Category Archives: 6 Friendly Friday

What are your evil plans for 2014?

2013: better than Orwell's 1984, but not quite a party like Prince's 1999--though we have great hopes for this new 2014 thing.

2013: better than Orwell’s 1984, but not quite a party like Prince’s 1999–though we have great hopes for this new 2014 thing.

Writers and editors, screenwriters and playwrights, poets and scribblers — what are your writerly plans for this new year of 2014?

Also: what were the greatest hits and misses of 2013?


Related posts:


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.


Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, 6 Friendly Friday, Fiction, Thrillers and mysteries

Mixed Writing Arts is to writing as MMA is to fighting

Since the dawn of time, writers have spent their lives toiling in their own secret tribes and guilds, each clan claiming to have mastered the One True Art.

  • Copywriters swore their kung fu was far more powerful than that sissy screenwriting nonsense, because if you can’t sell tickets to a movie, the movie doesn’t get made.
  • Working journalists cranking out two stories a day scoffed at poets spending all week on five hippie lines about trees and clouds, while poets saw the mass-production lines of the Priests of the Inverted Pyramid as lacking any sort of soul or art.
  • Romance authors gathered in huge, organized conferences while mystery novelists gathered in small secret groups to put a dent in the global bourbon supply while trading secrets and lies.
  • Speechwriters clutched their tomes with 2,000-plus years of wisdom from Plato, Aristotle, Burke and countless other giants, who were inventing rhetoric and drama and comedy long before Syd Field arrived in Hollywood and Blake Snyder started saving cats.

To me, with a foot in all of these worlds, it felt false.

I got started in journalism and speech, my sister is a screenwriter and I have a great literary agent (Jill Marr!) after writing a novel that won some award.

It hit me, again and again, that I got better as a writer not when focusing like crazy on one thing, but by being exposed to other aspects that often would never have entered my mind as an option. Like hanging out with romance authors and editors, who have made me 100-times stronger as a writer. NOBODY COULD HAVE PREDICTED THAT.

Hear me now and believe me later in the week: There is no one supreme writing art.
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Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, 6 Friendly Friday, Fiction, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers, Speechwriting, Thrillers and mysteries

Some of my favorite editors OF ALL TIME

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. So come closer and listen to what I’ve learned from experience: Editors are a writer’s best friend.

Not when they’re patting you on the back, because anybody can butter you up.

They’re your best friend when they take a red pen and blast through your complicated writing pets, when they check your wildest instincts and find order out of the natural chaos that comes from banging on the keyboard to create anything of length and importance.


The secret to writing is editing, and you can’t edit your own stuff. Not at first.

So it’s wrong to say that every writer needs an editor.

You need more than one, if you want to get serious about any sort of real writing.

It’s like building a house. As a writer, you’re trying to do it all: draft the blueprints like an architect, pour the foundation, frame it, plumb it, siding, drywall, flooring, cabinets, painting–the whole thing.

Every step is important. And getting the right editors is like hiring great subcontractors.

My bias is to think of structure first, because if the blueprints are bad, it doesn’t matter how pretty the carpentry is, and how great the writing is line by line.

This is why every professional architect hires an engineer to do the math and make sure the foundation is strong enough to hold up the house, that the roof won’t blow off and your beams are big enough to handle the load.

So you need different editors for different things. The best possible professional editor for the structure, the blueprints. Then beta readers to look over the whole thing another time, looking for medium-size problems. A line editor to smooth things out and make it all pretty, and finally a proof-reader to take a microscope to the entire thing and make it as flawless as possible.

That sounds like a lot, and most pro editors can wear different hats. But I’m going to argue for dividing it up, because when you’ve been staring at the same thing for weeks, or months, you stop seeing things. A fresh pair of eyes is always smart.

Even though I’ve always had editors, starting way back in college when I was putting out newspapers, there’s a natural inclination for writers to screw this up, to see using editors as some kind of sign of weakness. The thinking goes like this: “Hey, I have (1) a master’s degree in creative writing or (2) have been cashing checks as a journalist for years or (3) am far too talented to need the crutch of a professional editor, which is for wannabes who can’t write their way out of a paper sack if you handed them a sharpened pencil.”

