Nathan Bransford, Author

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Still Time to Leave Comments for Heifer International

Thanks so much to everyone who commented and tweeted to raise money for Heifer International!

We had over 100 tweets and 65 comments, and I'm going to go ahead and round up to $1,000.

But before you run off to eat your Christmas Eve tamales, there's still time to help spread the giving! These blogs have made per-comment pledges that are still very much active. Please stop by and leave comments and spread the word about Heifer.

Writing in the NY Lake District
Mira's Corner
Making Stuff Up & Writing It Down
My Karma Ran Over My Dogma
Daily Adventures
An Uneducated Palate

Thanks again, and Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3rd Annual Heifer International Fundraiser!

It's that time of year! Time for our annual Heifer International blog fundraising goodness where we spread the cheer for one of the most worthy causes out there. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post OR Tweet a link to this post ( and include the hashtag #NBHeifer to help raise money for a great cause.

And you too can participate with your own pledge!

You may have already heard of Heifer International, an organization that works to fight hunger by giving needy families around the world and in the United States livestock, training, or other assistance that helps improve their livelihood. Heifer has been recognized for its work in Fast Company and Forbes, among other places.

I know these are some difficult economic times for many people, but if you have anything to spare this holiday season I hope you'll consider making a donation

And in order to encourage people to spread the word about this worthy cause, there are two ways to help increase the giving love (and feel free to do both):
  1. For every comment someone makes in this post between now and 6PM Pacific time on Friday, I will donate $2.00.
  2. For every tweet that includes a) the hashtag #NBHeifer and b) a link back to this post ( I will donate another $2.00. (up to $2,000 between the two)
And, better yet, if you want in on the fun you could do a per-comment pledge on your own blog and enter it into the linky list at the bottom of this post. We can encourage everyone to stop by so we can multiply the giving! Over the past two years we raised over $3,000 together.

In your comment I hope you'll list:

1. Your name
2. Where you're from
3. A wish for 2011
4. (optional) Your own per-comment pledge (amounts totally up to you). Write a dedicated post on your blog for people to leave comments on your blog and link to Heifer and state your pledge. Then enter it into the linky list below so everyone can stop by and leave a comment.

Thanks, everyone, for helping make the world a better place!

UPDATE: Upping bid to $2.00!

Monday, December 19, 2011

How Art Changes With Us

I recently rewatched the movies "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," which, if you haven't seen or heard of them, are rather amazing.

In the first, "Before Sunrise," which came out in 1995, two early-twenty-somethings played by Ethan Hawke (Jesse) and Julie Delpy (Celine) meet on the train from Budapest to Vienna. Jesse has one night before his plane leaves back for America and he convinces Celine to spend the night with him wandering around Vienna, where they talk about life, love, dreams, everything.

"Before Sunset," which came out in 2004, picks up after those intervening nine years. Now in their thirties, Jesse and Celine walk around Paris before Jesse has to fly back to the US, and this time they're dealing with the weight of real adulthood and exude a palpable sense of nostalgia and regret.

These very simple premises are held aloft because of the way Jesse and Celine so totally encapsulate that tenuous, rare, and electric connection you can have with some people: when everything aligns just so and you're consumed by the surprise and novelty of finding someone who completely excites you. There are people who are just magical to all of us, and Hawke and Delpy capture that instant familiarity and the rush of falling in love

Then, later, they reconnect after nine years and test the strength of that brief connection.

Place of Change

The first time I watched these movies was around 2004-2005, shortly after "Before Sunset" came out, when I was in my early twenties and still in the exciting early days of a relationship. Of the two movies I naturally identified most strongly with "Before Sunrise," the younger movie of the two. I was roughly the same age as the characters, the world seemed full of endless possibilities, and my future was so excitingly uncertain.

At the time, "Before Sunset" struck me as poignant but also incredibly, almost needlessly sad. The characters were stressed and intense and (SPOILER) stuck in loveless relationships and thinking about what might have been if things had just unfolded differently on the platform six months after they first met.(/SPOILER)

But now, at age 31, I re-watched the movies at a vastly different place in my life and it was like watching completely different movies.

Now "Before Sunrise" was an exercise in nostalgia, remembering how intense conversations felt at that age, the sense of adventure, and the brave early twenties naivety of thinking life will be completely easy because we are the special ones, at long last, that truly get how the world really works.

And now it's "Before Sunset" that I identify with the most, not least of which because it turns out, like Jesse, that this year I was having a novel come out at the same time that I was starting a new life with some of the same weighty thoughts of what might have been. (Though I have not, sadly, done a reading at "Shakespeare & Company" in Paris like Jesse).

That intense melancholy of "Before Sunset" that I once found almost maudlin is something I now see all around me in my peers. It's the quarter-life crisis of reaching a certain point in your life just by doing the right thing and hitting the right benchmarks of college, first job, dating, marriage, before inevitably being beset by forces outside of your control. There's a sense of wandering and uncertainty that sets in when you begin to face the weight of major decisions and choosing the right relationship (or not) or sensing you're in the wrong career.

Your early twenties are the time when you think you have everything figured out; at some point before the end of that decade you realize that you don't.

Changing in Place

What's amazing about these movies is that because they're set nine years apart they thoroughly embody this passage of time and maturation that we all go through, while at the same time retaining that essential magic between Jesse and Celine. Life moves on, we change, we age, and yet something essential remains.

And that's the amazing thing about art. These movies haven't changed at all since I saw them last, that essence hasn't moved a bit. But I have changed, the world has changed, and how we all respond to works of art evolves.

The movies may be the same but they mean something different than they used to and they'll continue to change while remaining exactly the same.

Now it's nearly nine years after "Before Sunset," and Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy are reportedly considering a new installment. I'm so curious to see where these characters are at forty, and dearly hope that if there is a new sequel that it makes the past movies even better and deepens their meaning, as "Before Sunset" did for "Before Sunrise."

But no matter what happens I'm sure my feelings about these movies, so bound up with my own personal history, will continue to change as I revisit them at different stages in life.

That's the beauty of stories. They change with us and always give us something new.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This Week in Books 12/17/11

This week! Books! Still abbreviated because I'm not done with Wonderbar #3!

