Guest Post: Is gifting books classy or pompous?

Everyone lives in their own little world of social norms. Upon realizing this fact, I’ve enjoyed questioning many of my life choices. Who doesn’t enjoy a strong shot of self-reflection? It’s led to a few realizations of hypocrisy. For example, I’m mostly a pacifist except when it comes to spiders. Spiders should be smitten from the earth. With fire and lightning. Maybe firey lighting. Anyway, I digress. What I wanted to talk to the internet about is that I love gifting books, but don’t enjoy when people give me books. Is that craziness?

Probably. Let me explain my feelings. Then please, pretty please, give me your opinions.

Reasons to Gift Books

I frequently read a book and feel like it’s perfect for someone. I also frequently never know what to buy people on occasions when I’m supposed to give them presents. Thus I give books. I’m either lazy or efficient. My buying them the book and telling them to read it is nicer than alternative ways of making people read books. At least I don’t throw the books through their window, break into their rooms and write the book on their walls, or make them buy the book themselves. Most of my family members receive books for all major holidays. I get to make people read a book, usually one I enjoyed, and support book stores. Also authors. Win-win for me.

Giving a book can be extremely personalized. I hunt for the perfect book. The shopping is a thoughtful process. I don’t just buy everyone Harry Potter even though everyone in the world should read Harry Potter. No. I get deep into genres. I find out who enjoys mysteries with a scientific concentration and fast-pacing and a strong female lead. Time for a Bones novel. I try to personalize the gift as much as possible depending on how well I know the receiver.

I’ve gifted books for years and never had any complaints. However, my family and loved ones are polite. I’m not sure they’d tell me if they didn’t like my presents. I would never tell someone I didn’t like a present unless it really offended me. Maybe if I was given a book on being seen and not heard. That would spark sass. Otherwise I will cherish any item wrapped in shiny paper handed my way.

Reasons I Don’t Want Books as Presents

Please don’t buy me a book. Why, you shout at me. I have a whole blog about books. I love books. All the books. It would seem a logical conclusion to gift me a book. However, I already have many books. Lots of them. You don’t know me! You don’t know what I’m reading right now or already own. If I get a book that is part of a series then you’ve committed me to a whole series of books. This is committing time, emotion, and space I don’t necessarily possess. Stop being so presumptive.

Alternative Gifts for Book Lovers

If you do need to buy a book lover a gift and want to stab me for being a hypocrite, please wait. I will not leave you without hope. I’m a Pinterest addict and have a whole board full of nerdy loves. Booky presents that are not books do exist. Buy your book lover an awesome shelf for their books, a reading rack for the bath tub (the ones that also hold wine are coolest), nerdy apparel from already loved books, book lights, book ends, books that are actually hollow and store stuff, or book jewelry. All of these things exist. Promise.

Otherwise, give people cash. Give the people what they want! Who doesn’t want more cash? Cash can be turned into a book or any of these cool gift ideas. It can also be folded into cranes. So much potential!

That’s it. I have no more thoughts. Feed me your thoughts! Do you like giving or receiving books? Do you have a different go-to gift for book lovers? 


The Book Bard

It’s That Time Again

A few months ago I had a week of guest posts on here. And I’m ready to do it all again.

I have regular readers who I know are pretty interested in what I have to say, but I’ve posted almost every day of 2015! Which means a little change in perspective is probably in order. And I’m looking right at you.

It’s easy. I post about ANYTHING pertaining to books, writing, or publishing on here. Which leaves countless topics for you to discuss in a guest post. And don’t worry about trying to think of a topic I haven’t discussed before because my thoughts were most likely different from what you have to say.

Here are the only rules:

  • No book reviews.
  • No creative writing (poetry, short story, flash fiction, etc.)
  • No lists.

And that’s it! All you have to do is comment that you’d be interested in writing a guest post and I’ll send you an invite before the end of the day. You don’t even have to tell me a topic. I’m aiming for the first or second week of June to have the week of guest posts, which means I’m looking for five posts for each weekday. And of course, I reserve the right not to publish your post for any reason at all.

If you’re curious about what to write about, take a look at the guest posts from my first time doing this.

How to Feel Like Writing Again.

Are Writers Stalkers?.

I’m Going to Slit my Wrists if you Don’t Publish me….

The Wonderful World of YA.

The Buddy System.

Interested? Then leave a comment!

Guest Post: The Buddy System

About five months ago, I agreed to edit a short story for a client in California. Her story was a joy to read, and she was a pleasure to work with. Unlike most clients, she and I hit it off on a number of levels, and before I knew it, we were chatting daily over instant messenger.