I’d did editing wrong by having friends and family beta read, or asking fellow writers who yes, wrote for money, but cashed checks for doing something completely different.

And it was a waste of time.

Here’s how I learned my lesson, and no, I am not making this up: On a whim, I posted a silly ad to sell my beater Hyundai and romance authors somehow found my little blog that started from that. Pro editor Theresa Stevens got there somehow and I started talking to her, and on a whim I did her standard thing to edit the first 75 pages of a novel, the synopsis and query letter. I didn’t think anything of it and expected line edits. Dangling modifiers and such.

But she rocked.

I learned more, in the months of editing that entire novel, than I could’ve learned in ten years on my own. It’s like the difference between a pro baseball player trying to become a better hitter by spending six hours a day in batting practice, alone, versus one hour a day in hard practice with a world-class batting coach. I’d pick the batting coach, every time.

As somebody who used to lone-wolf it, let me say this: I was wrong.

And so on this Friendly Friday, I want to plant a big smooch on editors of the world, and encourage writers of all backgrounds and specialties to see editors in a different light. That having an editor isn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength. That it says you’re crazy serious about what you do and not afraid of working with the best of the best rather than a cheerleading squad of yes-men who think your 947-word epic about elves with lightsabers riding dragons is the best thing ever.

That it’s not about you, and doing whatever you want, but about making the finest product you can give to readers.

So I want to give a shout out to Theresa the Stevens, who has taught me much, and Rebecca Dickson, my uncensored female doppleganger, and to great beta readers and editors like Alexandria SzemanJulia Rachel BarrettAnna Davis, Mayumi, Donna — because just like a single person can’t be expected to build a beautiful house alone, a smart writer gets help and advice from the smartest people possible.

Find one of those smart people with a red pen.

Hire them, hug them, listen to them, buy them flowers when you succeed. But use them, if you’re serious. And if you’re not serious, hey, take up bowling or whatever.


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.


Filed under 6 Friendly Friday

This video — and this man — defines determination

Scott, I salute you. Inspirational.


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.



Filed under 6 Friendly Friday

The happiest hurdler in the world deserves more screen time

I remember seeing this clip, way back: Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke, not nervous and freaking out before her big race — just happy to be there and filled with infectious joy.

And now she’s good-humored enough to do this video.

Happy Goddess of Australian Hurdlers, I salute you.

If anybody ever deserved to have their own reality show — a show people would actually watch to see somebody fun, instead of human train wrecks like Snooki and the cast of Jersey Shore — then it should be you, Michelle the Jenneke.


Filed under 6 Friendly Friday

C.C. Humphreys: author, actor, fight choreographer

If you live in the Seattle, or the Kirkland — or even Denver, Portland and Instanbul  – there’s an author on tour you should meet. (See when and where below.)

C.C. Humphreys is not only a literary muffin of stud, but a former actor and FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHER (bonus points). He actually knows how to use a sword, which gives me an excuse to play the Best Swordfighting Scene in Any Movie Not Involving Lightsabers.

He’s a genuinely interesting human being, a man who speaks with one of the sweetest British accents on the planet, maybe because he grew up in the U.K. despite the fact that he is technically Canadian. Is all that legal? I DON’T KNOW.

author cc humphreys, a literary muffin of stud

Author C.C. Humphreys is a literary muffin of stud, and a genuinely decent human being. Visit his blog or visit him on his book tour. DO IT NOW.

This accent gives everything he says an extra bit of charm and gravitas, even if he’s telling you, “Listen, you’re being rather beastly.”

All you want is for him to keep talking.

So: he has a new novel out, A PLACE CALLED ARMEGEDDON, which is about the siege of Constantinople, though you have to say which siege, because the place got attacked all the time.

“Alexander the Great, what are you doing this weekend?”

