On Book Covers

On Book Covers

Book covers are supposed to serve as little billboards that tell the reader what kind of book they are and invite the reader to pick them up and examine them further. Read the back cover copy, maybe, or browse chapter 1. What makes a good cover? I’m probably not the person who should be answering this question because I’m not very visual and am terrible at telling good covers from bad. I’m so bad that my writer friends laugh at…

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Remember the Dog

Remember the Dog

I’m drafting a book tentatively called The Trickster. Its central character is Dilly, who appears as a secondary character in The Wind Reader. There, she’s nearly always accompanied by her dog, Tuc. I can’t remember why I originally gave Dilly a dog. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. And Tuc turned out to be useful to the three street kids who mobbed up together in that book. He guarded them. He hunted the rats in the abandoned…

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First Drafts: First Paragraph Edition

First Drafts: First Paragraph Edition

On “The Late Show,” Stephen Colbert occasionally does a bit called “First Drafts.” He shows greeting cards and then what he claims were the first drafts of those cards, all of them hilariously wrong. I’ve written before about how often the first draft of a book’s first paragraphs go wrong, usually in ways I don’t find hilarious. So I thought you might be interested in seeing early and final drafts of the openings of some of my novels. I can’t show…

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How to write disabled characters

How to write disabled characters

A hopeful current trend in fiction is the press for diverse characters. I’ve mostly seen this call for inclusiveness aimed at diversity in sexual or racial identity, but we need to open up the kind of characters we read and write even further. If we want to write inclusive books, we need to include disabled characters. On June 27, my publisher, Inspired Quill, will release The Wysman, a sequel to The Wind Reader. The Wind Readerfeatured a group of three street kids: Doniver, Jarka,…

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Book trailer for THE WYSMAN

Book trailer for THE WYSMAN

My fabulous publisher, Inspired Quill, made a book trailer for The Wysman. It makes even me want to read the book! THE WYSMAN is available for pre-order and will release on June 27. “The Grabber is just a fright tale.” Former street kid Jarka was born with a crooked foot and uses a crutch, but that no longer matters now that he’s an apprentice Wysman, training to advise the king. When poor kids start to go missing from the city’s streets, though,…

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On Interviewing Characters

On Interviewing Characters

One thing I sometimes do in the name of character development is interview my characters. I have a list of questions I reuse that fit my genre, plus I add some questions that seem right for the particular character. It’s possible to conduct an interview as part of the preparation for drafting, but I get to know my characters by watching them act. So I usually wait until I finish my first draft. Below are some of the questions I…

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How Not To Write Talking Heads

How Not To Write Talking Heads

Dialogue is a crucial element in fiction. A writer uses it to convey information, reveal character, or show conflict. But the characters delivering that dialogue should feel like real, physical people in a physical world. In other words, they shouldn’t look like talking heads. Action tags Typically, writers try to avoid talking heads by interspersing character actions between the lines of dialogue. For example, the characters may be sharing a meal, so they take a drink or cut a slice…

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On Book Clubs

On Book Clubs

Until recently, I’d never belonged to a regular book club. When I lived in Iowa, I did belong to one sponsored by the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, but the members were all writers who were interested in discussing technique, so I thought they probably weren’t typical. When I moved to Illinois, though, the building complex I live in turned out to have two book clubs, and I was invited to join both. I read all the time,…

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Writing During a Pandemic

Writing During a Pandemic

You want to know what I’ve learned about writing during a pandemic? It’s hard. And for me at least, maybe impossible in any sustained way. That’s what I’ve learned. For the first couple of weeks, I felt guilty because I had all this extra time while I was locked down at home, and yet I was producing nothing much longer than a tweet. But then, last night, at my weekly writer group meeting, now conducted on Zoom, someone else said…

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Overcoming Writer’s Block

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Sometimes writing is easy. You’re in the zone. The words pour out. Good words! But sometimes, writing is so difficult it feels impossible. You have the dreaded writer’s block. There can be different reasons for writer’s block, and overcoming it depends on why you have it. Fear, boredom, and unarticulated problems with the book can all play a role. Here are some suggestions that have helped me manage to keep writing. Fear Writing sometimes feels like undressing in public. You…

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