article, news, publishing

COVID-19 and The Digital Future of Publishing

The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many aspects of life, but as a reader I’ve actually felt fairly little impact.

I still read eBooks on my Kindle, and was able to order physical books online. Now that local retailers and my library are operating (somewhat) normally again, I can go buy them in person again too.

So, what’s changed? I think the lasting impact that COVID-19 will have on books and readers is a bit more subtle than how we actually purchase things to read.

Publisher’s Going Online

Like so many industries, publishing had to adapt to its employees working from home. I believe the pandemic may have been the catalyst to finally get the monolithic, and notoriously slow, publishing industry to start moving more quickly. The realization that many jobs can be performed remotely, and that customers can be interacted with directly out of necessity is a sea change. Whenever we collectively decide the pandemic is “over”, I think we’ll see these publishing industry changes as permanent, like we will in other large creative industries. I don’t think there’s any going back from the industry making a change to be somewhat leaner and more agile.

Continue reading “COVID-19 and The Digital Future of Publishing”
announcement, article, guest post, writing

Do You Want To Guest Post?


Would You Like to Expand Your Audience?

As part of my “2020 Blog Resolutions” that I mentioned here, this year I’m looking to have more bloggers featured on this site via guest postings. Guest posts are a great way to expand the audience of your blog by getting writing in front of a new audience that might not be familiar with you.

While re-blogs are great, they don’t have the same level of intimacy and intention that a well-crafted guest post does.

To that end, if you’d be interested in writing a guest post about

  • Writing (Writing Tips, Writing/Author News or Trends, or just relatable author struggles)
  • Books (Book reviews, genre news, or “bookish” trends)
  • Film photography (news, reviews, fun camera stuff with some featured images)

I’d love to have you on the site. Even if you’ve never written a guest post before, I’m happy to have Suburban Syntax be the first place you try. Feel free to email me here at or message me via WordPress or on Twitter.

Need Some Content?

If you like my stuff and are looking to temporarily ease the burden of creating content on your own blog, let me know and I’d be happy to write a guest post for your site if we can find a topic that is a good fit. See the above bullets for the type of content I generally focus on.

Here’s to a great 2020 of blogging and I hope to hear from you!

writing, writing tips

Ways to Keep Your Readers Engaged


One of the most difficult parts of writing isn’t the big, exciting, flashy parts of your story, but the quiet moments in-between them. Let’s call them “mundane moments” to be honest but not overly cruel.

This article by the great Chuck Palahniuk over on LitHub  emphasizes the importance of not boring your readers.

Of course you can move along in one unbroken moment-to-moment description, but that’s so slow. Maybe too slow for the modern audience. And while people will argue that today’s audience has been dumbed down by music videos and whatnot, I’d argue that today’s audience is the most sophisticated that’s ever existed. We’ve been exposed to more stories and more forms of storytelling than any people in history.

Chuck identifies that authors shouldn’t be afraid of using different tools and methods of filling that “in-between” space with things other than rote lists of boring activities. I’m very guilty of this in 1st drafts. Characters milling around, picking things up and putting them down. Looking at one another. BORING!

Some of the things he identifies as alternatives are

  • Montages
  • Interesting “coded” dialogue that helps flesh out character groups
  • Short chapters that describe/show locations as characters travel

I am certainly a writer from the school of “making it like a film”. When I wrote DETROIT 2020 one of the primary goals of the book was to make it a book for readers who would rather be watching an action movie. Even my internal author “camera” sees scenes played out like little movies in my brain as I’m writing.

Pacing scenes like films in your head can really resonate with audiences who are savvy and used to processing information quickly. It’s also another reason that the old adage of “Show versus Tell” is so important. You want to build the image in your reader’s minds so their processing of that vision is efficient and seamless. Being “told” takes more energy on their part and risks a disconnect.

There are also a number of things that can make your prose cleaner and more efficient when you are self-editing your initial story drafts.

The main takeaway here is if you or your beta readers find some yawning moments where your story lags, then your readership certainly will too. Bored readers are no readers at all.

