc.

The second reason has to do with perseverance. You’ve better write about something that interests, beguiles, and inspires you, or the blog posts will always be a chore. If there’s no spark there, you won’t feel it and your readers will know it. In word: deadly.

So, you’re sitting there and politely reading all of this but you’re, like, wondering, “When’s he gonna give up the super secret answer to the question of what I should write about? And will I get a decoder ring in the mail?”

Well, here’s the honest part: I don’t know what you should write! I’m no expert on this stuff! In fact, I’m in the process of pulling the old switcheroo with my own web strategy.

I started with the idea that I wanted to draw readers interested in humor. This made sense because the first book I put up for sale was a humorous historical romp called George in London. Young George Washington in London, sowing his wild oats, drinking, screwing, wrestling the Prince of Wales, that sort of thing. The site I built to support this is called Height of Eye and it traffics in news satire. You know, taking a nugget of real news and spinning into absurdity. You may have seen a site named after a weep-inducing vegetable that does the same thing. Well, some people have heard of it..

Anyway, soon after George in London, I released another genre of book entirely. Called The SHIVA Compression, this is a technothriller with no jokes at all, not even a bad pun. So the incomparably hilarious Height of Eye site was not the best support for SHIVA.

The solution? I have finally gotten around to doing what many writers have already done: Set up a site that caters to all my various books and provides info about them and where to get them. An author-centric rather than a theme-centric site. (Internet sages would probably say something here about a nexus of interests or creating stickiness or drilling down into my endemic. And I would probably nod like I knew what the hell they were talking about. ‘Cept I would definitely keep them from getting anywhere near my endemic — no way I let a drill down there.)

This, of course, raises a question: What do I write about on my blog? (Keeps popping up like Mormons at the front door, right?) Since I’m just getting started with the switch, I don’t know exactly. But I suspect the material will lean heavily towards thriller subjects, as I have another thriller, The Atlas Fracture, in the works. But some hilarity may sneak in on cat feet, who knows? It’s a new adventure. Just like self-publishing.

Oh, and your decoder ring? It’s in the mail.





A magazine editor and writer, Tim Queeney lives in Maine with his wife and three sons and the family pooch, a black lab who is always on the wrong side of the door! His house is a stone’s throw from the ocean. When the mist rolls in or on snowy winter nights, he can hear the fog horns from three lighthouses bleating their warnings. His website is, appropriately, His books are available at Amazon via his author site

Thunderbolts and Laser Pens

idea-girlOkay, I’m probably not alone in this, but it’s maddening how many ideas come to me when I’m not really at leisure to write any of them down. 1 AM in bed in a freezing cold room? Yup. In the shower, driving the car, and cleaning with corrosive substances are other golden places to get a stellar writing idea with little no time to take notes. The worst are song lyrics (which are as elusive as a wild badgers and come about as quietly) but story ideas — especially solutions to really sticky problems— can be just as annoying.

If you’re lucky you can repeat them to yourself like a mantra until you can wipe the soapy bleach off your fingers and get to a pad and pen, (or smart phone, or whatever you techno-haves possess these days. Laser-pens, probably). But if you’re like me, you suffer from the dual indignity of having horrific handwriting. I’m only kidding a little when I say my handwriting looks like someone taped a pencil to a rat and then taught the rat to do summersaults.

For example, I’m looking at my note-pad right now, and in between the million drawings of Spongebob Squarepants I’ve done to entertain my kids, is something that I almost positive is an important writing idea.

As far as I can tell it says, “Grit for nuttha futha dimpoe nimble rint. Kelo didot.”

Is it some secret language? Was I possessed and writing in tongues? Which of my book series was this even supposed to be for? What does it mean? And of course, there’s the possibility that this was something related to the dry-cleaning or grocery shopping.

So until someone invents a brainwave-to-text machine that I can use during my 5am toilet break, I’ll just make sure I’m NEVER be more than 3 feet away from my laptop.



Monica Marier is a caffeinated writer, artist, mother and eccentric. On weekdays, she’s busy working on her books, recording audio files, and composing short stories for her blog. On weekends she’s a co-founder of Tangent Artists.



