Terry “Tales from the Greenhills” Melia and I talk about Writing, Authoring, and Publishing

The amazing and incredible author Terry Melia talked with me this past Saturday. It was a fun chat and we covered lots of ground, hopefully some of it will be useful to others.

Here are two excerpts starting with using your own emotional experiences to add realism write fiction events

and one with some advice to writers.

You find the full video on Terry’s YouTube channel (and we both hope you do and comment).

A Tale of Three Critique Groups

Be so confident in knowing what you bring to the table you’re willing to eat alone until you find the right table.

Warning: This is not going to be a happy post.

I’ve been in three critique groups from the end of 2020 to now. One I formed, two I was invited to join. There were two more I helped form and turned over to others (both are non-US based and there were timezone and language issues which made regular exchanges with them challenging).

Let me be blunt.

  • Most people calling themselves writers have no hope of becoming international bestselling authors.
  • Most people calling themselves authors have no hope of becoming anything more than self-published wannabes.
  • Most people in critique groups want a pat on the head, a hug, and a rousing cheer of “Good for you! You put words together!” and not a serious critique of their work with the goal of improving their craft.

Some people proudly tell me they never pay for online courses and only take the free ones.

“How long you been doing that?”

A few years now.

“You been taking courses for a few years and your work still sucks this much? Put your money on the table now, honey, otherwise your work ain’t going nowhere.”

(you may enjoy the complete “Can I Be Honest About Your Writing?” series starting with Can I be honest about your writing? (Part 1 – Oh, the Vanity of it all!). I also talk about what makes a good critique in my interview starting at about 1:35m in)

What Makes Writing Worth Reading? Continue reading “A Tale of Three Critique Groups”


Katie Koestner and Claire Kaplan interviewed me last night for an upcoming segment of Dear Katie.

At one point, I mentioned some Principles Susan and I put together over the years based on our journey. These Principles are the ones we used to guide our lives and the company we created. They’ve appeared in many places over the years.

Someone once asked me if I lived up to the Principles myself.

“Hell no. That’s why I post them. So they can be a guide to me, so I’ll know when I’m not following them.”

Like so much in my life, they are for me. If others benefit from them, wonderful. But first and foremost, they are for me.

You may not like them all. You may only be comfortable with one or two.

Good start. Work to integrate them all. Find that difficult? As noted above, if they were easy for me to follow I wouldn’t have to write them down.

Katie and Claire took interest in the Principles and asked where they could find them. I posted the full list here on my blog as Principles.

Below are the first ten. Feel free to read through the rest of them. Feel free to make them your own.

  1. Do unto others as if they were you.
    In other words, cut out the middle man. Treat others the way you treat yourself. People do this anyway. All we do is suggest you become aware of it.
  2. Trust yourself.
    Until you do this, you’ll never be able to trust others and you’ll put what trust you have in people who will hurt you.

  3. Be Honest.
    With yourself first because it makes it easier to be honest with others. Honesty will cost you and what it returns is worth it. Tell tall tales, lie with the best of them and exaggerate all you want when people know that’s what you’re doing. The rest of the time, be honest.

  4. Respect people’s boundaries and limits.
    There’s a difference between being selfish and being selfless. Realize what this means for you and you’ll realize what it means for others.

  5. Keep it Simple.
    Because it’s so much easier that way.
  6. Take responsibility for your actions.
    When you make a mistake and before anybody else knows the mistake has been made, raise your hand and say loud enough for others to hear you, “That one’s mine. I did that.” If the people around you are more interested in pointing their fingers at you and distancing themselves from you than helping you clean things up, you’re standing around the wrong people. Let them distance themselves. They won’t be around you when you succeed, and you will, because you’ll have learned how to stand up tall, proud and free by recognizing, owning up to and cleaning up your own mistakes. From this you’ll also learn compassion and dignity and how to help others clean up their mistakes, as well. Along with this…
  7. Mistakes are just that; You can reach again.
    So learn to stretch when you have to and to recognize when what you’re reaching for isn’t something you’d want to hold in your hands. You’ll be better for it and so will those who love you.
  8. Innocence is not Naivety and vice-versa.
    Think of this as a self-recognition of “…wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

  9. Your rights end where your willingness to harm and hurt begin.
    If you need this one explained, you won’t get along here. If you needed a moment to put this into a context you could get comfortable with, you won’t get along here.

  10. Language is a tool, like Maslow’s Hammer.
    Some people think everything’s a nail. Be neither. This is part 1.

(read the rest)

Until the interview goes live, you can get a taste here from my tech check.


How can I preserve my authenticity and creativity while trying to produce “Industry Standard” work?

Transcript (mostly) of a LinkedIn message exchange:

Hi Joseph,
I hope this meets you well. Would you mind taking a minute to give me your opinion on something I’ve been curious about for some time now. I’ll really appreciate it.
Here goes: How can I preserve my authenticity and creativity while trying to produce “Industry Standard” work?
I’ll be looking forward to your reply

This came out of the blue from a fellow author and took me by surprise. I’m happy to do what I can, and replied: Continue reading “How can I preserve my authenticity and creativity while trying to produce “Industry Standard” work?”

Why I don’t read in my genres any more

(updated from an original post on Goodreads long, long ago…)

I debated writing this post for a while.

Three things solidified it for me:

  1. A discussion about fast paced sci-fi reads. I made a comment and offhandedly shared that my library listed my picks – Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man – as Fiction, not Science-Fiction (FWIW, Wikipedia claims science fiction, medical fiction and thriller as his genres). The comments intrigued me. I didn’t see any definitions of genre (sci-fi, fantasy or horror in this case) v fiction/literature offered. Examples, yes, definitions, no. Why is something considered fiction or genre? I wondered if something about being fast-paced shifted my library’s cataloguing from sci-fi to fiction. Did a metricable difference between literature and any genre (let’s include mystery, gothic, spy, romance, military, medical, thriller, western, historical, et cetera) exist or if, as some claimed, was it anything from personal bias to outright snobbery? Basically, I want to know if literature v genre is quantifiable. (i think it is, although I’ll yield that how important the metrics are is based on personal bias.)
  2. I started questing for relevancy; I have reasons why I rarely read in my genres any more. Did anyone else have anything similar? That question led me to Chuck Wendig’s “25 REASONS WHY I STOPPED READING YOUR BOOK” post. It’s classic. I don’t share all of Mr. Wendig’s 25 reasons, simply most and as for the others, it’s not so much that I disagree as I’m not sure if I agree.
  3. I read Pushing Ice (Goodreads rating 4.02, my library casts it as SF) and The Golem and the Jenni (Goodreads rating 4.1, my library casts it as FIC) pretty much simultaneously. Both are first novels, the differences in several factors are so striking that I knocked off 50-60 pages of The Golem and the Jenni whenever I had the time andPushing Ice…well…
    Continue reading “Why I don’t read in my genres any more”