Monday, December 28, 2015

4 Writer Superpowers that Will Get You into Trouble in Real Life

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas or happy holidays and has safe, fun plans for New Year’s Eve! Sayonara, 2015! It's been swell.

I'd even say this year has been super. And on the topic of super...

You know writers have superpowers, right? But did you know that if we use our powers wrong, we can get into trouble off-page?

The other day, while I was cooking, I started over-analyzing and guessing at a person's motives. I stopped myself pretty quickly because I recently went through a class on personal boundaries, and I’ve been trying to live in this freedom of not making what goes on in other people’s heads or hearts my business. I’m in charge of my own thoughts and heart and no one else’s. Whatever their motives, thoughts, and feelings are is up to them and only their business. Whew, what a load off.

Except…what goes on in other people’s heads and hearts and what fuels motive is kind of my business. As a writer. And this comes so naturally to me (and probably you) because that’s:

Writer Superpower #1—The Power of Analyzing. (Overanalyzing, psychoanalyzing, etc.) Or, if you want to sound a little more mature and level-headed, The Power of Observation. Writers like to watch people. And I don’t just mean the kind of people-watching where you sit in the mall cafĂ© and watch people walk, talk, and shop. I mean, that’s fun too. But not as fun as watching the people you interact with every day, guessing at their motives and thoughts and feelings. That’s great practice for creating interesting characters, but in real life? It can get you into trouble. Because, the truth is, you might be wrong about someone’s motives, thoughts, and heart, and assuming causes all sorts of problems. But then again, hey, learning from that sort of experience is good for writing too, isn’t it?

Thinking about the pros and cons of this superpower got me thinking about a few other (potentially dangerous) powers we wield.  

Writer Superpower #2—The Power to Tell Lies. Or spin tales. Or get creative. Obviously this is a skill writers need in order to tell fictional stories because the whole thing is made up. But it also helps to have characters who lie to each other, or, even more interesting, lie to themselves. If you have this superpower, you can tell story after interesting story. Just maybe don’t bring this skill into real life? Because no one likes a liar liar pants on fire. And you’ll get into trouble. Again, good learning op for writing, but not so pleasant for you or other people in reality.

Writer superpower #3—The Power of the Grammar Whiz-ness. Just like with the other two superpowers, every writer will possess this superpower in different levels. The writers who will get in trouble are the ones who are so smarty-pants about grammar, they're known as Grammar Nazis. Please, for the love of all that is sweet and beautiful, don’t go around correcting people’s grammar and misspellings to people’s faces or on social media. Not unless they ask. Because if you do, you come off as an annoying know-it-all, and people will want to kick you in your shins.

Writer Superpower #4—The Power to Ship Like Cupid Himself. If you’re not familiar with the term “shipping,” it basically means to put two people together, romantically. We do this with our favorite fictional characters and—yup—people in real life. Our love for shipping helps us know how to torture our own writers so they’ll ship our characters. But in reality, shipping people can cause problems. Especially if you see yourself as a matchmaker. I played matchmaker once with my sister. I rubbed my hands together in glee when the match was made. And then I stepped back and said, “uh-oh” once I saw what I’d created. Lesson learned—save the shipping for fictional people or, at least keep real-life shipping to yourself.  

Moral of the story: Your writer powers make you an awesome writer! Just learn to use those powers for good and not evil.

What other writer superpowers could get you into trouble in real life? Comment below!


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Friday, December 18, 2015

The Christmas Crunch

It’s that time of year. Holiday lights are hanging, Christmas trees are being decorated, and in the bustle of the season all I want is to sit down and read a good book. Something to give me the warm, fuzzy feelings of Christmas.

When I was growing up, my mother would give me a book for Christmas every year. And once we had finished opening our presents on Christmas morning, I would curl up in the corner with my new book. Sometimes I would finish it that day. Sometimes it would take me until New Year’s, but it was one of my favorite parts of Christmas break: sitting down for hours and reading a story that I wanted to read.