First off, there is an Official Writing Retreat for the readers of this here blog organized by the lovely people in the discussion forums! It has been dubbed the Bransforumfest Writing Retreat, and it will be in Las Vegas March 3-9, 2012. I shall be there! I'm unable to be there the whole week as I have a work conflict, but I plan to be there for opening night festivities. If you're interested in attending please raise your hand in this thread. It will be a blast.

Meanwhile, there are links!

The Self-Aggrandizing Self-Publishing Kings: Extreme Rhetoric, Inflammatory Language and Ulterior Motives

Four of the Best Writers Blogs (thanks Alice Bradley!)

How Darcie Chan Became a Best-Selling Author (via Wendy Russ)

Publishers Are Still Missing the Point on E-Book Prices

Christopher Hitchens, Writer and Intellectual, Dies at 62

And please share your favorite links in the comments!

In the Forums:

What to ask a friend who is might edit your work
The end of the celebrity author?
The best agent blogs
An unplanned theme when choosing books
Passive vs. active voice - who is winning in your WIP?

And finally, well, sometimes you're the man and sometimes you're the bear:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Amazon vs. the Indies

There were two dueling posts in the Internetosphere about Amazon and independent bookstores yesterday that took vastly different approaches to the value of bookstores and Amazon to literary and reading life.

First, in a provocative broadside against bookstores called "Don't Support Your Local Bookseller," Slate's Farhad Manjoo tackles what he sees as misplaced nostalgia for bookstore culture, the economic efficiency of Amazon, and argues that selling boatloads of books (which Amazon does) is more important to literature culture than setting up folding chairs for book readings:
It’s not just that bookstores are difficult to use. They’re economically inefficient, too... I’m always astonished by how much they want me to pay for books. At many local stores, most titles—even new releases—usually go for list price, which means $35 for hardcovers and $9 to $15 for paperbacks. That’s not slightly more than Amazon charges—at Amazon, you can usually save a staggering 30 to 50 percent. In other words, for the price you’d pay for one book at your indie, you could buy two.

I get that some people like bookstores, and they’re willing to pay extra to shop there... And that’s fine: In the same way that I sometimes wander into Whole Foods for the luxurious experience of buying fancy food, I don’t begrudge bookstore devotees spending extra to get an experience they fancy.
What rankles me, though, is the hectoring attitude of bookstore cultists like [Richard] Russo, especially when they argue that readers who spurn indies are abandoning some kind of “local” literary culture. There is little that’s “local” about most local bookstores... Sure, every local bookstore promotes local authors, but its bread and butter is the same stuff that Amazon sells—mass-manufactured goods whose intellectual property was produced by one of the major publishing houses in Manhattan. It doesn’t make a difference whether you buy Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs at City Lights, Powell’s, Politics & Prose, or Amazon—it’s the same book everywhere.
In the other corner you have Bookavore, the manager of indie bookseller Word Brooklyn, who has... well, pretty mild-mannered words for Amazon and a list of ways she feels they could be a bit less evil:
I don’t want to make lists of the reasons why Amazon sucks because I feel like I’m handing them a blueprint for rehabilitation. Many people want so, so badly to like Amazon, and many people already do. (See: comments sections on any article talking about Amazon.) Any effort they made towards making the world a better place would be embraced wholeheartedly by consumers and publishers, who mostly, when it comes right down to it, just want things to be convenient and cheap. If Amazon started reversing any of their more unsavory decisions, they might lose money in the short-term, but I think they’d end up making more money in the long-term, by cementing the loyalty of an entirely new set of consumers who always sort of want to buy things from Amazon, and sometimes give in and do, but feel guilty about it.
We're at a major turning point in the book world right now and the future is going to be decided by our collective decisions. Are bookstores going the way of record stores and will they fade into Bolivian or do they provide such a service to the community that people will be willing to pay extra to keep them around?

Whose side are you on, not just in terms of sentiment but in actual dollars and cents? Or is this really even an either/or debate?

I tend to be the type of person who thinks they can co-exist. I love the convenience that Amazon provides. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, we didn't have a bookstore, and I didn't grow up with the same kind of nostalgia that many people have for dusty aisles of books. But I've fallen in love with enough bookstores since then and am thankful enough for their role in literary culture to think the great ones have to have a place somehow.

What do you think?

Art: "Knowledge Bursts the Chain of Enslavement" - Aleksej Radakov

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Hobbies Have You Given Up for Your Writing?

Image from "A Tramp Abroad" by Mark Twain.
First up, congrats to Christina Kit, who won the ARC of TRY NOT TO BREATHE! And everyone else, please do look out for TRY NOT TO BREATHE when it comes out next month (and Jenn's debut THE SECRET YEAR, while you're at it).

Now then! If you are a writer, chances are you've had to set something else aside that you like doing in order to free up the time necessary to complete a book.

For me, I really enjoy video games and used to play them a bit before writing. Now? Not so much. I also watch less sports and TV in general, go to the movies less, and if I weren't indoors writing on the weekend I'd probably be out hiking.

What about you?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Giveaway: Try Not to Breathe

I'm really enjoying my new work life as a social media manager, but one of the things I miss most about being an agent is working with insanely talented writers as they go through the process of writing a great novel.

Try Not to Breathe, a YA novel by my former client Jennifer R. Hubbard, is one of the last books I worked on before leaving agenting for the fair pastures of the tech world, and I feel utterly privileged to have had a front row seat.

Just as in her debut The Secret Year, which starts just after the protagonist's secret love dies, Try Not to Breathe picks up in the aftermath of a catastrophic event: the main character attempted suicide before the novel begins. TNTB is about his attempt to navigate a murky new world of watchful stares, fraught relationships, and the first stirrings of not just a new normal but reasons for hope.

One of those relationships involves a girl who is dealing with darkness in her own past, and the way they come together is poignant and incredibly real.

I can't speak for Jenn, but I feel like as agent/author we were really synced up in a great way as we worked together on some of the early revisions, right down to brainstorming about to the title: I had suggested an REM lyric, "The Night is Yours Alone," (from "Everybody Hurts") and she countered with another REM song from the same album: "Try Not to Breathe," which is the absolute perfect title for this book.

Try Not to Breathe will be published by Viking one month from today - January 12th.

And today I am thrilled to offer a signed ARC to a lucky commenter! If you'd like to enter, leave a comment on this post between now and Tuesday evening at 9pm PT. This giveaway is limited to those in the US and Canada, and you must be over 13. And please only enter once.

