Monday, November 30, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from November 23-27

5. "11 Websites That Pay Freelance Writers" on Work Awesome (Lynn Foster)


If you work as a blogger or freelancer (or both) then I invite you to visit this post for a detailed list of eleven different submission opportunities ... and these places pay. Not all of them do. And while a byline and shout-out is nice, the extra income might be even nicer with the holidays looming.

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4. "7 Productivity Tools to Help You Manage Your Freelance Writing Time" on The Write Life (Meryl Williams)


Now that you've got those eleven new submission opportunities (see #5 above) you'll need to find time in your schedule to write the article. Do you know where all of your time goes every day? (I sure don't.) Check out this list of tools that will definitely shed some light on how to spend the 86,400 seconds you have every day.

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3. "6 Ways to Stay Creative as a Writer (When You're a Parent)" on The Writer's Dig blog at Writer's Digest (Lisa Lepki, guest columnist)


Being a parent can sometimes feel like running from one crisis to another. You're bailing water, smothering flames, wiping up crumbs ... or maybe all three. When all of that everyday stuff gets in the way of your creativity, you sit down at your desk exhausted and dried up. Good news: you're not the only parent in this position. Here's a post by a mom and writer who speaks words of wisdom from long experience.

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2. "How to Level Up Your Writing Habit" on The Write Practice (Emily Wenstrom)


If you play or have ever played video games or computer games, you're familiar with the idea of "leveling up." You start a new game, and you're at level one, the bottom rung. You pass all the tests, defeat the gargoyles, and puzzle out the encrypted codes, and then you're on to level two. But you couldn't have gotten to level two without mastering level one first. What if it's the same way with your writing habit? Read this post for excellent advice.

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1. "Free Advice for Writers" on The Kill Zone (Joe Moore)


So you're a writer. You put words on a page, day after day, and revise them once, twice, again and again. Sometimes it's easy to get complacent. Here's a fabulous collection of expert writing tips from the best of the best in the industry. They're great reminders of what you probably know to be true ... but, hey, it never hurts to be reminded.

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What's the best writing advice you've ever received? What writing advice do you need to be reminded about?

At what "level" is your writing habit? What are you going to do to take it to the next level this week?

How productive are you? When are you most productive? What's your favorite method of staying on task?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

For What Are You Most Thankful This Year?

In lieu of my usual Thursday book review, I bow to the instance of one of my favorite holidays and allow it center-stage today.

I'd like to wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving, rife with excellent company, meaningful connections, good food, and time for rest, relaxation, entertainment, and fun.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at

And if you feel led, drop a line in the comments in answer to this question:

What's the one thing for which you are most thankful this year?

It does require taking time for an inventory, remembering everything that's happened over the last twelve months, thinking about everything you could write down in answer.

And I know how hard it is to settle on one thing, so if you have to fudge it, let's just say at least one thing and as many as three things for which you're thankful.

The one thing for which I am most thankful this year is my faith, which has carried me time and again back to the Cross through more challenges and over or around more obstacles than I would ever have chosen to experience on my own. It hasn't been pretty, but I'm still here, thanks to no effort of my own.

Your turn. What are you most thankful for this year?

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Review: "In Silent Graves" (Gary A. Braunbeck)

Suppose you had the ideal life: loving spouse, dream career, well-kept house. It's so easy, in that situation, to become complacent and think that nothing will ever change.

But, of course, something always does.

Here's the real question. What if nothing was as it seemed?

Author Gary A. Braunbeck explores just that situation, and that question, in his supernatural thriller, In Silent Graves, from his The Cedar Hills series.

The work has garnered dozens of admiring reviews. What I can provide here is a degree of admiration cloaked in something like overwhelmed confusion ... not quite to the point of throwing the book across the room in frustration, but I have to say that that thought crossed my mind more than once as I read.

