"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year!

Wishing you all a safe and Happy New Year. Thank you so much for visiting and supporting my blog. I look forward to visiting with you all again in 2013!

What projects are you working to complete?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have the chance to spend time with family and friends, and that you remember to celebrate the birth of our Lord. I pray you are able to enjoy all the traditions that make this time of year so wonderful.

Thank you all for visiting and supporting my blog. I wish you a truly blessed Holiday Season.

Friday, December 21, 2012

James Scott Bell - Free and $1.99

Are you using your holiday break to catch up on some writing or editing? Have you heard of James Scott Bell?

Whether you are a huge fan of Bell’s books, or are at the point where you are writing a novel, take some time out of your day to learn more about revising your novel from one of the bestselling authors today.

This FREE  Writer's Digest video will give you 72 minutes of Bell explaining the important components of a novel along with revision techniques and advice.

Also, for a limited time his book CONFLICT & SUSPENSE is only $1.99 as an ebook from Kindle.

Are you a fan of Bell's fiction or teaching techniques? Who has taught you the most valuable writing lessons?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best Books of 2012

Every December companies release a list of their bestsellers for that year. Here are seven I missed, but am adding to my “to be read” list. At the bottom is a link to Barnes&Nobles 100 top sellers for 2012.

 Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, established him as a major new writer with “the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” (Newsweek). Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness—and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”

 “What are you reading?” That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne is diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less. This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying. Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page. 

In this magnificent biography, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power gives us Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson’s genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously. Such is the art of power. Thomas Jefferson hated confrontation, and yet his understanding of power and of human nature enabled him to move men and to marshal ideas, to learn from his mistakes, and to prevail. Passionate about many things—women, his family, books, science, architecture, gardens, friends, Monticello, and Paris—Jefferson loved America most, and he strove over and over again, despite fierce opposition, to realize his vision: the creation, survival, and success of popular government in America. Jon Meacham lets us see Jefferson’s world as Jefferson himself saw it, and to appreciate how Jefferson found the means to endure and win in the face of rife partisan division, economic uncertainty, and external threat. Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American history.

 The mystery of the body in motion. The surprise of seeing what seems impossible. And the pure, joyful optimism of it all. Dancers Among Us presents one thrilling photograph after another of dancers leaping, spinning, lifting, kicking—but in the midst of daily life: on the beach, at a construction site, in a library, a restaurant, a park. With each image the reader feels buoyed up, eager to see the next bit of magic. Photographer Jordan Matter started his Dancers Among Us Project by asking a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company to dance for him in a place where dance is unexpected. So, dressed in a commuter’s suit and tie, the dancer flew across a Times Square subway platform. And in that image Matter found what he’d been searching for: a way to express the feeling of being fully alive in the moment, unself-conscious, present. Organized around themes of work, play, love, exploration, dreaming, and more, Dancers Among Us celebrates life in a way that’s fresh, surprising, original, universal. There’s no photoshopping here, no trampolines, no gimmicks, no tricks. Just a photographer, his vision, and the serendipity of what happens when the shutter clicks.

 The exuberant, exhilarating photographs of dogs underwater that have become a sensation. From the water's surface, it's a simple exercise: a dog's leap, a splash, and then a wet head surfacing with a ball, triumphant. But beneath the water is a chaotic ballet of bared teeth and bubbles, paddling paws, fur and ears billowing in the currents. From leaping lab to diving dachshund, the water is where a dog's distinct personality shines through; some lounge in the current, paddling slowly, but others arch their bodies to cut through the water with the focus and determination of a shark. In more than eighty portraits by award-winning pet photographer and animal rights activist Seth Casteel capture new sides of our old friends with vibrant underwater photography that makes it impossible to look away. Each image bubbles with exuberance and life, a striking reminder that even in the most loveable and domesticated dog, there are more primal forces at work. In Underwater Dogs, Seth Casteel gives playful and energetic testament to the rough-and-tumble joy that our dogs bring into our lives.

The book that inspired the Academy Award–winning short film, from New York Times bestselling author and beloved visionary William Joyce. Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books. But every story has its upsets. Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds. But the power of story will save the day. Stunningly brought to life by William Joyce, one of the preeminent creators in children’s literature, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a modern masterpiece, showing that in today’s world of traditional books, eBooks, and apps, it’s story that we truly celebrate—and this story, no matter how you tell it, begs to be read again and again.