I’m also part of a Mom-Geek-Writer group on Facebook (don’t judge). I’ve befriended a couple of the women in that group, and we talk regularly as well.

We talk about everything: Life, relationships, our kids, our jobs, the state of the world. But it always circles back to writing. The art. The craft. The hard work and heavy lifting. The self-scrutiny. Our triumphs. Those facepalm moments we wish we had to do over.

Last weekend, as I worked on writing my current chapter, and one of my buddies lamented over editing her recently-finished novel, I realized: Neither of us would have come as far as we have in the short time that we did without each other.

And that’s when it struck me: Writing is better with a buddy.

Buddies Provide Encouragement

We think of writing as a solitary act. We sit in a room like a hermit in his cave, tapping away at a keyboard. And in some aspect of reality, that’s still the case.

But when you reach out and talk to others who understand the act of writing, you find that you’re not alone in your struggles. At one point, one of my buddies asked me, “Did you finish the chapter last night?” In truth, I had not. I’d stalled out. She encouraged me to keep at it. I did. Now we have daily check-ins that are constant reminders that someone out there cares. We value each other’s writing as much as we value our own.

Buddies Challenge Us To Excel

I’ve been writing for twenty-five years. I’ve only given my writing its due in the last year (another topic entirely). But whether I’m focused on writing-as-a-hobby or writing-to-feed-my-family, I’ve always pushed myself in terms of grammar and style.

When a writing buddy commented that she found X-number of occurrences of the word “was” in her manuscript, it prompted me to search my current work in progress. In 22 pages, I have 64 occurrences of was.

Insert passive groan here.

It became a challenge: Write without using was. My buddy and I discussed proper use of passive-voice words. We agreed that in dialogue, the word was is probably inevitable. Otherwise, your characters come off sounding like pretentious snobs. Other than dialogue, there’s almost never any reason to use this horribly lazy word.

And so I wrote. And I’d share. And she’d point out where I had gotten ahead of myself, lazed out, and dropped the W-bomb.

I put down about 8,000 words after our discussion, and then re-read it last night. It surprised me how strong and tight my first draft had become.

Buddies Get The Joke

My husband is my best friend in the universe. I also have a close group of friends nearby. We share many similar interests, but none of them write. When I tell them that my main character woke me up at 3 AM and wouldn’t let me sleep, they look at me like I should probably be committed.

A writing buddy understands.

Writers are an odd lot. We don’t view life through a typical lens. We see plot bunnies scurrying before us, and we chase them down. We daydream out windows and reply off the cuff in ways that make people wonder.

Having writing buddies who not only understand your odd tangents, but continue them and build upon them, is refreshing and energizing.

I saw a bottle of glitter vodka in the store, so I snapped a picture and texted it to a writing buddy with the caption, “Looks like something your main character would drink.” She agreed completely. My buddies and I have exchanged stealth pictures of strangers and we’ve written little stories about them over instant message. We laugh at our own bad grammar when it slips into our manuscripts. We celebrate together when our marketing pages gain followers. No one but another writer truly gets these moments.

Find Your Buddy Today

Finding writing buddies who match your style, interests and genre can be challenging, but it’s not impossible.

  • Go to writer’s groups: When you read your work out loud to others, you’ll find the other writers with whom you click.
  • Join online groups: There’s a Facebook group for just about everything now. Sometimes they make you want to run for the hills, but occasionally one of them sticks.
  • Read and comment on blogs: I have writing buddies who I’d never had “met” unless I actively followed and commented on their blogs.

When you find people with whom you click, stay in touch. Reach out to them when you’re stuck. Share your works with each other. Celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Encourage, enjoy and laugh. Pull each other from your respective writing caves, and find mutual joy in the process of writing.

Shanan Winters

Interpreter of Inspiration

Guest Post: Writer Interrupted

Hey guys, John here. This is the first guest post of 2015 written by the always great John Callaghan. This was not a topic I chose or approved. I let him decide what to write and that’s what he did. The message he delivers in just a few hundred words should be known by every writer at all times. Now let’s welcome him with a nice round of applause. It’s all yours, Mr. Callaghan.

Writer Interrupted

From the time I was a child, I wanted to write. Not necessarily as a profession but merely as a hobby. Putting my thoughts on paper and creating something from nothing was thrilling. I wrote horror stories in which someone always ended up with a bloody stump. I wrote essays of sorts. And I wrote poetry.