Hopefully these posts will spark some unique ideas to fill those mundane moments in your stories. If you have additional suggestions on how you work with those spaces share it with your fellow writers down in the comments!

writing, writing tips

Writing Tip: How to Take Writing Advice

feedback smiley scale

Remember: 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. – Neil Gaiman


Oh Neil, you’re so correct. The above advice “works for me” and I take it.

So should you, dear blog reader.

Everyone is a Writer (even when they aren’t)

I’ve written numerous times about the benefits of writer’s groups. I firmly believe you should find one local to you and join it if possible.

With that out of the way, there are still some important guidelines when it comes to accepting advice from either a critique group, beta reader, or even (I’m going there) an EDITOR.

One of the things that makes writing difficult is showing it to others. Once the cat is out of the bag, you’re going to get all kinds of feedback. Some of it will improve your story, and some of it needs to be ignored.

Advice to Take

  • Rule of 3: I adhere to the “Rule of 3” – If three people independently tell me something isn’t working for them or they didn’t like part of a story, then I’ll look at it and try to improve or fix it. It is obvious that something is amiss for that many people to notice. Better 3 than 3000.
  • When Something is “Off” – Like my man Neil G. said up top. When readers have an inexplicable feeling that something doesn’t work, then you need to review that part of your story. Good writing evokes emotion, and if readers are getting all the wrong feels, then that is a red flag.
  • (Most) Advice from Your Editor – HAH! LOOK I BACK TRACKED! But seriously, if you are working with a professional editor, put your ego aside and respect their objective skill set. If they are questioning something that is absolutely, 100% non-negotiable to your story, then you should at least have a detailed discussion with them to try and figure out whether other edits can make that thing you’re holding onto work better in the greater context. I mean, sometimes even editors can be wrong…sometimes.
  • “Tough Love” from your Inner Circle – Most authors develop relationships over time with a few people they REALLY trust. Writer’s groups, editors, beta readers, etc. If one of your most trusted people who has a solid, previous track record of quality feedback says something like “this just isn’t up to your normal standard” or something similar, then you should listen. It might hurt, but it’s very likely they have your best interest in mind.

Advice to Ignore

  • “Here’s What you SHOULD WRITE” – It’s not their story. Don’t change your words into the ones they wrote for you. NEXT!
  • “That’s Just My Opinion” – If 10 people love it, and 1 person says it is total trash, you’re probably safe to ignore it. Especially if there is no underlying reason and they just “didn’t like it”.
  • Twitter – Don’t take generalized writing advice from social media. (But DO take expert long-form writing advice from random authors who you stumble across on blog sites like WordPress!)
  • Angry People – This is a very situational one, but I’ve had it happen. If someone blasts you, and just tears your work apart, sometimes it’s them and not you. If you have a personal connection and know they are going through a difficult time or are just not in the correct head space to read critically, then sometimes you should either ignore the advice or ask them to read it again at a later date if you’re comfortable doing so.

In Conclusion

I hope this post can help you navigate the difficult situations that can arise when you’re taking feedback on your work. I have a feeling it might, but I’m not going to tell you which tips to specifically use.

article, writing

Author In-Person/Event Checklist


Attending In-Person Events

I recently attended the Book Fiend’s Reader Fest 2019 in Connecticut, and it was one of the largest author events that I’ve participated in.

I was fortunate to have other members of my writer’s group in attendance as well, to provide support and show me the ropes. Live events are a great way to expand your audience and network with other writers, but they can also be stressful and overwhelming if you don’t prepare in advance. In this post I can hopefully provide you with a list of essentials and potential pitfalls so you can learn from my mistakes when you hit the road yourself to do a live appearance.

Essentials for Author In-Person Appearance

Here are some of the essentials you’ll need – keep in mind this is an “everything and the kitchen sink” checklist for a full day(s) conference. If your event is smaller you can reduce as needed.

