Friday, December 31, 2010

A Goal Post for 2011

How's this for finding useful goal-setting ideas in unusual places?

Recently, in a doctor's waiting room, I picked up Diabetes Magazine. Not much of interest to me, until I found an article on diabetes management, suggesting people break goals into manageable steps. The examples given were much the same as what we sometimes do as writers, but the system described looked like it might be a useful idea for you to try in  the new year:

Mark each month's page of your 2011 calendar with an attainable goal for that month. 

"At the end of the year," says article author Margaret Farley Steele, quoting Michele Jachim, RD, CDE, "you'll have twelve new habits."
We all know that once we focus on a goal, we're more likely to reach it, and without identifying goals, time drifts away and we have nothing to show for it. So, unlike the advice in the article about particular foods or exercise, I found it a helpful reminder for us to think of our specific goals as writers.

What could help you get ahead this year?
  • Writing three queries a month? 
  • Finding a new personal essay market? 
  • Writing at the library once a week? 
  • Creating the perfect book proposal? 
  • Attending a conference?  

See how easy it is to fill your calendar? Set one particular & attainable goal for each month, and let us know how you're doing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Guest post: 15 Funniest Writers of All Time: Part 1 of 2

I get a break for holiday shopping and family visits, courtesy of guest post.courtesy from Jasmine Hall of
This list of 15 writers is so good I'll split it over two weeks.

What does it take to be a funny writer? Read here and learn

The 15 Funniest Writers of All Time:

Part 1
Everyone needs to laugh. It’s pretty much the only thing that separates most people from fully succumbing to the overwhelming tragedy of it all. From the lowliest college student to the stuffiest, wealthiest CEO to the spacey young clerk at the local record store with an ironic moustache and creepy preoccupation with female bassists, we all need a chuckle now and then. Fortunately, all media lends itself to the distribution of yuks. Since reading is fundamental, this list focuses on the funny as it is written rather than as it is told in song, dance and on television.

As with all things creative, comedy comes burdened with a hefty load of subjectivity. What one finds riotously knee-slapping, another will scoff or take offense. So read this list as such rather than something definitive and solid. Anyone who grows irritated over omissions or inclusions should probably just step away from the internet for a while and reassess a priority or two. Follow an adaptation of the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 mantra – "It’s just an article. I should really just relax."
  1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series remains a classic of both science-fiction and comedy, with the initial radio series spawning five novels by Adams (and one by Eoin Colfer), a miniseries, stage shows, a computer game, comic books and a feature-length film. Even beyond that, though, he wrote a plethora of other essays and novels, with the Dirk Gently series comprising one of his more famous humorous contributions following the Hitchhiker’s juggernaut. With considerable cheek, wit and irreverence, he relentlessly prodded politics, religion and society, creating some delightfully absurd and memorable characters, situations and descriptions along the way.

  2. Woody Allen: Though known primarily as an influential, if not outright legendary, filmmaker, plenty of Allen’s short stories and essays stand up as some of his most essential works. "The Whore of Mensa" highlights many of his strengths as a writer and comedian. His familiarity with genre literature and films allows him to play with — if not outright subvert — the associated cliches and tropes. The descriptions and dialogue alike crackle with wry, dry delivery spiked with a tinge of neurotic tension, made especially apparent in the sample readings available on his website.

  3. Jane Austen: Contemporary audiences thrill to Jane Austen’s Regency romances, proclaiming them ever so sigh-worthy and clamoring to find Mr. Darceys of their very own. This mindset, unfortunately, entirely precludes the author’s status as one of the sharpest satirists to ever write in English. Beloved classics Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility all humorously pick apart English society, particularly the upper classes, and romances in a way that appears perfectly straightforward on the surface. Understandably, when the books have been completely and progressively further removed from their initial context, it is difficult for most first-time readers to pick up on their abject hilarity.

  4. Michael Ian Black: The State and Stella alum’s bizarre, surreal humor doesn’t appeal to every audience, but his blog and essay collection My Custom Van elicit liberal laughs from the people who find such things appealing. Best described as whip-smart dumb comedy, he gleefully parodies the raunchy observations of his "edgy" mainstream contemporaries — when he isn’t penning some of the silliest, most absurd prose this side of Monty Python, anyways. For fans who enjoy their Cracked splashed with few shots of McSweeney’s, Black is definitely a writer who needs to be read to be believed.

  5. Margaret Cho: Even factoring her stand-up and performance art out of the equation, Margaret Cho is a formidable comedienne. At a time when women receive wrong-headed dismissal regarding their capacity for humor, she challenges popular assumptions with acidic takes on gender, sex and sexuality, race, politics, body image, substance abuse and more. All of Cho’s works — comedic or not — provoke viewers and readers into thinking about serious issues, most especially her memoir I’m the One that I Want and the politically-charged I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight. Neither book is intended to be read as comedy, but her blog certainly delivers a regular dose of both humor and insight.

