FTC Compliance Statement

According to the Federal Trade Commission, bloggers have to disclose any “material connections” between themselves and any products or services they talk about on their blogs.

Amateur reviewers who keep that free book they blogged about? Those bloggers are being “paid” for that review. And must disclose that fact, under the new FTC guidelines.

So in the interest of complying with the FTC regulations, I’m telling you guys straight up: I usually have some sort of “material connection” to anything I happen to post about.

I don’t actually review books very often. I’m an amateur blogger, in that no one pays me a salary to run this site or post links, reviews, rants, or hopefully helpful ponderings.

Sometimes, people send me software keys, hoping I’ll say something nice about their product. Generally, unless I’m really impressed, I’m not going to be interested enough to actually write about it. If you find a software review on this site, it’s a pretty safe bet someone got something for writing it. Sometimes, people pay to have sponsored links to their website or services. I also have a number of affiliate links scattered about. It all helps pay for this space.

People send me books. Publicists send me books. Publishers send me books. I keep them, unless I give them away. I have stacks of books sitting around that I’ve bought, stacks of books that friends and family members have given me, and stacks of books that people sent me hoping for some publicity.

I can’t really tell which books are which, for the most part.

I sometimes wheedle a book review out of a friend, acquaintance, or gullible AWer who is willing to agree to share what they thought, if I give the book away. I’ve been known to pay for those reviews, even, before the economy completely tanked.

If you find a book review anywhere on AbsoluteWrite.com, it’s safe to assume that, at the very least, someone got to keep a copy of that book as remuneration.

In fact, just assume that I’m a complete tool of those big-time corporate masters, who send mysterious trench-coated representatives around every few weeks with small, non-sequential, unmarked bills to make it worth my while to post whatever happens to pop into my tiny brain about writing and publishing, at any given time.

But you can absolutely trust that I’ll do my level best to tell you the unvarnished truth about any book, website, or product I review. I’m not ever going to ask you guys to suffer through a disinterested B.S. post, just because I got a free software key, self-help manual, or bodice-ripper.

Absolute Write is an affiliate of Amazon.com. Amazon asks that we state:

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites

Recommended Resources

These are Web sites and blogs that Absolute Write thinks every writer ought to know about. We’re interested in knowing what you think, so please comment or contact us if you have a site you think we should consider including.

Literary Agents

Agent Query
Agent Query offers a free searchable database of literary agents.
Et in arcaedia, ego
Jennifer Jackson has been an agent at the Donald Maass Literary Agency since 1993. She discusses publishing news, good and bad queries, and offers practical advice about writing and publishing. Jennifer Jackson on Twitter.
Jennifer Represents….
Jennifer Laughran is an agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency specializing in children’s &YA fiction. Jennifer Laughran is on Twitter, too.
Janet Reid, Literary Agent
Janet Reid is one of the best known, most respected agents out there. In addition to interesting discussions about what she, and other agents are looking for, she’s provided a lot of information about how to write a query, how to talk to an agent, and what not to do. Janet Reid is also on Twitter.
Miss Snark
Miss Snark was a forthright literary agent who blogged anonymously for several years; while she is no longer adding new posts, the old content is very much worth reading. She’s a fount of practical, honest, advice.

Market Resources

Ralan is a fellow writer, who categorizes, lists, and describes markets, including submission criteria, payment, and response time. It’s an amazing resource.
Freelance Writing Jobs 
Freelance Writing Jobs began in May 2005, the brain child of a freelance writer who wanted to help other writers find decent paying jobs. Now, it’s much more than it’s frequently updated lists of writing gigs, it’s a vibrant community for freelance writers.
Media Bistro 
Mediabistro is intended for anyone who creates or works with content, or working in a content/creative industry. That includes editors, writers, producers, graphic designers, book publishers, and others. Mediabistro is a creative community, providing opportunities to meet, share resources, find job opportunities and interesting projects and news, improve career skills, and showcase your work.

Writing Resources

Forward Motion
Forward Motion was started by SF and Fantasy author Holly Lisle in 1998, and has been owned and managed by Lazette Gifford since 2003. You’ll find all ranges of writers, from the very new to those who are much published, and pretty much every genre, including poetry. The core purpose is “to help writers become professionally published.” They prohibit fanfiction, and don’t promote self-publishing. It’s a really helpful community, and completely free.
Author Scoop
With exclusive columns and author interviews—along with constantly updated links to the latest literary news and reviews, videos related to the craft and business of writing, author quotes and poetry—AuthorScoop is a one-stop shop for both information and inspiration.
“We’re a respectful online writing group made up of writers who improve each other’s work with thoughtful critiques and by sharing their writing experience.”
Writer Beware
You need to know about this site. It includes “warnings about literary fraud and other schemes, scams, and pitfalls that target writers.” Writer Beware is the public face of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Committee on Writing Scams. They are also sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America. There’s also a Writer Beware blog.