Good luck!

Update: Publishers Weekly has given Try Not To Breathe an amazing starred review!! An excerpt: "Hubbard is outstandingly successful at capturing the frustration of not having the words, especially in a culture that does not encourage boys to express what Ryan is feeling."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What You Need to Know About SEO

Guest Post by Rick Daley

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical in modern marketing.  Any author trying to sell books should be familiar with its basic concepts, whether you have been published by a Big Six publisher, a small press, or (especially) if you are an indie author.  So how do you leverage the greater power of the Internet to help get your platform in front of the right person at the right time?   

First things first: Relax.  You don’t need to be a technical wizard to understand SEO, it’s really pretty simple at heart.  Here’s a Q&A to get you started.  I’ll get into the tech stuff later.

Q: I’ve heard about SEO, but I have no idea what it actually is.  How does SEO work?
A: SEO works like this: you type keywords into a Google search, and Google lists the pages on the Internet that are most relevant to your keywords.  (Or the pages the Chinese government says are okay for you to view. It depends on your location.)  The most relevant page is listed first.  SEO increases your site’s relevance in Google’s eyes.

And as a point of note, I keep referring to Google, but all this also applies to Bing, Yahoo,, and other search engines.  Except for that crack about China, that’s mainly Google.

Q: How do you measure SEO?
A: You measure SEO according to your ranking in the search results.  You don’t want to be buried on page 100, or even page three.  The best ranking is the first link on the first page, but anywhere on the first page is excellent.

Q: Hey, that’s just an ad at the top of the Google search results!
A: That’s not a question, but I’ll humor you.  Yes, Google does put a few paid links at the top of the search results, and there are also paid ads on the sidebar.  The ads are placed based on keyword relevance, and they can be effective.  They can also be expensive. 

But SEO isn’t about paid ads; it’s more organic…it’s about showing up because you belong there.

Q: I just searched for my name and my book title, and I’m on the first page of the results.  Does that mean I have great SEO?
A: Not really.  Chances are, if someone enters a specific search for your name, and you have any kind of web presence, they will find you.  Unless you share a name with somebody famous.  For example, if you search for my full name, Richard Daley, Chicago politics dominates the results because I happen to share a name with two past mayors.  But search for Rick Daley and Chicago goes away (not literally!) and I have several links appearing on page 1. 

I just searched for my book’s title, The Man in the Cinder Clouds, and I have all ten spots on the first page right now.  That doesn’t really mean anything, though, because there aren’t that many pages relevant to so specific a term.  Winning isn’t special when there’s no competition.     

Q: So if I don’t use SEO for my name or book title, what do I use it for?
A: SEO is best geared toward keywords relevant to your book.  For example, my book is an origins-of-Santa story.  The keywords/phrases I chose for SEO are Christmas book for kids, history of Santa Claus, Christmas gift idea, Kindle Christmas Book, Nook Christmas Book, etc.  I’m trying to think like my target audience and determine what they are likely to search for.  I want to show up first when they go looking online.  That’s SEO.

Q: Are the keywords I choose for SEO similar to the tags I use at
A: Yes!  Tags work within Amazon’s site, and SEO is for the Internet at large. 

Q: What are tags at
A: Sorry.  If you go to you book’s page on, scroll down below the reviews (have you ever done that? ;-) and you’ll find a section for tags.  Anyone can tag your book.  The tags are just keywords, but having them increases your book’s visibility.  Use them.

Q: How does Google determine if my page is relevant to the keywords?
A: Google and the other search engines have proprietary technologies to determine ranking.  Here’s the way I understand it: Google designed special programs with cool names like bots and spiders, and these programs scour the internet looking for things like links, contextual text, page titles, and META tags.  They report it back to home base and Google sprinkles the data with faerie dust and voila, search results.

Q: Huh?
A: Just kidding.  Let’s take it a step at a time. 

Links (i.e. hyperlinks) should be used on your targeted keywords, and they should go to your site(s) when clicked.  

Q: Like when you talk about your new Christmas book for kids?
A: Now you’re getting it! One other thing about links…the more the merrier.  You want your links pointing back to you from all directions, not just a bunch on one site.  The Google values diversity.

Q: What about that other stuff you mentioned?
A:  Contextual text is similar in nature to the links…basically, it’s your keywords in the copy on your site or content of your blog post, just without hyperlinks. 

In the old days, Google ranked pages based on word frequency with no contextual basis.  People figured that out, then started creating pages with big blocks of text with nothing but the same keyword over and over (they put that text out of the way, like way down at the bottom of the page).  It worked, but that’s cheating so The Google changed its secret sauce. 

The keywords should be relevant to the surrounding text.  Make sure you include your keywords in your promotional posts and website copy, and try to make it natural.  It can be a fun writing exercise if you approach it with a positive mindset.

Page titles are displayed in the top bar of your browser window when you visit a website, or on the tab, depending on your browser’s settings.  For your website’s SEO, you want to avoid general page titles, like “Home Page”, in favor of something more specific, like “The Man in the Cinder Clouds- A Christmas Book”.  (But you should use your book’s title.)

META tags are in the HTML code of a web page, buy they are not visible on the page.  It’s just a list of your keywords, separated by commas, with some basic HTML formatting around it. 

Many website development platforms have point-and-click interfaces to add/update your page titles and META tags.  If you have a webmaster who maintains your site for you, he or she should be able to update them for you.

Q: Is that all?
A: For now, grasshopper.  That is all for now.

The Man in the Cinder Clouds
By Rick Daley

A young boy and his scientist father made an incredible discovery at the North Pole—an ancient book embedded deep within an ice core.  Even more incredible is the story the book tells: the long-lost history of Santa Claus you never knew…and will never forget. 

This origins-of-Santa story is a great holiday read for the whole family.  Its mix of action, humor, and Christmas spirit keeps younger readers turning the pages, but The Man in the Cinder Clouds is not just a kids’ book. 

As one reviewer puts it, “THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS is one of those middle grade books that the grown-ups get sucked into along with their kids. You think you bought if for your young reader but after you browse chapter one you just sort of... can't stop.”