I didn’t realize until much later that once I hit about fifteen the books my mother was giving me were actually sweet adult romances. Nothing naughty in them, of course, but the characters were adults. This month my very first Christmas story was published, and it is a sweet adult romance, built to give all the warm fuzzy Christmas feeling with a little bit of daring humor thrown in. With ballet and taxidermy how can you go wrong?

I’m usually a YA author, but for Christmas I was automatically attracted to writing about adult characters. So I started doing a little research, and there are, in fact, a good group of YA Christmas stories available. And not even like Harry Potter I-mention-Christmas-for-a-few-chapters. These are real Christmas stories.

But I’d never heard of any of them.

I suppose that’s one of the problems with writing for a specific season. Your window of opportunity to publicize and sell your book is remarkably short, so finding traction to create a huge reader base would require a miracle of Lifetime Original Movie proportions. Especially in YA where being new and hot feels even more important than in adult romance.

I know by now you’re probably thinking that my point is clearly that anyone who writes a Christmas story is insane and should never be published. But it’s not. Expectations need to be tempered, and promotions need to be done with even more intensity than a normal project. But I think it’s worth it. To be the author that put someone in the holiday mood, who gave a reader that warm and cozy feeling while they curled up with your characters, is worth the stress of releasing during the holiday season.

And who knows? You might just become a Christmas tradition.

So tell me, what’s your favorite Christmas story?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Wishlist

Seeing how Christmas is just over a week away, I thought I'd share my bookish Christmas list with you. These are just a few of the already released titles I haven't had the chance to read yet, and I really wouldn't mind if Santa decided to leave any (or all) of these beneath the tree for me ;)

Recommended by a friend, this book sounds delightfully strange.

This is an MG title but oh wow does it sound spooky awesome!

A dystopian novel about music? Hells yeah! I have been dying to read this one, Santa better deliver!

I'm not usually a fan of historical books, but this one is just too enticing to resist.

To be fair, I want this book mostly because of that stunning cover, but it sounds dark and angsty and full of magic - my cup of tea!

Another book I was drawn to by the cover! But the blurb mentioning magic and a male POV has had me dying to read this for ages!

Which books are on your Christmas list? Have you read any of the books on my list?


Monday, December 14, 2015


Reading changes a person. Of course. We all know that. But writing changes a person too. It changes how an author reads. At least it's changed how I read. Sometimes I'm not sure I'm happy about this.

As a child, I loved to read.

I read anything I could get my hands (and eyeballs) on.
Okay, that's not entirely true.

I've never been a big fan of "kissing books,"
but give me most anything else: Encyclopedias, trips to Narnia...

Oh, how I longed to be Lucy...
Books about dogs.

Oh, how I longed for a dog of my own.
Books about brave young girls.

How I longed to be brave. I supposed I should've spent my time longing for Gilbert to come around, but I was too busy trying to figure out my life's purpose. (Boy, did that take me forever. Want a piece of advice? JOB SHADOW in high school. No excuses. Get off your butt and do it. Don't wait until you're a senior in college to figure out you want to be a nurse, or veterinarian, or teacher, or whatever--figure it out when you're young.)

How I digress (but that was an important point, if anyone will listen).

Before writing, while it's true I liked some books more than others, I'm not sure I really understood why.

Why did I love the Chronicles of Narnia so much? Only now can I fully marvel at the scope of C. S. Lewis' imagination. Story after story set in Narnia--just the mere idea of a seven or eight book series sends my stomach into an ulcerated knot. But C. S. Lewis did it. (Of course, he wrote a ton of other books, too, but that's another story.)

Now, although I still love reading, I feel like the magic--although it might not be gone--has been altered somehow.

I can still marvel at a cliff hanger ending.
But then I'm off thinking about the craft instead of the story itself.

I can also still marvel at gorgeous book covers (see above). But then I'm off thinking about how I want my next book cover to look.

I can reread and marvel at lines I wish I'd written. But that makes me kind of jealous--I hate it when I'm jealous.