The story is one of the most intricately woven and complicated I've ever read, and for maintaining all the plot threads and characters and keeping the timeline straight when it is far from chronological (or easily explained ...), I feel great admiration toward the author and his creative prowess. It takes a very gifted, precise mind to keep track of so much information.

I nearly classified In Silent Graves as literary fiction, actually, rather than the commercial-sounding "thriller." Reading it is like reading a work by Dickens, or Austen, or Bronte (pick one). Instead of the usual "Plot Point A to Plot Point B with Subplot Point AA interwoven and here comes Plot Point C with Subplot Point BB attached ..." that is so typical of thrillers and suspense novels, Braunbeck's writing is rich in descriptors, almost archaic in sentence structure (if you cringe over run-on sentences or paragraphs that take up pages and pages at a time, you may want to look elsewhere for entertainment).

At times, I felt thoroughly lost in all the lovely writing, perhaps wondering where the plot line had gone and how far back I'd have to retrace my steps until I picked it up again, and sometimes wondering whether all the literary "fluff" was really necessary for the story. Still, the style remains consistent throughout, and for that, I can express further admiration. The work is a long one.

In many ways, the novel is a kind of frame ... a story within a story (within a story, within a story, sometimes). Think the sick kid in bed whose grandfather reads him The Princess Bride one afternoon; that situation is the frame for the story about Buttercup and Westley and all the others in The Princess Bride.

There are a lot of stories related and pondered and withheld in In Silent Graves, making the feel of the work almost one of sitting around a campfire trading tale after tale with those around you. That the work remains consistent to its shocking conclusion in the face of so many components is, again, remarkable.

I suppose it's more in my nature to prefer a linear story line, rather than one that wanders all over creation (albeit with aplomb and great attention to detail). In that regard, I cannot say that I would reread Braunbeck's novel at a later time. If, however, the idea of a complex, thickly woven and -written literary thriller with supernatural elements appeals to you, than I can recommend no one better.

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Author: Gary A. Braunbeck
Title: In Silent Graves
Series: The Cedar Hills Series
Publisher: JournalStone
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Library Thing in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from November 16-20

5. "5 Strategies to Banish Creative Blocks" on Elephant Journal (Suzanne Chadwick)


You're working along and you hit a block. You know that feeling: that hopeless obstacle where you can't get your creative mind working. We've all been there. What do you do to get moving? How about trying these five different strategies to get past that block, from asking questions to being patient with yourself?

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4. "Ideation Vacation: How to Come Up with New Article Ideas" on Writer's Digest's There Are No Rules (Zachary Petit, guest columnist)


Sometimes the well runs dry. Imagination sparks and spurts but refuses to take off. What do you do in those times, especially when you've got a publication to which to contribute articles? Remember to keep in mind Petit's writing tips. Take inventory of your own expertise. Read niche-specific articles. And many more.

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3. "Email Is the Best Way to Reach Millennials" on Harvard Business Review (Kristin Naragon)


Almost every business today wants to reach that perfect target audience, always growing, always learning, technology-savvy: millennials. What's the best way to connect with that generation? The answer is email. Make sure you're doing your best to get your brand out there in front of your target audience.

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2. "Don't Scrimp on an Editor" on Writer's Digest's The Writer's Dig (Leslie Johansen Nack, guest columnist)


Writing the book isn't enough. Finishing the book isn't enough. Celebrating isn't enough ... although that's an absolutely necessary step. No, you need an editor, and a professional, at that. Someone who can take the product of your imagination and your creativity, and transform it into a streamlined manuscript that represents and embodies all of your intentions. Here's a first-person testimonial to the importance of finding your perfect editor.

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1. "The Best Time of Day to Write --- According to Science" on Ragan's PR Daily (Kristin Piombino)


Are you a morning person? Wake with the birds, mind buzzing with ideas, fingers itching to be productive? Or an evening person, after everybody else has gone to bed and you have the place to yourself? Or something in between? Do you know what science says about it? You might learn something. Check it out!