It was just another after-work happy hour at a bar downtown—until the madness descended. And after twelve minutes of chaos and violence, more than eighty people lay dead. Lieutenant Eve Dallas is trying to sort out the inexplicable events. Surviving witnesses talk about seeing things—monsters and swarms of bees. They describe sudden, overwhelming feelings of fear and rage and paranoia. When forensics makes its report, the mass delusions make more sense: it appears the bar patrons were exposed to a cocktail of chemicals and illegal drugs that could drive anyone into temporary insanity—if not kill them outright. But that doesn’t explain who would unleash such horror—or why. Eve’s husband, Roarke, happens to own the bar, but he’s convinced the attack wasn’t directed at him. It’s bigger than that. And if Eve can’t figure it out fast, it could happen again, anytime, anywhere. Because it’s airborne…

For a list of the top 100 Bestsellers of 2012 click here.  
What were your favorite reads this year?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Free Books for Christmas!

Some families make paper chains to count down the days to Christmas. This year I decided to buy 24 books for my girls to open. My oldest is in kindergarten and reading every day. She's even teaching her three year-old sister to read. Each day (starting December 1) they alternate who gets to open a book that we can all read together. It's been so much fun and I know they will remember the experience.

Since I can't buy books for all of you, I thought I would share this link to 25 free ebooks for Christmas: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/25-free-ebooks-for-christmas_b62275  and here are some more freebies and a charity event with cool games and prizes to win: Go here for details.

I hope you enjoy this variety of fun reads. Merry Christmas everyone!

What holiday traditions or books mean the most to you?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012 Social Media Expert Costs

A few months ago a web design company contacted me. They noticed more and more of their clients were wanting someone to manage their social media (blogs, twitter, facebook, pinterest, etc.) as well as their web pages. This company wanted to hire me to manage the various social media and wanted quotes from me on what I would charge.

I had no idea what to charge. I had never charged someone for social media aid. So, I began researching, and I found out that many companies as well as individuals are hiring "Social Media Experts". I also noticed fees varied based on the amount of detail the company or individual wanted. (Number of times a day you posted, length of post, graphics provided, design or research involved, etc.)

I did not take the job, but I thought you might be interested in what others were charging. If you have ever thought about hiring someone else to manage your social media or if you think you might want to provide those services for others, I have provided a list of estimates below.

I would strongly recommend clients sign a three month contract if they are new to social media. It usually takes this long to notice if the social advertising is making an impact.

Blog  - Custom design and template creation.            $1,000 - to match web and other media accounts including graphics, photos, etc.
- Writing/Editing content for the blog, managing comments and posting 1-2 articles a week written by client, plus ongoing help.                         $1,000 a month
- Ghostwriting blog posts                                  .25 cents a word

Twitter – Account Setup                          $500 - designed to match other accounts
- Ongoing account management + 30 Tweets a month      $250 (add $250 for every 30 tweets added)

Facebook – Initial Page Setup                 $500 - designed to match other accounts
- Monthly content management + 30 posts   $250 (add $250 for every 30 posts added)

Pinterest – Account Setup                                         $500  
- Monthly management +30 pins        $250 (add $250 for every 30 pins added)

 -          The design and setup would include the company logos, colors etc. and match the overall feel of the web page you design for them.
 -          Account/content management includes the time it takes to add/delete followers, reply to comments/photos posted to the account etc.
-          If a client wants to buy a bundle plan, offer a discount.
Account setup of 3 social media (like twitter, facebook)                     $1,250
90 posts, tweets, pins to be divided between the three accounts per month.        $600
Account setup of 5 social media (adding LinkedIn and Google+)               $2,200
180 posts, tweets, pins to be divided between the five accounts per month.        $1,200

Social Media Training/Consulting – This is for clients who want to take over the responsibility of their own social media or who already have the media in place and want help to overhaul/revamp their approach.                           $100 (an hour and excludes travel costs).

