Friday, April 27, 2012

Query Letters, Parrots, and the Wisdom of Chipmunks

In a comment on this blog I was recently asked about query letters. I was also asked about killing characters, but I will get to that one a little later.

Query letters are the initial contact communications writers make when trying to sell their work. They’re the first step into a scary world. If you can imagine a giant crevasse dividing the landscape. All writers begin on one side living in a happy-go-lucky meadow of penguins, bunnies, battlestars, and butterflies, spending countless lazy hours stargazing and wishing on rainbows and magic fish. These are the hobbyists, those who write for fun. Rumors of war blow across the crevasse and tell of a place where dreams can be real, but…like any jinni or monkey-paw tale, there is always a price.

The crevasse is huge and runs past the horizon. Legends tell of bridges, only few know where they are. Legends also tell that some of the bridges are unsafe and if you try and cross them, you’ll fall into the depths never to be heard again. So what’s a penguin loving, butterfly-catching rainbow dreamer to do? Some look for a way to cross for a time and give up returning to the lush meadow content with the world around them. Others make a decision to cross the crevasse. These intrepid souls stuff a backpack full of mac-n-cheese, a solid audio playlist, and a pair of classic retro sunglasses, and set out to make their dreams come true.

Walking aimlessly gets old fast, so directions are sought. Anyone who knows anything about the bridges are listened to like oracles.

“There is only one bridge that is safe to cross. It is the oldest, and made of stone by the gods. Only there are six beasts guarding it, and they will slay anyone trying to reach the far kingdom. Still that’s your best bet. Oh, that’s my latte they’re calling, ciao, gotta go…love ya, babe.”

“Ha! Only a fool goes to the Stone Bridge! They eat meadowlanders. No, you must gain permission. You must first send a representative, a parrot—parrots can fly, and they can talk so they can bring your message across the crevasse to the six and not fall to their death. And also if they’re eaten it doesn’t hurt so much, right?” Wink, wink.

“How do you find a parrot to cross the bridge? You must stand in the Forest of Screams and shout very loud until one notices you from among the 14.3 billion other screamers. What do you scream? Hmm. I think you just scream.”

“No, no! You have to scream exactly the right words. They’re magic words. Only the special magic words will summon a parrot. What are the special magic words? Well…um…”

This is where the journey ends for most battlestar-flying stargazers. They go to the Forest of Screams and scream everything and anything they can think of. They gather together at campfires after dark, the only time it is ever quiet enough to talk, and discuss what they think works and what doesn’t.

“I saw a parrot once. I was screaming about plum pie and pudding tarts and one appeared, but it just flew by.”

“What’s a pudding tart?”

“I don’t know. I was just screaming stuff.”

“Maybe that’s what you did wrong.”

“Or maybe that’s what I did right!”

After losing voices to the trees, and getting no more than cursory glances from a sparrow, or a duck, most give up and drag themselves back to the meadow in defeat, drowning their angst in a plastic, gallon-size, container of Safeway mint-chocolate chip ice cream—because Ben and Jerry’s little pints won’t cut it this time.

Those that remain, lie passed out on the needle carpet of the forest floor and have strange dreams where a chipmunk scrambles up on their chest and suggests, “Try not screaming. Would you like to be screamed at?”

With the dawn a new idea occurs. Why scream? The chipmunk is right, (as chipmunks usually are) no one likes to be screamed at. A second idea occurs. What do parrots like? A quick trip to the Safeway, which isn’t as quick as it might be because of the long line of people buying gallon containers of ice cream, and the hopeful is back in the forest with a bag of possibilities. 

First up is a can of peas. Nothing. What were you thinking with peas?

Second is a Brussels sprout. Nothing. But a parrot did fly by.

Third the parrot-seeking  dreamer holds forth a slice of a ripe plum. And there you have it…a parrot lands, gobbles the slice, then tilt’s its head and says, “Provide me with the rest of the fruit and a SASE, and I’ll get back to you within sixty days. I prefer to eat on an exclusive basis. My time is valuable, and I make a 15% commission which I’ll receive when I sell a plum like this.”

Clearly this is all fine and good for meadowlanders seeking magic parrots, but what of aspiring writers? What magic words will catch the attention of a literary agent. Surely not a plum.