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That's the lineup for last week. When do you find that you focus best? What do you enjoy most about the writing process? What drives you crazy about it? Where do you get your ideas? (A question that is probably the bane of almost every author's existence.) How do you banish writer's block?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: "BOYSTOWN: Season Four" (Jake Biondi)

Things like love and lust, trust and betrayal, contentment and anger are sometimes so closely identified or intertwined that it's impossible to separate the individual strands.

Now, in BOYSTOWN: Season Four, the fourth installment of the BOYSTOWN series by author Jake Biondi, you too can read along in cinematic format the continuing story about the Ciancio and Mancini families and their feud, the terrible restaurant fire that destroyed so many lives and relationships, the various permutations of those relationships (most of them gay), and the new-and-improved evil force waiting in the shadows to unleash its full wrath.

Readers familiar with the first three seasons of the series will be gratified to find that the same minimalist style of writing --- akin to what you'd be watching were the series televised --- carries over to this most recent addition. Literary fiction, this is not ... it's more of a contemporary drama, bordering sometimes on the melodramatic, for genre.

And it makes tremendous sense that the author chooses to write with such spare, sparse prose. Otherwise, if there were flowery descriptions and long, thoughtful monologues or inner dialogues, it would be impossible to keep track of the dozens of different story lines at play here.

On occasion, it does feel next to impossible to follow the various relational amalgamations that take place: Person A who used to date Person B is now dating Person C but misses Person B enough to risk the current relationship with Person C, while Person C figures it out and runs to Person D about the possible betrayal, and Person D also happens to have once dated and slept with (or only one of the two) Person A and Person B ... 

Still, what makes for challenging reading on the page (one of these days, I'm going to make good on my threat to sit down and chart out a diagram or blueprint or family tree, of sorts, to track all the different failed, current, former, and potential relationships going on in the story) will no doubt make far more sense on screen at some point, with individuals given their own respective faces, styles, and gestures to differentiate.

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Author: Jake Biondi
Title: BOYSTOWN: Season Four
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Review: "Aegis Incursion" (S.S. Segran)

Everybody keeps secrets. Some keep secrets by choice: things they don't want to discuss or even think about, let alone pass along. Some keep secrets accidentally, because they can't recollect what happened before.

And some are made to keep secrets, whether they know it or not. What happens when the secret knowledge that you carry makes you both the cure to an evil of international proportions, and the target of those propagating that evil?

Enter Aegis Incursion, the second book in the Aegis League series of action-adventure, apocalyptic science fiction novels by author S.S. Segran.

Yes, you read that genre correctly.

And yet, despite the apparent disparity of those sub-genres fitting together, Segran handles the crossovers seamlessly and with aplomb. I never got lost in the shuffle, never felt too jumbled to bother turning the page, never wondered what on earth I was actually reading.

That kind of precision is the mark of an expert author.

In the best tradition of action-adventure novels written for young adults, as are these, the protagonist isn't a single person: it's actually five (or more, depending on your point of view) young people, friends who have banded together and been bonded to one another through experiences you've only ever imagined sharing with your high school bests. Each of those characters is easy to like, sympathetic, and fascinating, with his or her respective abilities and personality, making for a compelling read from start to finish.

And you'll never be bored, on the off chance that the characters don't appeal to you (they will --- I promise). That's because the plot rivals those of most well-written contemporary thrillers and suspense novels I've had the pleasure of reading. There's always something happening. It's usually bad.

Nothing better to keep me entertained through the story.

And though the novels are written for young adults, don't hesitate to pick them up if you're "over age." I was riveted, captivated all the way through, and it's been a long time since anyone could categorize me as a "young adult."

I can't offer higher praise than that.

