Announcing A Writer’s Path Writers Club: Creating Benefits For Writers

Hello everyone! A fellow blogger of A Writer’s Path, Ryan Lanz, has announced the launch of his new initiative: A Writer’s Path Writers Club.

After looking at the writing market for years, he noticed a need for a Writers Club of this kind. Sure, there are Facebook groups, writers groups, etc., but there aren’t many associations that are more than just a gathering of writers.

He wanted to create a club where the sole purpose of it is to solve headaches for writers. Here are some of the headaches he’s looking to solve:

  • It’s hard to find reviewers for my book
  • Writing-related service providers (editors, book cover designers, etc.) are expensive
  • I don’t know if my writing is good enough and I need feedback
  • I need more promotion for my book
  • I don’t know if my blurb or summary is good enough
  • Not enough readers know my book exists
  • I don’t know enough about what other successful authors have done to be successful
  • I don’t know if my book cover encourages readers to purchase it

No time commitment. Maximum value.

And of course, there are fun stuff to be had too, such as giveaways and contests. Here’s the full list of benefits for the Writers Club:

      • Discounts from writer-related service providers, such as editors, book cover designers, proofreading services, ghostwriters, social media marketing, book advertising, template design, audio book narration, and more.
      • Contests and giveaways for free services and books.
      • free book promotion posts on A Writer’s Path blog every year(example here). Every post generates a social media shout-out of your book to my Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr, and Google+ account (total of 12,900 followers). he’ll set reminders for himself to notify you when your next post is ready.
      • Exclusive articles not seen on the A Writer’s Path blog.
      • Access to free blurb coaching.
      • Book of the Month” lottery. Winner gets their book featured for a month on A Writer’s Path blog in a tab along the top of every page/post. Also included is a promotional post featuring their book, summary, cover, and purchase links to all 25,000+ subscribers. One drawing per month.
      • Help to find you reviewers and critique partners (optional).
      • A free copy of his eBook, The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas & Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. ($2.99 value)
      • Free critique of your book summaries and book covers (optional).
      • Insider tips from published authors in short, bite-sized articles.
      • Links to free books normally at full price.
      • Opportunities to show off your book to the other members.
      • Exclusive author interviews.

Feel free to check out A Writer’s Path Writers Club here.

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Guest Post: The Delicacies of Writing Non-Fiction by Nathaniel Barber

The Delicacies of Writing Non-Fiction:
What to Leave In or Omit and Why Asking Permission Is the Greatest Hurdle to Telling a Great Story

Luck Favors The Prepared is a collection of nonfiction short stories. But, that ‘nonfiction’ part has been a tricky business. Nonfiction is rarely flattering. Seldom does its characters move about as gracefully or as tactfully as we believe we move about our own lives. Most people long for privacy—while the goal of nonfiction (as is the goal of any writing) is the opposite of privacy, to reach an audience. Additionally, the claim (and the sting) of nonfiction is that these are stories which have actually happened, concerning people who actually existed—people with feelings and, possibly, access to legal counsel.

What if I get it wrong? What if I muddy up the dates or fail to nail the dialogue verbatim? These, while valid points, were the least of my concerns. The ultimate hang-up was whether a person would be not flattered by the character I’d made of them.

The conclusion I always reached (which was no) held up the writing of these stories for many years, until, at long last, I was able to call a truce with my inhibitions and get to writing.

What explains the shift?

For starters, these are good stories so they were not easily dismissed. Given time and pressure, eventually their persistence forced me to reconcile this seeming insurmountable hurdle to nonfiction: the spectre of fairness.

Readers of Luck Favors The Prepared will notice I traffic in some incredibly unsavory characters. Was it fair of me to write them so? Probably not. People, however, have had more than enough time to get along without fairness. Indeed, we’ve lived in a dearth of fairness since time immemorial. It is audacious of my characters to demand fairness would make a historically rare visit just to save their hide.

The best we can do is be proactive, and behave ourselves. If you’re good, most assuredly, nobody will write about you.