“Oh, the usual. Maybe drink a bit of wine and take a long ride on one of my horses. I have a stable or six full of those things.”

“Come with us. We’re gonna sack Constantinople — it’ll be great.”

“OK, that sounds fun.”

C.C.’s novel is about the siege of 1453, a particularly good year for a siege, hearty and full. It goes well with filet mignon. Anyway: This man can write like nobody’s business, and the novel is worth it.

a place called armageddon by cc humphreys

A PLACE BY ARMAGEDDON, the latest novel by C.C. Humphreys.

Also: If you go to a writing conference and hit one of his seminars, you’ll remember him, because he puts on a show. This may be because he was an actor on stage and screen. I believe all of his grandfathers were actors, too. It’s in his blood. The man played Jack Absolute, the 007 of the 1770′s, and he also played Caleb the gladiator on an NBC series.

Also-also: most of his readers are women for some reason, even though he writes swashbuckling historical novels about battles and blood rather than romances involving men in kilts.

EITHER WAY: I truly like and respect this man, and his books. You will, too, if you (a) see him on tour, (b) buy one of his novels, (c) lurk on his blog, which you can read here, or (d) chat with him on the Twitter at the mysterious handle of @HumphreysCC.

C.C. Humphreys book tour: the when and the where

Sept. 22 & 23rd — Kirkland Book Fest, Kirkland, Washington.

Sept. 23rd at 2:30 p.m. — Elliot Bay Bookstore, Seattle, Washington

Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. — Tattered Cover, Denver, Colorado.

Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. — Copperfields, Petaluma, Sonoma, California.

Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. — Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, Beaverton, Oregon.

Oct. 19 to 21 — Surrey International Writers Conference, Surrey, British Columbia, in the Canada.

Nov. 24 & 25 — Istanbul International Book Fair, Istanbul, Turkey.


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.



Filed under 6 Friendly Friday, Barons of the Blogosphere

Thank you, beautiful and brilliant blog readers

I’m at the same seaside cabin where my silly blog was born. Have I been kidnapped again by attorneys wielding bottles of Riesling? Maaaybe.


So: this is a thank you to the kind and witty people who read this blog, comment, tell their peoples about posts and talk smack to me on the Twitter.

A dialogue takes more than one person. At least that’s what they tell me. THEY COULD BE LYING. 

Also, it’s not clear why a chat involving three people isn’t called a trialogue, or a menage a chat.

So I thank you, and I encourage you to (1) post witty comments for the world to see, (2) challenge my paradigms or whatever so you learn what it feels like to lose a debate and (3) make insane suggestions or requests.



Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.



Filed under 6 Friendly Friday

Writers: you are REQUIRED BY LAW to visit Livia’s brainy blog

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to write books or become, I don’t know, the governor of Alaska.

Don't let the hat fool you. Beneath that hat is the brain of an actual brain scientist who focuses her powers on using science to help writers. She is not a wannabe gangster, at least not that I know of; maybe she does use her giant brain to rob banks or mess with the stock market . Go visit her blog.

HOWEVER: There is an honest-to-goodness neuroscientist grad student at MIT who uses serious brain Science to help writers craft amazing things. Yes, she may look 20 years old, and frankly, she could be 12 or 257 years for all I care, because she is a freaking genius.

Her blog about using brain science to help writers is seven entirely separate types of awesome, and it is a public service to writers all over the planet.

Governments should give her big fat tax subsidies. Billionaires riding around on their yachts should take a second to write her a grant or six.

If you’re a writer, a reader or at all literate in the English language, go visit her blog to get educated and enlightened. She also has a book, which you can purchase with your fake digital monies over the Series of Tubes.

You can also follow the whippersnapper genius on the Twitter at @lkblackburne

For people who like things all neat and organized:

A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing

Livia Blackburne on the Twitter:



Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.


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Filed under 6 Friendly Friday, Barons of the Blogosphere, Worthy citizens of the Twitterverse

Writers: enter this 200-word flash fiction contest – DO IT NOW

The writers that I know and love all do the same thing: they write more than they talk.

