Booklikes: My New Website Crush

October 7, 2013

Book blogs have been around for as long as the Internet has been, and WordPress alone probably has hundreds of them. But now there’s a website created for the sole purpose of hosting book blogs, making it super easy to connect books to your entries, with templates for book reviews and quotes from books ready to go. Perhaps that doesn’t sound all that much more special than just inserting images and links to any old blog, but there’s something magical about a blogging site that’s all books, all the time. I think I’m a little bit in love.

The website is BookLikes, and it’s got an interesting story. Initially, its main attraction was its book recommendation engine. Then it crashed, losing all its data … but rather than throw in the towel, its creators listened to what the initial users were saying, which was that they wanted a site devoted to book blogs. So BookLikes was born anew, and I found and fell in love with it in its current state.

My kitty loves books, too!

I’m already an avid user of a couple other book websites. I post reviews of everything I read on Goodreads, and I inventory the books I own at LibraryThing. You can use BookLikes to inventory and review books, too, and in fact, I do cross post my Goodreads reviews there (as well as some of the posts from this blog, when they relate explicitly to books.) But it’s also provided a place for me to reflect more intimately on the books I’m reading, to share thoughts in progress or to connect books to my own life and memories in a way that I don’t in more straightforward reviews. I don’t think anyone much reads them, but that’s okay. I find the process of creating alone to be cathartic and rewarding.

So, if you haven’t checked it out, do stop by. And if you’re already a Booklikes convert, let’s “follow” each other. Hope to see you there!


Say Hello to the Copyright Genie!

July 16, 2012

As writers and editors, all of us will probably run up against the need to understand basic copyright law at some point. Is it OK to repost a poem in your blog? Can you use a snippet of song lyrics in your novel without getting approval from the artist? Which photos can you reprint when you run that magazine story on a newly identified Lady GaGa allergy?

I worked on a magazine staff for six years and learned a lot more about copyright than most people know, since we needed to consult it constantly to know whether we could print certain photos or articles. Still, copyright continues to boggle me with the complications of its restrictions, the inconsistent way in which it is enforced, and the, in my opinion, much too heavy-handed response when it IS enforced.

You know we live in a copyright-complicated world when most people don’t even KNOW that it’s illegal to remix movie clips and post it on YouTube (“What do you mean it’s illegal? People do it all the time!”), and where you can be fined a quarter of a million dollars for pirating a movie or showing it publicly without permission (Seriously? Did you violate copyright, or cut off someone’s arm?) My opinion about copyright is fodder for a whole ‘nother rant that I won’t go into any further, but despite disagreeing with the restrictiveness of American copyright, I tend to err on the side of legality. If you do, too, you might want to check out Copyright Genie, an interactive site that can help you determine whether the specific work you want to use is restricted.

Unfortunately, Copyright Genie can’t answer your question about any specific work, but it can help you get a better grasp on whether and how you can use something. Bookmark it, and have fun staying legal!

Free the Apostrophe –

May 18, 2012

An infographic about the correct usage of the apostrophe that is more fun than the text link I used the other day.

Free the Apostrophe –

What are Your Three Writing Wishes?

July 7, 2011

SheWrites is asking members to record their year’s three writing wishes here. (I’m reinterpreting wishes as “goals,” since my *wishes* would be a) publication with b) fantastic reviews and c) high sales — but I’d rather list things I can make happen on my own.)

Now, this seems rather fortuitous, as one of my writing wishes for this year is to become a part of an online writing community, and SheWrites is the one that holds the most appeal because of its support of and connection to women writers from all walks of life and all stages of their writing career. For almost two years now, I’ve received their weekly emails and as such have been something of a “lurker” in that respect, since I always read them but only occasionally click through. But in those two years, I’ve seen a passion for writing and a warmth for other writers at SheWrites that isn’t particularly evident at other online writing communities I’ve explored, although I’m sure they all have their areas where they shine.

My main reason for wanting to join an online writing community is to further my goal of understanding the short story as a literary form (and writing option). I’m fortunate to have my wonderful speculative fiction writers group, who monthly battle valiantly against patchy Internet connections to Skype me into their meetings in Duluth. I’m doubly fortunate that a couple members of the group are particularly good at speculative short stories. But I feel a little at a loss when it comes to getting feedback on short stories of a more literary nature, and so those tend to gather dust while I wait for them to (at some point!) critique themselves. Since I’ve waited over a year and a half for that, I think I really need to take matters into my own hands. And so, these are my three writing wishes for this year:

  1. To evolve from a lurker to a participating member of SheWrites.
  2. To Workshop and Revise my literary short story, “Closeted,” and to submit it (I originally wrote it for GlimmerTrain’s semi-annual short story contest with the theme of Family.)
  3. To finish writing my retelling of Rumplestiltskin, which was supposed to be a short story but is languidly stretching out into a novella, and to bring it through its first rigorous round of revisions (right now, it’s at that awkward stage where it’s already ITCHING to be rewritten, but I’m trying to at least throw the rest of the bones out before I start rearranging vertebrae).

There are other things I hope to accomplish in my writing life by this time next year, such as participate in one last NaNoWriMo before I’m an old married woman (my last NaNo as a single gal, not my last NaNo ever), and get an agent to request the full manuscript of Ever This Day. But if I can at least accomplish 1, 2, and 3, I will be quite content.

What are your top three writing wishes?