Social Media Workshop – Strictly teaching them how to do EVERY step of setup, maintenance etc. This would be an on-site workshop and fee excludes travel costs.
HALF-DAY (Up to 4 Hours)                                     $2,000
FULL-DAY (6 to 8 Hours)                                        $4,000

NOTE: These rates include the time the teacher takes to prepare/tailor the workshop for the client’s individual needs as well as materials needed to provide them (which may be 20 to 30 hours of work leading up to the workshop day). This is why the cost is higher than the hourly rate listed in SOCIAL MEDIA TRAINING/CONSULTING.      

What are your thoughts about these charges and "Social Media Experts"?

Friday, December 7, 2012

What to Buy the Writer in Your Life

Several readers and friends have asked my advice on what to buy a writer. Here are some possibilities any writer would be happy to find on Christmas morning (or any other day of the year).
1) Books about other writers - Get the writers you know a book that's actually about what a writer's life is like.
2) Magazine subscriptions - Most writers love to read but don't actually get a lot of time to sit down and do non-research reading. Magazines are great because they let the writer read things that aren't for work but they offer the reading in bite-sized chunks. Figure out which topics interest the writers you know and order a subscription.
3) Subscription to stock image sites - If you know someone that does online writing or self publishing, he/she probably spends away too much time searching for images that aren't copyrighted to use on posts. Give her a subscription to a stock image site like Jupiter Images or Photos.com and make work life easier than ever.
4) Coffee or Chocolate - Okay, okay, so it's a stereotype to say that all writers drink coffee or eat chocolate. But it's a stereotype for a reason. If you're fairly certain that your writer friend has a minor addiction to one of these vices, be nice and help her indulge it. If a coffee maker is too much of an investment, get her a few bags of coffee beans or a gift card to her local coffee shop. Chocolate bars can be an fairly inexpensive gift.
5) Laptop accessories - Most writers work from a laptop at least now and then. There are all kinds of things that you can get to make the laptop a little nicer. Laptop skins decorate the outside of the laptop. Laptop stands help make writing on a laptop more ergonomic and comfortable. A new laptop bag can protect the item while also giving the writer a better option than the backpack for carrying work around.
6) Massage - Writers sit at desks all day long and type their little hearts out. It's satisfying work but it can be killer on the back, neck and shoulders. Make a writer happy and relaxed with a gift certificate for an hour long massage.
7) Basket of office goodies - Hit the local office store and pick up a bunch of little things. Paper clips and binder clips, pens, folder and files, post-it notes and any other little things that catch your eye can all be compiled together into a basket of goodies that any writer can appreciate. Add in some printer ink if you know what type of printer your writer uses.
8) Fun software - There are different types of software for all different kinds of writing. There is database software for organizing book proposal submissions, design software for decorating writing with images and creativity software with writing prompts. Find something that suits the writer you know and wrap it with a bow.
9)  Fun items - One of my favorites is the Writer's Clock (pictured above), available from Linda Rohrbough. For more examples, check out my post from last year.
The best gift that you can give the writers in your life is the gift of reading their work, spreading the word and taking their writing seriously. Merry Christmas everyone!
What gift would you most like to receive? What have been some of your favorite gifts in the past?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Throwing a Book Launch Party (Part I)

Self promotion, platform, social media… these are all terms we hear frequently, but what about the good old book launch? The truth is a book launch can still be a highly effective way to promote yourself and your book – if planned properly.
However, if you are self-published you are at a disadvantage as most chains (Books-A-Million, Barnes&Nobles etc.) won’t carry you. The chains can get their money back on any unsold merchandise from a publishing house, but not from print-on-demand or even some small presses. Subsequently, they won’t order those books and you have to rely solely on the “mom and pop” shops to carry your merchandise.
So, why should you plan a book launch party?
This post is Part I of a series. Please feel free to share your own experiences, comments and questions about book launches.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NaNoWriMo – The End Is In Sight

Only three days left in the National Novel Writing Month. I hope you had more luck with your project than I did with mine.
I had really high hopes for my MS at the midpoint - after some really encouraging words from friends and readers. – See my last update: http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2012/11/nanowrimo-gone-wild.html
I was really excited about steaming ahead through the holidays and possibly finishing early. Unfortunately, the flu my daughters came home with and shared knocked us all out for the last two weeks.
Now, as I’m regaining strength and some coherency to my thoughts, I discover I’ve somehow managed to lose most of my story. Yes, I still have some scenes, notes and a partial outline. However, after losing two weeks and thousands of words, the joy for my story is missing as well.
Oh, well. Maybe I’ll get back to the story later. Maybe NaNoWriMo will go better for me next year, but November does not seem to be a good month for my family. At least there was no hospital stay this year: http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2012/10/ready-set-write.html
How are you doing on your MS? Best of luck to everyone racing for the finish line!