This story-within-a-story reveals the origins of our most familiar Christmas traditions: from Christmas trees, stockings, and lumps of coal to jingle bells, the North Pole, and flying reindeer.  Highly original and thoroughly entertaining, The Man in the Cinder Clouds will show you how Kris Kringle came to be known as Santa Claus.  It wasn’t easy.

About the Author
Rick Daley has been writing professionally for over 15 years.  His experience includes marketing copy for print and web, press releases, business proposals, training and technical manuals, and whitepapers.  His essays, ranging from family life during the holidays to his first skydiving experience, have been featured in The Columbus Dispatch. 

Rick lives in Lewis Center, Ohio with his wife and two sons (and a neurotic schnauzer).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Do You Work Better On a Deadline?

The Knight's Dream - Antonio de Pereda
I must confess that I don't really like deadlines. I wrote two novels without a deadline, I wrote them pretty quickly, and while I understand they work for some people, deadlines mostly serve to stress me out.

But I may be a rare bird. Do you like deadlines? Do you need deadlines? Do you work better when you have one?

Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Network Without Networking

"Ferdinand of Hungary meeting with Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Spain at Nördlingen" - Peter Paul Rubens
I’m not the life of the party. I’m not someone who can step into a gathering and work a room. I’m pretty introverted in real life. And I’m not what you might call a mover and a shaker.

But I think of some of the opportunities I’ve had over the years, some of the people I’ve been so fortunate to meet, some of the places I’ve been able to go and things I’ve been able to do… and yeah. Lots of those opportunities came from my “network” (those quotes are me cringing at that word).

So uh… How in the world did I develop a network when I’m not good at networking?

You hear so much about how it's all about who you know, how you have to network, etc. etc. For me personally, it's not something I made a conscious choice to do.

When I look back, I think there have been two big things that helped, and they’re things anyone can do:

1.    Do not think of your network as a network.
2.    Build something.

Do Not Think of Your Network as a Network

I don’t have a network, I have friends. And I’m really serious about this.

The thing about the word “networking” is that it has a mercenary edge to it, like we’re just going to get to know each other because of what we can get out of each other. And not only is that completely icky, it doesn’t work.

Because who wants to get to know someone else just because of what they can get out of them? How shallow is that relationship, and how is either party really motivated to help each other out when the time comes?

Find the people who you like and whose work you genuinely admire, and invest in those people. Become friends with those people. Don’t force it, don’t do it because they’re successful, do it because you like them and actually want to help them out.

Obviously when your network expands you can’t invest equally in everyone who is investing in you, but give of yourself what you can and treat people with respect and pretty soon you’ll be surrounded by amazing people that you’ll feel incredibly lucky to know.

And that leads to #2.

Build Something

Building things opens doors. For me it was the blog and the Jacob Wonderbar novels, but other people have built groups or organizations or journals or a Twitter following or any number of things.

When you build something it’s more than just creating a platform or a bully pulpit, what’s amazing about building something is that it will ultimately attract like-minded people to you.

You’re putting a part of yourself out there, and pretty soon you’ll find that you’re drawing in other people who like the things you like and share your outlook and worldview. It’s an amazing thing, and I’ve found some of my best, real-life friends through the blogosphere and social media.

And ultimately that leads right back to point number #1. It may seem trite or twee, but look: You’re not building a network, you’re making friends.

Friday, December 2, 2011

This Week in Books 12/2/11

This week! Books!

Still in crunch-time mode on Wonderbar #3, so here's another abbreviated of This Week in Books.

Some cool new (to me) sites to check out:

Greatest Books for Kids

Small Demons

And blog posts!

Self-Published Authors Sharply Criticize Penguin's Book Country

Book Country and Self-Publishing: Why the Hate?

Mark Cuban to Publish E-book

PW Names Worst Book Ever
(Really? It beat this one?)

An Agent's Day

A Writer's Plea

And finally, here's the promo video for Small Demons, which is a pretty awesome demonstration of what the site is all about:

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-Books: The Results!

The results!

At least in this little poll, our e-book overlords seem to have already won.

The percentage of people who said you'd have to pry paper books out of their cold dead hands:

2007: 49%
2008: 45%
2009: 37%
2010: 30%
2011: 25%

The percentage of people who welcome their coming e-book overlords:

2007: 7% (!)
2008: 11%
2009: 19%
2010: 32%
2011: 47%

I believe that's what's called a trend.

Here are some other fun links and comments sections to check out. E-book prognostications from 2007! When the Kindle had just come out and cost $400. Can you believe the original Kindle cost $400?! Wow. My how things change.

When Will E-Books Take Over?
Kindle Kindle Burning Bright

And of course...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-books?

The leaves are changing, Christmas music is in the air, and it's time for our annual e-book poll, which I have held every year since 2007.

Which means this is the FIFTH ANNUAL e-book poll. Wow.  Thanks to everyone who has been around for all five.

Let's get the disclaimers out of the way: Yes, I'm aware this isn't the most scientific of polls. Yes, the sample has changed from year to year. Yes, there are two polls from 2009 because I forgot one at the end of '08. Entertainment purposes only!

Here are the past polls:

2008 (technically beginning of '09)

And here is this year's poll. Do you think there will come a time when you buy mostly e-books? Do you already? Click through for the poll if you're reading via e-mail or in a feed reader:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Turkey Day to all my fellow Americans out there! Hope you are having a safe, restful, and lovely holiday.

Let's make this Thanksgiving a thoughtful one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do You Suffer From One of These Writing Maladies? (Part II)

The fall season of writing viruses is here. Watch out for these dangerous diseases!

(After Part I)

Catching the Rye:
Well you probably first want to have read this book by J.D. Salinger with an immediately catchy voice that kind of spoke to a generation or some nonsense, and after you do that you may be corrupted with that voice in your head for some time if you want to know the truth of the matter. If you really want to think about it it’s already been done and anyway the guy who wrote it didn’t end up wanting to talk to anyone anymore and holed up in a house somewhere so that can’t have been good and you probably want to try and go and write your own voice so you’re not a phony.

Adverb Central:
“What do you mean I can’t use adverbs with dialogue tags?” Lucia asked questioningly.
“Just don’t do it,” Nathan replied testily.
“But why not?” Lucia asked quizzically.
“It’s kind of a rule,” Nathan said resignedly.
“I kind of like them,” Lucia said poutingly.
“If you keep using adverbs,” Nathan said patiently, “Pretty soon your reader will only notice the adverbs and not the dialogue because the adverbs are doing all the work for the reader.”
“Oh,” Lucia said understandingly.
“Yeah,” Nathan nodded knowingly.