I can go back in time, enjoying the same book over again (although I'll admit to being jealous of the reader who's reading a gem for the very first time--there I am, jealous again--what a horrible person I must be).

What I really hate is the annoying interference of an internal editor, like a gnat in my ear, telling me "I'd put that line there" or "They use their quote signs differently than my publisher does" or "This is more tell than show." Ugh.

I LOVE it when a book is so smoothly written that my internal editor doesn't even make a peep.

What I want for Xmas:
1) more time to read (see my LAST POST)
2) to tell my internal editor to shut the BLEEP up

About the Author - Ann M. Noser

Growing up an only child, I learned to entertain myself. During summer vacations, my greatest form of exercise consisted of turning the pages of a book. Now I'm all grown up and full of stories half-written in my head. I have to write them down so I can find out what happens next.

Contact info/how to find me:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review Algorithms, Account Activity, and Amazon

First - there are a few things I want to clarify.

I'm not writing this to deride Amazon - I've only just begun my indie career and hope it lasts a long time. What I am doing, is chronicling the sequence of events, and my ultimate findings in how I believe Amazon came to justify itself in removing several of my reviews. I do not work for Amazon and so do not have access to their exact algorithms. These conclusions have been reached using my own account history evidence.

I am a new indie author. I have two books out, with a third (in the series) due out at the end of February 2016. My books sell and are read at a decent rate that I, for a beginning indie author, am quite satisfied with.

I'm doing this in the hope that this information can help others whose reviews might be removed in the future. I wrote this post originally ten days ago on my own blog, and have expanded it here. Believe it or not, there seems to be a method to their madness, even if it is a little creepy and big brother-esque.

My story: Reviews are something that are difficult to come by for any author -- and getting your book noticed as an unknown indie can be extra difficult. So, in the lead up to my debut's launch, I set about to drum up interest.

I organized a sign up for a launch blog tour, included in which was a review option where I would send those interested an eARC. Then there was my release party that I organized locally and had a lot of friends (even from out of town) attend. There were other people who knew me through various internet contacts who were excited to read my book and preordered. (Let's face it, if you say Bladerunner meets X-Men, you spark some interest).

When Chameleon launched on August 4, 2015, several reviews hit it immediately. This was an awesome thing, and people saying they read an ARC seems to be perfectly acceptable. My auntie was not allowed to review, so okay, I get that. She's related to me and she actually stated that in her review. A friend of a friend wasn't allowed to review either, and I've yet to figure out the reasoning behind that. They told the friend, because they wanted me to know they liked the book and were looking forward to book two. But I shrugged the review decline off as a weird sort of glitch.

Scoot forward to three months in. Just before the release of book 2. I arranged several promotions that would coincide with Chameleon's $0.99 kindle countdown promotion. A lot of these promo places require you to have a certain amount of reviews. But with 36, I was doing okay (the highest needed had been 30).

The book climbed right up to the 2000's in Amazon's ranking. It was an awesome weekend for it. I sold a lot of copies.

Then I checked my Amazon page, only to see it suddenly had 33 reviews.

THREE reviews gone.

I panicked. I knew the reviews that were gone and couldn't understand why. Two of them had been there for the three months the book had been out. All of them said they saw an early version. None of these people were related to me. To be honest, I got angry, but I kept my cool when I contacted them. I asked them why my reviews were gone, to which they replied that they could not give me any information, but that if I was contacted by a reviewer about a missing review, they should contact them
I looked through all of their requirements. I had violated nothing on this list.

No reviews were paid for, they weren't promotional, and the people giving them weren't related to me.

Flabbergasted, I emailed back (angry this time), and asked them why they were sabotaging an indie author who wasn't even prominent. I only had 36 reviews to begin with. I asked if it was that my promotion had spiked my sales (which I thought was the point). In response to this angry email of mine, they said that they'd tell me why my reviews had been removed. That some of my account elements matched other account elements and therefore I probably knew some of my reviewers and therefore they needed to maintain integrity of their review system.

2015-12-01 e5
Later that day I had a new review which made 34, and then about an hour later I was back to 33 with another removed.