That’s the first thing of course. If you’re trying to get traditionally published you’ll need to get an agent to cross the crevasse for you. Otherwise you’ll need to look for one of the other two ways across. You could try the Rickety Rope Bridge of Independents that doesn’t require either parrots or agents. Or you can get climbing gear and scale the freaking cliffs on your own, no bridge required, just blood, sweat and tears. 

So when “Ender” asked: “I was wondering if you would be willing to share your "single compelling paragraph" that you used for Riyria when you were sending query letters to publishers?” I was puzzled at first. It had been years since I thought of such things and when creating queries I sent them to agents, not publishers. Second, the one that found me my first agent was horrible, and I racked up more than 200 rejections before it finally caught the eye of my parrot. Alas, whatever plum she offered on the other side of the crevasse was not well received, as it didn’t result in any sales, so I wonder if it would be of any use. The letter that managed to get me published by AMI, a tiny Indy Publisher in Minnesota, has been lost. Stupid me for not realizing that the Smithsonian would be asking one day.

My present agent was obtained through channels rather than through letters, and a horse of a different color (more like tartan plaid) as I was looking for a foreign agent to handle sales I already had. It was she who then submitted on my behalf to Orbit, and I have no idea what the “packet” she sent looked like.

Right now Ender is dissatisfied with my answer I am sure, but allow me to give some pointers based off your question. Looking back at what Ender wrote (which is also in the comments section at the end of the previous post) it reads thusly: I'm mainly curious to see how you managed to condense the essential story to a paragraph. The way I see it, you can maybe condense character growth/motivations to a paragraph, or you can condense the plot to a paragraph, but being able to talk about both and having it as a single paragraph would be a daunting task.

The thing is you don’t. You have to imagine what a parrot—I’m sorry—what an agent wants, not what you wish to give them. What a parrot agent wants is to be sold, not explained to. Sell the agent and they can sell the six and get you across the bridge.

In plain English, don’t think synopsis, think movie trailer teaser.

Pretend you’re a marketing writer with the job of typing up those words you hear after the “This Preview Was Approved For All Audiences…” Imagine that deep booming voice saying, “IN A WORLD…” and go from there, only leave out the “in a world part,” No one likes the “in a world” part. If you’re having trouble, go to a bookstore and read the backs of books like yours and see which one makes you want to read it. Which ones don’t?

This might be my paragraph if I wrote it today:

The spellbinding Riyria Revelations series begins with the first volume, The Crown Conspiracy,  which introduces Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, two enterprising thieves who end up running for their lives when they're framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy bigger than they can imagine, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery - before it's too late.

As you can see, I’m not trying to explain the story, or the characters, or their motivations or any of that. I’m just trying to get you to want to read it. Because you see, the writer who can get an agent to want to read their manuscript more than the 3,000 other ones they’ve received invitations to in the last month—that’s the writer whose books will sell. And that’s the author they want to represent.

Think like a parrot. Stop screaming. Then pitch a tent in front of the stone bridge and let the bird fly. Or you can try one of the other two ways across to the Promised Land.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Q&A, AMA and Other Letters

I recently did an AMA on reddit. Those of you who don’t already understand what that means, and are likely wondering what language I’m writing in, allow me to translate. Reddit is a social news website, (self-described as the Front Page of the Internet) and AMA is text-speak for Ask Me Anything, a one-day event where people can write in questions and I tried to answer them. I’ll be doing another in a few days in the fantasy section. The last one was held in the writing section. While it was Ask Me Anything, most inquiries were—not surprisingly—about writing and publishing.

There were lots of questions.

Several of the questions were from people I'm guessing don’t read this blog (not surprising, I'm sure few do) as I’ve discussed many of the topics before here. There were questions like: How do I go about outlining? What training have I had?  When did I start writing? This got me thinking that you fine folks, who haven’t read the AMA on reddit, but have read some or all of my blog might have similar questions. So I thought I’d revisit a few of the AMA questions here and provide a bit more detail.

How did you get over writers block? How do you get motivated?

In reading these questions, and others like them—this isn’t the first time people have inquired about the difficulties of motivating themselves to write—I realize I’m different from a lot of people. Questions about writer’s block I find baffling to some extent. I wrote eight full-length novels before I even thought I might want to be a novelist. I wrote—and still do—write novels for fun. I’ve needed about as much motivation to write books as a teenage boy does to have sex. I love creating stories, and I would continue doing it if the only person left on the planet to read them was my wife. Now, I’m not saying that if you don’t feel this way you can’t be a writer, but it sure helps. To be honest, now that I am being paid, now that I cover the bills through my writing, I do find writing just a tad less fun, nothing too serious but because I have to do it, it has taken on the persona of work. Now I’m not considering what I do “work” in the most traditional sense—not by a long shot—but it has lost some of its “my fun time” atmosphere. I find myself having to actively block out the pressure to make money and to please readers and just focus on the fun of writing. Perhaps writer’s block comes from people putting too much pressure on themselves to succeed.