Gee Whiz That’s a Lot of Exposition:
“But what is it?” Captain Spaceman asked.
“I’m glad you asked,” his crack scientist said. “It’s a ‘What’s It.’ It is a device that requires me to explain to you precisely how the technology in this world works so the writer can get some exposition out of the way.”
“But why wouldn’t I already know how the technology works?” Captain Spaceman asked. “I am the captain, aren’t I?”
“That’s the beauty of it,” the scientist said. “You will impatiently prod me along while I tell the reader exactly what they need to know even though there is no good reason for us to be having this conversation. You might even say ‘Yes yes, go on.’”
“Yes yes, go on,” Captain Spaceman said.
“And I’ll be sure to include some foreshadowing. I mean, sir, just think of what would happen if the ‘What’s It’ fell into the wrong hands... You might even be moved to weigh in on the gravity of the situation.”
Captain Spaceman scratched his chin. “My gods, that would be catastrophic.”

Olympic Head Jumping:
Jackie saw the problem approach from a mile away. She turned to Richard, who was wondering about the weather that day and thought nothing of Susan, who was sitting quietly and wasn’t expecting the problem at all. Jackie wondered at that moment how everything had gone wrong, while Richard’s eyes widened as he saw another person approaching, Derrick, who gave a wave as he approached, happy to see his friends. Susan began to notice something was amiss and gave a start, which Richard noticed and looked in Derrick’s direction while Jackie had already been onto the problem from the start, ignoring the quizzical expression on Derrick’s face as he tried to understand. No one had any idea what was really happening.

Fantasy Overload:
“We are hearty warriors! Let us share a hearty chuckle! Ha ha ha!” Pentrarch said.
There was a glint in Lentwendon’s eye as he took a swill from a mighty cistern of ale. He bellowed a deep laugh and clapped his friend on the back.
“I say,” Pentrarch said, “What is it about fantasy novels that lends itself to such stilted, manly camaraderie? Do we not have normal interactions?”
“We do not,” Lentwendon said, his voice suddenly grave. “We do not. We prefer to express our friendship with great noise and clapping of shoulders and brood quietly but stoically when matters turn serious. It is the same with our women.”
“Oh yes,” Pentrarch said “Our women are quietly supportive that we must do battle in far off lands, and they always have weary, knowing eyes. In truth they are the strong ones.”
Lentwendon nodded as he stared quietly at his cistern. “And ale, always ale.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

This Week in Books 11/18/11

This week! Books!

Whew. I'm back in San Francsico again after being gone three out of the last four weeks, and there's nothing quite like being back at home. But as I'm in pseudo-NaNoWriMo mode on Wonderbar #3, time for blogging is limited.

So! Here are my favorite links from the last few weeks, in link-only form.

Has China Found the Future of Publishing? (The Guardian)

Amazon's New Kindle Lending Program Causes Publishing Stir (LA Times)

How to Write a Person (Alchemy of Writing)

So You're Thinking of Self-Publishing... (Wicked & Tricksy)

Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet Review (CNET - disclosure I work at CNET)

Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet Review (CNET)

Book Cover of the Future? (GalleyCat)

What Not to Blog About (Rachelle Gardner)

Query Personalization (KidLit)

Author Advances Survey Results (Meghan Ward)

Jonathan Lethem Responds to James Wood Review (GalleyCat)

The Disappointment Author: Lethem vs. Wood (The Millions)

Does Age Matter for Writers (Rachelle Gardner)

The Authors Guild on Amazon's Kindle Lending Library (Writer Beware)

Smashwords Launches E-book Publishing Service for Literary Agents (Smashwords)

2011 National Book Award Winners Announced (The Millions)

The No Response = No Debate (Adventures in Agent Land)

Shatter Me Author Tahereh Mafi on Why Teens Dig the Supernatural (Tahereh Mafi)

And finally, this video needs no further description (via io9)


Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do You Plan to Bypass the Traditional Publishing Industry Entirely?

In a recent guest post at J.A. Konrath’s blog, Barry Eisler laid out numerous reasons why he no longer foresees pursuing traditional publication.

And in the comments section on this blog, I’ve noticed a definite uptick in the number of people who are questioning the wisdom of querying agents and trying for traditional publication at all, whether because of the length of time it takes, the fear of losing control, e-book royalties, and many other factors.

So. For all you writers out there: Do you plan to pursue traditional publication or are you going self-publishing all the way?

Poll below, please click through if you’re reading via e-mail or a feed reader.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shatter Me Release Day!

If you don't already know Tahereh Mafi from her innovative blog or witty Twitter stream or Tumblr or other locales where she has taken over the Internet, you probably will soon hear about 'Shatter Me,' her awesome dystopian YA novel that's publishing today.

'Shatter Me' is about Juliette, whose touch is fatal, and who is being held captive by the Reestablishment in a dystopian world. After a long stretch in solitary confinement she suddenly has a visitor, and this kicks in motion a plot where Juliette has to come to terms with her power and try to escape. It's exciting, gripping, suspenseful, mesmerizing, and all those other adjectives that go along with a great adventure.

But what really sets 'Shatter Me' apart is the writing. True to form, Tahereh didn't just go and write a novel, there's an incredibly clever use of strikethrough and some of the most unique turns of phrase and descriptions you'll ever see in a YA novel. 'Shatter Me' is proof that you can have innovative language in a commercial YA novel.

But don't take my word for it. Publishers Weekly says:

“Mafi combines a psychological opener with an action-adventure denouement in her YA debut. This is a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.”

Congrats to Tahereh on a great achievement, and please do yourself a favor and read 'Shatter Me'!

Barnes & Noble

Friday, November 11, 2011

CNET Gotham!

I've been a little negligent in my blogging because I've been hard at work promoting (and ahem enjoying) CNET's pop-up store experience in New York City!

Through the weekend CNET is hosting a pop-up holiday gift experience at 201 Mulberry St. in Nolita - all the gadgets you could want to play with, TVs, a car, photo booths, parties and all kinds of tech goodness.