Follow her on Twitter! @lil_monmon

Books: Available through Hunt Press

Writing with Ferocity: An Author’s Manifesto

Warrior_womanA writing career isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s for the tough. It’s for the ferocious.

You’ll find yourself writing things that you never meant to write, and defending things that you never knew needed to be defended. Your words, however gentle, will cause harm to somebody’s soul. They’ll rake nails across exposed nerves, summoning up past traumas. The reader will put your work down and cry. You may never know this. Or maybe they’ll tell you, and you’ll feel like you’ve gutted a kitten.

Your ideas, no matter how brutal, will cause others to laugh. You can rant and snarl and claw about the injustices that you see, the brutalities that you’ve suffered, but you won’t be taken seriously. “Isn’t it sweet that the writer feels so much emotion,” somebody will say, and tie a bow around your neck. You’ll know what it’s like to feel unadulterated hate.

Nobody puts a gun to your head and forces you to finish a project. You’ll go it alone. You’ll be tempted by vacations, TV shows, loved ones who want you to come to bed early. You’ll need to think and be clear-headed while you’re worried about unpaid bills, your daughter’s wheelchair, and the evacuation notice in your home town.

You’ll be criticized. You’ll be pitied. Teased, lauded, and hated by turns. You’ll be put on an unrealistic pedestal. Mainly you’ll be ignored, and there isn’t anything worse than being ignored.

But you’ll go on. Vomiting words, bleeding ideas. You don’t write because of the money. There isn’t any. You don’t write for the fame because there are more writers in the ether than sharks in the ocean. You write because it’s a need, because there’s a sharp piece missing in your soul if you aren’t working on something. Then you’re a waste, a nonentity, and you won’t stand for that. You’re not the kind to shuffle through life. You’re a writer. You’re a warrior.




Mercedes M. Yardley writes whimsical horror.  She has been published in several venues and is the nonfiction editor for Shock Totem Magazine. You can reach her at Her first collection of short stories comes out this fall.

21st Century Writer who started in the 20th…

I started writing when I could pick up a pen. Or pencil. Or crayon. I wrote this work – from a series I called “Little Books for Children” – at the tender age of 10. On brown paper, tied with red yarn. If I didn’t know what something meant, I’d have to consult a behemoth hardback dictionary. I knew writers existed, but I certainly didn’t know any. They were as mythological as Pegasus or the wild-west American Indians I liked to read about.


We didn’t have computers. I’m not sure I’d even heard of one. In fact, my first computer experience – with a Macintosh Classic – was in college, when I worked for the school’s newspaper. That black and white screen? Da bomb.

Today, I write on a brand-new MacBook Pro with a gorgeous and (comparatively) ginormous screen. With the touch of a button, I can visit with people I’ve never met in person. A friend of a friend gave me helpful hints regarding spring in Maine for a book I just finished. If I don’t know the meaning of a word, I can look it up on any number of websites. If I need help writing something, I can send an email to any number of other writers.

Some pundits decry that technology and its ilk are fragmenting the world. I say instead, it’s bringing us closer together with our stories and shared experiences. It’s only now, in the 21st century, that I’m learning what it truly means to be a writer.


D. Savannah George is a multi-disciplinary artist – she writes, paints, crochets, takes photographs, and makes beaded jewelry, bookmarks, and notecards. She is a member of the Ozark Arts Council, the Harrison Art League, and the Arkansas Artist Registry. She has published several short stories and a number of poems, as well as numerous articles in various newspapers and magazines. She has won several awards for her writing. Her first book, A Spicy Secret, #22 in the Annie’s Attic Mystery Series, will be released in January 2013.

She received her Master of Arts degree in communications (cum laude) from Georgia State University and her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications (cum laude) from Berry College in Mt. Berry, Ga. She moved to Harrison, Arkansas, in 2006 from the coast of Georgia, and lives on four acres outside the town with her husband, dog, turtle, and two cats.

You can find her:


Twitter: @dsavannahcreate

Writing THE END Is Only the Beginning

EndSelf-publishing is nothing new: Proust, Joyce, Mark Twain, Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, Anais Nin did it… and the list goes on and on, and no one is going to dispute the worthiness of these giants in the world of writing.