We’ve developed many ways to live well, even in this absence of fairness. Chances are you’ve had a brush with Christianity, the founding tenets of which warn we should (to paraphrase a number more eloquent passages) watch our ass. If you feel exempt from the offerings of Christianity, the scientific community has an equally potent formula coined by Newton’s third law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. There are some still who feel left behind by both Christianity and science, for them I can only hope they have a magnanimous sense of humor. After that, you’re S.O.L.

The idea is, in a world where what goes around, comes around—fairness is a red herring.

It took me longer than it should have to come to this conclusion. When I did, it was like a fresh breath of air. Which is why I am now gleefully submitting Luck Favors The Prepared for publication, just under the wire, during this lapse in the Universal Calendar when fairness seems to have checked-out.

If nothing is fair, what then, will keep the world from coming apart?

In this supreme absence of fairness, Christianity, science or humor implores us to act with kindness, beauty and grace. It is, you could say, a last-ditch stopgap to prevent everything from going to pot. This is an idea I can get behind in a major way. It has allowed me to finally locate my voice—and write nonfiction to my heart’s content. But to do so compassionately, in spite of appearances to the contrary.

In the spirit of kindness it is important to note: while I have not shied away from capturing a character at their very worst, that unfortunate snapshot is strictly happenstance. I am not aiming, specifically, to capture a character at their worst. Though, to be fair, I am not straining to capture a character at their finest either. One should not aim to catch a character behaving any which way. They should only aim to capture the story. Kindness should be, above all else, a commitment to the story.

While many of my characters found themselves illuminated in such a harsh light, kindness suggests that (hopefully) they were just going through a rough spot. Their only real crime (in the universal sense) was they experienced a fevered lapse of judgement in the company of someone with such an impeccable memory.

Kindness forces us to consider the angels of our better nature, that people are great, complex creatures. We are brimming with contradictions. Sometimes we are terrible and evil. Other times, we are beautiful and reaffirm all of the wonderful things.

How does one know when they’re writing from a place of kindness? Crap stories are usually unkind. We’ve all heard an embittered divorcee seethe about their poisonous ex-wife or husband. It’s nothing you would treat yourself to after a day’s work. That’s what red wine is for.

Nonfiction without kindness reads flat and vindictive. Any too-thin story is so obviously a sad revenge-vehicle to facilitate a tantrum. It is painfully uninteresting. Yes, sometimes unkind nonfiction is fun to read. But it’s a dirty, bitter pill and should be enjoyed sparingly.

Are the stories objective?

Just because I am the narrator, doesn’t mean I am exempt from the critique of these narratives. To lean faithfully on the story’s foundation means I should just as freely throw myself on the same pyre to which I’ve thrown these poor characters. Could I have been more critical of myself, the character? Maybe, but that’s above my paygrade.

Writing nonfiction is to shoulder into unfairness. So the very least a nonfiction author can do is make well and sure they’re writing from a place of kindness and objectivity. Or, at least, try real hard to do so. This is why I still write with boundaries. Very strict boundaries in fact. There’s much more I could write, but it’s a waste of time if there’s no redeeming story.

I am forty years old now. Does an inability to understand and reconcile the dueling perspectives of fairness and kindness explain why it’s taken me so dang long to offer Luck Favors The Prepared? Probably not. But lay off, I’m short on time. I suppose I could try harder, to completely throw myself at producing books, which is a lot like working a second job without pay. Try explaining that to a wife and a daughter.

Saturday Miscellany – 3/4/17

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    Didn’t see any New Releases this week that caught my eye — which gives us all a chance to get ready for next week that has at least 5 doozies.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and welcome to Reading is My Escapte and Portable Magic for following the Booklikes version of the blog this week.

Accomplished 2016 Poetry Collection

If I may, I’d like to take a moment of Parental Privilege. (and I guess I may, this is my site, right?)

Last week, we received a hot-off-the-press copy of Accomplished, a compilation of poems publised by teh American Library of Poetry.

