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Author Earnings Are Scary October 17, 2015

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Just in time for Halloween, the Authors Guild released the results of an income survey of its members, and the results are scary. Not only did the majority of authors report that they earn less than the Federal Poverty Level from their writing, their responses also indicated that author income has gone down since the last time the survey was taken, in 2009. You can read more about the survey findings here:


After reading this story, I am doubly glad to be able to make a living working in a writing-related field (as a proofreader/copy editor), but I feel for writers who are trying to make a living solely from their writing. I see only one appropriate response to such Halloween news:



Alpha and Beta Males September 9, 2015

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Lloyd and Ronica #1

Ronica Stromberg and her husband, Lloyd.

This month my husband and I will celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. You might think that since I’m a novelist and I’ve been married more than 20 years, I might try writing romance. The genre is perpetually in demand and sells well. I did try to break into the field a few years ago but discovered I didn’t enjoy reading romances much, less enough writing them. I learned some interesting things while studying the genre though. Probably the most interesting is the classification of males as alpha or beta.

The term alpha male comes from the study of wolves. The alpha male is the leader of the pack, the male wolf that dominates all other males in the pack as well as the females. In human terms, an alpha male is a leader, a man who takes charge and takes action. He is confident and tough and is often a loner. Because he dominates others and isn’t always attuned to others’ thoughts or feelings, he may come off as arrogant and needing to be taken down a notch. In romance novels, he usually falls in love with the heroine because she’s able to give back to him what he dishes out. She’s his equal and forces him to get in touch with his feelings and enter a relationship deeper than physical attraction.

The beta male is a wingman to the alpha, supporting him and the greater good of the pack. In human terms, he is less tough and more flexible than the alpha male. He’s more open about his feelings and easier for women to understand. He relates well to others and has many close relationships. He’s considered a family man. Outside the romance novel and in the real world, beta males often make better spouses because they are more sensitive and considerate of their spouse’s needs. They strive to please by doing more around the house (including the bedroom).

In the animal kingdom, the alpha male usually establishes his position through physical prowess, fighting or killing other males who might stand in his way. In romances, the alpha male establishes his position through social prowess. He has become the head of a corporation, a ruler, or a leader of men because of his mental toughness or sheer force of personality. A beta male can also be a leader, but he’s more likely to be in a caring profession (such as a doctor or teacher) than in one where he might be called upon to be ruthless and calculating.

Romances used to favor alpha males more but now are trending more toward beta males. Perhaps it is because most women work these days and can achieve position and power on their own so look more toward a man as a helpmate or partner (or at least like to read about that type of man in romance novels).

As for me, I’ve figured out that I live in a household of beta males. My husband, my two sons, and even our cat are all beta males. I wonder, does this make me an alpha female?

Naah . . .

Sold Another Piece I Didn’t Submit August 1, 2015

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This is almost getting funny. The other day I came home from work and found a contract in the mail from a children’s magazine. The editors wanted to reprint a Christmas story of mine. They had published it in 2009 and now were offering to pay me again for rights to reprint it this year. I didn’t even know they accepted reprints, less enough reprints from their own magazine. I had never thought of submitting the story to them again. It seems I have a better batting average when I am not actively pursuing publication than when I was!

God, what are you up to?

It’s a God Thing July 12, 2015

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Since childhood, I’ve felt that my purpose in life is to write. I believe God has called me and continues to call me to write. That doesn’t mean writing always comes easily to me or that I never procrastinate.

Just this last weekend I had a few hours to write and, instead, decided to go for a walk. I told myself that I needed exercise and that walking is far better for a person (me, specifically!) than sitting in a chair.

I told myself that I needed inspiration and that since I mainly write for children, maybe I would see something at the park or in the neighborhood that would inspire me.

So I went on about a mile walk. I didn’t see a single child in the park or in the neighborhood.

I was about a block from home when I spied chalk marks on a driveway ahead.

Evidence of children! I homed in on the chalk marks, hoping to use them as a window to their maker’s world, a glimpse of what occupies children’s thoughts. But as I approached the driveway, I saw there were only two words on the driveway:

      Write something!

OK, God, I got the message. I went home and started a short story.

Are Your Books in Libraries? May 3, 2015

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Today I have a time-saving tip for other authors and readers. If you’ve ever wondered whether any libraries are carrying a published book, you can easily find out through WorldCat on the Web. Just go to http://www.worldcat.org and, on the search bar, type in the name of the book. If the book has a common name or one that might easily be confused with others, you might also type “by [insert the author’s name].” WorldCat will show the number of copies in libraries and which libraries hold them. This gives authors a chance to see how well-placed their books are and helps readers easily find which libraries might be carrying a book they’ve wanted to read. Most libraries now have an interlibrary loan system, so even if there’s no nearby library carrying a specific book, readers can usually request them on loan.

I’ve searched for all four of my books using WorldCat and haven’t discovered a whole lot of copies in libraries. I’d love to get more in libraries. If you’ve ever wanted to read my books but prefer checking out library books rather than purchasing them, request a copy through your local library. They should be able to order it or get it through interlibrary loan.

WorldCat can also search for DVDs, CDs, and articles. Happy reading!

Writing for the Inner Child February 7, 2015

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Standard writing advice for would-be writers of children’s books and stories is to “spend time with children.” This falls in line with the “write what you know” advice. I think the idea behind the advice is that children may be different from what they were when the writer was a child or that the writer’s memory may be faulty. I tend to believe, though, that the key emotions and experiences of childhood aren’t all that different from one generation to the next and the writer who can tap into those has a good chance of being successful–even without a lot of contact with children. We all have an “inner child” to rely on.