Writing Website Review: Wordhustler

October 8, 2009

So, I’ve mentioned Wordhustler many times in my blog; I read all their enewses, and I adore their comprehensive market listing of agents, publishers, and contests (which they’ll soon be expanding to include listings of editorial services). But even though I’ve been a member for over a year, last Friday was the first time I actually used their primary service: sending manuscripts out via the site.

Here’s how it works: you upload your projects to your dashboard on Wordhustler. When you’re ready to submit a project, you can hunt down markets and click the handy-dandy “submit to this market” button. From there, Wordhustler walks you through a wizard that allows you to select one of your uploaded projects, write or paste a cover letter, pay the fee(s) where applicable, and send that baby off. Wordhustler takes care of printing, packaging, postag-ing, and sending the manuscript, for a reasonable fee.

I used their service to submit to their Literary Storm Novel Contest, and there were a few things I really liked about it: the easy format of the wizard, the security of knowing that I wasn’t forgetting anything and that my submission was properly formatted for the market, and not having to deal with the mess of pages and envelopes and stamps strewn about the desk (or a trip to the post office). One thing I didn’t like was that, when WordHustler converted my Word docs to PDFs, the pagination came out slightly different. Not a big deal for the novel submission, but it bumped my carefully crafted one-page query over one page. So, for future reference: err on the short side when uploading queries to WordHustler, and double check submission paginations (i.e.: did your text get bumped down enough in the conversion to add pages? If so, you’ll both have to pay for those pages, and depending on how strict the market is about following their guidelines, you may jeopardize your chances of being seriously considered.

Now, I’m one of those people who balks at the idea of paying for anything online. One of my first thoughts when encountering WordHustler was something along the lines of, “Sweet! I have access to their markets for free, so I can use that information to send my own submission!” But since the Literary Storm Contest requires submission through them, I was forced to give it a try their way. And it’s a good way, especially if you’re a person who hates dealing with all the pesky details of submitting. Submitting is definitely my least favorite part of writing, so I just might let them ease the burden again in the future.

The Next Big Writer?

September 10, 2009

I’ve just discovered another website for writers, The Next Big Writer. At first glance, the site seems a lot like WeBook. It’s another online community where members can post any type of writing to get feedback from other writers and readers. It holds frequent contests for (smallish) cash prizes and publication. It boasts that many of its writers have gone on to achieve book contracts, mostly with small presses.

I’m not sure exactly what I think of The Next Big Writer. It charges a fee of about $8 a month for the right to use the private site, claiming that because the site is private, you won’t give away “first rights” to your work as publishers consider you to have done if you publish your work publicly on the Internet (I’d like to do more research to see if publishers really do view self-published Internet work this way). It also works on a credit system. In order to post work, you need credits. You  get credits by reviewing other people’s work–or you can buy credits.

In perusing their books that have been published, I don’t recognize many of the publishers, but they do have the look of self-published work. Some of them have been published by BookSurge,‘s self publishing arm. Part of their publication “prize packages” for some contests includes a publishing package with BookSurge. So essentially, the author is getting a publishing package from a self-publisher for free, but it’s not exactly the same as a publishing contract with Random House.

I’m also a little suspicious of the pay-to-use/work-to-use set up. I think the credit system makes sense so that you don’t have members who take from the community without ever giving anything back. But pairing the credit system with a user fee seems to provide a few too many “gates” to site usage: you have to pay to post your work, but paying isn’t enough to post your work. You need to work to post your work, too. It’s sort of like college, where you pay to work.

I wanted to take a peek at some of the posted work, but I couldn’t without a paid account, so I’m not sure of the quality level (it says writers of ALL levels are welcome, but the typical writing quality can reveal a lot about how serious the users of a certain site are about writing). At any rate, I think I’d explore WeBook for Internet critiques first, if for no other reason than it’s free. But I am a strong believer in the importance of workshopping your writing, and I think that any site like The Next Big Writer is bound to turn out a few writers who come out more proficient than they went in. That speaks to the value of critiques themselves, not necessarily to the value offered in the particular site.

Friday: Fun or Focus?

August 14, 2009

I’m having a bit of trouble focusing today, flitting from one task to another. I did a few hours of work this morning and will do more this afternoon and evening, revised some previous assignments, and packed a few boxes. I’m waiting for my mind to settle down long enough to work on my novel, especially since yesterday I had a really good writing day at last (ah yes, this is why I do it!). Until then, I thought I’d entertain myself (and you) with some websites for generating writing ideas (courtesy of Writer’s Digest 2009 101 Best Websites for Writers). You might even be able to use some of these sites to get in your August Fifteen Minutes of Writing a Day (by the way, YA author and founder of the challenge Laurie Halse Anderson is givin’ out prompts each day this month, too).

  • CanTeach: Yup, it’s a site for writing teachers, but it’s got some pretty cool prompts. Most of them would make good fodder for online or paper journal entries or personal essays, but the “What If?” section is particularly intriguing for its fiction possibilities. (The speculative fiction writer in me has trouble resisting the prompt, “What if Children Ruled the World?”)
  • JC Schools: Another school writing site, where pushing the “random” button for new prompts can get a little addicting . . .
  • Seventh Sanctum: Check this site out if your ready for some hard-core writing prompts. These could actually spur some winning stories. I especially like the prompts under “romance,” although my obsession with retellings led me first to the Envisioner. This site could come in especially handy when November looms near and you find yourself plotless.
  • I’ve covered this one before, but it’s worth repeating: WritingFix has some pretty cool prompts (and other tools for writers). And student writers can post the result of one of the site’s prompts on WritingFix’s blog.

Inspired yet?