Writing Workshops, Conferences and Retreats

Note that many professional organizations like RWA and SCWBI offer conferences.

The ALPHA SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers (ages 14 – 19)
“We’re looking for enthusiastic, talented young writers who have a strong interest in science fiction, fantasy and/or horror and a passion for writing. Come spend ten days working with professional authors, each of whom will spend two days at the workshop.” This looks like a fabulous opportunity; writers in past years include Tamora Pierce, Harry Turtledove, Catherine Asaro, Wen Spencer, and Tobias S. Bucknell.
Boucher Con
The World Mystery Convention is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization which holds an annual convention in honor of Anthony Boucher, the distinguished mystery fiction critic, editor and author. It is the world’s premier event bringing together all parts of the mystery and crime fiction community, and is commonly referred to as Bouchercon. [bough’·chur·con]
“Clarion is an intensive six-week summer program focused on fundamentals particular to the writing of science fiction and fantasy short stories. It is considered a premier proving and training ground for aspiring writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Instructors are among the most respected writers and editors working in the field today. Over one third of our graduates have been published and many have gone on to critical acclaim.”
Clarion West
An intensive 6-week workshop with an emphasis on short fiction, in the genre science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Participants should be “prepared to write several new stories during the course of the workshop, to experiment and take artistic risks, and to give and receive constructive criticism. Each week the workshop is taught by a different highly regarded author or editor offering their unique perspective on the field. Class size is limited to 18 students. Instructors work closely with students, critiquing stories, leading class discussions on technique and other professional concerns, and holding individual or small group conferences.”
Clarion South
“Clarion South—which runs every two years in Brisbane, Australia—is the most intensive professional development program for speculative fiction writers in the southern hemisphere.”
Killer Nashville
“Three days of authors, contacts, & publishing. Over 40 panels and discussions available on mysteries, thrillers, and general writing and promotion techniques applicable to any genre.
“Since its inception in 1996, Odyssey has quickly become one of the most highly respected workshops for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Top authors, editors and agents have served as guests at Odyssey, and 53% of graduates have gone on to be published. The workshop, held annually on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, runs for six weeks, and combines an intensive learning and writing experience with in-depth feedback on students’ manuscripts. College credit is available upon request.”
Rainforest Writers Village
The first writers retreat began in February 2007. The idea was to create at least one time and place in the year where all but writing was put aside. The objective was to create an annual writers’ gathering that focused on solitary and community writing in an isolated environment supported by a collective of contemporaries of like mind and pursuits. Writers gather at a location of minimized outside interference or influence, ready to spend an intensive four or five days on their own work, with other writers who present for support and interactive development of written creative work as art, craft, and science. Balanced against this is a schedule of events aimed at supporting this process, with the number of retreat guests and attendees kept to a limit.
Viable Paradise
“Viable Paradise is a unique one-week residential workshop in writing and selling commercial science fiction and fantasy. The workshop is intimate, intense, and features extensive time spent with best-selling and award-winning authors and professional editors currently working in the field. VP concentrates on the art of writing fiction people want to read, and this concentration is reflected in post-workshop professional sales by our alumni.”

