Getting Ready for Writer’s Digest Conference 2019! (Plus, Five Quick Tips for Preparing for Your First Writing Conference)

It’s almost time for Writer’s Digest Conference, and oh my GOODNESS am I bursting with excitement! One week from now, I’ll be in New York City for this amazing literary conference that’s put on every year by Writer’s Digest magazine. And it’s going to be so much fun!

It doesn’t matter that this will be my fourth time at WDC. The thrill of learning more about the craft and business of writing, connecting with writers, reuniting with editor colleagues and my fellow staff writers at DIY MFA, and spending a few days in the Big Apple never gets old. (Oh, and N.K. Jemisin, one of my favorite authors, is delivering the opening keynote speech! Yay!) And coming from an introvert, that says a lot.

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Wanted: Guest Posts for Tolkien Reading Event (March 2017)

Calling all Tolkienites! Pages Unbound is looking for bloggers, readers, and writers who are interested in participating in next year’s Tolkien Reading Event. The 2016 edition in March featured a fantastic mix of Tolkien-related book reviews, discussion posts, and fun quizzes. (Example: I discovered my Hobbit name was Ferdinand Smallburrow of Buckleberry. *lol*) I was also on one several bloggers who was interviewed for their Tolkien Talks series, and I really enjoyed answering Briana and Krysta’s questions and chatting about Tolkien and his stories with their readers.

If you’d like to take part in the 2017 Tolkien Reading Event, follow this reblog to Pages Unbound’s original post and fill out their online form. 🙂

One Fantasy Writer’s Secret Weapon: Archery Lessons

Here’s one thing I didn’t expect as a result of the 2016 Writer’s Digest Conference: Be a guest blogger for one of this year’s presenters! I connected with Ben Sobieck after his fantastic presentation on writing weapons in fiction, then told him how I had taken archery lessons as research for my WIP. And as the saying goes, the rest is history. 😉 Check out my guest post “One Fantasy Writer’s Secret Weapon: Archery Lessons” now at Ben’s site, The Writer’s Guide to Weapons.

NOTE: If you read my 5 on the 5th earlier this year about five things I learned from archery lessons, much of the content will look familiar. This guest post is a “re-purposing” of that original article for Ben’s audience, done with my permission.

The Writer's Guide to Weapons

bow and arrow lessons for writers of fiction The best way to write about weapons in fiction is to get your hands on some. If you can swing it, one-on-one instruction in a controlled environment is best. (Jamie Woods image via Today’s guest post comes from fantasy writer SaraLetourneau, someone I came in touch with via the 2016 Writer’s Digest Conference. When she mentioned she took a 10-week archery lesson to better understand the weapons in her stories, I couldn’t help but ask for a post for this site. Be sure to check out her website here for more of her terrific work. Enjoy!


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Submit Your Questions for a Blogoversary Interview with Me!

Happy Blogoversary

The poll results are in – and the “Interview with Sara” option won by a landslide! So, for this year’s blogoversary, YOU the readers have the chance to grill ME with questions. How does that sound?  😉

Today’s post is a call for questions for the interview, which will post on Saturday, July 9th (the official blogoversary date). You can ask me anything about writing, books and authors I’ve read, tea, music, something else – it’s up to you! But first, in case you need help thinking of questions…

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Tea Time at Reverie: Inspired By Jane’s Donwell Abbey Black Tea

What happens when you combine black tea with a wine often used in Italian cooking? You get Inspired By Jane’s Donwell Abbey, a black tea with cinnamon and marsala wine. It’s not a combination you see much from your typical tea vendor – and as I discovered, it was actually quite delicious. Read my review of Donwell Abbey at A Bibliophile’s Reverie to learn more.

And yes, Donwell Abbey is another tea inspired by one of Jane Austen’s novels. 😉

A Bibliophile's Reverie

Inspired By Jane logo

“It was a sweet view—sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.”
– Jane Austen, “Emma”

I confess that Emma is one of the few Jane Austen novels I haven’t read. But when Inspired By Jane asked which tea samples I’d like to try, I was immediately intrigued by Donwell Abbey. Named after the the estate owned by Emma’s neighbor (and future love interest) George Knightley, this black tea boasts a unusual yet appealing combination of cinnamon and marsala wine flavors.

Hmmmmm. I do like the sweet, tangy taste of marsala wine sauces in chicken marsala and chicken saltimbocca. So, how will it blend with cinnamon and black tea? Let’s brew some and find out, shall we?

The Basics

Donwell Abbey canInspired By Jane’s Description:“Almost a ‘gentleman’s tea,’ but everyone will love this rich, full-bodied black tea…

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Should Authors Write Negative Book Reviews?

Recently, Cristina Guarino and I were talking via Twitter and email about whether authors (both published and as-yet unpublished) should refrain from writing negative book reviews. As a writer who hopes to be published one day, Cristina was concerned whether her reviews – even if they were constructive and offered strengths as well as weaknesses – could damage her reputation in the long run. This reblogged post is the result of her musings, and I found it fascinating and well-argued. In fact, it made me think about my own book reviewing “policy.”

