I Named My Computer Crowley

Supernatural

Due to an unfortunate incident with a spilled glass of iced tea, I had to buy a new laptop. Is it just me, or is the hardest part of setting up a new computer figuring out what to name it?* Over the years, I’ve had five computers of my own. I named the first one Franjeen, after one of the brownies in Willow. When I replaced that computer**, it made sense to stick with a fantasy theme. Computer two was Falkor, known in my childhood as “the puppy dog dragon.” Next came Schmendrick, for the hapless magician in The...

Brick and Mortar Magic: Five Ways a Book Becomes a Bestseller

Courtesy of Kristin Nador on WANA Commons

Welcome to the first post in an occasional series for writers! After I got my PhD, I went to work at a bookstore. This was partly because my brain was fried and I wanted to relax with the pretty books. It was also because, as I writer, I wanted to understand how the retail end of the book business actually functioned – and how real humans behave when choosing new books. It was revelatory – and now I share those revelations with you. Five Ways a Book Becomes a Bestseller Every writer needs a day job.  Supportive spouses, after all,...

The Top Ten Things Grad School Taught Me About Writing

Yes. Yes I am.

  When I gave up a career in science to be a starving artist, I knew, without doubt or reservation, that I was doing the right thing.  I also knew it was a thing that would be difficult, if not impossible, to explain to anyone else. Perhaps it would be easier if I just explained all the ways a PhD in science is perfect preparation for the writing life.  So here they are – the top ten things grad school taught me about writing. 10) How to do a literature search.  I’ve become an expert at tracking down random...

When Book Love Goes Badly Wrong

double-facepalm

What’s the most trouble your book love has gotten you into? An out-of-control TBR pile? A spouse or parent wondering where all your money has gone? A concussion from walking into a street lamp while reading? Mine happened when I was still a bookseller at Chapters. We had a new manager.  She was a lovely lady and I liked her quite a lot, which is why I promised that I would eventually stop teasing her about this… I’d been reading Tish Cohen’s Little Black Lies on my breaks and only had about 20 pages left, so I decided to stay a...

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Does Not Apply to Research

Wildebeest Migration

I’ve blogged before about the importance of fact checking sources when researching nonfiction for kids. This post is about a slightly different research challenge that, in the age of the internet, is becoming a huge problem. I sometimes teach classes on research techniques, for both writers and university students composing academic papers. First, I review the kinds of information sources writers can use. Then I discuss the way different sources are perceived and weighed by editors (and professors). Finally, we talk about how many sources the average 800-word children’s nonfiction article requires. When I tell students that articles I’ve written about DNA – a subject...

A Request for Hollywood

Franjeen and Rool

Is anyone else getting a little tired of superhero movies? With the exception of next year’s Wonder Woman, which not only looks awesome, but puts a female hero in a starring role, I am getting pretty burnt out on the whole genre. There is a sub-category of movie I would really like to see more of, though. A category no man would identify as “chick flick,” but which women everywhere find tremendously appealing: movies in which men with long hair and weapons run through the wilderness. Movies like these: Willow (1988) Even when falling on his butt, Val Kilmer is completely adorable. ...