In grade eight I entered a poem in a contest held every year by the Legion, a non-profit organization that provides support for military veterans in Canada. I worked hard on that poem. I wrote of loss and fear and memory—not a great poem but good for someone my age. And I won my region. I was going to get the opportunity to go to the Legion in Pembroke and read my poem for the veterans. It was my first tangible accomplishment as a writer and I was elated.

The day after I learned I had won, I went to school and in breathless excitement told some of my friends my good news.

“Hey guys, I won the Legion poetry contest,” I said, and then waited for a “way to go” or “that’s great” or even a “good for you.”

But instead what I got was: “Writing is for faggots. It’s gay.”

The boy who said this was a red-headed monster and he said it with such surety, such conviction (and he was the leader of our group), that I believed him. My world imploded, and rather than be upset about what he said, I was angry at myself, ashamed, for not knowing what everyone else so obviously knew: Writing was for the “Other,” misfits, outsiders. And I wanted to fit in—I was desperate to fit in.

I put my pen down that day and didn’t pick it up again for many, many years.

If I could go back in time and talk to that version of myself, I’d tell that boy, “You have to keep writing. No matter what. That red-headed monster is doomed to a life of misery. The world is so big. And he is so small, just a punchline in the joke of life.” I’d tell my younger self to laugh about it, or punch Monsterboy in the face, or just stare at him until he becomes uncomfortable and then stare a little more.

This experience wasn’t the only reason I stopped writing, but it was a contributing factor. I am careful, however, not to dwell on regret and live in that dangerous state of being where I think about wasted opportunity, wasted time. That is a dead-end road. But I do wonder from time to time what could have been if I had not been a writer interrupted.

John Callaghan

Get Off My Lawn

Want to Guest Post on Write me a Book, John?


Photo Credit

The Best of 2014 will be cut short by one day. Instead, I’ve decided to ask for guest bloggers for only the second time ever! Isn’t that exciting? I think so. There’s a reason I’ve only had one guest post ever. I’m very serious and particular about the content on my blog. Sure I write about random topics a couple times every month, but I’d say more than 90 percent of my posts have been about something related to writing or books.

So, the first thing that I want to tell you all is that I’m willing to take a little gamble here. I’m not going to ask for what you might want to post about. Yes it needs to go with the overall theme of my blog, but that’s the only requirement! Well, it can’t be any original work. Cause you posting a poem or an excerpt from your WIP is not something that I’m interested in.

You don’t have to tell me the topic. And you don’t have to be a regular commenter or reader of my blog. All you have to do is tell me that you want to post on here and then write something and send it to me. And since I’ve written about so many topics, I’m okay if it’s something I’ve already written about because your opinion and viewpoint is not the same as mine.

So, do you want to guest post on my blog? All you have to do is say so in the comments. Who knows, this could become a monthly thing if I get multiple responses. And if you’re wondering, my blog currently has 2587 total followers. 2092 of those are on WordPress. I’m aiming for posting any guest post on or around January 2. So I’d say get something written and get it to me ASAP.

PS: Just because I get something doesn’t mean I’ll post it.

Guest Post: Pantsing vs. Outlining

Hey guys, John here with a brief introduction to my first ever guest post! Do I sound excited? I am. The post I have for you today is one of the best I’ve read, and I’ve been at this for about a year now. And I get to share it with you on MY blog! Amy, or you might see her frequenting my posts as phantomwriter143, has written quite a treat for you all. It’s witty, straightforward, and super informative. But enough from me, she’ll take it from here. Hope you guys like!

Pantsing vs. Outlining: Is one better?

I read over 100 books a year in a variety of genres, I’ve been writing books and stories for as long as I can remember, I’m an avid reader of writing how-to books (although some of them stink like moldy cheese, I can tell you), I’ve tutored kids/adults of all ages in grammar, syntax, writing and such (primarily scholarly), and I was a teaching assistant during and after grad school who graded papers and lectured students.

Whew! Does that make me sound full of myself? I’m not. John can tell you that. All I’m saying is that the following post is about my own research and observations in my time as a writer and reader.

Read at your own risk.

On to the main event!

Pantsing. A pantser. Flying by the seat of your pants. Panting like a dog after a long walk. Yanking down somebody’s pants… wait… those last two aren’t right. Strike them. Outside of the literary world, pantsing means something completely different. But I won’t get into that.

The term ‘pantsing’ comes from the idea that writers who don’t want to feel constrained by a schedule or outline ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ when they write, letting their muse take them by the nostrils and drag them along behind. There are many benefits to this, as it allows our minds to be unfettered during the creative process, and the juices will flow. They may splash onto the floor a bit and make an utter mess, but then, they’re not constrained by a requirement to fill one glass without running over.