Writer’s Organizations

American Society of Journalists And Authors | ASJA
ASJA is a professional association of independent nonfiction writers founded in 1948
Australian Horror Writers Association
“The Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA) is a non-profit organisation that formed unofficially in 2003 as a way of providing a unified voice and a sense of community for Australian writers of dark fiction, while helping the development and evolution of this genre within Australia.”
InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship
We exist to stimulate, encourage and support Christians across Canada who write, to advance effective Christian writing, and to promote the availability and influence of all Christians who write.
Mystery Writers of America
MWA is a storied organization with a golden past and an exciting present. Each Spring, we present the Edgar® Awards, widely acknowledged to be the most prestigious awards in the genre. We sponsor MWA:Reads (a vibrant youth literacy program) and numerous other symposia and events designed to enlighten and inform authors and fans alike. If you’re an author in the mystery or crime genre or an allied professional, you’ll find important services and benefits here. If you’re a reader, fan, librarian, journalist or anybody else interested in learning more about the genre, you’ve come to the right place.
Romance Writers of America
“Romance Writers of America is dedicated to advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. The association represents more than 10,000 members in 145 chapters offering local or special-interest networking and education.”
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.
SFWA is a non-profit organization of professional writers of science fiction, fantasy, and related genres. Founded in 1965 by Damon Knight, the organization now includes over 1500 speculative authors, artists, editors, and allied professionals. SFWA presents the prestigious Nebula Awards, assists members in legal disputes with publishers, and hosts the well-known Writer Beware web site.
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
SCBWI is one of the largest organizations for writers and illustrators, and the only professional organization specifically for writers and illustrators for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia.
Sisters in Crime
3600 members in 50 chapters world-wide, offering networking, advice and support to mystery authors. Members are authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians bound by affection for the mystery genre and support of women who write mysteries. Sisters in Crime was founded by Sara Paretsky and a group of women at the 1986 Bouchercon in Baltimore to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers.

Writing Classes

See this listing for writing classes.

Reference Resources

The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language
This is the complete unabridged dictionary, with audio pronunciations, usage notes, and the Appendix of Indo-European Roots. If you’re looking for an answer about English, ranging from spelling, to grammar to usage, start here.
Columbia Guide To Standard American Usage
Easily understandable explanations of grammar and usage.
The King’s English H. W. Fowler
This is a classic. The second edition was published in 1908, but there’s still a great deal of practical wisdom for today’s writers.
Bartleby’s Reference Section
This is a basic reference library, all freely available, some of them a little dated, but there are dictionaries, quotation collections, literary encyclopedias, histories, and a good collection of poetry and literature.

Online Classes offered through Colleges and Universities

Online Schools Guide
Online Schools in Massachusetts A work continually in progress, this resource is a database compilation of college programs offered online in Massachusetts both full and part time.

Backspace Writers Conference

Pen nibJust a reminder to those of you thinking about attending Backspace Writers Conference in May, you’ll get an early registration discount if you register before February 1.

(In the interests of full disclosure, Backspace does advertise with AbsoluteWrite on occasion, but this is not a paid post, and I’ve personally heard really excellent things about this conference.)

This is a terrific opportunity for agents and writers to find each other. From the Backspace FAQ:

Both the Agent-Author Seminar and the 2010 Backspace Writers Conference offer access to agents so that authors can talk about their project, get a feel for the agents’ personalities and interests, and learn from the agents’ cumulative knowledge and experience. We offer workshops, not pitch sessions, which means that while an author can get their work in front of agents, if the agents feel it’s not yet ready (or if your opus is not quite finished), authors haven’t burned any bridges. The agents know that based on what authors learn at the conference, they might want to take another pass through their manuscript before they submit it. So while ideally, authors will be coming to the seminar with a finished manuscript in hand, they can still connect with agents and learn from their feedback, even if their work is not quite finished.

Writers generally have to do a lot of self-educating about both writing craft and the publishing industry. Conferences like Backspace Writers Conference can offer an excellent set of resources for a writer’s continuing education and professional network.

Tor Books Internship

Internships are a standard part of how people learn the publishing business. When you work at a major publisher, you’re gaining experience, insight, and making contacts that can eventually serve you for your entire career as a writer, editor, or even as an agent.

If you’re interested in working in publishing, and you’re in the NYC area or willing to relocate, Tor/Forge is currently seeking two editorial interns:

Tor Books is seeking two editorial interns for the spring 2010 semester. The interns in this position will gain insight into the process of publishing a book at every stage, from acquisition and contracts through production and, finally, the finished product. They will learn about acquisitions, editorial review, scheduling, rights and territories, catalogue, and sales. There will also be opportunities to read and evaluate unsolicited manuscripts. While this is an editorial internship, the position will involve interaction with other departments including Production, Marketing, Ad Promo, and Publicity. Our interns have the opportunity to work with a wide variety of genre fiction, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller, mystery, and romance.

This has been a friendly-neighborhood boost-the-signal announcement.

Spam for Breakfast!

Happy first Monday of 2010, AWers.