  • BOOKS! – This seems obvious, but make sure you purchase copies of your books ahead of time so you have them in advance of the event. I didn’t have nearly enough stock, and it’s awkward telling people to look at Amazon on their phones.
  • POWER – I cannot stress this enough. Bring power. That means cell phone charger, laptop/tablet charger, a power strip, and one of those little USB charger bricks if you have one. You won’t know if there is an outlet near your location, and it really stinks to run out of battery in a pinch. Plus, you can be a hero and make friends by helping others who forgot to bring these things
  • FOOD & WATER -Some events provide food. Others don’t. Don’t assume they will 100% have food, especially if you have dietary restrictions, or that restaurants will be easily accessible. Looking things up in the area ahead of time using Maps or Yelp is fine, but you may not get breaks or be able to leave your table, so you’ll want some quick and easy snacks and a water bottle handy to keep yourself going.
  • CASH & CREDIT DEVICE – Bring change. I cannot tell you what an awful feeling it is to turn someone away who WANTS to buy your book because they cannot pay you. Make sure you take out plenty of change in cash. Dollars or your own local currency. Then, ensure you have a backup, whether it is Paypal/Venmo, and some kind of credit card reader. You don’t need to accept checks or anything, but you’ll want a minimum of two forms of payment that you can accept. If you know your audience is going to be tech-savvy it wouldn’t hurt to have Apple or Android Pay either.
  • CREDENTIALS – Make sure you have any and all emails, tickets, badges, and identification that you need to prove you are an author/vendor in a safe and easily accessible place. If this event is big, it’s likely run by a convention agency. That means you might be talking to service and security who have NOTHING to do with the event and don’t know or care who you are. You don’t want to be the person holding up the vendor line digging through your Inbox for the “invite email” you got three months ago.
  • EMAIL LIST – Make sure you have a way for people to sign up! Live events are one of, if not the best, way to get new email list subscribers. I used to use a clipboard and pen, but messy handwriting made it hard to figure out. Now I use a cheap tablet with a Google Form that looks pretty and makes it easy for people to sign up.
  • BOXES – You gotta have something to lug all this in. Some kind of tupperware box is the minimum, but those rolling handcarts or even small luggage could work if you have it. Assume there will be stairs and sidewalks and doors and nothing will be easy. Then if it’s a straight walk to an elevator you can be pleasantly surprised.


These are nice to have, but might not be 100% necessary

  • Tablecloth – If you’re either solo or sharing a vendor table, a tablecloth can make things look much nicer. Even a cheapo one from Walmart or Target that you wash and iron will make a plastic folding table (which is usually what you get) look far more inviting and professional. You want your books to make the best impression they can, and this is an easy way to step up your game.
  • Display Stands – To make things look nice you’ll want some of those cheap wire or plastic display stands. You can get them online or at a craft store. These really help by showing off your book in an attractive way that is easy for passersby to pick up, plus they save precious real estate on your table, which can sometimes be limited.
  • Business Cards – Not essential, but HIGHLY recommended. It is extremely easy and cheap to get business cards made. You don’t need to go crazy either. A few hundred basic cards will likely last you a while, and they are a great way to give all your key info (email, website, socials) out quickly in a way that people can look at later. ProTip: I only get one-sided cards, because if I’m networking, a blank cardback is a great place to jot notes for other authors and industry people.
  • Candy – People love candy. Especially free candy when they are wandering around all day in a convention center full of overpriced food. A bucket of candy on your table is a cheap way to draw people in and grab their attention for those critical few seconds to start a conversation. “Oh, I see you enjoy Kit Kats?…”
  • Clip-On Fan – Seriously, bear with me on this. You know those little clip-on fans that are either plug-in or battery powered? During warm weather events those can be a total life saver. If you can spare room in your box for a small fa that you can clip up and get some air moving, if can make sitting at a stuffy table all day way more comfortable. Don’t assume there will be shade or AC, and room full of people at a live event can heat up quick.

In Conclusion

I hope this list is helpful to you, and can help you feel better prepared for any live events that you might be attending. Or, if you’ve recently attending an in-person author appearance and think I forgot something, please feel free to add it down in the comments.