What is different is the sheer magnitude and ease of producing a book in a digital universe that democratizes the process down to the lowest common denominator. Quantity over quality rules the day where equally weighted offerings crowd cyberspace in a Powerball cesspool pandering to the ‘you’ve gotta play ta win’ mentality. And unfortunately there have been some ‘big scores’ with truly unworthy ‘pop culture’ efforts. That makes the author’s job that much harder. Do you sink to the lowest common denominator in order to compete or do you hold out for a set of standards by which a jury of your peers can at least deem you worthy of a modicum of respect?

I’m going with respect … but then, I edit for a living.

If you are in any doubt about how poorly edited content can impact sales, read through the reviews on Amazon and see how many castigate the author for poor editing, to the tune of “I might have loved this story but I gave up” or “I’ll probably never read anything else…” In lieu of a $5M movie deal, I’d say that’s not really the legacy you wish to leave your heirs.

A book is a covenant between the author and the reader. It is a product for which someone pays out of discretionary funds. Don’t you owe that person the courtesy of creating the best product that you can provide? That means in addition to a ‘good story’, you construct a reading experience that does not yank the reader out of the story by assaulting the eye and the mind with trivial, inexcusable mistakes—mistakes that transcend simple typos: grammar, punctuation (that can seriously alter the meanings of sentences), misspellings and continuity (which can be the deal breaker in the author-reader relationship).

No matter how good you are at writing, I can almost guarantee you are not nearly good enough at editing. Why? Because your mind ‘fills in’ what you think is there. In effect it lies. And it happens to all of us. That’s why an investment in an editor is an investment in your future, an affirmation in your commitment to the craft and your obligation to provide your customers with a reading experience that is worthy of the story you wish to tell.

There are good editors out there who won’t break the piggybank. Try word-of-mouth and find someone you can work with.

Trust me … typing THE END is only the beginning.


Website: PubRight Manuscript Services:

Personal website:


Diane Nelson has thirty years’ experience in technical and fiction editing and four years’ with publishing across a variety of formats (print and digital). She is also an author with more than a dozen published fiction works.

As an editor she produced the well-reviewed The Prodigal’s Foole by R.B. Wood.

Guest Post: The Meaning of Life and Other Minutia


<Scanning the comments for people who got the reference.>

OK, silliness aside, it’s a good thing to ponder. It’s a thing I doubt anyone will ever NOT ponder. Isn’t that what religion, science, and philosophy have been about for the last however long it’s been since mankind first had a rational thought in its collective head? (Though there remains some doubt as to whether this has truly ever happened or not.)

So it’s not like I’m going to present you with an answer here. But I’ve been musings on the subject recently as the release of my debut novel, FIGHTING GRAVITY got closer and closer.

I was never a terribly ambitious person. I liked life and I was relatively good at it, so I just enjoyed it as it came and didn’t put much thought into why. I had things and people that were important to me, sure. But beyond getting married and having kids, my life goals pretty much amounted to maintaining the status quo and being happy along the way.

Being a published author wasn’t even a consideration. I wrote, but only because I liked doing it. I didn’t share it with anyone else.

Until I did. Somewhere along the way, a few years ago, I discovered that I had a story that I really wanted to share with others. I wanted them to read it and be as excited about it as I had been while creating it. The way to achieve this was to get it published. So with that in mind, I started the research and the work that brought me here, to the release of my first book. I don’t regret this at all.

But it’s made me think about all that time I was happy enough without this in my life, and how important it’s become to me now. How it drives my feelings of success and failure as I hit the ups and downs of this journey. And the huge buildup of anticipation leading to this day.

I think it, ultimately, is going to be a big letdown soon.

FG-cover-latest-663x1024Let’s face it, after all the work you put in and all the anticipation of your first book launch, it’s simply got to be a letdown when the high passes, whether your expectations were met or not.

(This may not be true for people who hit the bestseller list on day one. I don’t ever expect to be in a position to speak from experience on that.)

I’m bracing myself for the fall. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to be prepared. But it’s making me philosophical, not just about my writing career, but about everything.

What’s the point of it all? What does it mean? What’s it for? And why do I use so many parentheses?

I may never know. But 42 is a good enough answer for me.

You can find Leah online at, on Twitter at @leahpetersen or pickup her first book, Fighting Gravity at AMAZON