We talked about SEO and keywords, last time. I’ve got a post I’ve been working on about agents blogging, but in the meantime I’ve been deleting a fair amount of spam from the comments threads since we went live with comments here. (Thank you to HistorySleuth for the heads-up on this morning’s fresh batch.) So I’m looking at turning on more of the anti-spam tools. If you guys get comments hung up in moderation, please feel free to drop me a note and I’ll go and unscreen your post. Real comments make me grin the rest of the day, so I don’t want to miss any.Spam!

But I’ll confess to being already a bit grumpy about spam in general, so I got just plain mad when I got to the AW forums to discover that an agent (and a legitimate agent at that) is apparently running a contest on her blog, and one of the rules for entry is to post a link to the contest site on your own blog or site, and two other venues. That means that a half-dozen comment-spam links had been posted all over the forums, already.

So I wrote the agent in question with my objections, and she blew me off with a cheerful but dismissive statement that this is just how it’s done, and “Obviously, I didn’t send them directly to you nor do I have control over where they choose to post.”

No, actually – requiring that people invade other sites with comment spam is NOT how it’s done. It’s a fairly astonishing breach of netiquette, in fact. There’s a good article about comment spam, what it is, and how to deal with it, here.

Requiring that people spam message boards and other people’s blogs? That’s a far cry from asking people to tweet a link, retweet the link, or post on their own blogs/sites. Dealing with spam takes up an awful lot of everyone’s time. Most bloggers, community members, and board moderators are actively hostile—and with good reason.

Why don’t we just ignore spam? Because it interrupts the conversation. When you have to scroll past post after post of links that have nothing to do with what people are actually talking about, it’s disruptive and distracting. It’s also a cheesy attempt to try and cash in on other people’s hard work maintaining a community.

So how does anyone get the word out about a promotion (or a contest) without making site-owners and bloggers actively hostile? That’s actually dead simple. You build a reputation with your participation, then you spend that reputation carefully. Participation. Real conversation. Posting good links in relevant places will actually enhance your credibility, in fact.

Message boards and blogs are usually equipped to let people link back to their own sites in their signatures and/or profiles. Often, there’s even an appropriate place to post a direct link if you have an announcement or are promoting something. If you’re participating in real conversations, saying interesting things, interacting and engaging with an online community, then people are going to be a good deal more attentive and curious about what you’re doing elsewhere, as well.

Writing and Menopause

By Laura Lee Carter

Becoming a writer is made so much more interesting by menopause. Since I’m going through “the change”and changing everything else in my life (hair colors, houses, husbands, etc.), I decided to change careers too. Ask my new and unbelievably patient husband, Mike, who listens regularly to my sobbing fits in the midst of a career crisis turned career change at age 50. I continually rail against the injustice of it all: “How could those mean old editors ignore my valiant efforts to become a writer?”

I started out in libraries at 24, always with the understanding that I would change careers as soon as I discovered my true calling. I went through one husband and two master’s programs searching for the perfect fit. Then writing chose me. Soon after being laid off from my 25 years as an academic librarian, starting my own dating service and meeting Mike, I hired a career counselor to reveal to me my heart’s desire. She suggested writing a local column to market my dating service. The writing freed my soul. I now had no doubt. Writing was my passion. It came to me as easily as tracking down my soul mate, which is to say agonizingly slow! But, lucky me, I began working at my dream job, sleeping with my dream husband, and living the life I always dreamed of, the year I turned 50.

It seems I am cursed by the fact my father, a college professor, always loved his work. I now know that most people don’t love what they do for a living, but this very early propaganda raised my expectations of employment. I knew I didn’t love being a librarian, but I could never seriously consider becoming a writer. It all sounded so risky and irresponsible. Turning 50 and hearing on public radio that one of my writing heroes, Laura Ingalls Wilder never published anything until she was 60 convinced me it’s now or never.

Perhaps unconsciously I was waiting for life to bring me the proper “material” to write about. Yes, divorce, job layoffs, menopause, and all the other illustrious revelations of midlife do give one pause to think. And if you’re fortunate, even pause to write. So now I’m busily learning about clips, query letters, writer’s guidelines, and waiting impatiently for someone to buy my work, while suffering through hot flashes, memory lapses, crying jags, and various other forms of irrational emoting.

One element of the professional writing experience caught me by surprise. I had no idea how obsessive I could become with my work. Once I got the hang of it: latching on to a great story idea, researching it, finding a couple likely suspects to interview and writing the query letter, I couldn’t stop.  I just counted up more than 20 queries I’ve sent out in the past two weeks! At three in the morning, I wake up and immediately start ruminating:  “Am I taking the right approach in that story? Have I offended the editor? Am I crazy to even try to get into this business?”  I had to cut back cold turkey; it was starting to take over my life! This left me wondering if there are 12 step programs for new writers.