How do you not let the voices of self-doubt drown you out? Are you any good?

I still suffer from self-doubt. I suspect all authors wonder this throughout their whole careers. I am of the mind that any praise I’ve received is just a big hoax, and that no one really thinks my books are any good. My wife has tried to corner me on this question before. “But I know you think your books are great, so of course you must think you are a good writer.” What she failed to understand is that while it is true that I think my books are fantastic, I don’t think anyone else would think the same. My books were written to please my personal taste—why wouldn’t I love them? I hope to never come to the conclusion that I’m a great writer. Once I think I’m great, I no longer have reason to try to improve and that would be greatly disappointing to me.

Did you face any criticism from your peers or friends when you decided to go the route of self publishing? I've been curious about doing it, but every time I bring it up, I face ridicule and I'm told it's taking the easy way out. You've proved it's viable, but did you face scrutiny in the beginning?

Concern about criticism is something that you’ll need to come to grips with if you are going to do write for a living. Life as a writer is filled with criticism—lots of criticism. Every writer needs to form a thick skin or you’ll never survive. I don’t mean that you have to become so hardened that a scathing review won’t affect you at all—they will, but the key is to make sure that the opinions of others never affect your decisions. The day I alter how I write, or how I publish, based on what others think, is the day I might as well stop writing. I’m not saying I am immune. I have had had my own share of struggles.

In my case it came long before I had been published. When I was a young man, recently married and living off my wife while I watched the kids and wrote books. My family didn’t see that as a proper path for a man, and my friends didn’t lose a chance to ridicule me (humorously of course, but always with a touch of truth, and pain). My solution—it wasn’t really a solution so much as just what happened—was to move halfway across the country to a place I didn’t know anyone. No more family and friends to get in the way…just me and my wife, and she supported me in more than just income. Perhaps I’m arrogant in this way, but I never care too much what others think. As long as Robin believes in me, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. Perhaps that’s the answer. All you need to do is find one person who you respect above all others who believes in you. On the other hand, that might be harder than getting published.

Was there ever any tension about your wife "supporting you for years"? Any stories where you felt pressured to go ahead and get a day job?

This is funny since I actually did give up writing and got a day job, but it wasn’t because of tension or pressure about money. I just got tired of working toward a dream that didn’t seem like it would ever materialize. After twenty years of writing and ten years of trying full-time to get published, I just knew the whole idea was futile. But getting back to pressures during the time before and after that when Robin was the sole breadwinner…sure, I felt pressured, but that always came from me, never Robin. I felt I wasn’t pulling my weight, and any innocent comment about money getting tight would bring on the guilt. I’d suggest that I get a “real” job and she’d talk me out of it. Robin’s salary was always substantial, and we didn’t mind making some sacrifices here or there to live on one income.

What is your opinion on hobby-writers, that is, writers with different jobs who just write in the evening for a few hours. Can they make them self a name or are they doomed to the side shelves?

Technically I was a hobby writer when I wrote the Riyria Revelations. When I sat down and banged them out, it was entirely for the fun of it—a pointless, time-wasting hobby since I had no intention to publish those stories. But I didn’t have to try to squeeze in my writing around someone else’s timetable.
Last year I met the successful N. K Jemisin author of A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Nominated for the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Awards) at the Nebula Awards and learned that she had a day job as a career councilor. The fact is most authors—successful authors—have day jobs. Some might enjoy their day jobs, (which is likely the case with Jemisin) but most can’t afford to write full-time. When you realize the percentage of money per book that a traditionally published author gets, (often less than a dollar a book) and that an author is considered quite successful if they sell as many as 25,000 books a year...that’s a yearly income of less than $25,000. If you can live on that, then you’re fine, but these days mortgages, health and car insurances, heating and cooling bills often add up to more. I know several who have to decide if living in near poverty is worth the extra time to write. You can be a rock star at a convention and then go home to a fridge with little more than pickles and stolen ketchup packages. For more commentary by other authors on the topic check out this article.

