Monthly Archives: July 2013

5 Must-Read Writing Guides from PNWA 2013

Posted by July 31st, 2013

5 Must-Read Writing Guides

As things were winding down at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference last Saturday afternoon, I took a spin through the on-site PNWA bookstore that had been set up by staff of the University Bookstore in Bellevue, Washington. The table that I spent the most time oohing and aahing over was the “Writing Guides.” There were so many, and what surprised me the most was how many I hadn’t read yet. It’s moments like this that remind me of the amazing work that booksellers do: curating displays like these, making sure that interested readers will easily find the books they really, really need.

Here are the 5 books from the University Bookstore display that I plan to read ASAP!

BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott

My dad actually gave me a copy of this book when I was fifteen, and spending most of my time obsessively recording my teenage thoughts into one of many spiral-bound journals. I adore Anne Lamott’s other work, in particular her essays about faith, but I shame-facedly admit that I never read the copy of BIRD BY BIRD my dad gave me all those years ago. Must remedy!


I’ve not yet read his work, but Walter Mosley strikes me as a wise, wise man. This book is safety orange and very slim, the combination of which tells me that it urgently needs to be read, and soon.

ON WRITING by Stephen King

The University Bookstore staffers told me that every year, they bring a ton of copies of this book to the PNWA Conference. Invariably, one of the panelists will mention this book in a conference session, and immediately after, everyone will race down the hall to the bookstore to pick up a copy.

WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg

Okay, I’ll be honest: I actually have read this, and fairly recently. But when I saw the familiar cover at PNWA, I felt a longing to read it again. Goldberg’s is an almost yogic approach to the writing life: she calls her method a “writing practice.” This is a book to be read again and again (and again).


There’s my real life as a writer (think pajamas until five pm, hourly breaks to post my word count on Facebook, etc.). Then there’s my fantasy life as a writer, which includes a Woody Allen-style Manhattan apartment stocked to the gills with books just like this anthology edited by the brilliant longtime New Yorker writer. When I imagine myself sitting down with this book, I suddenly look just like Diane Keaton in 1978, and when I’ve finished, my writing will be witty, incisive, and immensely intellectual. If that doesn’t happen, at least I’ll have spent some quality time in the hands of one of America’s great contemporary thinkers.

So, now I’m wondering: Who in the Book Country community has read these books, and which should I read first?


Share Button

Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Kathleen Shaputis

Posted by July 29th, 2013

Kathleen ShaputisKathleen Shaputis is a Book Country writer from western Washington who is, in her own words,“well experienced in the headline lifestyles of the baby boomer generation.” She balances writing and professional speaking with a day job at a book printer. She’s the author of Gramma Online and The Crowded Nest Syndrome and the ghostwriter of a dozen books.

Kathleen sat down with us to talk about her newest book, HER GHOST WEARS KILTS, upcoming on August 26, 2013 from Crimson Romance.

 NG: Congratulations on selling HER GHOST WEARS KILTS to Crimson Romance! You must be really excited. Can you take us through the publishing deal?

KS: I had just started sending query letters for HGWK when fellow author Eva Shaw and I were both presenting at a conference earlier this year. Her second book with Crimson Romance, a new imprint with F&W Media (Writers Digest), was coming out in a few weeks and she encouraged me to submit a query request to her editor. “Pushed” may be a better word, and Eva followed up with an introduction email after my submission.

They asked for the entire manuscript but shortly after the editor moved to another publisher. I didn’t hear anything for weeks; then came a long list of changes. The manuscript was too chick-lit with too many side characters, not enough romance, but if I agreed to the changes, they would review the manuscript once I made them. I did and they sent a contract.

Continue reading

Share Button

New Book Country Feature: Following!

Posted by July 29th, 2013

Today when you login, you’ll see some big changes have come to Book Country. We’ve brought back following and designed a new homepage that’s as unique as you!

Here’s a picture of what to expect once you’ve logged in:
New homepage

Continue reading

Share Button

Live from the #PNWA 2013 Annual Summer Conference!

