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Starving Artist, A Writer’s Fate?


I confess, I occasionally fantasize about writing a book which completely panders to an audience just for fame and money. However, will the Faustian bargain result in having to discard my personal pleasure in storytelling, can I have it both ways. We all know of big best selling books we consider crap and are perhaps a bit jealous. I jokingly threaten my family about “doing it” one day.

Well, upon reflection, there have been some wonderful and noted authors who began by writing ‘junk.’ Raymond Chandler and John O’hara come to mind. Even Jacqueline Susan and Harold Robbins, while not exactly respected, are acknowledged for writing some of the best guilty pleasures around.

I want to discuss the conflict between struggling as a starving artist and selling out. We writers who strive to be full-time authors must make decisions each day about how to develop our art and market our products. We began as artists because we loved the art and thought bringing our visions to life would be fulfilling.

I asked author Diane Morrison about this question. Here were her thoughts, “I think if you don’t love what you’re writing, your reader will be able to tell. So I think the first order of business is to create a story you really want to write. Then try to get someone’s attention from there. I think that the truth is that good writing shines through. Everyone said Stephen King was a hack but now his book on writing is used in almost every major writing course. Eventually, people will see good writing for what it is – IF they see it. And that’s the rub. I don’t judge anyone else for their “Faustian bargains,” as you put it, but I know I couldn’t do any justice to something I didn’t want to write. I’ll just have to try to get noticed in other ways.”

Greg Alldredge gave me some feedback, “Your question made me think. Forty-five years ago, the books I read were considered crap by many. In my younger years, the likes of Steinbeck and Hemingway never appealed to me. I couldn’t connect with their style of writing. The other day I found a blog post, Hemingway only wrote on a fourth-grade level, yet I found his writing difficult to read and honestly boring. “

“I look back at the books I did read, they were popular modern-day swashbuckling adventures. Alistair MacLean caught my attention early, though I would guess many would consider his books pandering to a certain audience. In me, he found that willing audience. You can’t argue with success, at least seventeen of his books were made into movies all with big-name casts. When I was little older, I discovered science fiction and fantasy. Before e-books, I was a member of the science fiction book club. Many of the writers I discovered in my early 20’s were simply because the covers looked cool. Later I found out some of them were giants in science fiction writing. It was the 80’s what did I care.”

“I don’t know, I’m sure many people consider my books pandering to someone, even though I didn’t mean for them to be. If a writer didn’t appeal to an audience, they wouldn’t be a writer for long, or they would end up like Melville, a critical failure but wildly successful a hundred years later. I didn’t start writing to become a millionaire. The chances of that were slim to none when I started. I started writing because I had an idea in my head, that stewed for over a year. When I sat down and wrote “Lights in the Night” I did it in less than a month because I had already played it in my head for so long. I wrote the book for an audience of one, me. A few people have read it, some of them liked it. I hope more find it, and like it. I do have a dream, of living like Arthur C Clarke did. Finding an island, with a hut nestled on a beautiful beach, however, mine will need high-speed Internet. That is how I want to write. I’m going to look for one in Cambodia soon.”

J. I. Rogers told me, “I think most writers have the ‘when I get famous’ dream, but, for most, it has caveats. Mine includes maintaining complete control of the work and not sacrificing what I believe to be its integrity for the sake of sales… or box office appeal. This may be why I never see conventional fame.”

“Deliberately writing something, or creating something with wide appeal is often referred to as ‘selling out’ and for some it is, but in the light of day (with bills to pay) perhaps a better way to phrase it would be ‘bread and butter’ work. Is it a ‘Faustian bargain’ to create something with wide appeal and not pursue the purity of your dream at all times? Agatha Christie is rumored to have hated Hercule Poirot. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle despised Sherlock Holmes… The popularity of the characters kept them writing the stories.”

“History is filled with writers, poets, and artists who have sold their skills to feed themselves – patrons seldom just threw money at talent without expecting something in return. As an artist who works on commission, I have done this too.”

As writers are engaged in a profession, we all need to think about how to successfully market our creative products. The future for writers is a continuing juggling act between retaining loyalty to artistic purity and attempting to achieve success in business. Each author must make the personal choice on how much energy to place in each aspect of their career and art.

