My first published writing (since a long time ago)


Cholla Needles, a local anthology of short writing–fiction, poetry, essays–published a piece I wrote, “This Is Nothing Like Snakes On A Plane.” I did a reading at a local bookstore to applause and some mild chuckles. I thought it was funnier. You can read it here: 

Or, better yet, you can order the current or past editions from the link at

NaNoWriMo –


Right down to the deadline (11/30), but I did my 50K words–maybe 30K of which are any good–for the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I even got a badge. The NaNoWriMo organization also offers badges for a couple dozen categories, like Pantser, or Planner (do you write by the seat of your pants or outline?), Caffeine Abuse, Word Sprinter (if you joined a NaNoWriMo get-together to write, which I did at Space Cowboy Books), and others. They don’t offer a badge for cheaters, which I earned because I started KillGirl long before the official start date.

It was fun, and I will do it again next year.

The Writers’ Digest Novel Writing Conference, 2017

I went to the Writers’ Digest Novel Writing Conference in Pasadena. I was pleasantly surprised. My  first writing conference was disappointing. That con—which shall not be named, in case I get invited to the next one to speak—was more of an opportunity for vendors to sell stuff than for me to learn about my craft, or the biz in general. Since then, I’ve had my BS detector set on high.

Here are a few photos:


Useful writing tool


Writing TV, you’re always outlining. You have to make it the right length, figure out the act breaks, and make sure you have an act-ending hook to bring ’em back after the commercials.

Books, not so much. Some people do detailed outlines, some wing it (seat-of-the-pants writing). I go back and forth; I make a lot of outline-ish notes, but wind up tossing a fair amount.

But whether you’re an outliner or a pantser, you will probably find this handy when writing and organizing.

Jami Gold has free outlining tools (Excel spreadsheets) that will help anyone needing to arrange the sequence of events that make for turn-the-page reading.

Worksheets for Writers

She also offers online classes and editorial services.

SCBWI – Los Angeles


I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in LA last weekend. Being an old cynic, I was pleasantly surprised. A lot of writing cons I’ve been to seem to want to sell you stuff: websites, consulting, self-publishing kits, and so on.

Not here. This was really focused on writing, finding an agent, getting published. No BS marketing. The list of speakers included dozens of published and award-winning authors, including Kat Yeh, who was eloquent in describing her shyness and struggles to “get out there” when she was just beginning her career.

It was, for me, a chance to continue my search for an agent for Losing NormalThere were a dozen or more agents there, and they all announced that they’d be happy to read queries from SCBWI attendees, even though some were not currently open (No, I will not tell you the secret code to query. You have to have been there).

There were dozens of breakout sessions/workshops on aspects of writing and getting published, all focused (mostly) on the children’s/YA market: useful info for beginners, pros and illustrators. The schedule is still available at , so I won’t repeat it here.

Los Angeles last weekend was a gigantic sweat lodge, so I mostly stayed indoors at the LA Marriott location.

I met some nice people, fellow writers, had some good food and was glad I went.

A definite perk of the conference for single guys is that attendees were about 90% – 95% female. Are there no men who write kids’ books?

Same ol’ lesson, every time


I’ve been thinking about this for a while, during the writing (and thinking about writing) of KillGirl. I tend to agonize and fret about how I’m writing badly, or I’m out of ideas for this or that part of the book. Then I go sit at my computer, read my pages, notes and chapters, and fret and agonize some more, maybe waiting for that old inspiration to strike.

But the problem is, nothing is really happening. I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Or worse, thinking about what I haven’t even written yet. So, one day, I sat down and told myself, I’m going to write, no matter how much it sucks, no matter how much I hate it. Even if I know I’ll shitcan it, I’m going to write.

Guess what? I start to feel better, about the writing, about myself. And (if today is any proof), my writing, IMHO, gets better. There must be a rule out there by some writer: nothing EVER gets better by thinking about it. Writing only gets better when you write.

This might be a “duh” moment for some of you, but I have to keep remembering it, over and over again. And keep writing.


Social media 101

Here’s a chart showing the importance of the most influential social media–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram–as related to search engine visibility. Of course, if you don’t have a blog, it’s of little importance to you. But it might encourage you to start blogging.


by johnmnelson.
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

SoCal Writers Conference, continued

Besides the workshops and Rogue Reads, the SCWC  was a great place to meet fellow writers. Oz Monroe liked my ten pages, and I got good feedback from John Rudolph of Dystel, Goodrich and Bourret. As an encouraging side benefit (more emotional than strategic), there were many writers there as old or older than me! SCWC is having another conference in Irvine in September, and I plan to go.


Good, maybe great book for kid and YA writers

Those of you writing, or thinking about writing, a children’s or young adult book ought to read The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl Klein. As the Amazon review says, it’s a “master class in writing children’s and young adult novels…”

Klein, and executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic uses extensive samples from Marcelo In The Real World, a book she worked on, to demonstrate how to fix matters of plot, tone and style for the book you’re writing.

The Magic Words focuses on three kid book categories: chapter books, middle-grade novels and young adult novels, using examples and reader exercises to make her points, and demonstrates essential differences in the sub-genres.

Klein’s basic guidelines:

A) The book will be centrally interested in the life, experience, and growth of its young protagonist.

B) The protagonist will contribute to the action, consistently doing things or making choices that move the narrative forward.

C) The novel will be narrated with relative immediacy to the protagonist’s youthful perspective, and not with the distance of, say, an adult looking back at his preteen years.

D) In more literary novels, the protagonist will be different at the end of the novel than he was at the beginning, and usually for the better.

The Magic Words is one of the most useful books on writing I’ve ever read.


Great blog for querying writers

I discovered a great resource called QueryShark. There’s nothing I’ve found that’s quite like it. The blogger is Janet Reid, an agent with New Leaf Media. Her blog is, but the site I found most useful is

There she practices the old-school, “this sucks,” style of critique. Writers who want to improve their query letters send in a draft, and she offers sometimes sharply-worded advice on how to make it better… or start over. She welcomes new queries, but you have to follow her rules, and be prepared for public humiliation. But, as writers, we know all about that, right?

I’ve read almost the entire archive and it is just plain fascinating to see how many writers improve their queries after a few back-and-forths. If Ms. Reid is truly enthused–which happens rarely– she’ll ask for pages, but be advised: her preferred clients are usually in the narrative non-fiction and fiction categories, not YA or Middle Grade genres. But she’ll read and comment on your query no matter what the genre.

Prepare yourselves with liberal doses of Tuff Skin.

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