If you're in the area stop on by and say hello! I'll be the one with the computer posting tweets and Facebook posts.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Genre Is Your Work in Progress?

Every now and then I like to check in to see what genre people are working on. The last time I asked was wayyyy back in 2009.

Now that it’s NaNoWriMo I’m guessing that there are many a new work in progress, so let’s see:

What’s Your Genre?

You’ll need to click through to see the poll if you’re reading via e-mail or a feed reader.

Friday, November 4, 2011

This Week in Books 11/4/11

This week! Books!

Actually it's a few weeks of links so be prepared for a full-on link deluge.

Remember back in January when I said the tablets were coming? Well, they definitely are coming fast. Not only does Amazon have the Kindle Fire tablet coming soon, rumors say B&N will debut a new Nook tablet in just a few weeks (disclosure: link is to CNET, I work at CNET). The e-book options, they abound.

And, um, not exactly a coincidence that adult hardcover and paperback sales are down 18% this year. Perhaps even more noteworthy, e-book revenue has surpassed hardcover revenue so far this year.

Speaking of which, CNET next door neighbors GigaOM had a really interesting post about the perils faced by middlemen in publishing. As Amazon executive Russell Grandinetti said, "[T]he only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader. Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity." What do publishers need to do per GigaOM? Give authors what they want and need.

And along those lines, as you may have heard, a while back Amazon gave authors access to Bookscan sales data, one small step to open up some real-time transparency. Now some traditional publishers are finally starting to follow suit.

Meanwhile, do people want interactive e-books? Dueling posts about that topic. Australian author and agent Xavier Waterkeyn talks about transmedia and the interactive project THE CHIMERA VECTOR, while Melville House ripostes that the old fashioned way of reading a book isn't in need of revision.

Oh, and the Wall Street Journal is starting an e-book bestseller list.

Agent Jane Dystel (aka President Obama's agent) had a fantastic post lamenting the publishing industry's fixation on only publishing "sure things." There is, of course, nothing sure about a "sure thing" in publishing, and when publishers do have a sure thing they often end up overypaying and not making a profit anyway.

On the other hand, Salon has a feature on imprint Harper Perennial and wonders aloud whether it can reinvent publishing. How? Cool writers, low advances, smart design. Sounds kind of like the old days of publishing. What's new is old, what's old is new.

A few months back I had a post on writing and striving and THE GREAT GATSBY, and writer Gretchen Brugman used it as a jumping off point for an awesome post about running, literally and figuratively, and hoping and dreaming and the process of becoming. Really great stuff.

In serious Nathan Bransford bait, Nathaniel Philbrick has written a book called WHY READ MOBY-DICK? Yes, you heard right. A book about why you should read MOBY-DICK. Oh hell yes.

Congrats to Julian Barnes, who won the very prestigious Man Booker Prize.

And in other award news, columnist Laura Miller at Salon had some harsh words for the National Book Awards, saying they're like the Newbery - books someone thinks is good for you whether or not you particularly them very much. One of this year's NBA judges, Victor LaValle, fired back at Miller, arguing that judges nominate the books they fall in love with. (via John Ochwat)

Oh, and you may heard something about a certain National Book Award debacle in the young adult category.

In Life of the Writer news, From the Write Angle has an awesome survey of writing superstitions, agent Jane Dystel notes that author promotion ain't what it used to be, agent Rachelle Gardner discusses when to leave your agent, agent Kristin Nelson writes about contract clauses that should scare you, and the New Yorker's book blog The Book Bench has a really fascinating post on the limits of self-knowledge and the tenuousness of rationality.

Alvina Ling, Executive Editor of Little Brown Children's Books, wrote a fantastic post on how she edits.

Agent Rachelle Gardner had a contest based on the starting prompt "How many agents does it take to screw in a lightbulb," and the winning responses were pretty hilarious.

HarperCollins is buying Christian publishing Thomas Nelson.

John Corwin has two posts on how authors can utilize GoodReads (first, second).

And many writers have lent their support to the Occupy movement, adding to the tally at OccupyWriters.

This week in the Forums, a self-published author finds himself on the wrong side of Amazon, seeking advice on the all-important launch party, the notion of a "dream" agent, how do you interact with your favorite writers online?, discussing GAME OF THRONES (which I am now reading), the most efficient way of outlining, and, of course, NaNoWriMo! And specifically amazing daily encouragement from Sommer Leigh.

And finally, as I mentioned I just got back from some travels and along the way I discovered a really cool web series called Sonia's Travels by Sonia Gil. If you love traveling you'll be jealous of all the amazing places she's been. The latest episode is on Valladolid, Mexico. I want to go to there!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Success and Motivation

Guest post by Shawn Thomas Odyssey, the author of THE WIZARD OF DARK STREET: An Oona Crate Mystery.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it helpful to take a moment to sort of realign myself with my deeper reasons for wanting to tell a story. Let’s face it, writing is hard work. It is demanding, and challenging, sometimes frustrating, and at other times exhilarating. So I ask the question: what is it that calls us to the keyboard or the pen and paper time and time again?

I can’t answer that for anyone else, but I do know that sometimes our core reason for writing can get a bit obscured by all of the traps of “succeeding.” Whether it’s seeking an agent, landing a publishing deal, promoting and selling a book, or whatever place we writers are at in our careers, I feel that it’s important to take a moment every so often to remind ourselves what we are doing all of this for. Why this, of all of the thousands of other activities available? And by the way, if your answer is “to get a six-figure advance on a publishing contract,” that’s fine, and perhaps true on one level, but I’m going to challenge you a bit and ask you to look a little deeper. Seems to me that there are FAR easier ways to make money than writing.

No doubt the answer you find will be answers (plural). There is certainly more than one thing that motivates us to do anything—we are complex human beings after all, and the answer is never quite so simple. But in simply asking the question, you might be surprised to discover that one or two reasons may stand out above the rest—answers that resonate TRUTH like a neon sign. Maybe those motivations have changed over time and are different from when you inked your first story, and then again, maybe not. It’s interesting to explore.

The reason I bring it up is because those core truths that speak to us—or perhaps more aptly, speak through us—can be the sweetest, most inspiring motivators in our lives. And all of the other compulsions and pressures to be successful can often obscure even the most core motivations.