J. I. Rogers:

Diane Morrison:

Greg Alldredge:

S. A. Gibson:


Writing Links 12/11/17

From Traci Kenworth

Where Genres Collide


Writing Links…12/11/17

Traci Kenworth


  1. Austrian characters.
  2. The legend of La Befana.
  3. Jenny’s interview with The Author’s Show.
  4. The gods and goddesses at war.
  5. Christmas villains.


  1. A MG reader tells what she looks for in books.
  2. MG books with science in them.
  3. My first book had a wake-up scene, lol. I would also like to see a little more reality for disabled people as in no magical cures. We can be just as happy as anybody else.
  4. On surviving rejection.
  5. How the picture book grew from a cake-eating monster.

Romance/Women’s Fiction:

  1. It’s all in the details.
  2. On getting your right back to your stories.
  3. On habit words. One of mine is so, lol. I even find it creeping into this blog sometimes.


  1. On acquiring another agency.
  2. Using personality tests to create characters.

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Characters You Can’t Love


We writers sometimes find ourselves writing a character that we despise. In order to include tension and conflict, we must introduce people into our settings who disagree, and are sometimes disagreeable. We can revel in our ability to create people, or it can be an accident. So, I want to think about what happens when we create evil characters.

Often a negative character is a vital part of our storytelling. A tale with powerful antagonist is a common feature in fiction writing that has an action or adventure feel. Even stories that attempt to portray realistic events in the world can use negative individuals. In thrillers or suspense stories, there are often villains who represent criminal intent and actions. The gangster, dictator, or bandit is recognizable as a character that represents real people in the past present or future. Even a dragon in a story can sometimes represent evil.

On the other hand, sometimes our protagonist is not perfect. We sometimes can write a main character who has flaws that can drive them to do unfortunate or bad actions. And, we writers, from time to time, are surprised by the actions taken by our characters. We may intend for someone to be positive and a good, but they take a different path as the story develops and may not be as positive an influence as we thought when designing them.

I asked other writers if they write characters they despise? Fellow writer, Stephanie Barr, shared her thoughts, “I do. I have characters I despise and some that exasperate me. The former are my villains, the latter I find ways to grow fonder of them as I learn more about them.”

“My protagonists and most of their fellows I love because a novel is a long time to spend with someone you really don’t love. It’s not that they don’t have flaws or aspects that are frustrating. It’s that it’s a whole package and some of their quirks and foibles are part of what makes me love them.”

I asked Jeanette O’Hagan her opinion, “Hmmm yes. I do write characters I despise – because they are petty, vindictive, cruel, arrogant, abusive – though if I’m not careful, I begin to sympathize with them 😉 Not their actions, but perhaps the reasons behind why they act that way, why they’ve become the person they are – and then they may change – have a character arc of their own or perhaps show flashes of humanity amid the general nastiness. I think the bigger and more important an antagonist is, the more multi-faceted they should be.”

As authors, we have the power to create our desired world in the pages of our story. Perhaps, when we create a negative character, we can take satisfaction when we are finally able to plot their demise. Even figuring out the cruelty of their end. We can be merciful, or give them their just desserts. For writers, this may be a form of self-therapy. What your opinion?

The Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution: A Reedsy Infographic

Nicholas C. Rossis

I have shared a number of infographics designed by Reedsy and I always welcome the opportunity to share more. An opportunity which arose again a couple of days ago, when I discovered an amazing guide to Ebook distribution. The title is not clickbait–the post really presents everything you need to know about Ebook distribution. With CreateSpace closing its e-store (although it will continue to publish books for now) and Pronoun shutting down, I know that many authors are exploring other options.

So, here is the Infographic that sums up nicely Reedsy’s post, although I strongly advise you to have a look at the original post for further information.

Reedsy Infographic-ebook distribution | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

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Amazon Steps Up Its Antifraud Efforts

Nicholas C. Rossis

Fake review - Pinnochio | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Image:

Since 2015, Amazon has been actively trying to stomp out scammers exploiting authors. As I first reported in 2015, foremost among these were fake reviews, but a couple of months ago it upped the ante by filing arbitration complaints against five individuals who it says offered services to KDP author and publishers aimed at helping them manipulate the reading platform for financial gain. Amazon is demanding a combination of injunctive relief, account termination and, in some cases, triple damages.