It’s a collection of a few hundred poems by students from across the country, submitted to a poetry competition. My daughter has a poem in it — not one of the winners, but one of those selected for publication (which is good enough). She’s dabbled in writing here and there — sometimes more than dabbled. She’s won the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program once, and competed a few times; done some writing workshops and whatnot — but this is the first publication. I couldn’t be prouder. Hopefully, there’ll be more.

No, I won’t be reviewing the collection — just too much poetry. And no, I won’t be reviewing my daughter’s piece — for one thing, the disclaimer I’d have to include would be too long to read; also, I’m not sure that I’m smart enough to get the whole thing she was doing. I will say there were some pretty good poems in there (even from the younger grades) — I didn’t read the whole thing, but I did (and will) sample widely. Sure, there are some “eh” ones, too — but you can see why these made the cut.

Anyway, just wanted to publicly tell my gal that she made her old man proud.

A Few Quick Questions With…Walt Hackman

Late last year, I was approached by Walt Hackman to read and review his book, No Problem, Mr. Walt. Which was absolutely not my kind of book, but there was something about it that appealed to me. I’m glad I did, it was quite a tale. I reposted my take on it earlier today, in honor of the book launch tomorrow. Walt was kind enough to take part in a Q & A with me — which was enough to make me want to re-read the book. Hopefully, it convinces some of you to give it a first read.

I’m always interested in the writing process, why writers make the choices they make along the way — why did you decide to approach your story by mixing Chinese history with the story of your junk?
When I started to outline and write “No Problem, Mr. Walt” it was not in chronological order. As each Chapter unfolded, I found myself writing about subject matter that emerged along with my story – like the reference to caulking from Marco Polo’s journal or the Cultural Revolution – and it occurred to me that including snippets of Chinese history would assist the reader by providing context to make my story more relevant. So, at the beginning of Chapter Two I begin with “I think it is safe to say that the average American may suffer a bit of historical amnesia regarding China’s recent history. Therefore, I have decided to start in the next chapter with the last Emperor Pu Yi in the early 1900s, and present the reader with a brief history up to the present; these bits of history will be presented at the beginning of each chapter. If you understand China’s recent past, it will be easier to understand references to history in the story, and easier to understand present-day China.”
For that matter, why did you decide to Where there some anecdotes/memories that you wanted to put in the book, but couldn’t find a way to fit them into the narrative? Care to share any?
Yes, there are a few but these stand out: the initial draft included poetry that I wrote depicting experiences I had such as the bus ride in Chapter 23. However, the editor felt including them would take away from the story’s narrative so I kept the content they included but the poems themselves were removed.

More importantly, my journey began with the sudden death of my only son Wally, which is something I find very difficult to talk or write about even to this day. I feel there are no words adequate to explain the anguish, sadness and magnitude of our loss. Those parts of the story that dealt with “Rebuilding a (my) Life” were tough for me to write (and rewrite).  That being said, Wally’s death was the catalyst that propelled me on that improbable journey and is an important part of the story even though I only talk about it briefly in the Preface.  I did the best I could to address it but feel that in a future revision I might find a better way to tell that part of the story. My daughter Lynn is a writer and owned the Mei Wen Ti from 2000 to 2008, I think hers might be the voice that best explains that time in our lives and we’ve been discussing a collaboration.

What was the biggest surprise about the writing itself?
Steven King said in On Writing, “….I believe the first draft of a book – even a long one – should take no longer than three months, the length of a season.” For me, my biggest surprise was how long it took me to write the book. Not months but years!

I tell people it was easier to build a boat in China than it was to write a book about it.  Even though I approached my writing with discipline, I found it impossible for me to write a fixed amount daily or weekly like King suggested. I set a goal and really believed that I would get the book completed before the China Olympics in 2008. But looking back, I would still do it all over again because this project has never been about notoriety or money, I have always thought it could be a good story that people might enjoy.

