Awesome book cover Friday: Fortunately, the Milk

This week’s cover selection is for Neil Gaiman’s new book, Fortunately, the Milk. Who could resist a title like that?

I mean, I can imagine someone saying, “Fortunately, we have milk.” But “fortunately, the milk”? What’s that about?

Apparently, time travel and breakfast cereal.

Fortunately, the Milk

I can’t help but love this cover because it’s illustrated by Skottie Young, who makes Marvel characters look like cute babies. (I’m serious.)

I NEED THIS.

Introducing the Humble E-book Bundle: Get books, support charity, help authors

Humble E-Book Bundle

For the next week, you can score 13 e-books for $12.81, and every penny you spend can go toward supporting the authors or select charities.

What is this miracle deal? It started as The Humble Indie Bundle, which is a changing collection of digital video games at a highly reduced price. These sell like crazy, and now the organization behind it has started doing the same with e-books. They’ve already sold over 50,000 bundles.

humble e-book bundle mainSo you not only get great books for a fraction of their total value ($157 to be exact), but also help out the people who write them — and some great charities, too. It’s your choice. You decide how your payment is split down to the last cent, and you can even donate to the Humble Bundle team if you wish.

As long as you beat the average (currently $12.80), you’ll get all 13 books — along with (here’s a tip) any they decide to add in before the promotion ends. Or you can pay less (name your price) and still get six e-books: Pirate Cinema, Pump Six and Other Stories, Zoo City, Invasion: The Secret World Chronicle, Stranger Things Happen, and Magic for Beginners.

The bonus e-books are Old Man’s War, comic collections Attack of the Bacon Robots; Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings; Save Yourself, Mammal!; The Most Dangerous Game; Xkcd: volume 0; and the graphic novel Signal to Noise.

This time, donations benefit the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Child’s Play Charity, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The e-books are DRM-free and come in multiple formats, including PDF, MOBI, and ePub.

Scare up a good book for charity this Halloween

Cover Banner

Who doesn’t love the sights, sounds, and smells of Halloween — from the patchwork of autumn leaves to their crunch underfoot and the intoxicating aroma of pumpkin pie? All those things come alive in a good story. Now you can make this Halloween special for others by helping 10 authors raise 1,000 books this month.

Donate a book from today through October 19 — or just participate in the event — and you could earn some goodies of your own. Trust me, this is way better than candy (who needs those extra five pounds, anyway?). You could win a $100 Amazon gift card, signed copies of the authors’ books, or a special swag bag (see details below). The Friction Frolic for All Hallow’s Read blog tour and fundraiser benefits the Books for America charity, which gave more than $800,000 worth of books and materials to DC area schools, shelters, and other educational programs and organizations last year.

But Friction Frolic is also a blog-a-thon of sorts: From now through Oct. 5, you can read about how books shaped these authors’ love for reading and writing. From Oct. 8-12, they’ll be sharing their best Halloween experiences and their favorite scary books, movies, or pieces of literature. And from Oct. 15-19, you can enjoy some flash fiction, short stories, and novel excerpts.

Here’s a list of the participating authors:

Neil Gaiman started the All Hallow’s Read tradition (you can trace its origins back to this blog post), which simply involves giving someone a scary book during the week of Halloween.

What book will you choose?

Click the button below to enter the Rafflecopter.

Friction Frolic

Writer’s block is an excuse, not a reason

So this is something that was posted earlier in March, but I wanted to share it with all the struggling writers out there. Someone asked Neil Gaiman how to cope with the dreaded writer’s block, since this person wasn’t finishing any piece of writing because he/she was chronically unsatisfied with what was landing on the page. Gaiman’s answer? Writer’s block is a convenient scapegoat, but it’s more “a combination of laziness, perfectionism and Getting Stuck.”

Even if a story’s lousy, you’ll learn something from it that will be useful as a writer, even if it’s just “don’t do that again”.

You’re always going to be dissatisfied with what you write. That’s part of being human. In our heads, stories are perfect, flawless, glittering, magical. Then we start to put them down on paper, one unsatisfactory word at a time. And each time our inner critics tell us that it’s a rotten idea and we should abandon it.

If you’re going to write, ignore your inner critic, while you’re writing. Do whatever you can to finish. Know that anything can be fixed later.

Remember: you don’t have to be brilliant when you start out. You just have to write. Every story you finish puts you closer to being a writer, and makes you a better writer.

His advice echoes what I was saying a few days ago about dealing with a mediocre or downright awful blog post—or any other sort of writing: Learn something and move on. Don’t dwell, and don’t cover it up. Make the most of your writing, flaws and all.

Writers who write for a living don’t get to blame an unproductive day on a fanciful and elusive concept like “writer’s block.” We have to write despite whether we feel like it or if everything sounds wrong and ugly and miserably off-pitch. We have to type and delete and retype, planting ourselves in front of a blank screen until we finally coax words—not necessarily the right ones—out into the open. Writing is a tough gig. But when we are, as Gaiman says, lazy or nit-picky or just plain Stuck, we push through … even if it’s only for that paycheck that always arrives a month late.

Even if writing isn’t your day job, you should treat it like one. So what if the words aren’t perfect? They’re never going to be, and that’s what revisions are for, anyway. It’s more important to finish what you start than let it fester and die before its time. Finish, and you’ll learn something. Finish, and you’ll have new experience to draw from.

Write, write some more, and move on

Lately I’ve been thinking about what writers do when we have so-called “dry spells”—when what we’re typing out onto the screen doesn’t match our normal quality of writing. Say we churn out a bad post, or maybe a few bad eggs in a row. Do we click that delete button, or do we cover our mistake with a series of hasty attempts and hope the world doesn’t notice?

We do neither. Writing is not a perfect art form. We’re going to have off days just like we’re going to have days when our writing is spot-on. But we should never be ashamed of our work to the point where we want to bury it. Every effort adds up to the bigger picture: a better, more experienced you.

We are always writers in training—not even the most practiced in the trade escape self-improvement, and if they think otherwise, they’re probably not very good. Writing is one part confidence, one part self-doubt—and that uncertainty is what allows us to push aside our egos and tell ourselves, “Okay. I can do better.” We should always make room for criticism, whether it’s coming from someone else and from ourselves.

I once read, “When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” Even people who don’t write can trust their gut—and as writers, we have to trust ours as well as put our skills and experience to good use. If a piece of writing just isn’t working out, listen to that little voice that’s suggesting that maybe your approach or topic isn’t such a good idea. At that point, either scrap it and move on or start over and try looking at it another way, as the parents of the eponymous James told their son in James and the Giant Peach. Smart advice.

Sometimes the most important lesson to learn is to learn one at all. Make the most of your mistake by remembering it and applying that lesson to your future writing. The trick is to balance knowledge of good writing practices with instinct (our natural editor and ear for rhythm). Both come with time and lots of practice. You’re not going to write anything good without writing a lot of bad first.