As Publishers Weekly reports, Amazon alleges that five people used a number of prohibited strategies to manipulate customers reviews and worked to inflate sales and royalties. Amazon essentially charges that a handful of individuals worked to create fake reviews for their books and others’ in addition to attempts to manipulate Amazon systems that count book sales and the royalties paid to authors via its subscription reading service.

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Spare the Reader, Spoil the Reader?


We writers have a contract with our readers. We provide entertaining material, and they continue to read our stories. As writers, how much care should we take to not traumatize the reader. Should we carefully select how much negativity or uncomfortable information to share with them, or is that self-censorship not helpful? I asked author friends their opinions on this topic.

Stephanie Barr talked about her experiences. “In my first novel, I had a lot of dark and I didn’t sugarcoat it or excuse it or make it okay. I have a good person do something heinous. It was so dark, my then husband objected strenuously, but in the end, I kept it because it happens. And people for whom it happens need to know you can survive it, to let them know I believe them. I think this is particularly important for women–their stories and experiences are often dismissed as overblown or imaginary.”

“Ironically, when I read my last novel (Dracul Morsus) to my now ex, he told me I needed more dark in it. Sometimes, you need to understand the dark, see it up close and personal, to understand how (a) tough people are and (b) how brutal people can be often for what seems like minor reasons. It’s the belief that the worst can’t happen that allows folks like Hitler to prevail and do great harm.”

“I am not opposed to showing the bad things in graphic detail, I am somewhat concerned if I give too much detail I am cutting out the reader’s imagination. I want each reader to have a somewhat different experience when they read my books. Some details I leave up to the imagination, others I give more direction.”

Greg Alldredge shared his thoughts with me. “I try to use language appropriate to the situation. During a scene in my upcoming book Pretty Waiter Girls, a police detective is examining the body of a dismembered woman. I use more detailed, clinical descriptions, I envisioned a policeman would use to distance themselves from the grisly scene. Later in the book, someone dies in a most horrific way, I hopefully use just enough detail to lead the readers in the correct direction while trying to instill the horror the lead character is experiencing.”

“I go back to the horror and suspense I enjoyed growing up, either books or film. I try to hold back, giving the reader just enough to let their imagination run away. I think readers are smart enough not to be spoon-fed every detail.”

I personally feel very protective of the audience, I don’t want to share the ugliness the world holds. In my writing, I want to entertain the reader, without bumming them out. I don’t want to give them images that will stay with them that are negative. So, I guess there are different styles and approaches to this question.


Stephanie Barr:

Greg Alldredge:

S. A. Gibson:

The Origins Of English

Nicholas C. Rossis

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Educator Claire Bowern and Director Patrick Smith have produced a great little film that explains the origins of English. As they explain, when we talk about ‘English’, we often think of it as a single language. But what do the dialects spoken in dozens of countries around the world have in common with each other, or with the writings of Chaucer? The Origins Of English traces the language from the present day back to its ancient roots, showing how English has evolved through generations of speakers.

Going Further Back

However, illustrator Minna Sundberg went even further back. She has captured in an elegant infographic a linguistic tree which reveals some fascinating links between different tongues, illustrating how most of the different languages we speak today can actually be placed in only a couple of groups by their…

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10 tips from me about blogging…

Mercedes Prunty Author

Being an avid blogger it’s always great to find some handy hints and tips to help you along your blogging journey to keep you up to date, up to speed and organised. Here are my top ten tips to help you and your blog stand out from the crowd…


  1. Don’t try and force idea’s for your blog. This can make any posts you do write boring, strained or sloppy. Wait for idea’s to hit you, it might be on your commute to work or school, it could be in the shower or as your going to bed. Just make sure you keep a notebook handy to write any ideas down as and when they come, then when you have more time you will remember what your idea was and you can expand on it. If you are struggling to come up with any post ideas then the best thing to…

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Writing in Asia: The Author’s View


With the planned re-release of my book, Pratima’s Forbidden Book, I’ve thought about the setting of that story. Set in Northern India, Pratima and the other characters must navigate a world they are immersed in that contains a mostly alien culture. I decided to ask other authors about the topic.