A lot of what makes a writer are the books that he’s read — what books in particular do you think made you the writer you are/the book the book it is? (other than the books on Chinese history, etc.) .
Before starting the book, I read Steven King’s On Writing. One of his main points is that generally, if you want to be a good writer you must be a good reader. I’ve always been an avid reader but I began reading a lot more beginning with every book Steinbeck ever wrote. Somehow, knowing I was going to write a book caused me to notice writing subtleties and styles that I liked. After all the Steinbeck, I read Hemingway’s Boat, The Sun Also Risesand A Farewell to Arms, etc. Even though King’s On Writing is centered around writing fiction, it helped me and I often referenced it along the way.
You’ve lived quite a life — is there another book in you?
The answer is yes. I have given this more thought than you can imagine. I’d like to write a revision of No Problem, Mr. Walt that would meet approval for sale in China (i.e. tone down any reference to Communism that might be viewed as “unfavorable”) And similar to how I included Chinese history for western audiences, this version would be a juxtaposition that includes U.S. history and customs.

On my trips to China, people were fascinated about the junk (surprisingly, you don’t see a whole lot of them especially the size and style of the Mei Wen Ti) and the fact that I was even there building it. Junks (sail boats) have not been built in China now for many years since the introduction of modern engines. Many people I met wanted to know what I was doing in China, why I walked to the bus station and rode the bus, why I was wearing cowboy boots, if I liked the food, if I could tell them about California, why the U.S. was selling our latest jets to Taiwan, etc. Lastly, I believe the book is a simple story that the current generation of Chinese people would enjoy. The collaborative work with my daughter is also a possibility since No Problem, Mr. Walt ends with the delivery of the Mei Wen Ti on the docks in San Pedro. The story that proceeded to unfold after the Mei Wen Ti hit U.S. soil (or rather, water) is a unique one all its own!

Guest Post: Writer’s Block? Step Into My Shower By Robert Germaux

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Does this sound familiar? You’ve placed one of your characters (let’s call her Jenny) in a pretty sticky situation, and now you have no idea how to get her out of that pickle. You’ve tried several scenarios, but none of them quite works. Finally, you decide to take a break, clear your mind a bit. You’re thinking grab a quick shower, drive over to Starbucks for a latte, then come back and get to work on saving Jenny. Five minutes later, you’re halfway into that shower, and suddenly, it hits you, the perfect way to extricate Jenny from that sticky situation.

That sort of thing has happened to me often enough that, at some point, I began to wonder about the possibility of a connection between water and creativity. So, of course, I Googled it, and I quickly learned that there is a veritable waterfall of information on this topic. Yeah, I know. Waterfall of info on water. I couldn’t resist it. No more, I promise. Anyway, I discovered that there does, indeed, appear to be a connection, although it’s not the water per se, but rather a progression of events in which water is just one part. With apologies to Mr. Metcalf, my high school science teacher, I’ll do my best to walk you through the process. It involves dopamine, and one of the few things I still remember from Mr. Metcalf’s class is that dopamine equals good. Apparently, dopamine aids in the creative process (no idea; I got a C- in science), but to get the dopamine released into our brains, we first need to be doing something relaxing, like taking that warm shower or a long walk or a leisurely drive in the country. During these types of activities, your mind is distracted from whatever subject you’ve been concentrating on all day (for instance, poor Jenny), which allows your brain to relax at the same time it’s being flooded with dopamine, and before your know it, genius hits.

Okay, there you have it. Maybe not the most scientific explanation of the process (again, C-), but it gives you the general idea. Relaxation plus distraction plus dopamine equal problem solved. So the next time you’re sitting there staring at that blank page, take a hike.

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A Few Quick Questions With…Michael Landweber


For our third post on this Blog Tour stop, the author of Thursday, 1:17 PM, Michael Landweber was gracious enough to A some of my Q’s. As is typical, I kept it short and sweet, because this dude is busy and he doesn’t need to take up too much time with lil’ ol’ me. There are two questions here about the book we’re focusing on, and then we move on to more general questions. Hope you enjoy.