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Author: S.S. Segran
Title: Aegis Incursion
Series: Aegis League (#2)
ISBN: 978-0-99108-135-6
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from November 9-13

5. "6 Ways Work Will Change in 2016" on Fast Company (Jared Lindzon)


Do you know what work will look like in 2016? And, most importantly, do you know how those changes will affect you? Whether writer, freelancer, blogger, or beyond, you need to be prepared for how the work place and the work force will change in the coming months. Suddenly, mainstream may look more like remote workers, independent contractors, and the like. Are you ready?

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4. "Ten Top Tips for Writing a Novel" on (Sally O'Reilly)


How about some unexpected writing tips for getting the novel in you ... on paper? With NaNoWriMo more than underway this month, I expect writers could use an extra dose of inspiration and motivation. Have you ever thought about getting a cat? Or what impact your diet could have on your productivity?

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3. "Keep Your Plot Threads Under Control" on The Writer (Erika Mailman)


You've got a novel in the works, perhaps for NaNoWriMo. How many different plot threads does it take to pull together a complex, intriguing novel that keeps the reader's attention? The Writer magazine has an article on just that very topic: how to keep track of your plot threads and make sure they don't get so tangled up that you've got a hopeless mess instead of a well-written read at the conclusion.

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2. "8 Reasons Why Narrowing Your Blogging Niche Is SO Important" on Blogelina


Sure, you can always blog about anything under the sun, and people will probably read it, if they can find you. You can even blog about everything related to one topic, like writing, or books, or marketing. But if you establish your focus in a much more narrow niche --- like a blog about writing romance novels, or a blog about marketing with LinkedIn, or a blog about contemporary haiku --- you may be doing yourself a far bigger favor. Check out this article to learn more.

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1. "This Tool Unlocks Your Writing Flow By Killing Your Inner Editor" on Make Use Of (Dave LeClair)


The clock ticks away, one day at a time, on the NaNoWriMo challenge. You've committed to writing 50,000 words this month. (What were you thinking, again?) How do you make your inner critic shut up long enough to churn out 1,667 words a day? I just discovered this tool for upping your word count without letting your inner editor comment. Check it out!

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How is NaNoWriMo going for you? What's the most unusual thing you do that ups your creativity and inspiration to write? Which 2016 work change will affect you most, and are you prepared for it? How could you narrow your blog niche even just a fraction more?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review: "Author Power" (Lynn Isenberg)

If you're a writer or author, blogger, freelancer, poet, or playwright, or anything related to the industry, you're concerned with marketing. You have to market yourself, your brand, your projects, your abilities, your know-how and experience, your expertise, your ideas.

In short, everything.

What if you had a book that would help you tackle all of that, and enable you to find ways to make money off your projects even before you'd actually published?

Allow me to introduce to you the nonfiction work Author Power: Profit Before You Publish, by Lynn Isenberg.

This tremendous resource incorporates Isenberg's own experience, suggestions, and personal anecdotes (both about what worked and what didn't work) to underscore eminently doable steps that any author (published or not) can take to get their book or project in front of an audience more quickly and effectively.

From making a profit on your project prior to its publication to carefully designing your personal brand to extending invitations for other organizations or businesses (or both!) to join you in your branding endeavors, Author Power is the kind of resource every industry professional needs on his or her reference shelf.

I guarantee you'll have at least one "I never thought of that before!" revelation moment while reading, and that Isenberg's reasonable, practical directions will help you apply that very idea to your own platform.

Being an author (blogger, poet, playwright) isn't easy. You've signed up for a lot of hard work, the kind that demands commitment, consistency, discipline, patience, and creativity. But doesn't it feel better to know that others have trodden the paths ahead of you and have advice to share?

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Author: Lynn Isenberg
Title: Author Power: Profit Before You Publish
ISBN: 978-0-99106-851-7
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book Review: "A New Day at Midnight" (Michelle Hiscox)

Picture this: your life is ruined. You'll never be the same, feel the same, look the same. Nothing will ever be the same. It's the fault of a single person, whom you never expect to see again.

And then, fate intervenes, and the life of that person lands in your hands.

What would you do?