Outliners, on the other hand, prefer to be a bit more logical and prepared before they take the bull by the horns and skewer him to the page. (Is that too graphic? Sorry). They like to know beforehand what will happen in each chapter, where the piece is going, how long it will take to get there, and who will be the driving force behind the action. Outlines help to shape manuscripts, and can come in handy when we’re not sure which direction to go. Brainstorming and then outlining helps to keep us on track instead of veering off the beaten path into unknown territory that may be harmful to the sweeping arc of the story.

There are many tools to be used for outlining, as opposed to pantsing, which really can help to guide our brains and our muses in order to visualize, contemplate, and then complete our writing in an orderly fashion.

So which one is better?

I will supply you with the age-old answer that aggravates and confusticates even the most straight-laced, buttoned-up, stern-lipped thinker. During grad school, it was my least favorite answer anytime I asked one of my professors a question. And it’s the answer my patients least like to hear.

It depends.

Gah! Have I scared you off? Not to worry. I will explain.

Let’s take a couple of examples:

1. Writing a fantasy series for kids
2. Writing a standalone mystery book
3. Writing nonfiction on the benefits of exercise in the elderly

In any of the above three scenarios, outlining can be a critical tool for the success of the piece.

The first scenario deals with writing a series of books. Really, this is applicable to any genre. There is absolutely no way to be successful in series writing if there is not some form of outlining, documenting, record-keeping, foreshadowing that takes place either digitally or in a physical medium.

I happen to have experience in this, since it’s what I’m currently undertaking, and I can tell you, I’d be lost without the pages of notes and outlines I need. However, when it comes down to actually writing a chapter or a few chapters, I don’t even look at my notes. The outline is vague, and as long as I make sure to include the few key things that are essential to move the plot along and foreshadow for upcoming books, then I’m free to let my muse roam during the actual writing.

This is not necessarily required for someone who writes books in a series where each book stands alone, such as a mystery book where each one has its own climax and resolution. In that case, if the series intends to be quite lengthy, there is little need to ensconce yourself in a detailed outline that will limit your creativity.

(See how I merged into the next scenario?)

For any stand-alone book in any genre, the need for an outline diminishes as compared to a series. Pantsing is very effective at this point as long as you are able to remember everything with little prompting. That’s not to say you won’t look at your notes, but since you’re not tied to foreshadowing many books down the line, you can focus on enjoying the pace of the writing and allowing seemingly random thoughts and whims to play into the landscape of the book.

As for the third scenario, there is literally no possible way to complete a nonfiction book of that type without an incredibly detailed sketch of the book. Outlines are crucial at this point. And I speak from experience.

My doctoral dissertation was three and a half years in the making, written and edited, edited, edited, all while finishing my coursework for my degree. This is true of all doctoral students, I believe. If I had not had complete control of the details, research, resources, statistics, citations, etc, etc, etc., then I would have been lost in the mess that is scholarly writing. (The topic above was not my dissertation topic, in case you were wondering).

Now that I’ve discussed a few pros/cons to each style, you may be asking which method I prefer.

Personally, I’m a proponent of ‘outpantsing,’ to coin a phrase. Hmm… Maybe I’ll call myself an outpantser? Either way, I believe the best way to achieve truly creative writing is to combine the two styles. Especially in my series writing, my ‘outline,’ if you can really call it that, is an overall sketch with details thrown here and there.

When I sit down to write the books, however, I ‘pants’ my way all the way through, only stopping a few times to check on details. I’m blessed to have a brain for memorization, so the details, once physically written, are stored fairly well in my mind.

Most people do not have the capacity to use enough of their brains to remember every detail of their books. I know I don’t. Therefore, I don’t recommend writing without at least some idea of where it’s going.

Get down a chapter or two, sure. Then brainstorm and sketch a general concept for your novel/article/short story, etc.

Of course, some people may disagree with me entirely, and that’s okay. I know many authors who are only pantsers, and some who are only outliners. Either form is fine as long as you get to where you want to be, and you don’t feel constrained by the limits of logic. (Yes, logic DOES have its limits).

I’ll share some ideas for outlining/prepping for those who struggle with that:

1. Formal Outlines – I don’t like these, but maybe you do. Here’s a good website that can help. Just substitute chapter titles and plot points instead of what they show there.

2. Notecards. In grad school, I was a notecard fiend! When it comes to novel writing, colored notecards are brilliant! Buy a whole slew of them and make each color stand for something. White will be chapter titles. And in each chapter, color code the cards for what will happen during that time. Green = setting, purple = characters, pink = tension, yellow = foreshadowing, etc. Take that any which way you care.