Michael LandweberMichael Landweber lives and writes in Washington, DC. His short stories have appeared in literary magazines such as Gargoyle, Fourteen Hills, Fugue, Barrelhouse and American Literary Review. He is an Associate Editor at Potomac Review and a contributor to Washington Independent Review of Books. Michael has a soft spot for movies about talking animals and does not believe he would survive the zombie apocalypse. His first novel We was published in 2013.

There are so many questions that I’d like to ask about some of the details of this book, but I’m going to have to settle for something about the process: did you have the rules for the Frozen World set up before beginning the book, or was that something you felt out along the way?
The rules were pretty simple and set from the beginning. Nothing moved unless it was affected by Duck. He would be the only force in the universe capable of changing anything. Otherwise, everything remained in exactly the state it was in when the world froze. Simple, right? Making up the rules was easy; following them was hard. There were many times while I writing when I would decide to do something and realize it didn’t fit in with this world. For example, in an early draft, I thought about shooting someone with a gun. But in order to fire, a gun required more than just Duck power. Similarly, I found myself realizing that he couldn’t cook anything; he could only eat food that was edible at the time the world froze. He couldn’t start a car, but he could ride a bike. So it was never a question of changing the rules. It was a constant struggle forcing myself to not cheat. Hopefully, I policed myself reasonably well. One of the reasons that I had Duck write a guidebook was because it was a great way to share everything about the frozen world I had spent so much time figuring out. That’s why you’ve got multiple pages about how to flush a toilet (and of course because I find details like that amusing).
How hard was it to get into the headspace of an almost 18 year-old (even one of above-average intelligence/thoughtfulness)? Once there — was it as much fun as it seemed?
It is always a challenge to get into a new character’s head. Or maybe the challenge is getting out of your own head. With a teenager, I did have the advantage that I was once 17 years old. However, it is true that when you become an adult, you forgot how desperate everything feels at that age. As adults, we learn to repress some emotions. It’s a survival skill. So, to write Duck, I tried to remember what it felt like when every emotion was on the surface and raw. I think that immediacy is what we lose as adults. Once I got in that mindset, it was fun to write Duck. Anytime I started to think that Duck shouldn’t be doing something, I usually put it in the book, figuring if I thought it was a bad idea then a teenager probably wouldn’t.
What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
There are so many books and TV shows that I enjoy. I’d love to have written any of them. Of course, the flip side of that is that if I had written them, then I wouldn’t get to experience them the same way. I do surprise myself sometimes when I’m writing, but that’s not the same as the visceral thrill that you can get from watching or reading someone else’s work when the unexpected hits you with a perfectly timed twist. That said, there are two very different works that I wish I could have written. First, The Martian by Andy Weir. I would love to have written something that was so meticulously researched and incredibly readable at the same time. You get to the end of the book thoroughly entertained while somehow convincing yourself that you could now survive on Mars if you had to. Second would be Breaking Bad. The entire series. I admire how strictly it stuck to its vision from the beginning. The writers didn’t seem to care how popular it got. They weren’t trying to make anyone happy. It was unflinching to the very end.
Is there a genre that you particularly enjoy reading or watching, but could never write?
I could never write a good mystery. I don’t watch or read a lot of them, but I do enjoy them when they are well done. As a reader, I never know who committed the crime. Ever. I’ll always think that it is someone who was innocent. I admire the writers who are able to put that puzzle together and keep me guessing to the last piece. But as a writer, my mysteries would probably be more like a pre-schooler’s giant floor puzzle with only four pieces and no irregular edges.
I’ve often heard that writers, or artists in general, will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?
There was one reader review posted on a website about my first novel that stuck with me. He said that after reading it he had to bleach his brain and encouraged everyone to keep the book away from children. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe that was one of my good reviews. Seriously though, there are always going to be readers who don’t like certain things I write. So far, it hasn’t changed what I decide to write next.