And to them, 200 words is nothing.

Bam, here you go. Next?

So use your clickity mouse and get your penmonkey behind to this flash-fiction contest, over at the Soul and Sweet Tea blog.

DO IT NOW. Then come back here and I’ll tell you a secret.

Joey the Francisco of Soul and Sweet Tea

Joey the Francisco of Soul and Sweet Tea, a great blog for writers and book lovers. Go visit it.

Why do this?

I’ll tell you why.

  • First, you need a break — something to write with no pressure, no worries. Whether you’re a screenwriter or speechwriter, a newspaper reporter or a novelist, IT IS REQUIRED that you stretch a different writing muscle sometimes. You can’t keep doing the same thing forever. The contest includes a bunch of photos as writing prompts. People of the interwebs, this is easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
  • Second, the person behind this blog, Joey the Francisco, is not only a crazy smart writer (a scientist type, and president of some nuclear medicine shebang). No. She’s also kind, witty and a writer of thrillers. Trifecta, people. Ta-righ-fek-TAH.
  • Third, I am a secret GUEST JUDGE for this contest.

Don’t tell anybody. That would ruin the secret.

Pretend you don’t know or ask Will Smith to wipe out your memory of this post, along with your memories of WILD WEST, BAD BOYS 2 and I AM LEGEND, which put the B in Boring despite featuring mondo zombies. I did not think this was possible.

How can a movie with zombies be Snooze City? Then again, LAYER CAKE is (1) a mob movie, with (2) all kinds of action and violence that (3) starred Daniel 007 Craig, and it was perhaps the most boring movie on the planet until HUGO came out. My God.

Back to the flash fiction shebang: Have I been a judge of literary contests before? Sure. This is not my first rodeo. Have I competed in rodeos before? No. Cage matches to the death against mountain lions and bear? Also no.  They are my neighbors, and as long as they leave me alone — and I consider pooping on my land at 3 a.m., when I’m asleep, as leaving me be — then I’ll leave them alone.

HOWEVER: those were Serious Contests about Serious Things, and what I wrote for comments was seriously tame.

This is pure fun. So go, do it, be wild. Write whatever you want for 200 words. THIS IS AMERICA, unless you are in Canada, the UK, Australia or whatever. Either way, I am pretty damn sure writing flash fiction won’t get you a visit from the secret police, unless you’re in Syria, North Korea and about six other places I can’t remember right off.

While we are at it, and because it’s Friendly Friday, this blog we’re talking about — Soul and Sweet Tea — is good stuff. Go show Joey the Francisco some writerly love by subscribing to the blog and following her tweets . She is not annoying and would never pimp books 25 hours a day, eight days a week, because she has wonderful manners, even on the Series of Tubes.

Note: Some folks have reported TECHNICAL PROBLEMS with posting their brilliant 200 words on Joey’s blog. Do not erase your flash fiction or fall into a steaming vat of despair. Post those 200 words as a comment here and I’ll send minions to get those words to Atlanta in time for the contest deadline (Sunday).


Filed under 6 Friendly Friday, Barons of the Blogosphere, Worthy citizens of the Twitterverse

Friendly Friday: Amanda the Nelson of DEAD WHITE GUYS: An Irreverent Look at Classic Literature

We all read them in high school, then college. You know the books I’m talking about: the classics.


I’m talking about literature, except true literary snobs pronounce it “lit-RAH-sure.”

It’s these Great Books that we all flipped through at three in the morning, cranking out a term paper fueled by beer with fish on the can and Camel cigarettes bummed from your roommate as you dream up phrases like “the author’s framework includes a subtle critique of dialectical materialism buried within the character’s clear delineation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” until you hit about 7:15 a.m., with the paper due on the professor’s desk at 8 a.m. sharp, so you start busting out sentences like “The last chapter’s use of the hierarchical opposition of day and night, does, in fact, highlight the artificial constructs of love/hate, life/death and hunger/satiation, when clearly there are no such boundaries except as defined by man — or woman,  or cyborgs, sufficiently intelligent dolphins and chimpanzees trained in the art of ESL.”