Who can forget what it feels like to be left out? to learn to ride a bike or swim? to receive that favorite toy you still have tucked away in a closet somewhere? to scrape a knee? to lose a friend? to make a new one? to be chosen first . . . or last? to get out of school for a snow day? to have a favorite teacher? to get a sticker as a reward? to have a grownup give you an “airplane ride” or another child give you an “underdog” on the swings? to lose a tooth? to outgrow a favorite shirt? to have a pet die?

Some of the most successful children’s authors–Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Margaret Wise Brown, and Beatrice Potter among them–never had children. Perhaps they could have achieved greater success if they had spent more time with children, but I doubt it.

All writers draw from their own unique experiences when writing a story, but we’ve all experienced childhood. Those childhood experiences or emotions that rise to the top in our memories may be the strongest subject we could write about.

Quotes About Writing, Part III December 6, 2014

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As a gift to other authors around Christmas, I like to print some of my favorite quotes about writing. This is the third grouping of quotes to make it on my blog. Enjoy!

“The fact is that almost everything that almost everyone has ever done to make money from the arts—including the old ways of making money from the arts—mostly didn’t work. We always look back on artistic incomes with what economists call survivor bias. We look at the people who succeeded and not the people who failed.” — Cory Doctorow

“What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” — Stephen King

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” — Mary Heaton Vorse

“I think the difficult thing with learning how to write is not learning the style or rules, but figuring out what story you want to tell.” — Ransom Riggs

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” — Agatha Christie

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.” — Virginia Woolf

“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know that’s not true.” — Professor Robert Wilensky

“Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” — Flannery O’Connor

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest people of past centuries.” — Descartes

On-the-Spot Research for Writing Historicals November 23, 2014

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When I write historical fiction, I know any success I might have in recreating an era for my readers largely hinges on my getting the details right. I relied heavily on research when writing The Glass Inheritance, my mystery novel involving Depression era glassware, and found it invaluable to visit historically significant sites from the Great Depression and World War II era. I toured a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming, Pearl Harbor, two concentration camps in Germany, and three Holocaust museums, among other sites. Such travel isn’t always financially feasible, but I’ve discovered local sites offer a wealth of information and inspiration also.

Just this summer I toured a Victorian mansion here in the Midwest and was thrilled to see the museum had a bowl of calling cards near the door. Because I had read in Victorian era novels about characters dropping off their calling cards at one another’s houses, I recognized what the cards were. The tour guide allowed me to pick the cards up and look through them even though the cards were authentic, not reproductions.

calling cards

Some of the cards clearly came from a printer as is, but others appeared to be homemade or had the owner’s name stenciled in after printing. They were all works of art compared with today’s business cards.

Holding these cards gave me insight and inspiration I doubt I would have drawn from just reading about them. I may choose to write a story involving calling cards and have more assurance now of getting the details right.

Tough Stuff in Children’s Books September 7, 2014

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The Guardian recently published an article stating that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Pioneer Girl will be released soon. In the book, Wilder wrote about her childhood growing up in the 1800s on the frontier. Pioneer Girl was rejected by publishers, so Wilder rewrote it and sold the resulting stories as the now-famous Little House on the Prairie books. Publishers had deemed parts of Pioneer Girl unfit for children, such as the story of a drunken man who accidentally killed himself when trying to light a cigar and having the liquor on his breath catch fire and the story of a shopkeeper who dragged his wife around by the hair and set their bedroom on fire.

I’m sure Wilder really witnessed these horrific events and felt compelled to include them in Pioneer Girl when trying to accurately relate her life on the frontier. The reality is that children around the world face tough stuff like this. Those who make it to adulthood completely untouched by violence or other ugly behaviors must be few and far between. We can’t completely protect children, but should writers for children include such tough stuff in their stories?

I’m torn on this. For children who are living in tough situations, maybe it helps to read about other children in similar situations. They might be able to identify with characters more and feel more inclined to read about children who are struggling about bigger issues than finding a lost bike or securing a date for prom.

On the other hand, maybe a child in a tough situation would give anything to get away from that, even if it’s just the temporary escape of a light read.

I’ve written about both the tough stuff and the light and found the light stuff (especially humor) easier to sell. I think publishers are more receptive of the tough stuff (often even welcome it) in young adult books but are less receptive of it in books for younger children. A big part of the decision has to be about how the writer handles the topic and why. What is the point in exposing a child to ugliness or violence? I think a writer who chooses to tackle tough stuff in children’s books should offer hope to the reader or some possibility of resolution in the end.

Still Selling June 17, 2014

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In my last post, I noted that I haven’t been writing much since taking on full-time work as a proofreader/copy editor and that I’ve had some strange sales that have led me to believe God is nudging me to get back to writing. Well, I have another strange sale to add to the list.  One of my fiction stories was recently published in a magazine, and I can’t even remember when I submitted it. It must have been four or five years ago. The story was one I had already sold to two magazines so I must have submitted it to this magazine to sell reprint rights. Anyway, a copy of the magazine with my story in it arrived in the mail, along with payment. I didn’t even know the publisher had accepted it.

Many publishers no longer respond to a submission if they aren’t interested, so if I haven’t heard from them in three months, I usually figure my submission was rejected. Some publishers say they’ll hold on to submissions for future consideration, but in my experience, that usually means up to a year wait. I’ve never had anyone hold on to a submission for four or five years.

I’m not complaining, and I can take a clue. I spent last weekend writing a short story, finished it, and sent it off to an e-zine that pays. I typically submit only to traditional magazines, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the e-zine.

I think I’ll write next weekend too. :)



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