3. Poster boards. This is one of my current faves. I like to have a big visual of where the story is going. It’s not very pretty, but I make a fairly complex Venn diagram to show how everything overlaps and interconnects. I’m a visual learner, so this helps a great deal.

4. Charts, or the Grid Method. This is how J.K. Rowling created her masterpieces. Take a peek at this pic and you’ll see how Ms. Rowling did it. I’ve taken to doing this myself because it includes a timeline along with it. Which brings me to my next point.

5. Timelines. This is something that I think every author should use. To the day. It’s extremely evident to readers, especially those that like to re-read books, how off a timeline can be if the author doesn’t even know it! It can be tedious, but timelining, in ANY way you choose, is beneficial. This is a good way to do it, and then break it up into chapters later.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. There are TONS more to choose from, but there’s not nearly enough space to cover them all.

A few tips before closing. Use the KISS method. (Keep it short, silly). Whether you use a formal outline or the grid method, make short notes. This is something you’ll have handy as you write so don’t make it complicated. That’s what your detailed notes are for.

Use a little trial and error. If one way doesn’t work for you, don’t get discouraged! Try something new until you find one that works.

And never, NEVER, let anyone else tell you exactly how to write your book. They can offer suggestions and cues, but only you know where the book is going and how you’re best able to get it there.

All right! You made it! If you’ve read this far, I applaud you for trudging through the long-windedness of my post. I hope you’ve found something that’s helped, or at least given you something to think about.

Thanks, John, for letting me blather on for FAR too long. It’s been an honor to be a guest blogger.

John here again, tell me that wasn’t a GREAT post. I’ve asked Amy to check back here during the course of her busy day, and it is VERY busy, to reply to any of your questions or comments. Now before you leave here, go check out her blog! If you like mine, which I hope you do, then you’ll LOVE hers. It’s seriously fantastic. And if you don’t, well I’ll just have to punch you.

I’m 100% a pantser, by the way. What about you?

Photo Credit: The Lucky 13s


An Open Invitation


Photo Credit: Page Lines

I know many of you are new around these parts, but I have my select few who have been here with me for some time now. I’d like to offer all of you an opportunity to do something that I’ve never once offered before during my 11 months of blogging. A guest post!

I’ve never been asked by another blogger to guest post on their blog and it makes me sad. Because I think my posts are pretty much the best damn thing the internet has to offer. Only kidding. Kinda. Anyway, I have a lot of blogs I follow and bloggers who follow me who write REALLY great posts. I’m talking those blogs that you refuse to miss a post. I have quite a few of those and I’m wondering if perhaps some of these might like to write a guest post for my wonderful little blog here.

So, first let me talk about what I will and will not be looking for. As you can see, whether you’re a first time reader or a longtime follower of mine, this blog is about books. Writing them. Reading them. Publishing them. News related to them. Everything that can be said about books will likely find its place in one of my posts at some point. So obviously if you blog about fashion or food or travel then you’re likely not someone I would seriously consider for my first ever guest post. I apologize. So pretty much anything that has something to do with books is fair game EXCEPT book reviews or those “this is what I’ve read/ will be reading” posts or any of your own writing such as poems or excerpts from your current WIP. Those leave little room for engagement from the reader.

Also, you can’t propose writing a post about something I’ve already written about. Unless, in my opinion, it’s different enough to allow for another post to be written. I’ve written about A LOT when it comes to books so you may want to scroll through my Archives or use that little search bar over to the right to make sure your idea isn’t something I’ve written about.

Lastly, if you’re wondering if certain bloggers will receive preferential treatment over others, the answer is yes. I have bloggers who interact with me on just about every post I write. So obviously if you follow my blog the same minute you write a comment on this post and I’m comparing you to someone who has been here for months, well…sorry. Not really. There are a few bloggers I’d love to have write a guest post on here, but I’m first going to see who all is interested before I go asking around.

I reserve the right to refuse to publish or alter the post for any reason I see fit. The post will be published here either six days or two weeks from today. I’ll notify the blogger I’ve chosen to write the post within 24 hours of the initial publishing of this post on 5/1.

So, if you might be interested in writing a guest post on here then leave a comment! Or if you’d rather not have someone steal your idea, you can tweet me here. Or if you’re not on Twitter and don’t want your idea to be stolen by some sneaky blogger then you can comment with your email and I’ll promptly shoot you an email demanding your idea. My email is my name.

So you know your potential reach, this blog currently has just over 800 WordPress followers. You can expect maybe 50-100 more by the time your post goes live.