Amanda the Nelson reads the classics for us so we don’t have to.

Then she writes  about these books with insight and hilarity.

Her blog is a public service.


One of my favorite blogs OF ALL TIME.

YOU MUST READ IT. Go back and click on that link.

Because honestly, all these classics do have interesting things to say, and Big Ideas worth pondering. They were simply written in a time when authors didn’t believe in these things we like to call “paragraphs” and “books that weigh less than a Volkswagen Passat.” Some of these guys make 1,032-page Stephen King novels look like their standard prologue. You know, just warming up them there writing muscles.

Amanda the Nelson

Amanda the Nelson reads the classics so you don't have to. Her blog is a public service. Go read it. DO IT NOW.

Amanda doesn’t talk about these classics in the usual pretentious language that we’re used to. Instead, she is hilarious.

Here is her post on why she writes in an irreverent way, a post worth reading simply because it’s damned funny:

And I believe Amanda’s brutal, honest wit makes her better, not worse, as a critic. Because your average book critic says, “Hey, this was good,” or “This book stinks up the joint,” except they spend 500 words to say it, wasting 495 of those words (a) profiling the author, (b) comparing this book to the author’s previous stuff, (c) being so polite about it that you’re not sure what they really mean or (d) being so mean it makes you wonder if the critic hates the author instead of the book — you know, because of the thing with the guy at that place.

And here’s a bit about her from her blog, which gives you a flavor of her as a writer.


Greetings! I’m Amanda Nelson, and I live in Richmond, Virginia. I’m married and have one cat and a set of identical twin boys named Rhett and Atticus, even though children scare me (especially the ones in those sad, sad backpack-leash things). I love the following: literary tattoos, irony, those cats that look like little leopards, castles, earl gray tea, couch naps, having an ambiguous ethnicity that allows me to blend in anywhere, Ella Fitzgerald’s voice, Jesus,  rain when there are no clouds, the smell of honeysuckle, writing real letters (BE MY PEN PAL), and rose perfume. I do not love: post-modernism, fake nails, being sticky, celebrity politics (shuddup Sean Penn, for the love of holy hot pants), small dogs, the color yellow and therefore bananas, fast food, Twilight, reading for escapism, hammocks that are made of rope instead of canvas, chinese food, my husband’s driving, and reality television. 

Amanda Nelson is a freelance writer and blogger from Richmond, Virginia. She is the sarcastic-yet-earnest voice behind the blog Dead White Guys: An Irreverent Guide to Classic Literature. Amanda is also a weekly contributor to BOOK RIOT, a bookish news and social commentary site. She specializes in honest book reviewing and reader-focused literary criticism, and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She has a Bachelor’s in History from Virginia Commonwealth University, which she mostly uses to sound smart at parties.

See? What’d I tell you. She is ONE OF US.

Because it has become a tradition, and because you may have lost her blog link already, here’s the typical Friendly Friday plug.

Amanda Nelson of Dead White Guys: An Irreverent Guide to Classic Literature


The Twitter: @deadwhiteguys

Note: these Friday shout-outs are (1) always a surprise and (2) never in exchange for bottles of wine, boxes of chocolate or suitcases stuffed with purple euros. Do I want folks to nominate worthy bloggers, tweeters and writers? NO NO NO. Because then I’d be writing friendly shout-outs to people that I don’t read, people I don’t know one bit, making it all fake and mercenary, except for the getting paid part. I have to be inspired, to see a blog post or a tweet and want to tell the world, or at least the Series of Tubes.  

Related posts:

Friendly Friday: Theresa Stevens, Glowing Mystical Being

Friendly Friday: Gwen the Hernandez, Scrivener Goddess


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.



Filed under 6 Friendly Friday, Barons of the Blogosphere, Worthy citizens of the Twitterverse