The good news is that I now finally know the excitement of “working in the zone.”  I sometimes get so wrapped up in my research, I actually forget to eat! Up until now, no job could distract me enough to miss lunch, or any other meal for that matter!

The bad news is the insufferable wait for responses. You would think that after 50 years of waiting to become a writer, I could wait a few more months for an editor’s opinion. Not so. I thrill in the process of getting excited about the story, the build up to writing the query, and sending it out. Then the serious waiting begins. In agitated anticipation, I wear a path to my mailbox and e-mail account everyday, trying to imagine the wording of that next illusive acceptance note.

I suppose the truth is, regardless of all those mean, thoughtless editors, I will continue to sweat and cry and write because I love the process of creating an entirely new story and sending it out into the world. In the midst of so much change, I feel fortunate to have finally found the two loves of my life, writing and Mike.

Laura Lee Carter has found some success as a writer after only one year of almost perpetual rejection notes from many editors!  You can find her books at Amazon. She blogs at Adventures of The New Old Farts.

Dry Dock: When Real Life Takes Writers Ashore

By Sarojni Mehta-Lissak

To set things straight, I am not a writer who suffers from writer’s block. Yes, the occasional lull passes through me and I feel stymied, but writer’s block is not my issue — real life is. Since becoming a writer, I have seen patterns emerge that interfere with my writing life; those life events that fall into our paths regardless of our professions, circumstances we must tend to which take us away from writing.  Yet, I have come to see these periods not as fallow, empty or unproductive, but as quiet times, absorbing times, periods when we come out of the water — as a ship in dry dock — while we take care of life’s responsibilities.

All of us experience low points in life and make the necessary adjustments to cope with these challenges. Writers are no different. When crises hit, we too, must take time away from our work to find solutions or tend to issues that hopefully are short-lived, but can be chronic and ongoing. We’re lucky if it’s simply a plumbing problem, but often it is taking care of an aging parent or tending to a sick child.  What’s important to realize is that these times away from our writing are not really “lost” times, they are simply periods that are dormant, because they must be, as we turn our attentions off the page and to the problems at hand. Though we are not actively writing, we are collecting images, documenting events, and absorbing our life circumstances to use in future writing.

Being in dry dock allows us to take in life, deal with the concrete nuts and bolts of it, and then get back into the water — the writing life — with a renewed depth and a broader range of material from which to draw upon. I have come to resist these quiet times less, as I realize that almost on a daily basis something happens which takes me away from my writing, whether it’s a family concern, a load of laundry or even a phone call from a friend.

As all writers know, our need to produce constantly and regularly is almost obsessive — perhaps even uncontrollable — yet we must allow ourselves to be freed from this strong need in order to attend to the practical aspects of daily living. We must believe in ourselves and in our capabilities. We must know that we can indeed, retrieve our words and thoughts at a future time to write about them when life is not pulling at us so vehemently. If we wrestle with this dilemma, then we are wrestling with ourselves, for life will continue to happen, regardless of our being writers.

I recently had an illness and found myself in bed for three days — nowhere near my computer.  I actually didn’t miss being in my office because my focus was on getting better; writing was simply at the bottom of my list. Yes, I was conjuring stories and articles in my feverish delirium, but I didn’t have a compulsion to get up and write. I tried to have trust in myself that these inspirations would reappear at a later time if I were meant to write about them. I think this is why writers are at times so tormented; perhaps we feel that if we don’t write, right now, it will all evaporate and be lost forever. Though pens and notebooks are great companions, we must trust in our ability to retrieve our words.

We are the captains of our own ships and we can choose to remain at the helm when in water, or when in dry dock. Life will continue to infiltrate our writing time and we can continue to resist it, unless we look at these breaks as times of gathering. Even though our fingers are not at the keyboard, if we are open to the experiences falling into our paths then we can use what we have learned for better writing in the days ahead. This is when we can incorporate the range of emotions and circumstances we have collected . . . until we sail once again to the open seas, as writers filled with bounty.

Sarojni Mehta-Lissak is a poet, fiction and freelance writer.  Her work has appeared in Wild Violet, The Birthkit Newsletter, Midwifery Today, FamilyTravelFun.com and Moondance.org. She has a website