Friday, November 23, 2012

HOW TO WRITE… By Ian Fleming

The original title of Mr. Fleming’s article is “How to Write a Thriller” but I find his words apt to any style of writing. This author of the Bond series and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” certainly recognized the rewards of writing. I hope you enjoy this article and remember the rewards you find in writing and reading. (Note: this is an excerpt. For the full article see: here. )

People often ask me, "How do you manage to think of that? What an extraordinary (or sometimes extraordinarily dirty) mind you must have." I certainly have got vivid powers of imagination, but I don't think there is anything very odd about that.

We are all fed fairy stories and adventure stories and ghost stories for the first 20 years of our lives, and the only difference between me and perhaps you is that my imagination earns me money. But, to revert to my first book, CASINO ROYALE, there are strong incidents in the book which are all based on fact. I extracted them from my wartime memories of the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty, dolled them up, attached a hero, a villain and a heroine, and there was the book.

The line between fact and fantasy is a very narrow one. I think I could trace most of the central incidents in my books to some real happenings.

We thus come to the final and supreme hurdle in the writing of a thriller. You must know thrilling things before you can write about them. Imagination alone isn't enough, but stories you hear from friends or read in the papers can be built up by a fertile imagination and a certain amount of research and documentation into incidents that will also ring true in fiction.

Having assimilated all this encouraging advice, your heart will nevertheless quail at the physical effort involved in writing even a thriller. I warmly sympathise with you. I too, am lazy. My heart sinks when I contemplate the two or three hundred virgin sheets of foolscap I have to besmirch with more or less well chosen words in order to produce a 60,000 word book.

One of the essentials is to create a vacuum in my life which can only be satisfactorily filled by some form of creative work - whether it be writing, painting, sculpting, composing or just building a boat. To give my hands something to do, I decided one day to damned well sit down and write a book.

The therapy was successful. And while I still do a certain amount of writing in the midst of my London Life, it is on my annual visits to Jamaica that all my books have been written.

But, failing a hideaway such as I possess, I can recommend hotel bedrooms as far removed from your usual "life" as possible. Your anonymity in these drab surroundings and your lack of friends and distractions will create a vacuum which should force you into a writing mood and, if your pocket is shallow, into a mood which will also make you write fast and with application. I do it all on the typewriter, using six fingers. The act of typing is far less exhausting than the act of writing, and you end up with a more or less clean manuscript.

The next essential is to keep strictly to a routine. I write for about three hours in the morning and I do another hour's work between six and seven in the evening. At the end of this I reward myself by numbering the pages and putting them away in a spring-back folder. The whole of this four hours of daily work is devoted to writing narrative.

I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used "terrible" six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. By following my formula, you write 2,000 words a day and you aren't disgusted with them until the book is finished, which will be in about six weeks.

I don't even pause from writing to choose the right word or to verify spelling or a fact. All this can be done when your book is finished.

When my book is completed I spend about a week going through it and correcting the most glaring errors and rewriting passages. I then have it properly typed with chapter headings and all the rest of the trimmings. I then go through it again, have the worst pages retyped and send it off to my publisher.

They are a sharp-eyed bunch at Jonathan Cape and, apart from commenting on the book as a whole, they make detailed suggestions which I either embody or discard. Then the final typescript goes to the printer and in due course the galley or page proofs are there and you can go over them with a fresh eye. Then the book is published and you start getting letters from people saying that Vent Vert is made by Balmain and not by Dior, that the Orient Express has vacuum and not hydraulic brakes, and that you have mousseline sauce and not Bearnaise with asparagus.