Addressing that very question, among others, is the paranormal romance novel A New Day at Midnight, by author Michelle Hiscox.

Protagonist Hannah Worthington is one of the likeliest and most enjoyable heroines I've read in some time in the genre. She's a veritable collection of mismatched characteristics: strength and fear, determination and uncertainty, speech alternately tender and caustic. The dichotomies are so well-crafted that she might walk off the pages at any moment.

The work itself is written in more of a historic style, not quite so verbose as to be considered literary fiction, and yet not like the fast-paced stories so popular today. There's something unique and refreshing about that style, despite its look back to a bygone era of detailed descriptions and careful dialogue. I wished a few times for less wordy conversations between characters, but the form is consistent throughout.

Themes explored include love, betrayal, forgiveness, family, loyalty, friendship, bitterness and cynicism, lust, and more. Hiscox admirably combines elements of what would otherwise be a well-told historic romance with a significant dip into the paranormal realm, and readers may recognize the echo of a well-known fairy tale plot re-imagined in this highly entertaining offering.

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Author: Michelle Hiscox
Title: A New Day at Midnight
ISBN: 978-1-987913-00-2
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Library Thing in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from November 2-6

5. "Actions Speak Louder Than Dialog Tags: Using Beats in Writing" on Live Write Thrive (Rachel Starr Thomson)


Dialogue befuddles the most expert among writers. In fact, there might be more writing tips out there about dialogue than most other fiction topics. This post provides an in-depth look into the use of action beats in dialogue, which is frequently preferable (according to some industry professionals) to using adverbs or a myriad attributions.

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4. "50,000 Words (Plus Our Tips) for NaNoWriMo" on (Meredith Quinn)


The Writer is a wonderful magazine for those who aspire to publish fiction, poetry, screenplays, nonfiction, personal essays, and more. To add to its extensive resources, this year they're participating in NaNoWriMo, offering writing prompts and tips on a daily basis throughout the month of November.

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3. "Building Buzz Before Your Book Comes Out: 10 Strategies That Work" on Guide to Literary Agents at Writer's Digest (Jennifer Kincheloe, guest columnist)


You've got a book on the way out. What do you do to reach out to potential readers, to make sure that they know your book's publication is imminent? The experts at Writer's Digest have specific suggestions for you to put into action.

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2. "15 Outstanding Tips for Blog Writers from Popular Bloggers" on Write to Done (Mary Jaksch)


How do you improve the way you blog? Its content? Its reach and mission? The best people to ask are experts in the field, and if you can't get in touch with them personally, the next best option is to look up collections of quoted tips and wisdom like this article. You'll find all manner of helpful blogging tips here.

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1. "5 Strategies to Help You Improve Your Writing Focus" on Miranda Marquit


Say you've got a writing or freelancing project (at least one) to finish. What ways do you use to stay on task? How do you minimize distractions as you work? If you're short on ideas, or need some new inspiration, check out this post with its excellent reminders and recommendations.

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There's the lineup for last week in the writing world. What are you working on for NaNoWriMo? Are you participating? What do you wish industry experts would write about? What's the best blogging tip you've read?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review: "Book 5: On Russian Soil" (Mike Wells)

Secret Service agent Elaine Brogan travels from her sheltered life in the United States to Russia to lay hands on Giorgio Cattoretti, who has managed to pull of the greatest art heist in history by stealing fifteen paintings by Picasso from a museum in St. Petersburg.

Now, Cattoretti has both Elaine and Russian law enforcement in close pursuit, and an agenda of his own to achieve that no one could imagine.

Author Mike Wells's Book 5: On Russian Soil is the next installment of his Lust, Money & Murder series of crime thrillers.

Readers who enjoyed following Elaine in earlier books will appreciate her prominent return in this one as she's drawn in to help capture Cattoretti and maneuver him (by whatever means necessary) across an international border so he can be captured.