  6. Warren Ellis: Comic books comprise most of Warren Ellis’ literary output, with Transmetropolitan and Nextwave standing out as the most kinetic and gut-busting of the lot. Frenetic silliness characterizes his more hilarious offerings, with his only novel (as of now) toning it down slightly. Crooked Little Vein injects the writer’s fondness for bizarre, obscure sexual practices into a twisting, deconstructed noir narrative that easily equals his transhumanist and superheroic graphic fare. Even those who have yet to pick up any of Ellis’ printed works still pop over to his blog and Twitter feed for boozy, hyperactive good times.

  7. Sandra Hill: She writes romance novels involving time-traveling Vikings.

  8. Christopher Moore: Moore’s books overflow with humor, all of them his love of parody and deconstruction. As of this article’s publication, he has released eleven novels, most notably Lamb, You Suck, Fool and A Dirty Job. Like a hybrid of Terry Pratchett and his hero Kurt Vonnegut, he blends fantasy and humanism into such diverse narratives as a hitherto-unknown disciple dishing on Christ’s childhood and an everyman thrust into a career dealing in souls. At least three of his books have landed on bestseller lists, too — certainly a not-insignificant accomplishment.

    Part 2 next week, and thanks again to guest post from Jasmine Hall of

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Would CostCo want to carry your book?

Many of you know, I support groups that support writers. In one of my valued online groups,, I learned of one person's experience with Costco. His story is so exciting, I commandeered it, with his permission, as a guest post here.

"A couple of months ago, while flipping through the Costco Connection magazine, I noticed a monthly column called Member Connection, where they profile Costco members who have interesting stories or events to tell about.

What caught my eye is that one of the three profiles on this page was of a woman who had written a book. They had a picture of her holding up her book (which was not available at Costco) along with a couple of paragraphs (one third of a page) about how she came to write it.

So, I sat down and emailed Costco Connection a brief version of my press kit, explaining that I had written a book and why it might interest Costco members. That was in August.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from a Costco Connection reporter who informed me that they liked my story and wanted to include me in the column in the February issue. We did a telephone interview yesterday, and I emailed some photos for them to choose from.

Good news all by itself, and I was thrilled. But, here's the exciting part... I decided, a few hours before the interview, to email the reporter a pdf copy of my book, "in case you might find it useful" for interview prep."

When he called to conduct the interview, he was effusive about how much he loved the book, and asked if I would mind if he passed it on to the Costco book buyer.  I, of course, said I would be most grateful for that, and mailed a couple of paperback copies for him to pass on and one to keep for himself.

Now, I realize that getting your book onto a Costco table is about as easy as getting it on Oprah, and I don't hold out much hope that it will actually happen. But, I do know that someone in the book buying office will read it, and it won't end up in that roomful of 100,000 books that never got opened.

And, at the very least, Costco members nationwide, and possibly in Canada and the UK, will be exposed to a couple of paragraphs about my book. I could not have purchased that kind of press.

If you have a note, photo or story to share about Costco or Costco members,  email it to with "The Member Connection" in the subject line or send it to "The Member Connection," The Costco Connection, P.O. Box 34088, Seattle, WA 98124. Submissions cannot be acknowledged or returned."

Thanks to David Perkins for allowing me to share his success story with Release Your Writing blog fans.
Learn more about David and his book Dear Austin: A Letter To My Son, at and

 And as for supporting groups who support writers, I think you'll agree my SPAWN membership was worth a full year's dues for this one tip alone.

Write on,
Helen Gallagher

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Snow Day!

How lovely to have a snow day for writers. Pile up the writing magazines, books, and polish up a draft article or story.
Lest the weather get you down, I'm reprinting a timely poem, courtesy of my favorite Irish pub, The Celtic Knot in Evanston:
"I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,'
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December."
            ~Oliver Herford

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finally... Amazon reveals your book's sales ranking

I've had a behind-the-scenes resource for years to track book sales, and I get monthly royalty statements from my publisher, Virtual Bookworm. But many clients wait 6 months or more to know what their book is doing in the market.

Now, Amazon lets you see this information for your own books, in your Amazon Author Central pages. If you don't have an Author Central page at Amazon yet, better get going...

Then follow this link, sign in and track your weekly sales.

Thanks for the early Christmas present, Amazon !!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Google ebooks: READ THE CONTRACT before signing up

Signing up to distribute your books on Google eBooks will not make you rich. Be very cautious and don't sign up to have Google distribute your books until you read the entire agreement. Google can determine your price, or even make your book 'free.'  What's in it for you???  Use caution before you jump in.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Learn more about Smashwords

I've written here before about Smashwords, for brilliant ebook distribution, and I mention it in every workshop and presentation I give. Learn more about why you should take advantage of Smashwords and their offerings for your book distribution. Here's a video link about Smashwords.