Erin Yoshukawa gave me her thoughts, “I got lucky: I’ve been to certain parts of Asia and I’ve known a lot of people from these regions. Being from Hawaii places me perfectly in the nexus for Asian-Pacific cultures. Anybody from Hawaii probably has the same insights I do. Our culture isn’t indigenous, per se. It’s a patois of every country that lands on our shores. We see glimpses of these places and find the intersection where our cultures (the indigenous population) and their cultures (recent immigrants) mingle. The devil is in the details, I suppose? The small things like attitudes towards strangers and other genders aren’t immediately apparent, in most cases. But small gestures and throwaway comments add up.”

In respect to Lesser of Two, the book I wrote with Mirren, I have one leg up on most people: I’ve been close to certain individuals who have traveled to Southeast Asia for sex tourism. And through that person, I’ve met several women who were in the trade on different levels of involvement.”

S. L. Kerns also shared his experiences, “After living in Thailand for nearly six years–and currently in Japan going on three–I have learned a lot about Asian culture. While cultures do vary, I am discovering first-hand that by and large people around the world want the same basic things: a good quality of life, love, and a purpose to exist, no matter how insignificant that purpose might seem to others. As a writer these all work to my advantage, allowing me to write from various POVs and still be able to move the readers with believable characters and situations they can relate to.”

In Butterflies in the Killing Fields (coming soon from Burning Willow Press: Crossroads in the Dark IV), the MC tries to give his life meaning by finding out the truth about his ancestors deaths in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. In Angel and the Weeper (coming soon in Heartfelt Flows and Misery), Sunsanee seeks the fame she has missed out on as a struggling actress in Thailand. These characters could have been anyone from anywhere–of course with changing out the details of certain situations and locations. But I try to write what I know and what I know now is Asia.”

One thing that a writer should keep in mind when writing on another culture is: what you like and what you know is not exactly the same as what they like and what they know. This is something I struggled with early on when attempting a short story called Chouko (unreleased). It is the tale of a young Japanese woman with a unique job. I wanted to make her an individual, someone in Japan yet into the American emo music scene–and such a person most likely exists; however, beta readers did not buy it. She should like Japanese music, and, Would she really know so much about the emo scene having never visited America? were common complaints that awoke me to the reality. Yes, characters can be, and at times should be individuals, but don’t expect the reader to always buy what your waving in front of them. Research is key in making fictional characters believable, no matter where they live or come from.”

Greg Alldredge contributed some thoughts, “I try to insert as much reality as possible in any story. I feel the real life experiences helps me to insert details to make the settings more believable. Last thing I want to be accused of is cultural appropriation but I think there are so many good stories that can be based or set in Asia it is an untapped location or at least underutilized setting for stories.”

“I also try to write in believable characters into my stories. Not just stereotypes or tropes of people. Everyone or thing I have written about are bits and pieces of different people I have met traveling around the world. Even the Transgender Hostel owner was an amalgamation of a few different people I have met over my travels, though I have yet to meet anyone with real super powers or aliens. Those all come from my head!”

I agree with points mentioned by these authors, Asian cultures share similarities with others, and are not uniform. Setting my story in Northern India required extensive research for me to imbue the story with realism and authenticity. For me, the important factors are authors immersing themselves in the culture, and clearly showing the culture is not uniform. Authors can convey an alien culture when they put in the effort and take the needed care and love.


S. L. Kerns:

Erin Yoshikawa:

Gregg Alldredge:

S. A. Gibson:

The Most Luxurious Medieval Manuscripts

Nicholas C. Rossis

I have Anika Burgess and Vittoria Traverso of Atlas Obscura to thank for the beautiful images you can enjoy below and for the fascinating tale of the Luneborch manuscript; a long-lost 15-century prayer book that had been missing for some 40 years.

The Luneborch Manuscript

Luneborch Prayer Book | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book Two pages from the Luneborch Prayer Book. Back cover, Lindau Gospels, c. late eighth century. Image via Atlas Obscura

One day in 2012, the rare books assistant at the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, opened a package that had been delivered to the library’s mailbox. Inside was a long-lost 15th-century illuminated prayer book.

Luneborch Prayer Book | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book A page from the Luneborch Prayer Book. 

The manuscript is one of the rare examples of vernacular spirituality—meaning it was for personal use, not in a church—from early Renaissance Germany. Known as the Prayer Book of Hans Luneborch, it had been commissioned in 1492. The book had…

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