I gave a lot of thought to my next response to them. Because I was confused and didn't understand this weird level of scrutiny for my little book. I wrote a very long email about how I doubted that the same level of scrutiny was applied to established authors, or even to movies. That unless they apply this weird level of investigation to every single item, it is discriminating against authors as a whole. And I got the same response. Basically they pretty much ignored what I said.

However, as I sat down and thought about it, wracking my brains to try and figure out why they would focus on my account, I had some thoughts. I was quite certain I hadn't pissed anyone off enough that they reported my reviews.

And then it hit me My author account is the one I created about EIGHT years ago so I could buy my own books and not have to use my husband's account (which is the account we share and buy everything with, and have Prime on).

My author account has only the following activity: purchase of ebooks for myself, gifting of ebooks for giveaways, and e-gift cards that I've sent to people who have won competitions since launch. That's it. Nothing else. To my knowledge, none of those authors or giveaway winners have posted a review - definitely not the ones that were removed. So that couldn't be it.

My husband's account (who of course cannot review my book) is the account from which, some years ago, I sent two of the relevant reviewers a gift. A gift card to be precise (for a birthday, because books!) These people are, in no way, related to me or us. They are friends, one of whom I have never actually met in person.

This means, that in order to remove these reviews as : your account activity demonstrates that you may know these reviewers or your account activity matches other account activity -- Amazon had to link me to my husband's account (which, given we live at the same address isn't hard), and then go through my husband's purchase history (like back at least 18 months) in order to flag those reviews as ones that might know the author.

Since the original post, I have received more reviews and was for a few days back at 36. However the star ratings register first and then the review sits in the... acceptance queue. When the written review was actually passed through, I had a new written review, but it bumped me back down to 35, due to removing a review I was actually quoting from. The only reason I can fathom is that I hosted this fellow author on my blog at one stage. Now author colleagues can't review each other? What about quotes?

Anyway, I'm meandering.


After extrapolating from the weird and vague evidence I managed to gather, the following is what I believe to be true:

If you have ever been sent anything by someone using Amazon Prime, or sent someone something using Amazon Prime, or won or given away a gift card, or gifted or won an ebook -- those people cannot leave reviews for your book (and you cannot leave a review for them). Or they can, and when your book gets some attention, or when the algorithms get around to it, those reviews will be removed.

Additionally -- if you have linked your Facebook, Twitter, or your blog to your Amazon account where they can view your friends, profile and/or posts... then it is highly likely that anyone who is your Facebook friend, twitter friend, or hosted on your blog will not be permitted to leave a review, lest it be biased.

That family cannot review is understandable, but that friends, their friends, and acquaintances can't? That's wrong. Not to mention I'm quite certain they don't check every movie reviewed for people possibly related to anyone who worked on the set...

What can we do?

There is a petition circulating. I'm not entirely sure how successful it will be, but if you're so inclined, please help us ask Amazon to reconsider these ridiculously strict algorithms.

I'm not sure where this leaves us as authors since people, you know, recommend your books. Or else, people who have read your book and engage on social media will then "know" you enough to be barred from reviewing?

As a small time author, the struggle to get reviews has always been difficult, and now with these algorithms scouring for people who might have met us and engaged with us long enough to friend us on facebook, or else for people who won giveaways, or perhaps that our in-laws once sent a gift to... it's going to be nigh impossible.

Anyway -- I hope this helps people understand what it is Amazon has done and how they've come to their conclusions. Not that I expect it to make anyone feel better, but perhaps this will help lessen the confusion.  


About a week after all of this went down, I received this email from Amazon.

2015-12-01 email 1

I then tweeted that: I'm sorry, my account activity indicates that I know you


I said I'd help lessen confusion, not take away the bitter taste ;)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Character perceptions in settings

I wanted to look at character perceptions in settings this week and how we can use them to our advantage as an author. How your individual character interprets the world around them will showcase not only their personality, but the core parts of their character, their history and backstory, their likes and dislikes. In short, it will show the reader the unique parts of who your characters is and why they see the world the way they do.