Such mistakes are really nobody's fault except the author's, and they make him blush furiously when he sees them in print. But the majority of the public does not mind them or, worse, does not even notice them, and it is a dig at the author's vanity to realise how quickly the reader's eye skips across the words which it has taken him so many months to try to arrange in the right sequence.

But what, after all these labours, are the rewards of writing and, in my case, of writing thrillers?

First of all, they are financial. You don't make a great deal of money from royalties and translation rights and so forth and, unless you are very industrious and successful, you could only just about live on these profits, but if you sell the serial rights and the film rights, you do very well. Above all, being a successful writer is a good life. You don't have to work at it all the time and you carry your office around in your head. And you are far more aware of the world around you.

Writing makes you more alive to your surroundings and, since the main ingredient of living, though you might not think so to look at most human beings, is to be alive, this is quite a worthwhile by-product of writing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving and Awards

Bayou Writers Contest Winners, from left to right: Chris Baldauf, Marsha Kushner, Sylvia Ney, Angie Dilmore, Marcia Dutton, Beth Savoie, Beverly Martin and Linda Todd.

Bayou Writers hosted several writing contests this summer and I placed in two categories! I won first place in nonfiction and second place in fiction. Several of my friends were fortunate enough to place in those categories as well as poetry. Congratulations to all the winners! For more details, you can read here.

It's the week of Thanksgiving in the United States. I'll be spending the next week with family, friends, and finishing several projects. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful holiday full of good times.

For some fun reading, here are ten reasons I'm thankful to be a writer.

What will you be doing this week?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo Gone Wild

If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month and following the daily word count, then you should have approximately 25,000 words by Friday.
I’m doing well on my word count (about 28,000), but not on the story itself. Even though I started with a rough outline and plot ideas, my characters are not cooperating. They are all fighting for center stage. They want their own story. What started out as one book idea now seems to be three slammed together.
I’m torn as to whether I should continue the tale or let it split into three different ones as the characters want. If I split it, I may have enough for three novellas, but probably not full length books. However, if I keep going as I am, I’m not sure I’ll do them justice.
Has this ever happened to you? Thoughts, suggestions, tips? How is your NaNoWriMo project progressing?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Joys of a Great Conference

Today I enjoyed great speakers, friends and fellowship at the Bayou Writers Group ninth annual writing conference. Below are a few photos I took.

Our speakers were D.B. Grady - Master of Ceremonies - http://dbgrady.com/Hope Clark - Funds for Writer and author of Lowcountry Bribe http://chopeclark.com/Jessica Ferguson published in both fiction and nonfiction: http://jessyferguson.blogspot.com/Dr. Stella Nesanovich Poetry http://www.nesanovich.com/Linda Yezak – Writer and Editor http://lindayezak.com/Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy Folktelling and poetry http://www.monalisasaloy.com/Welcome.html, and Brooks Sherman – Literary agent. You can find him on Twitter at @byobrooks.

Have you ever been to a writer's conference? Some of them can be pretty expensive (as in a couple thousand dollars), but there are always some reasonable ones as well. For example, ours (BWG) only costs @ $30 if you register early enough and $50 at the door. http://www.bayouwritersgroup.blogspot.com/p/bwg-conference-schedule-for-november-10.html

The Jambalaya conference in Houma, Louisiana in the spring will be @ $30 and there are A LOT of writers/agents/editors etc. here: https://www.facebook.com/jambalayawriters

Here are a few FREE conferences: http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2011/08/free-writers-conferences.html  and  http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2011/08/free-muse-online-writers-conference.html

So how do you know if a conference is right for you? Research who will be speaking at them and if they have anything to offer in your areas of interest.  Start planning to treat yourself to at least one conference in 2013. Here are a few other conference lists to get you started:

The American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference
Christian Writers Conferences
Mt. Herman Christian Writers Conference
Mystery Conferences
Poets and Writers Conferences
Romance Writers Conference
Writers Conferences - Newpages
Writers Conferences - Shawguides