Do you agree that if you want to be a novel writer, you should write novels and that writing short stories/flash fiction/etc. is a pointless exercise? And vice versa, that novel writing is pointless for someone who writes short stories?

On the AMA I agreed with this because for me it is true. I can’t stand writing short fiction. I don’t like doing it, and I don’t feel I’m good at it. Writing novels and short stories are very different from one another and require different skills.  This being said I should clarify that for educational purposes, for learning the craft of writing, I think short stories can help if you engage with critique groups to get feedback. The fact is that people can fully digest and comprehend a short story, but it is truly pointless to have a chapter of a novel critiqued. There can be no meaningful comments addressing the plot, character arcs or setting as the reviewer has no idea if this came before, or will come later, and it simply takes too long for most people to read a full novel. Trying to read a full manuscript by a novice writer can not only be a burden of time, but also quite painful. You shouldn’t put anyone through that until you’re confident that reading your manuscript isn't akin to torture.

A short story also teaches brevity and focus. If you are forced to constrict your writing to less than 4000 words, you’re going to learn to spend those words wisely. Likewise, you won’t waste as much time getting to the point. These are good lessons to develop even when writing novels. But as I said it’s important to realize that novels and short stories are very different animals, and if you plan to write novels, you’d best write them to get familiar with the pacing, distance, and the span of arcs and such. So yes go ahead and write a few short stories on occasion and let others critique your ability. It can be a good way to gauge your progress without making your friends and loved ones hate you.

What is it like being a full-time author? Do you get a lot of free time to yourself? Is the pay consistent or based on production? How do you manage your day?

 I’ve covered these topics a couple of times here, but if you followed that link above about day jobs you’ll see it paints a pretty bleak picture. I feel compelled to explain that, at least as far as I am concerned, life isn’t so miserable as described there. Maybe I’m an exception, I don’t know, but my life as an author is great. In the article Jason Quinn Malott explains: This is why when we say, “I’m going to quit my job and write full-time,” it sounds so romantic and idyllic. It carries images of getting out of bed late, drinking large mugs of tea or coffee, sitting at a desk in your pj’s, staring at the trees through the window, and playing with your muse… But if we match the language to the reality, the phrase would actually read this way: “I’m going to quit working and work full-time.”

While Jason clearly feels that his description is false, his fantasy vision is damn close to my own life. The only difference is the wearing of pj’s. I’ve never seen writing as work. It’s what I do for fun, and as a full-time writer, yes, my time is my own, even more so now that I’m supporting the family. My wife happily makes certain I am not bothered by distractions like making dinner or grocery shopping. My writing time is mine and my choice of profession is highly respected now.

So in the morning I’m usually up around 8 am and I read a couple of newspapers, and/or perhaps a chapter of a book (as of late it has been Under the Dome by Stephen King.) Then I start writing at around 9 am. I do in fact drink a large mug of coffee while sitting at my desk and often stare at trees through the window while playing with my muse. Actually to be honest, it’s a lot more fun than that. I have looked out the window at the trees in thought, but for the most part I stare at the computer screen which quickly disappears and I’m in another world, often with Royce and Hadrian having wild adventures. It isn’t always great, sometimes I get stuck, but then I go for a walk through the woods and by the time I get back I usually have the problem solved. By lunch time (which varies depending on how fast I am writing that day) I’ll have about 2,000 words written, or have gotten through about 5000 edited. After that, the rest of the day is free, which is to say I can visit Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, write blog posts (which I am presently doing at 9 pm) respond to fan mail, do research on future books, run errands, and spend time with the family. In the evening I try to get some more reading done. I’m presently working on five books, two non-fiction as research for my next works, as well as three other fiction books by Glen Cook, Saladin Ahmed, and David Dalglish, in addition to King’s mammoth tome. 

And as to income it’s sporadic based off of the contracts signed. It comes in the form of checks from my agent relayed from my various publishers around the world (all of it in the form of advances as I’ve yet to “earn out”). Self-publishing produces a more steady income with payments coming in each month from books sold 60 days previously. So traditional publishing is a little scarier because I have no guaranteed pay check coming in, but then again—does anyone these days?

So there you have it. I hoped you enjoyed this rambling Q&A, and perhaps you’ll want to visit the one I’ll be doing April 24 at 7pm CST. I can’t vouch for the topics as, after all, it’s called AMA. I hope to see some of you there to keep me company. Even if you don’t have a question, stop on by and say hi.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Quest for Best

Why is it I like the books I like?