So, the easiest way to go about this that I can think of is by example. I'm going to give you an image of a very basic scene. And then I'm going to give an example of how 3 different characters would/could interpret this setting. So here goes...

Three characters:

* An old, ex-military general who has served around the world on the front lines

* A green-thumb mid-forties housewife
* A teenage college student who studies history and babysits at the weekends

So how could each of these characters interpret this scene differently?

Well, let's look at our military general first:

He (let's call him Bob)...Bob might walk into this room and because of his life experience might notice the globe first as he's used to traveling and it would be something he'd connect to subconsciously. He might then notice the placement of doors and windows (sounds odd? Well, a military man trained in knowing how to get in and out in a place may even subconsciously notice his surroundings in this manner).

As you can see, this is just based on knowing that he is an ex-military general who traveled the globe. So think...what about personal details he might have? Does he notice the books because he loves to read? Does he admire the elegance of the furniture because it reminds him of his childhood home? You can see how this goes...

Alright, let's look at our green-thumb housewife (let's call her Mary).

So, what might our cake baking Mary notice? Well, we said she's a green thumb, so she may very well notice those nice and bright plants and how well they're flourishing. And, since she's a housewife, she might be drawn to the family photos on the wall. 

Alright, let's go to our student (she can be Suzie).

Now pretty little Ms. Suzie here is a student and we said she was studying history. So what do you think she's likely to notice? Of course, the books on the shelves, because, let's face it, every history buff has trouble keeping away from a good book. So then, what else? What about that picture by the bookshelf that looks like a crafty framed kids photo (not sure if it really is or not, but that's what I see! lol). What else? She might notice something that's not even an object - the old-fashioned and stuffy atmosphere of the room.

Alright, I'm pretty sure you get my drift. Suffice to say, every choice you make with your setting and what you describe can tell the reader lot about your character. You don't need to explain why they notice what they do, it will just build up inside the reader's mind, developing your characterization to a very deep level - so deep, it'll be done using your reader's subconscious.

 Let me know what you noticed first in that room!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Co-authoring and Writing for Anthologies? Read this first.

There may come a time in your authoring career when you are asked to collaborate on a piece of writing. Whether it be a whole book that you co-author or a short story for an anthology. If this happens to you, congratulations—someone thinks you can write well enough to contribute. That’s all well and good, but before you jump in and start scribbling, there are a few things that you ought to consider.

Do I know the author/s?

If you know them, that’s awesome, but you also need to know their style and what they write. If you’re co-authoring, then you need to make sure that you write in at least the same POV. If they write in 1st and you write in 3rd, well unless there’s going to be a mixture of the two then it may not work. Of course, you may find yourself stepping out of your comfort zone and finding that you’re really good at it, but is this the best time to try?

What genre does the author write in?

 I’m speaking from experience here. I write New Adult and Adult and my stories are always served with a side of smut—not going to lie because I’m proud of that and my work. So, you really need to consider this. If the anthology or person you’re partnering up with is a writer of clean YA or MG then you need to make sure that your characters keep their clothes on (y’all know what I mean). At the same time, the voices in these books are very different and they should be. You can’t write a MG book using the voice of a NA—it’s not going to work!  

How will the book be published?

As a self-publisher anything I publish now or in the future will be done so using my time and expertise. I don’t expect (or want) anyone to do it for me. I will admit to being a control freak. From the cover design to the final publication there are only a handful of people that I allow to change my content—you know, CP’s and my darling editor. So, if you, like me, like to maintain creative control you’re going to have to learn to hand over the reins on this occasion. I can’t offer much advice on the traditional aspect.  

Who is responsible for marketing?

There’s a pretty easy answer to this question—it should be every person that writes the content. Should. That doesn’t mean to say it will be, so before you jump in just grab some clear details on this so you’re not the only one putting in a lot of hours marketing.  

Have the other authors published before?

If you’re asked to contribute to an anthology, chances are that a lot of other authors will be writing too. Seek them out, sample their work if you can. Try not to run in blind because as much as it would be lovely—not everyone that wants to write can write. At least not at first, anyway.  


