Red Flags: How a book was “born” (Includes ordering information)

For every book, there is a story about how it came to be.

The story behind Red Flags starts in 1997. The figure skating boom of the 1990s was in full swing. The Internet was in its infancy. Instead of blogs and social media, there were primitive websites and Usenet newsgroups. The hive of Internet skating fandom at that time was a Usenet group called rec.sport.skating.ice.figure, also known as RSSIF. The RSSIF-ers were a knowledgeable,  passionate bunch. Flame wars between different factions were common, especially during the summer months when there weren’t many skating competitions to dissect. Gossip about skaters’ private lives was discouraged, but it seemed unavoidable in an era where elite figure skaters were A-list celebrities whose latest escapades routinely made tabloid headlines.

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At some point during the summer of 1997, the RSSIF regulars got into a heated discussion over which topics should or shouldn’t be allowed. On a whim, I decided to write a little soap opera that covered all of the forbidden topics– closeted gay skaters, eating disorders, extramarital affairs, abusive coaches, crazy skatemoms, bickering pairs– albeit in a fictional skating world populated with characters who were completely made-up; they were not stand-ins for real-life skaters. I titled this soap opera The Strong and the Sequined.

I figured I’d keep the soap opera going for a few weeks, maybe a few months. But each time I posted a new chapter, I would be swamped with requests for back chapters. (Today, I would have posted them on a blog, but blogs hadn’t been invented yet.) I couldn’t believe people were actually reading my little story– I was literally making it up as I went along! I had only a vague idea of what was going to happen next. At that time, I was definitely a “pantser” not a “plotter.” The Strong and the Sequined took on a life of its own.

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Trust Your Readers

A Writer's Path

by Josh Langston

After all, they trusted you enough to buy your book.

Let’s back up a step or two. Just who are these people who took a chance on your ability to string nouns and verbs together in an entertaining fashion? Where did they come from? Surely, they can’t all be related to you in some way, can they? I think not.

Consider these woeful statistics excerpted from the Literacy Project Foundation (There’s plenty more to read on their website, and I urge you to spend some time there.):

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Celebrating the 4th of July in the age of Trump

“I just don’t feel like celebrating the 4th of July this year.”

“I’m not in the mood for fireworks, parades, or any of that stuff.”

“I am so embarrassed by Trump that I feel like a hypocrite celebrating the 4th of July,”

“Our country is doomed. What’s there to celebrate?”

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These are the sentiments I am hearing from people in real life and from some of my fellow activists on the Internet. I admit I’m not in a celebratory mood myself. But I am making a conscious choice to celebrate Independence Day.

This year, I choose to celebrate the Americans in The Resistance, the ones who are actively opposing Trump’s behavior and agenda. I choose to celebrate the Americans who participated in the Women’s March, the Science March, and other demonstrations. I choose to celebrate the Internet activists who organize the opposition and keep them informed, the ones who remind us that #ThisIsNotNormal. I choose to celebrate those ordinary citizens who repeatedly call their representatives and storm townhall meetings. I choose to celebrate the comedians who make us laugh at this administration and the musicians who are releasing new protest music. I choose to celebrate the fact that we can demonstrate, we can protest, we can make fun of our elected officials, we can express our anger through art, music, drama, poetry, and prose.

In some countries, I would get shipped off to the gulag simply for writing this blog post. And if life in this country becomes unbearable, I am free to leave. In my novel Red Flags, the characters are trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Even when my main character is allowed to attend figure skating competitions outside the Soviet Union, she is under constant surveillance. She is told not to speak to foreigners, not to speak to the media, not to venture beyond the prescribed boundaries. She is well aware that KGB agents are watching her, even when she can’t see them.

But isn’t our country headed in the same direction?

It could go that way– if we let it, if we prematurely resign ourselves to such a bleak future. But as long as we continue to stand and fight, I will celebrate.

Happy Independence Day!