I suspect this isn’t a question readers ask themselves too often—if ever. Pinned down with a gun to their dog’s head, the answer might be an insightful shrug of the shoulders, or a clever, “Who knows why? I just do!” Or if the victim happens to be a bit full of themselves, they might reply, “Because they’re good,” implying anyone disagreeing has bad taste. Readers have the luxury of remaining oblivious as to precisely what they like in books, sitting like Caesar in a box seat as an endless parade of new offerings are presented for their thumbs verdict.

Writers are not so fortunate.

Authors endeavor to write good books, and so it is important to understand just what makes a book good. They can’t rely on the axiom, “I know it when I see it,” because they are required to make it. Every author has made a practice of learning what separates a good book from a bad one, just as every cook learns to make a good, rather than bad, soup. Some might start with a base, then add ingredients until it is perfectly seasoned. Others might work from a strict recipe, but each knows what they are working toward.

When I started work on the Riyria Revelations, I paused to ask myself this very important question: Why is it I like the books I like? Before I could answer, I had to determine what books I liked. This might seem obvious, but what I really wanted to know was what did I think were the very best books I’d ever read. It turned out to be a harder question than I thought because I also had to first answer what did I mean by best?

Some books are magnificently written with poetic prose, which inspires awe at the manner in which geniuses can use the written word. Some can capture reality to such a degree that you see people you know moving on the page. Some make you think, or see sides of something you never thought to consider before. Some can transport you so fully to another place you can smell the bacon, or flowers, and feel the grass and wind. And some can create characters and places so wonderful, so personal, that you love them more than real people, because in many ways they’re better. As I pondered this question of best I concluded that the novels that did all of these things had to be the best. Most annoyingly I also realized that I’d never found a book that achieved this all these goals. Few, if any, so much as achieved two of these magical criteria, and I suspect never will for the same reason no single food could cover all your culinary desires. While I might like chocolate ice cream, barbequed potatoes chips, a perfectly grilled steak, and pizza, I wouldn’t care for all of them in one dish.

So I needed to decide which of these wonderful effects did I prize the most?

When learning how to write, I loved studying the poetry of prose. I was fascinated by the manner some authors had of turning something as mundane as the description of a beach ball into a work of literary art. I wanted to know how to do this, and I dissected writer’s works and practiced to find the secrets of this amazing technique. Yet when I thought about it—really thought about it—the pleasure came from learning how to write, not from reading. If you’ve ever done figure drawing in a class that uses a live nude model, you might understand. You might feel self-conscious…until you begin drawing. At that moment you lose the idea of the person and see only forms and the challenge to capture them. Likewise, in studying the play of words, I would lose track of the bigger picture. I realized that while I could appreciate poetic prose, it wasn’t the kind of book I loved reading.

When I read books that captured reality so vividly, I was staggered. A conversation in an Updike novel could have been an exchange between my own brother and mother right down to the subtle hand gestures and body movements. I was fascinated and memorized to think this could be done. Yet again, like finding a dramatic cliff, or compelling desert isle, you might stare in fascination, perhaps visit it several times to gawk in awe, but that isn’t the place you’d chose to build your home.

I am fond of books that teach me something (other than about how to write), but almost all are non-fiction, not novels. I’m likely in a small minority here, but I can’t recall any fiction book that I’ve read, or movie I’ve seen that “made me think,” introduced me to an idea I was unfamiliar with, or influenced me in any way beyond entertainment. I’ve heard books have had this effect on others, and I believe them. I’ve just not experienced it myself. I also tend to think this sort of thing can’t be consciously inserted into a book except in a heavy-handed, “I have a message which is the reason I wrote this” sort of way as would be the case of 1984 or Atlas Shrugged. This kind of writing doesn’t interest me as it always seems so preachy. I suspect the most profound effects a book has on someone has more to do with the reader than the book itself. If they can identify with part of it on a personal level, then that book will speak to them in ways the author could never anticipate. So planning to enlighten strikes me not only as futile, but arrogant as it presumes you know something fundamental the rest of the world doesn't.

