April Links

Fact and Fiction: The Trouble with Historical Novels
Writer of historical fiction, Richard Blake, on some of the less obvious pitfalls for writers of historical fiction.

If you describe anything as “the worst thing that can happen,” it probably isn’t. Whatever you care to imagine, there’s usually something worse. But one of the worst things that can happen to an historical novelist is to have someone creep up to you with a smirk on his face, and tell you that some fact in your latest masterpiece is bad history. For me, it’s certainly worse than just being told the novel is useless. I’ve always been sheltered from general criticism behind an impenetrable wall of vanity. I’m a genius. Anyone who says otherwise can only be intellectually or morally defective. Tell me, though, I’ve got my facts wrong, and I may run screaming from the room.

How To Like Bad Things
K.J. Charles on the dilemma of liking the problematic.

It’s very easy to feel personally accused when a thing we like is denounced. Which is why this gets so heated: if other people are slamming my favourites, my self-image as a nice person is threatened. Someone says, “This thing you love is shitty and hurtful”, and I hear, “You are shitty and hurtful for liking it.” And it’s important to remember that’s not [necessarily] true, and quite possibly isn’t what’s being said. (Square brackets exception: If you’re e.g. a massive racist and you read massively racist books to reinforce your worldview, you are a terrible person. I’m assuming basic decency on the part of readers here.)

Writing Novel-Opening Scenes
Rayne Hall on Romance University on what to do and what not to do with your opening scene.


Inviting readers to your story is like having guests for dinner. Once they’ve arrived, don’t keep them waiting. The pie should already be baking in the oven, filling the room with enticing smells. You may welcome your guests with a drink and small talk, but then it’s time to serve the meal. Don’t go to the kitchen to start cooking now.

10 Things We Think We Need to do Before We Start Writing
Blondeusk on BlondeWriteMore blog about those vital things we simply must do before we get on and write some words.

Tidy the house – ‘I am going to give the house a quick tidy before I start writing…yes that’s right I am doing a bit of tidying…no I am not unwell.’

Amazon Sales Rank: Taming the Algorithm
John Doppler demystifies that piece of apparent dark magic – the Amazon Sales Rank.

Amazon’s sales rank algorithm is surprisingly simple…

1. Each sale or download of a product counts as one point toward a hypothetical “rank score”.
2. Each day, the preceding day’s score decreases by half, and is added to today’s points.
3. For each category on Amazon, books are ranked based on their current scores.

Indie Authors Beware: Integrity Matters
An old post from Penny Watson, but still relevant. Advice to new and indie writers, not to get drawn into using dodgy methods of promo.

I can’t think of a group of people more vulnerable than writers with a dream. They are desperate to get published. They are desperate for success. They’re easy prey for unscrupulous folks looking to make an easy buck.

The explosion of “indie” or “self-pubbed” writers has opened up a whole new sleazy world of self-professed “social media experts” and “promo consultants” who promise everything under the sun. For a buck. And unfortunately, newbie writers with little experience are very easy prey.

“I just don’t identify with the character”
Kate Sullivan, Senior Editor at Delacorte Press on the Children’s Book Council’s site talks about the slow progress of diversity in publishing.

So if editors are advertising that we’re open and ready, why isn’t it working yet? First of all, if we’re acting within the system that is the problem, we’ll never fix it. We can’t use our usual methods of expanding our lists to cover more diverse subjects and authors because it’s the very method that has been failing those authors for so many years. It’s like emailing IT to tell them that your email is broken.

What creative people understand about the importance of being alone
Belle Beth Cooper on why thinkers need time by themselves to do their best work.

But needing time alone, according to Buccholz, doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or that you’re antisocial. In fact, she says, it’s important that we clear away the chatter and let our minds wander: “Solitude is required for the unconscious to process and unravel problems,” she writes. “Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance, but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers.”

Subtlety and Melodrama in Historical Fiction
Deborah Swift on how to avoid slipping into being overdramatic in historical fiction – or any sort really.

As for the villain’s behaviour (yes, if you’ve started calling him a villain you have a problem!) – in real life people only use violence as a last resort. So the key is to make sure the provocation, the actual build-up, is bigger than the punch (or gunshot, or whatever.) Good clear motivation, a motivation that is not simply revenge for past wrongs, will help.

HEA Overload
AJ Cousins on burnout for Romance readers.

I’ve read romance my entire life, off and on. From fifth to eighth grade, my grandma received a garbage bag full of paperbacks each month from a friend who belonged to all of the Harlequin and Silhouette monthly books clubs. (And to a Zane Grey/western book of the month club too, providing the only books that interested my grandma.) I assume the friend hung on to her favorites, but a good three dozen books were dropped in my lap every month and I devoured them all. Sheikh romances, virgin nannies of Greek tycoons, small town American romances, cowboys and cops and jewel thieves, I raced through six books a day on summer break or school year weekends. I was a whirlwind of happily ever afters.

Women in SF&F Month: Fonda Lee
An interview with writer Fonda Lee about why she chose not to use a male pen name.

Let me begin by saying that I hold a special fury in my heart for the unrelenting gender assigning of books, media, and toys. In a myriad of insidious ways, young people are told that only certain types of characters and stories are for boys and others are for girls.

I resented it as a child, when I was that little girl who wanted Transformers and Ninja Turtles toys that society and my classmates told me in no kind terms were “for boys.” I resent it now, as a mother, when my daughter’s birthday present haul consists of half a dozen variations on “make your own jewelry” kits even though she loves science and Star Wars.

Top 10 Ways To Write a Self-Rejecting Query to a Blogger, Agent or Publisher
Anne R Allen on how not to query a publisher, agent or blogger. Top ten mistakes to avoid.

Writing a good query isn’t rocket science. But you do have to learn the rules. Here’s the most important thing to remember: publishing is a business and a query is a job interview. Give it 100% or don’t do it. Picture the real person behind the company, blog, or agency you’re querying, and talk about what you have to offer them.

Whoever is reading the query is looking for a reason to reject you so they can move quickly through the inbox. Don’t give them one.

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