This is pretty important if you’re working on a timeframe, and even if it starts off at a relaxed pace, toward the end when edits are flying back and forth and release day is looming, you need to know that you can ask about or action any problem quickly. Personally this has never been a problem for me, but it could be for you. Maybe you could put your heads together and come up with a way to ensure that, in the final hours, problems can be resolved quickly and efficiently. There would be nothing worse than an urgent problem arising just as you’ve fallen asleep for your eight hours.  

And that’s pretty much it. I’m sure there are many more things to consider, but there’s a few. Most of all, just have fun. Writing with others can be a lot of fun, it was for me!


Friday, December 4, 2015

A Bittersweet Good-Bye

A lot happened for me in 2013: I got an agent (yay!), I got a book deal for Becoming Jinn and its sequel, Circle of Jinn (double yay!), and I started revisions with an editor for the first time. I also joined the YAtopia community in September of that year. Sharing my journey to publication with the readers and fellow bloggers at YAtopia has been a privilege—and a blast.

With 2015 came even more excellent stuff: Becoming Jinn’s launch (ah!), finishing up Circle of Jinn (woo-hoo!), and a long period of promotion—events, festivals, writing workshops, giveaways, the Read Local campaign, and more. Marketing is a full-time job, as I quickly learned.

The one thing 2015 hasn’t been for me is a very strong writing year. Marketing and writing at the same time became near impossible for me. Switching hats was less the problem than not having enough heads…meaning I just haven’t had a lot of time to dedicate to writing. While I did manage to write and finish a first draft of something I’m very excited about, I haven’t been able to dig into revisions.

Since 2016 also hold’s a book release with Circle of Jinn coming out on May 17, I knew it was time to make a decision, and that was to start finding more time. Unless Hermione was going to let me borrow her time turner, the only way to do that was to start easing things off my plate. It’s with a heavy heart and reluctant fingers on keyboard that I am announcing my decision to step down from the YAtopia blog.

But here’s a hidden truth: I love blogging! Some of my favorite posts have been on this blog. From my series on novel planning to my posts on finding your writing voice, to my favorite marketing campaign to date. I am sure I will miss it.

Thankfully the kind folks at YAtopia have agreed to let me swing by for guest posts. But I’ll also be blogging on my own Web site once in a blue moon, and the best way to see those posts is to sign up for my newsletter, which comes out every one to two months. It has writing advice, book news, event updates, giveaways, and critique opportunities. I’ll be giving away some preorders of Circle of Jinn exclusively for newsletter followers in the new year.

Another good thing about making some changes is that I’m also now able to do more freelance editing. My roots are in copyediting, and I offer both copyediting and manuscript consulting for all genres. I have query/submission packages as well as marketing consultation services. The number of projects I can take on will be limited, so if you are interested, best to hit me up soon to schedule! I have a particular love for query critiques and have given many away over the past couple of years, especially around Pitch Wars, and most of those folks have found great success (triple yay!). As always, if you buy a new copy of Becoming Jinn or preorder a copy of Circle of Jinn and e-mail the receipt to, you get a free query or first page critique!

A huge thank you to the YAtopia community—my fellow bloggers and all of you readers. I’d love to stay connected, so please follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, my newsletter, or in person (though if you follow in person, please don't be creepy about it....)! And you can add Becoming Jinn and Circle of Jinn to Goodreads too!

One last shout-out: My debut group, the Freshman Fifteens, will be doing a special end of year giveaway. Be sure to follow me and the group on Twitter to see what we’re cooking up!

See you next time as a special guest!

Happy Holidays and Happy Writing to all!


Lori Goldstein is the author of Becoming Jinn (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, now available!, sequel, Circle of Jinn, May 17, 2016, available for preorder). With a degree in journalism and more than 10 years of experience, Lori is a freelance copyeditor and manuscript consultant for all genres. She focuses on the nitty-gritty, letting writers focus on the writing.