By this point I was becoming frustrated as these realizations pretty much nixed the vast majority of novels that I had thought to be in the running for the best books. Not that they aren’t great in their own ways, but as far as I’m concerned, they aren’t the best.  For example, as much as I enjoyed reading them the first time, I could never imagine re-reading Moby Dick, The Count of Monte Cristo or For Whom the Bell Tolls. It was this realization that provided me with the tool I needed—the map as it were—to finding the treasure. I had to answer yet another question: What books would I happily read a second, third, and perhaps even, a fourth time?  For surely any book that I would invest the time and effort to sit down with already knowing the outcome, had to be profoundly wonderful.

As I considered this I realized there were very few books that fit this bill and all them were fantasies.

Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, are books I actually have read several times. J. K. Rowlings Harry Potter books I’ve also re-read. Richard Adams’s Watership Down, and Stephen King’s The Stand also made the list.

These—oddly enough—(and even I was a little surprised to discover) were, the best books I’d ever read. The next question was—why?

 What did these books have in common? What about each appealed to me so much they would beat out the classics, the contemporary award winners, the fascinating science fiction books, the exciting thrillers? I actually pondered this for several days. It was important to get right, because what I was ultimately looking for was the key to writing a great book. Perhaps not what everyone else thought was a great book—maybe not even what anyone else would think was a great book—but one I would be happy with. This quest I was on then was a search to find the soul of the kind of stories I would devote myself to writing. The kind of books I wanted to read. Such things shouldn’t be rushed.

My wife is the sort of person who makes spreadsheets. She breaks things down to numbers whenever possible. I don’t work that way. I function in patterns. I see paths in the forest and cartoon faces in the tile work of my bathroom. I reflect, sense the direction, and then move. This is how I approached the problem—a very scientific method I trust you will agree. I did pretend to be Sherlock Holmes if that helps.

I assembled the suspects into one room and tapping a finger against my upper lip (does anyone know if this really helps?) I proceeded to deduce the answer. All four author’s works are fantasies, but all take place in vastly different settings. They also use vastly different character types: animals, hobbits, humans. This method of reasoning wasn’t getting me anywhere so I shifted to what parts of the books did I like best, what drew me to want to read them again? I finally settled on three things.

Characters, setting, and plot.

Before you laugh, let me explain. Of course all books have these, but these books in question have very specific types of each.

They each have a high number of appealing characters. Not just appealing—lovable. Individuals who even though they were fictitious, I admired and cared about. They are the friends I wish I had. Of course I would want to spend time with them.

While each had bad areas, awful locations where terrible things happened, they also had wonderful places too. Homes, villages, schools, and hills so beautiful, so warm and comfortable that I wanted to visit—these were homes I wish I had. So again, of course I would like to return there.

In each, the story made sense, something significant occurred, and in the end turned out mostly happy for the majority of the characters. These are the kinds of events I wouldn’t mind experiencing.

Re-reading such books had been appealing because these were more than just books, these were doorways to places I loved and old friends I had missed. And in coming to this understanding, I discovered why I did not care for so many other books. Some might have likable characters, but they lived in worlds I hated. Or they had interesting worlds, but the characters were unpleasant. I liken reading to going to a party. If there isn’t going to be anyone there I like, and if the place I’m going isn’t at least partially pleasant, I’d rather not go.

If I were going to write books for other people to read, then this was the sort of book I wanted to provide. I didn’t want to create something pretty, or momentarily thought provoking, I wanted to build a happy shelter that people could take with them where ever they went for the rest of their lives. As far as being profound goes, I’m not sure you can hope for more than that. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Independent Book Bloggers Award - Voting is open

Hello Sullifans (yes, that is a new term that I recently saw in an email - kinda cute huh?). Robin here (for those that don't know I'm Michael's wife) I'm taking over Michael's blog to talk about the Independent Book Blogger's Awards.  Since you are here, I assume you like Michael's blog so you can vote for it here. From that link you can also see the five posts that I picked that I thought were some of Michael's best which are:

Of course, I'm interested to hear what your favorites might be. Do you think I should have selected others?

There are also a few other blogs that have been very supportive of Michael over the years so I would like to give them a shout out as well.  Unfortunately, they are all in the same category so you can only vote for one of these fine sites.
I suggest you read the various sample posting and decide for yourself which are best. I do hope that both Michael and one of these sites end up winning in their category as they will be sending the winners to New York and it will give a chance to meet some of these great people face-to-face.

Voting closes Monday, April 23 at 11:59pm ET.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. In other words...Michael go write a post you lazy bum!