When I was a freelance music journalist, I was obligated to be fair yet honest about the music I listened to. I’d talk about what I liked as well as what I thought could use improvement, but never veered into snarky or disrespectful territory. That’s been my approach for book reviews, too. And though I love or like most everything I read, there have been a few negative outliers…

The mentality I’ve had is that over time, if I were to become a published author, I’d keep reviewing books I enjoyed but refrain from reviewing anything less than than a “3 out of 5.” After reading Cristina’s piece, though, I wonder if I should adopt that change now. What do you think? Do you mind occasional negative (yet constructive, not blasting) reviews from “writers in progress” who are also working on their own novels? Or should they be more mindful of how those reviews might reflect upon them? Please don’t hesitate to answer honestly. I’d like to know if there’s something I should do differently, or stop doing altogether, if my current reviewing method might prove harmful later on.

Tea Time at Reverie: Elinor’s Heart Black Tea from Bingley’s Teas

English Breakfast fans, here’s a black tea with a literary slant that you might like! Elinor’s Heart from Bingley’s Teas combines bright Ceylon with jammy Kenyan leaves for a well-rounded cup that celebrates the more level-headed and rational Dashwood sister from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Learn more about Elinor’s Heart – and why I prefer it steeped on the longer end of its brew range – at A Bibliophile’s Reverie!

A Bibliophile's Reverie

Bingleys logo

“I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure.… At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or, at least, almost so.”
Elinor Dashwood, Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”

If Marianne Dashwood represents the “sensibility” of Sense and Sensibility, her older sister Elinor would be the “sense.” She’s practical, well-mannered, and rational, making her the perfect – if not only – choice as her mother’s counselor and the Dashwoods’ accountant. Even when Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars, her logic overrules her heart, and she places her responsibilities for her family over her desire for marriage…

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Getting Real About Writer’s Burn Out and Social Media Demands #IWSG

Do you feel from time to time that blogging and social media can be draining? I do – more with social media than with blogging. Some days it tires me out or frustrates me, or I have absolutely no desire to log on. That’s when I know I need to take a break for a day or two (or more). It also explains why one of my least favorite bits of “writer platform” advice is that we should be on as many social media sites as possible (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc etc etc.) and constantly participating. How can someone have enough time and energy to do that without cutting into their writing time or (in this case) burning themselves out?

Earlier this week, I discovered this article at Cate Russell-Cole’s blog Octopus Ink. Not only did I relate to and agree with her points, but I also liked the tips she offered on how to deal with social media burn-out and maintaining a healthy online presence without overextending yourself. Some of the comments after the article are wonderfully insightful, too. I hope you’ll enjoy this – and maybe cheer about its message – as much as I did.


Drafting the jacket copy for your novel or the story pitch you’ll include in your query letter? Here are some tips to keep in mind, courtesy of Home Of High Fantasy.


Authors love to debate their craft, and few topics are more hotly argued than the humble blurb. I say humble, for it’s tiny compared to a book, and yet it’s the keystone that supports the relationship between reader and writer. Few people buy a book solely because of its cover. Most will read the first paragraph of the story, or some random pages. Some will look at reviews. But everyone reads the blurb. So, what makes a good one?

The people who know the most about blurbs – the big publishers, don’t share. Knowledge is power, and in this case it’s sales too.

Self-published authors share generously, but here lies a morass of personal preference, brilliance, naivety, truths and half-truths.

Anyway, the best place to start learning how to write a good blurb is with readers. Why do they choose one book over another? So, here are my tips –…

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Guest Post by Alex Hurst: What Can Traditional Publishing Offer Authors?

An informative and well-argued article by fellow fantasy writer Alex Hurst, posted at Nicholas Rossis’ blog. I couldn’t have written my own explanation for wanting to pursue traditional publishing route over self-publishing any better myself.

It’s worth mentioning that Alex approached this topic from a respectful standpoint, too. She acknowledges that some writers will prefer to self-publish, and in her response to readers’ comments she congratulates each writer on their individual publishing choices. This show of support is so important. I also believe that we writers should respect each other’s choices when it comes to publishing, and we celebrate each other’s successes regardless of those choices. I know a number of writers who have self-published or are planning to self-publish – and I’m thrilled that they’re doing what they think is right for them. 🙂

So, whether you want to traditionally publish or self-publish, I hope you find this as enlightening and encouraging as I did.

Nicholas C. Rossis

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Alex Hurst

As you know, I’ve self-published some of my books, and published traditionally others. When I posted a (somewhat cheeky) infographic about Self-publishing vs. Traditional Publishing, my friend Alex Hurst pointed out that there’s lot more to be gained from following the traditional path than suggested by the post.

After she had made a few great arguments in the comments, I asked her to write up a guest post on the subject, as she had obviously put a lot of thought into the subject. She came up with the great post below. Enjoy!

3 Reasons to Go Traditional

These days, self-publishing is all the rage, and with the prominence of DIY publishers like Amazon, Smashwords, and Draft-2-Digital, it’s not hard to see why. Authors can take full control of the creative process, editing only what they want to, choosing (or making) a cover they feel presents their book faithfully, and distributing to whatever…

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