Posted by July 28th, 2013

Big writing conferences are always held in nondescript conference centers. You know the type I mean: beige walls, mild, unoffensive curtains and carpeting, everything designed to fade into the background. Unlike bookstores, which are wild with color, or libraries that ooze character and history, these conference centers feel at odds with what we know to be wonderful about literature: a memorable voice, striking imagery, attention-grabbing details. Conference centers are specifically designed to act like a blank canvas to keep the focus on the subject of the conference. We understand what makes these places functional. But at first, these environments feel like they can never match richness of our literary imaginations. “Am I in the right place?” we ask ourselves as we make our way from the parking lot to the registration desk. “Is this really the place where I’m going to learn how to make my book the best it can be?” Continue reading

Share Button

Come Visit Book Country @ the 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in Seattle

Posted by July 26th, 2013

Book Country is very excited to be at this year’s Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference at the SeaTac Hilton in Seattle, WA. This amazing conference is in its 58th year. I am so excited to have the chance to talk about Book Country with PNWA’s thriving community of writers from this beautiful corner of the US. Continue reading

Share Button

New to the Book Country Workshop? Start Here.

Posted by July 26th, 2013

How to workshop on Book CountryWelcome to Book Country! You just activated your Book Country account. You filled out your profile, complete with an inviting picture, the genres you like, and links to find you on social media. You went over to the Introduce Yourself area on the discussion forums and said, “Hi.” Now, you’re thinking about sharing your manuscript for feedback.

We’re a writing and publishing community, and that means that we want you to get involved and support other members. In that spirit, we ask that you read and review one other book on Book Country before you can post your own. If you’re not that experienced at workshopping, this may seem intimidating, but don’t worry!

Here’s how to get involved in the community and get your book on the map:

Continue reading

Share Button

Book Country is now live!

Posted by July 24th, 2013

I’m happy to announce that the new Book Country platform is now officially out of beta. Yay! Throughout the beta period, we’ve been reading your feedback and have been moved, saddened, and overjoyed at the reactions we’ve seen from you as we’ve worked to improve the site, fix bugs, and add features that matter most to you.

Today when you visit the Read Book Country bookstoreand Review section of the site, you’ll see that we’ve added a Book Country bookstore! This is the place to support your fellow community members who have chosen to publish with Book Country.

Next week, we will reinstate the ability to follow books and discussions.

In August, you’ll see a news feed, similar to LinkedIn or Facebook, where you can easily keep track of the writers, books and discussions that are important to you.

We know we have more work ahead of us. We’ll continue to fix the bugs you’ve reported just as we’ve been doing over the last few weeks.

On behalf of the entire Book Country team, thank you for caring so much about this site. If you need anything, please email me at brandi at bookcountry dot com, and I’ll be happy to help you.

Share Button

Sequelmancy: On Being Published (twice!)

Posted by July 22nd, 2013

We’re so excited for Book Country member Michael R. Underwood. Previously, he told us how he spent his time writing since his first book, GEEKOMANCY, was published by Pocket Books. That writing has come to fruition: He just released his latest book, CELEBROMANCY, and we couldn’t be happier for him. (You’ll want to pick it up — it’s a fantastic read!) He’s guest blogging for Book Country today. His words on writing a sequel are below. -BKL.

Michael R. UnderwoodThe sequel is a mainstay of contemporary genre fiction – when you sell one book, the publishing house will almost certainly ask for another book in that same series. Epic fantasy is nearly synonymous with the trilogy, and series are nearly part-and-parcel with urban fantasy (aka what Geekomancy is) these days.

In general, series sell, and while there tends to be a drop-off from book to book, releasing a new book in the series invariably boosts sales of the books in that series that have come before. And in the best cases, a series builds momentum and sales over time, so that each new book sells more books in the first few months than the books before had done, eventually getting onto bestseller lists as the series gains momentum.

So when I sold Geekomancy to Pocket Books, a sequel was inevitable. In fact, I have a very clear memory of sitting in my car in Okemos, MI, on Thursday, February the 2nd, 2012, after a sales call for my day job, tapping away on my laptop so that I’d have some sequel ideas. I was about to take a call from Adam Wilson, this editor with Pocket Books, who wanted to talk to me about Geekomancy. I’d never sold novels before then, but I knew enough about the business that editors didn’t tend to want to talk to you on the phone about novels they had no interest in buying. Knowing this, I wanted to go into the conversation with some ideas for sequels.