Useful Tips for Self-Editing a Manuscript

In addition to these tips, it helps to start at the end and read your manuscript backwards. I did this when I was proofing both of my books. It’s a great way to catch typos and other little mistakes.

A Writer's Path

 

by Emily Nemchick

Whilst there is no substitute for hiring a professional editor, self-editing is an important skill for any writer to hone. For one thing, the more passes a manuscript gets, the fewer errors will remain in the final product. If you are using an editor, be sure to self-edit thoroughly first so they can focus on the things you have missed. If you are not using an editor, then self-editing is doubly essential. Here are a few tips to make sure you catch as many errors as possible.

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Authors for Grenfell Tower

I’m passing this along…

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I’ve never liked tower blocks. I had a friend who lived on the 13th floor of what used to be called a “hard to let” block in east London. She loved the view from her balcony, and kept flowerpots tethered in five unblowoffable ways to the railings, but even stepping on to it made me feel weak at the knees. Perhaps my knees were already weak when I arrived, because I always used to walk up the stairs. The lift was creaky and claustrophobic. Supposing it got stuck? Supposing someone scary got in it with you?

Fire 3 Cuttings from the “I”, “The Guardian” and the “Evening Standard”‘ June 17th & 19th 2017

Even posh tower blocks – skyscrapers, rather, penthouses, high rise living and the other more affluent synonyms – worry me. The only time I visited New York, I was less scared sleeping on the 34th floor than I’d anticipated…

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Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing

One point I would add to these is not to expect overnight success. It takes time to build an audience, especially when you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on advertising. With corporate publishers, most books are out of print within a few months. But if you’re an indie author, your book’s “shelf life” is whatever you want it to be. You will probably have to experiment with different marketing strategies before you find something that works.

A Writer's Path

As I prepare to re-publish #WheelerNovel, here are some things I wish I knew a year ago when I first succumbed to the siren-song of the self-publish button.

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Happy Pride Month!

I’d like to wish you all a Happy Pride Month!

Shirelle and Becky and some friends from their figure skating club decorated their rink with rainbow flags. “This is something you wouldn’t have seen at this rink ten years ago,” one of the skatemoms informed me. “Times have changed!”

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Earlier this month, I made a Pride-related Twitter ad for Red Flags featuring Becky and her pals, Connor and Mack. (Shirelle was at the other end of the rink working on her choreography for the upcoming season– it’s that time of the year.)

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How To Accept Literary Success Might Take Years To Achieve #SundayBlogShare #Writer

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You enter the writing world as a fresh-faced newbie with bags of enthusiasm, a head full of stories and the belief that it won’t take you long to achieve literary success! It will be a matter of months before your work starts a publishing bidding war.

Sadly this belief starts to fade the more you write. Ugh!

You come to realise that books go through a never-ending circle of drafting, rewriting and editing. They never seem to match the story in your head either.

This cycle can go on for years with just ONE book!*Eye roll*

Things may not run smoothly. You have to prepare for:

  • Drafts which never meet your expectations
  • Drafts which require extra mental stewing,
  • Drafts which are sabotaged by painful periods of writer’s block
  • Draft which are put to one side during unexpected curve ball life events.
  • Drafts which remain ugly ducklings and never turn…

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Ninety-Nine Ways to Fail in Writing, Publishing, and Marketing

Yikes! Fortunately, I have avoided many of these pitfalls. I am more of a Delores than a Ben.

A Writer's Path

by Dr. Kent Gustavson

When it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing a book, there are many mistakes to be made (many more than 99). The #1 most important mistake NOT to make is over-investment. I’ll give a quick anecdote about that, and then give the whole list of my 99 favorite book mistakes.

One of my favorite stories about over-investment is of two (real) people. Let’s call them Dolores and Ben.

Dolores spent $57 writing, producing, and publishing her book. Sure, it was self-published, but it looked great, and was well edited by friends and family members. She currently gets tons of gigs because of the book, and is an Amazon.com bestseller.

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