What have been some of your favorite conferences?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four Great Coming-of-Age Novels

by Melanie Foster
I've come across a myriad of books and novels in my life that have had a significant, lasting impact on me. What's more interesting is that many of the most memorable books I've ever read were ones I discovered during my young-adult years in college. Indeed, the four or so years of college is the perfect time for readers to start exploring numerous genres they can continue reading throughout their twenties, thirties, and so forth. In fact, as the mother of two college students, I always make sure my kids have a good book in their hands so they can become proficient, savvy readers.
Below are four novels, I think, would be of interest to the college generation. Inevitably, this post leaves out many great novels that are worthy of attention. With that said, if you feel I've overlooked an important one, please leave a comment and let me know what I've omitted and why it's a great read for college students.
1)  This Side of Paradise - Written in 1920 by well-known American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, "This Side of Paradise" takes place at Princeton University and is themed around several young adults who must deal with the perils of World-War I in a time of extreme and inevitable change in the United States. For any young adult who has had to face a grown-up experience much too young, this book will definitely resonate. I read "This Side of Paradise" during my college days, and I often revisit its beautifully written passages. If you're a fan of "The Great Gatsby," then you'll definitely appreciate "This Side of Paradise."
2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Before it was a film, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" was a young-adult book by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the screenplay for Rent. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is a beautiful yet haunting story about a shy teenager named Charlie who is beginning the freshman year of high school shortly after his best friend commits suicide. At the start of school, Charlie meets two quirky seniors, Patrick and Samantha, who open Charlie's eyes up to the joys, perils, and difficulties of growing up. This book is about the importance of savoring life's every moment and being as much alive as possible within each of these passing moments.
3) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" is by Junt Diaz, a world-famous writer whose bestsellers include "This is How You Lose Her" and "Drown." "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" is about a young man named Oscar, an intelligent, gifted child from the Dominican Republic who grows up in a ghetto New Jersey neighborhood.  As Oscar grows into a young man, he becomes an overweight nerd and drifts into desperation, devoted to fitting in with the rest of society. The story is told through the eyes of Oscar, his poor mother, his pessimistic sister, and his aging grandmother. It's a witty, addictive read that highlights those painful, yet inevitable, coming-of-age years.
4) The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite writers of all time. Her most successful novel, "The Interpreter of Maladies," won a Pulitzer Prize and has been credited as one of our generation's best novels. Although I adore "The Interpreter of Maladies," I think "The Namesake" is Lahiri's greatest work of art. "The Namesake" is a about the Ganguli family, an immigrant family from Calcutta, India that is adjusting to numerous cultural transformations and differences after coming to America. The book's opening introduces us to Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, a married couple that settles in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has a son named Gogol Ganguli, who must adjust to life as a first-generation immigrant in with Indian-born, Indian-raised parents. Lahiri creates a powerful sympathy for Gogol, who severely struggles with being a first-generation immigrant. Through Lahiri, we uncover the power of family names and cultural traditions and how they have a tendency of defining who we will become. It's a great read for any foreign-exchange student who is leaving the comforts of home for the first time and exploring unchartered territory.
These are just some of the many books that would be beneficial reads to college students. Feel free to utilize the comments section to let me know other books I've left out.

Melanie Foster is a guest post writer and professional blogger who writes about all things academia for onlinephdprograms.com and other education-related websites. When Melanie's not writing, she's reading great novels and books. Please leave your questions and comments for Melanie below.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Then There Were Five

In case you haven’t heard, the Big 6 are now the Big 5. Last weekend Random House and Penguin announced a merger.
Supposedly, these two major players in the book publishing industry have teamed up in order to better keep up with trends and offer more options to new writers. I believe the actual wording on the merger was to “better take on emerging markets and the digital publishing era.”
Penguin Random House, as it will be called by late 2013 when the two companies are scheduled to officially merge, will include all of the publishing divisions and imprints of the two companies in the U.S. and several other countries around the world. Until then, it’s business as usual for the two companies.
Still curious what this merger means for you? Agent Richard Curtis has one opinion and so does The Passive Voice.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Future's So Bright...

It's been a while since I've bragged on myself or a fellow author, so today you get both!

The November issue of Southern Writers magazine features my interview of Sci-fi author Alex J. Cavanaugh, better known to some of you as “Ninja Captain Alex,” founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and co-host of the popular “A to Z April Blogging Challenge".

You can order a digital or a print version of this magazine. While a bit expensive at 10.99 (plus shipping) per print issue or one year (six issues) for 49.99 (plus shipping), this magazine is printed in beautiful and high quality. The digital version is a bit cheaper.