Don’t get me wrong; the drive to succeed is a fine thing, and perhaps even necessary to achieve our eventual goals…just so long as it does not obscure our basic truths.

Presently, I am reminded that one of my own personal motivations for writing is, on one level, a desire to uniquely do for others what has been done for me by other authors. And on an even more fundamental level, it is to connect—not only with my readers, but also with that mysterious source within where the stories themselves seem to come from. To experience the magic firsthand!

What’s your motivation?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Five Ways to Stay Motivated While Writing a Novel

"Gelee Blanche" - Camille Pissarro
Believe it or not, there are many writers out there, real writers, who don’t particularly like writing very much.

It’s true! Some find the process tedious, even torturous, and find it difficult to stay focused for the length of time it takes to finish.

Like many writers out there, I’m someone who finds writing really difficult. I ultimately derive great pleasure from the writing process and feel incredibly fortunate to have the time to devote to it, but that doesn’t mean I find every moment riveting.

What burns in the heart of writers varies from person to person, so you’ll have to find what works for you. But here are some ideas that might help keep you in the writer’s chair.

- Cultivate Your Fear of Failure. Despite what Yoda might have you believe, fear does not always lead to anger, hate, and suffering. Fear is one of the best motivators you have. Invest in the idea of your novel. Develop the idea that you’re letting yourself down if you don’t finish it. Put pressure on yourself. Be afraid the regret you’ll feel the rest of your life if you don’t accomplish your dream. Fear is a feeling that can keep you going.

- Set Deadlines With Teeth. Deadlines don’t actually work that well for me personally (they tend to just stress me out), but I know people who swear by them. The trick is setting a deadline with teeth. If you secretly know that the deadline you’re setting for yourself is a soft one, it’s not going to have its hair-raising, stress-inducing maximum effect. So either you have to learn to be scared of yourself and your own punishments or you may need a partner in crime who can help you keep to them.

- Daydream a Little. It’s okay to imagine what would happen if your book blew up and you were on the cover of fifty magazines (do those still exist?) and you were the toast of the literati and a gazillionaire. Don’t let those dreams become expectations to the point that not getting those things gets you down, but give yourself the freedom to imagine those best case scenarios.

- Befriend Writers Who Have Finished a Novel. Before I knew real writers, the idea of writing a novel seemed so impossibly vast it seemed almost magical. But then you get to know the people behind the books, and there’s not as much of a secret to it: They are people who sat in place for as long as it took to write a novel. Get to know them. Lean on them. They may give you a blank, pitying, horrified stare when you start fretting you’re never going to finish, but that blank stare will get you back to the keyboard in no time.

- Write Something You Love. It may be tempting to try and chase the flavor of the moment or what the industry says is selling or the novel you think you should write, but that doesn’t work. You need to love your novel unconditionally if you’re going to finish.

What about you? What motivates you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How to Start Writing a Novel

"A Lady Drinking and a Gentleman (detail)" - Johannes Vermeer
How do you begin a novel? Start writing!

Kidding. Kind of.

This is a question I’m asked a lot by people who have always wanted to write a novel but aren’t sure where to start: Where do you start? How do you even get going?

It’s not quite as difficult as you might think!

A mistake people make that deters them from even writing the novel or memoir they have always wanted to write is that they’re intimidated by how big the task can loom. And no doubt, it’s big and intimidating.

But the real trick is to avoid trying to imagine the whole novel all at once. That’s impossible.

J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien did not, contrary to belief, wake up one day having magically conceived of every spade of grass and glass of butterbeer in Middle Earth and Hogwarts. You don’t have to have everything figured out before you start. Don’t be intimidated. There’s plenty of time for detail work later.

When you’re starting a novel there are only two things you’re looking to find: Voice and Plot.

That’s it! Just two things that you can totally wrap your head around.

So. How do you find your voice and plot?

Well, as you may know, there are two kinds of people in the world. The outliners, and the pantsers.  The outliners plan ahead and have a fairly good sense of where their plot is going to go. They map out the opening incident and the major plot points, with varying levels of detail. The pantsters just get words on paper and revise revise revise later.

Outlining can help you figure out your plot (and please read this post to make sure you have a plot), but there’s only one way to find a voice: Start writing, and keep writing until you find it.

Don’t worry about polish, don’t fret if the first chapter comes out horribly. Get words on page. Keep going. It may come to you instantly, it may take fifty pages, it may take a hundred and fifty pages. Just keep at it.

Check out this post on what makes a good voice, but the thing about voice is that you’ll know it when you find it. All of a sudden you’ll have it, and it will just feel right. It will feel like it’s coming from you, and not from those other novels you’ve read in the past.

Once you find your voice and plot you can always go back and revise to make everything is consistent and trim the parts where you were on a hunting expedition for your voice and plot.

But again, what does this boil down to? Start writing. You have nothing to lose and a whole world to gain.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Are You Participating in NaNoWriMo?

It’s that time of year! Time for the ambitiously creative and the creatively ambitious to abandon their hobbies, social lives, family members, basic hygiene, and episodes of Modern Family (OK maybe not episodes of Modern Family), in order to pursue the ultimate goal:

Writing a novel.

In a month. In a month with a major holiday. In a month with a major holiday with only thirty days. (Tell me again who picked November?)

The novels that have been spawned by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) are legion, and some have gone on to great success, including Water for Elephants.

Are you going to NaNoWriMo it up? And, hopefully, after you NaNoWriMo it up, will you NaNoEdMo it up in December? (That’s National Novel Editing Month to you).

I’m hard at work on Jacob Wonderbar #3, so while I have a head start and probably won’t finish in November, for all intents and purposes I am participating.

And this week I’m kicking off Year 2 of NaNoWriMo boot camp, including topics on how to start a novel, how to stay motivated, how to find the time, and much more. Stay tuned!

Last year’s boot camp topics:

Choosing the Right Idea
Goals and Obstacles
How Do You Power Through?
Editing As You Go

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where Is Your Favorite Place You Have Traveled?

There's something about traveling that unlocks the brain. It gets you out of your routine, it shows you a different way of life, the jet lag puts you in a creative fog.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

St. Augustine sad, "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."

I'm traveling now, so posts will be a bit more sporadic than usual, and perhaps arriving at odd hours. But I want to hear what travel means to you - do you like to travel? Are all writers wanderers by nature?

