Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

From The Mysterious Zone of Comfort

Alexander M Zoltai:

Folks often wonder what it’s like to be a writer…

Are we always tossing words around in our heads?

What other activities, besides pen to paper, do writers need?

Here’s a re-blog that eloquently explains one important writerly Space…

Originally posted on Sky Diaries:

This is the afternoon I’ve been waiting for. NotebookNot the ultimate one, with real writing in it…but one nearby. The exalted silence. The alone-ness, full, not empty.

The city is quiet on this July 4th holiday; abandoned by people with other places to be. My city, now. Mine.

I have turned my seat toward the window, not the wall. This is what I see: Out the big window, the brassy silver of a hot day. The air is fuzzy; a haze of unresolved clouds to the south. Cars countable on one hand down the long length of Denver’s Lincoln Street.

Entry hall and desk to the right in the open plan space. Kitchen and dining in a counter clockwise sweep. Art everywhere, in every minute-hand tick of view. Kristina’s green painting. July 4v1Beside it, a Van Gogh print with the same green; the artist’s rope-seat chair echoed in the antique…

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The Ecology of A Blog Post & The “Rules” of Writing

I’d never considered putting “ecology” and “blog” in the same sentence ’till yesterday.

The Ecology of Blog Posts & The

Image courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian ~

When the idea shot through my mind, I went to my Oxford dictionary to confirm my hunch and found:

“…deals with organisms’ relations to one another and to the physical environment in which they live.”

If I change one word and drop another one, we have:

…deals with posts’ relations to one another and to the environment in which they live.

Let me demonstrate…

On 30 May, 2013 I wrote what I consider one of the most important posts on this blog—What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

On June 26th of this year I wrote the post, Why Trying to Write a Bestseller Is Bad for Your Mental Hygiene.

The second post had a link ( a “relation” ) to the first post

Both posts had links out to other blogs ( relations to the environment [ blogosphere ] in which they live ).

There’s more to the ecology of the post about trying to write a bestseller—the following comment on that post:

“Thanks for the post – the truth will, indeed, set you free. I’ve begun to suspect that a lot of advice is an echo chamber. One ‘tip’ is to make money off wannabe authors with advice – I’ve seen many posts that seem to contain a lot of copy/paste and pacing outlines to force your story into. I’ve also read a number of successful novels that violate ‘standard advice’.

That comment was contributed by Kate Rauner and she provided a link ( relation ) out of the comment to examples of writing advice on her own blog

Many blogs take advantage of what used to be called “hypertexual” links—to posts within the blog itself and to other blogs (which can well have their own internal links)

I just might start calling them Ecological Links.


To continue the ecology of posts idea and show you a couple of my favorite posts by Kate, here are some Ecological Links out of this post:

The Sirens of Titan and Vonnegut’s Writing Rules

On Writing – A Memoir Of The Craft

What Makes a Novel Successful Is In the Mind of the Reader

Even though many of Kate’s posts are an exploration of why certain books are popular; and, she’s looking for writing advice, she did say, in that comment on one of my posts (about not trying to write a bestseller), that “…the truth will, indeed, set you free.”, and “I’ve begun to suspect that a lot of advice is an echo chamber.”
Read Some Strange Fantasies
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To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Naming your characters and settings

Alexander M Zoltai:

Names in a novel…


Perhaps for some; but, many writers could use some help.

This re-blog from Roz Morris could be just what’s needed :-)

Originally posted on Nail Your Novel:

le moulin 221The three chambers of fluid, lacrimal caruncle, fornix conjunctiva, canal of Schlemm, choroid, ora serrata. Where are these places? Somewhere under the sea?

No, they’re right where you are, indeed where these words are travelling. They are parts of the human eye.

I sense an artistic sensibility in the world of ophthalmic nomenclature, as though its members are preserving a sense of wonder about what these organs do for us. Next door, the brain is another grotto. It has diencephalon, fissure of Rolando, aqueduct of Sylvius, cingulate gyrus. The founding fathers of neurology were blessed with linguistic grace.

In a novel, even if your setting is a known place and realistic, each name you choose creates expectations, hints at themes and the characters’ roles.


Daphne Du Maurier wrote in The Rebecca Diaries how Maxim de Winter was ‘Henry’ in the first draft. She changed it, feeling ‘Henry’ didn’t live…

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Where Do You Go to Find Your Reading Community? by Jennifer Walker

Alexander M Zoltai:


Are “things” getting in the way of your reading?

Check out this re-blog (from a teacher) with 7 tips about how to re-energize your reading life…

Originally posted on Nerdy Book Club:

I recently had the pleasure of learning with Dr. Jennifer Buehler, President-Elect of ALAN. Dr. Buehler asked our group of educators, “Where do you go to find your reading community?” As I thought about my response to Dr. Buehler’s question, I also wondered if she had issued this as challenge of sorts, questioning if all educators actually had a reading community, or even a solitary reading life.

Throughout my life, reading has risen and fallen in my list of priorities.  As my to-do list became overwhelmed with lesson plans to be created, countless student essays to be graded, diapers to be changed, the joys of reading did not even seem like a possibility.  I began to think of reading as a guilty pleasure, an activity to save for the few glorious days spent lying on the beach each July. By reading some great blogs and spending our few date nights…

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Writing and Self-Forgiveness

From a rather long life of making mistakes, gaffes, miscalculations, and oversights, I know the critical value of forgiving myself.

Ann Patchett

Image of Ann Patchett courtesy of Wikimedia Commons & Rodrigo Fernández

Yet, this must be done with deep sincerity or one ends up just accumulating excuses for continuing to run rough-shod over Life

Continually saying, “I’m sorry” (offered to others or ourselves) when it’s not deeply felt can accumulate tremendous internal guilt and grief.

In just a minute, I’ll give you Ann Patchett‘s comments about the self-forgiveness of writers; but, I must build up to it

Ms Patchett is a novelist and independent bookstore owner.

Her latest work, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriageis a memoir that gives keys into the world of Ann’s writer’s mind.

I found out about the book from Maria Popova’s article, The Workhorse and the Butterfly: Ann Patchett on Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art.

I’ll share a few excerpts from Maria’s article (quotes from Ann) that I feel lead up to a writer forgiving themselves:

“…what I love about both novels and dogs is that they are so beautifully oblivious to economic concerns. We serve them, and in return they thrive.”

Some very interesting comments about the roles of fiction and nonfiction follow, until:

“We should be able to tap into the constant narrative flow our minds provide, the roaring river of words filling up our heads, and direct it out into a neat stream of organized thought so that other people can read it….But it’s right about there, right about when we sit down to write that story, that things fall apart.”

“This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life.”

“When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it.”

“Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words.”

“I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling I killed it along the way. I did, however, learn how to weather the death, and I learned how to forgive myself for it.”


All those quotes from Ann are my way of teasing you into reading Maria’s article, which might lead you to reading Ann’s book

And, before I share the ultimate quote about self-forgiveness for writers, I want you to consider that, even if you’re not a writer, your life is your own Work of Art—we are constantly writing the book of our own life


The following quote is for Everyone:

“Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.


“I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”

Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com


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