Side note: Today marks the first day of National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo). I'll be joining writers from all around the world as we attempt to reach the 50,000 word mark before December 1. Best of luck to everyone in their writing endeavors!

What are you working to complete or publish?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!

This is my pair of sweet little pixies - ages 5 and 3.

We've been celebrating with church and fall festivals, dance class parties, school parties and will be trick/trunk or treating tomorrow. (I'm so candied out!)

Now that the temperatures are finally dropping I just want to stay home cuddled up with a good book. (For a list of ten of my haunted picks, see here.)

Interested in a "Halloween Contest For Writers"? Try this one.

Need a last minute halloween costume idea? Try these 10-minute literary costume ideas.

How are you celebrating this season?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ready, Set, Write...

November is National Novel Writing Month: http://www.nanowrimo.org/  The goal is to begin with an idea on November 1 and finish a 50,000 word novel by midnight November 30. Obviously, the manuscript won't be error free on December 1, but your complete story line will be set down.

I know several of you have accepted this challenge and I look forward to reading your work. This will be my third year to participate. (I didn’t finish the previous two due to hospital stays – keeping my fingers crossed this doesn’t happen again!) I have my idea ready. You will be my accountability partners in seeing where it leads. Hopefully, this won't land in the dust pile with all of my other unfinished or unsubmitted works. I'm simultaneously trying to meet a few other deadlines.

Best of luck to everyone in their writing endeavors!

Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you in the past?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Writing Classes You Can Take at Any Age

by Nadia Jones
I'm utterly astounded by the number of people who think taking classes is something you stop doing after graduating college. A person should continue to learn and educate themselves long after they've left the ivory tower.
Taking writing classes is one of the greatest ways to hone and develop a writing craft, and you don't have to be enrolled in college or a member of an association to have these writing classes available to you. There are a myriad of writing classes you can take all the time – you just have to know where to find them. For those of you who have an interest in attending a few writing classes in your spare time, here are three types available to writers at any age and any experience level.
Community classes - Believe it or not, there are numerous writing groups in most every community and city. Every day, writers join these groups and associations as a way of meeting and collaborating with other writers. Many of these community groups also host classes where members will go over writing exercises, edit in groups, revise written pieces, provide honest feedback, host brainstorming sessions, and help other members move past their writer's block. Even though there might not be a designated instructor in these classes, the fact that you're a part of a fellowship of talented writers will greatly aid you in creating intriguing work.
One-on-one mentor sessions - If group classes aren't your thing, perhaps you should consider finding a mentor to look over your writing work from time to time. When I began my professional writing career, I came across published authors, literary critics, and freelance writers that I recruited as my mentors. Whenever I'd start working on a new writing piece, I'd ask them to tell me their honest thoughts about my early drafts. Even though my mentors weren't necessarily licensed teachers or professors, they helped me tremendously. All of my mentors gave blunt, sound advice that I may not have gotten in a traditional class. I trusted their years of wisdom more than I did my former college professors, simply because they had already found the success I hoped to one day attain. If you haven't already, seek out a handful of mentors you can reach out to when you need help with your writing work. These mentors understand the numerous professional struggles you face every day in writing, revising, editing, and publishing, so they're an asset you'll want to keep around.
Online classes - This last one gets a lot of debate, but I thoroughly believe in the power of online writing classes. Whether or not you're enrolled in college, you can still take online writing classes, and the good news is that many colleges and associations offer online writing classes for free. (For a list of some, see this link). Furthermore, many of the teachers that run these classes are respected experts in the writing field, such as published authors, magazine editors, literary critics, etc. Naturally, they are just as attuned and aware about what is going on in the writing field, since they also work in the industry. Lastly, online writing classes work well with a variety of lifestyles and schedules, so whether you're a full-time mom, part-time freelance writer, recently graduated newspaper reporter, etc., they can work for you!
Don't think you have to enroll in college once more to enjoy the benefits of helpful writing classes. See if any of these three class options suit your wants and needs.
Nadia Jones is an educator and freelance writer who writes for onlinecollege.org as well as other sites related to education. In her spare time, Nadia likes to research and discuss innovative ways to use technology in the classroom.