And where is your favorite place?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are You Ready for Facebook Timeline?

I wrote my first article for CNET, on Facebook Timeline. Check it out!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Last Week in Books 10/17/11

Last Week! Books!

So in case we need any reminding why I changed the name of the weekly roundup from This Week in Publishing to This Week in Books... well, you need only see that I missed some big publishing industry news from a few weeks back. One that involved my old agency no less. Publisher/distributor Perseus is creating a distribution and marketing service for authors who wish to self-publish, and is only available to authors who are with an agency that has signed on for the service. A premium self-publishing option, if you will. Janklow & Nesbitt and Curtis Brown Ltd. are reported to be close to signing.

Meanwhile, the NY Times had an article about the myriad ways Amazon is competing directly with publishers, including publishing 122 books this fall and apparently offering $800,000 for a memoir by Penny Marshall.

Speaking of which, Amazon is launching a science fiction and horror imprint. Oh, and don't look now, but library e-book checkouts are up 200% this year. Amazing how fast things are changing.

The National Book Awards finalists were announced, congrats to all the nominees!

And in writing and publishing links, Shrinking Violet Promotions had a post I read very carefully on what sells middle grade books, Rachelle Gardner had a post on what not to say in a query, and Natalie Whipple had a really terrific post on writing and hope, and how even though the path is hard, hope is never the problem: losing it is the problem.

Oh, and in technology news, you may have heard that Apple released iOS 5 for the iPhone and iPad. CNET (which, disclosure, is where I work) has a truly fantastic roundup of everything you need to know.

This week in the Forums, the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, discussing dialogue format, writing race in novels, and of course, NaNoWriMo approacheth! Who's doing it?

And finally, not quite sure why this elicited such apocalyptic reactions on the Internet, but behold... a 1-year-old who thinks a magazine is a broken iPad (via CNET).

Hope you had a great weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Page Critique Thursday: The Importance of Staying With Your Character

Here's how these critique thingamaboppers work. If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique Event, please enter it in this thread in the Forums.

First I'll present the page without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline.

As you offer your thoughts, please be exceedingly polite and remember the sandwich rule: positive, constructive polite advice, positive.

Random numbers were generated, and congrats to dios4vida, whose page is below:

Title: No Hill Without Treasure
Genre: Fantasy
(248 words)

Windrunner raked his fingers through his shaggy brown hair. With the other hand he swished his sword back and forth, trying to remember everything he’d been taught. His mind seemed strangely blank. In his nervousness he’d forgotten almost all of his year-long training.

There were others wandering around, most in similar positions. Each had the same look of nervous anticipation in their eyes. They were all there for the same purpose. Today was the annual Wisdom Challenge – the one chance a boy had to prove that he was a man.

A robed man stepped up behind the crowd. “Ksenia Windrunner!”

He cringed. He hated that name. Most people didn’t know his given name was Ksenia, and his mother was the only one to ever call him that.

Windrunner took a deep breath and followed the man into the arena. Gravel crunched under his feet. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach. He resisted the urge to rake a hand through his hair and focused instead on approaching the group of elders waiting for him.

A member of the council stood and addressed the crowd that had gathered. “Today is the first day of spring. We begin a new season and a new year today. Let us hope a new man is born before us as well!”

The man resumed his seat and looked at Windrunner. “Your name, Wisdom-seeker.”

“Ksenia,” he replied, “though I have chosen to be called Windrunner.”

The men of the council nodded. “A strong name. Your age?”

Now then! I like this page and feel like Dios4Vida has a strong character and is on the way to building a strong world. I like the way it feels as if Windrunner is on his way to becoming a new person through this rite of passage.

However, I'm just a tad concerned that the style feels a bit trapped between third person limited and third person omniscient. This sounds very scholarly, but it actually has some important implications.

We start a bit zoomed out from Windrunner since we're seeing his hair color, which is not something a character would think themselves. Then we zoom into his head and see his thoughts, then we're zoomed back out when we get a summary of the Wisdom Challenge.

The result is that this breaks up the flow somewhat and it becomes difficult for a reader to get their bearings. I think the first line is fine in this context because it's okay to start zoomed out and then zoom in, but once we get inside Windrunner's head I think we should have his perspective of what the Wisdom Challenge represents without the omniscient exposition of "the one chance a boy had to prove that he was a man." I feel like this would be more compelling if we had a sense of what Windrunner himself wanted to prove, and to whom, and how he would describe the challenge.

And this dovetails with my second thought, which is that while it feels like something is happening, I don't know that we have a sense of the importance of that moment because the stakes aren't yet clear and it's not clear why Windrunner cares. Leading up to this actual event, if we know why this challenge is so important to Windrunner we'll feel both a stronger connection to him as well as what happens with the challenge.

But still, I think this is a promising start, and with a firmer direction on which way the narrative should go I think this will be in strong shape.


Title: No Hill Without Treasure
Genre: Fantasy
(248 words)

Windrunner raked his fingers through his shaggy brown hair. With the other hand he swished his sword back and forth, trying to remember everything he’d been taught. His mind seemed strangely blank. In his nervousness he’d forgotten almost all of his year-long training.

There were others wandering around, most in similar positions. Each had the same look of nervous anticipation in their eyes. They were all there for the same purpose. Today was the annual Wisdom Challenge – the one chance a boy had to prove that he was a man. This part should be from Windrunner's perspective.

A robed man stepped up behind the crowd. “Ksenia Windrunner!”

He cringed. He hated that name. Most people didn’t know his given name was Ksenia, and his mother was the only one to ever call him that.

Windrunner took a deep breath and followed the man into the arena. Gravel crunched under his feet. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach What is he scared of? What does he have to remember and do? We're already in his head so maybe delve a bit more into what he wants to happen and what he fears. He resisted the urge to rake a hand through his hair and focused instead on approaching the group of elders waiting for him.

A member of the council stood and addressed the crowd that had gathered redundant. “Today is the first day of spring. We begin a new season and a new year today. Let us hope a new man is born before us as well!”

The man resumed his seat and looked at Windrunner. “Your name, Wisdom-seeker.”

“Ksenia,” he replied, “though I have chosen to be called Windrunner.”

The men of the council nodded. “A strong name. Your age?”

Thanks again to dios4vida for offering this page for critique!

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