Fast-forward several months, when Geekomancy was revised and out of my hands, on the production fast-track to publication to be out for San Diego Comic-Con, leaving me with one more task: write the sequel to Geekomancy. And what’s more, Adam had asked for Book Two to stand alone as much as possible within the series.



So I asked myself “Self, how does one write a stand-alone sequel that advances the characters, the overall story, and expands the world?”And here’s what I came up with by way of answer when writing Celebromancy:

1. Introduce a new aspect of the world, and focus the action there. This doesn’t mean ignoring what I’ve built before, but what it should do is let me introduce these new elements and let much of the action of the sequel hang on those elements.

2. Sum up the existing relationships when characters are introduced – this can get tricky, because ideally I want the same readers from book 1 to read book 2 and be happy while also bringing in new readers. So when I introduce the new status quo, I can’t be boring about it. In fact, avoid being boring entirely. Make things tense and/or funny whenever possible.

3. Take elements that were in the foreground in book 1 and keep them present, but as the B-plot in book 2. The A-plot (primary plot) in Celebromancy is the pilot of Awakenings and Jane’s curse. The B-plot is Ree’s ongoing Urban Fantasy life and her job at Grognard’s. Keeping Grognard and the Geekomancer world important in Celebromancy meant that the book felt like a step forward, rather than being a total departure or just a ‘once more, without feeling’ kind of bland copy sequel.

4. Re-use the stat blocks/character sheet motif from book one – this lets me re-introduce characters with the established shorthand as well as to show the progression of the characters.

In summary, for me the fine art of Sequelmancy is a balancing act – be bold enough to move forward without leaving behind what has come before. Keep the central awesomenesses of the characters and the setting while escalating, expanding, and moving forward.

Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeRUnderwood and visit him on the web at

Share Button

Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Ian Cohen

Posted by July 22nd, 2013

inc2Ian Nathaniel Cohen is a Book Country writer, and has a number of writing projects of different genres in various states of progress, ranging from historical adventure fiction to fantasy to mysteries. His first complete manuscript is The Brotherhood of the Black Flag, which he’s currently shopping to agents.

NG: How did you find your calling as a writer?

IC: Writing is something that I’ve always liked doing, and I’ve always had story ideas floating around in my head. I started writing fanfiction in college, using it to practice writing stories in various genres – romantic comedy, adventure, drama, and so on. Also, as a Radio/Television major, I was better at conceptualizing and the writing aspects than any technical production aspect. Then at some point after college, particularly when I was job hunting, I decided I’d take the various ideas I had for stories and have a real go at turning them into novels.

NG: You’re a history buff: you read and write historical fiction. What is it about “history” that wakens the muse in you?

IC: History is full of intrigues, triumphs, tragedies, and adventures that many people aren’t aware ever happened that are just as exciting as any work of fiction, if not more so. It’s interesting as a writer to spotlight less mainstream historical eras or events, and use them as the basis for adventure fiction. I also hope that a reader might find a less familiar historical setting more unique.

Oh, and it’s easier to work swordfights into historical fiction than a contemporary setting.

Continue reading

Share Button

Historical Fiction Author Amy Brill on Writing & Community

Posted by July 17th, 2013

Writer Amy Brill

Author Image: Christina Paige

Amy Brill is a New York City native whose first book, a historical fiction novel published by Riverhead, came out in April. THE MOVEMENT OF STARS is the story of a female astronomer in 1845 Nantucket and the unusual man who understands her dreams. Amy’s writing has also been published in SalonGuernica, and Time Out New York.

I met her at an industry event. She was incredibly sweet and game for the following impromptu interview.

NG: Thanks for being such a trooper and taking time to chat with me!! How did you become a writer?

AB: I became a writer through reading, which I think is probably true for a lot of writers.

I was a very early reader, and my Mom took me to the library pretty much constantly as a child. I just devoured books: there’s something magical about disappearing in the world of the story. I grew up in a very busy, very active neighborhood in Queens, and I think that something about having this incredible world that was completely mine was very appealing to me. I started writing at a very young age. I think I wrote my first “novel” when I was in fifth grade.

Continue reading

Share Button