But hers isn't the only point of view that carries the work. Cattoretti, too, features, as is, perhaps, fitting, given that his actions were what brought Elaine back to the fore in the first place. He remains a cold-blooded, manipulative killer, working just as hard to get his hands on Elaine as she is to get hers on him.

The climax of this fifth book in the series will leave readers breathless with anticipation for the sixth installment. My best advice: Trust no one, and expect the unexpected.

You'll still be caught off-guard.

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Author: Mike Wells
Title: Book 5: On Russian Soil
Series: Lust, Money & Murder (#5)
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book Review: "Book 4: Cattoretti's Return" (Mike Wells)

Giorgio Cattoretti, the counterfeiting genius and criminal mastermind from earlier in the Lust, Money & Murder series by author Mike Wells, resurfaces in Book 4: Cattoretti's Return, which details his fall from grace, so to speak, and how he manages to prove his own maxim: that "The Cat always lands on his feet."

His determination to recover his wealth and prestige drives him to survive and, even more than that, to thrive and then get even with those he blames for his fall ... including Elaine.

Rarely has an antagonist (slash villain) fascinated me in a series as much as Cattoretti does. His twisted yet eminently logical (to him) system of values and the way in which he seems to anticipate his enemies' maneuvers with an almost clairvoyant capability make him tremendously compelling, well worth the read from his perspective.

What would a villain do if he'd lost his entire kingdom for which he'd spent his life working to establish himself as a more than worthy opponent to his enemies? What subsequent actions would he take?

This fourth book in Wells's series explores just those questions through Cattoretti's eyes as he acts, no less methodically than before and with the kind of single-mindedness that will send shivers down readers' spines.

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Author: Mike Wells
Title: Book 4: Cattoretti's Return
Series: Lust, Money & Murder (#4)
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from October 26-30

5. "7 Sentences That Sound Crazy But Are Still Grammatical" on Mental Floss (Arika Okrent)


Does grammar drive you crazy? Do you find yourself constantly correcting the use of words like "less" and "fewer" in conversation? If so, you'll find this post intriguing, and either entertaining or hideously frustrating. (Three guesses which category I belong to.) Some of these sentences require more than one reading. Some required more than six readings for me. And you?

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4. "Yes, Freelancers Can Get Health Insurance: 12 Viable Options" on Make a Living Writing (Carol Tice)


Everybody who freelances or is self-employed will agree that there are pros and cons to that kind of life. One of the cons is often listed as the lack of benefits like insurance. And yet, it isn't impossible to accrue many of the same benefits yourself. Check out this insightful post on how to get yourself health insurance as a freelancer.

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3. "10 Ways to Survive As a Creative" on Creative Bloq (Tammy Coron)


Creative people tend to be mercurial, emotional, intense, artistic in more than one way, intuitive, and imaginative. Sometimes, those characteristics leave us vulnerable in a fast-paced, STEM-oriented world (not that creatives can't also be gifted in STEM). What can you do for yourself to survive as a creative personality today? Start with the ideas in this post.

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2. "NaNo Coach: 7 Essential Questions for Your Characters" on The NaNoWriMo Blog (Randy Ribay)


Yesterday was the first official day of NaNoWriMo 2015! Participants are hard at work, and the NaNoWriMo community, including a slew of gifted writing professionals titled "coaches" for the duration of the month, are offering up their insight. Spend a few minutes with this post's guidance to hash out the basics of your character. Who's driving your story?

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1. "5 Ways to Motivate Yourself and Punch Procrastination in the Face" on Purcus (Elna Cain)


Even with NaNoWriMo underway, it's not too late to look at your work ethic and tendencies. Be honest: How much do you struggle with procrastination? What have you tried to remedy that hang-up? This article gives you expert advice from an industry pro on how to get writing even when you don't quite know where to start.

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How was your first day of NaNoWriMo? What are you doing to motivate yourself? Do you see yourself as a creative personality? How do you survive in an analytical world?