This 1 Thing Will Squelch Your Dreams of Authorship

New York City Skyscrapers aerialMaybe when all is said and done, the reason you aren’t published is not the hours a night you spend watching television, the hours you spend clicking “like” on all the foodie pics your friends post on Facebook, the lateness of your emergence from your bedroom every morning. Yes, it’s possible that these acts are those of a wanna-be writer with no talent whatsoever. But, maybe these fruitless activities are a sign that, even though you have the talent, you simply don’t take yourself seriously.

And what’s really amazing (because it happens so much) are all those people out there with LESS talent than you who work a LOT harder than you because they actually think they have a LOT of talent and that the whole world ought to know about it! They push their way into every opportunity, they MAKE opportunities for themselves. With full confidence, with trumpets blaring, they cry: “LOOK AT ME!!” And you know what? They sometimes do pretty well for themselves, while you (talented and insecure you) say things like: “I’m not good enough,” or “Who would want to read what I wrote?”

Well, my friend, at last count, there were 7.6 BILLION people in this world, so guess what? There is SOMEONE out there who would LOVE to read what you write! More than just a “someone”–many “someones”.

And I’ll tell you something else: your fear, your thought that “no one would want to read what I write,” comes from a fear of criticism. No one gets anywhere worrying about criticism of their work. If criticism scares you–and it scares the hell out of me, quite honestly, and most people I know–then you have to put it aside and go BIG, go for THE GUSTO…or you gotta go home.

Don’t go home.


There will always be someone who writes a useless critique of your work on Amazon–someone without the courage and/or the talent to write a novel-length manuscript as you have done, but who has the “talent” to make other people feel bad about themselves. Useless critiques might look like this: “I red this book an it sucked!” Other critiques might be more useful: “I didn’t feel connected to the characters.” The latter critique could indicate something you can work on in your next novel, or perhaps the critique indicates the reviewer’s particular issue with the work. If your pre-publication readers were an honest bunch and offered a lot of helpful feedback (which you heard, without throwing up defenses, and acted upon), it might just be the reviewer’s particular issue. Be honest with yourself, but also know that every critique is not worth ruining your day over, and that you cannot expect EVERYONE to like your writing. Remember? Over SEVEN BILLION people in the world. At least a couple of them won’t like you work. At least a couple.


Then there are the people who will love your book, but they won’t say so. Frustrating? You bet. In my own life, I received phone calls, letters, Facebook private messages, and, even years later, people approached me with compliments over my first published book (THE FILIGREE SLIPPERS), but you won’t see all those people taking the time to give me stars on Amazon. Even with me suggesting they do so. Even with me trying hard not to sound like I was begging them to do so. They were not “bad” people, they were just people: reading novels they enjoyed and then going on to the next one without a backward glance. Does that mean I should not be preparing for the publication of my next novel, this one for adults, entitled COLD AS WINTER WOODS?  No. And you should be moving forward too.


Some critics you will know personally. Those might be the scariest for you, actually. Those are the people who have never liked the thought of you succeeding at anything, those who have never tried for anything special in their own lives and hate the thought of you having anything special in yours. It’s also common for writers to actually be nervous about how their NON-reading social circle (whether it be family, friends, co-workers) will respond to their book. Why? Will the non-readers ferret out every place you could have used a better word, or will they disapprove of the genre into which your novel falls? Remember, they don’t READ, so, you know, who cares? You think your favorite authors weren’t afraid their family and friends might HATE their newest novel? Really?? Well, they published anyway.


There are reasons not to write a story, and there are reasons to wait to tell a story. Frank McCourt wrote ANGELA’S ASHES long before he would submit the manuscript to an agent in the hopes of publication. He wrote about an impoverished childhood in Ireland, what his mother had to do in order to feed her children. Had McCourt found a publisher for the novel before his mother died, she would have been deeply ashamed by his revealing what she was forced to do, things over which she had no control. But, if you are not in the position where you must wait to tell your story, then,  my writing friend, write, write, write. Edit, edit, edit. Submit your work to agents or figure out how to self-publish. Give it your all and don’t fall under the spell of critics.

Even if the critic is YOU.


written and posted by Jean Foster Akin

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A Writer’s Disappointments and Struggles

Jean F. Akin.

My newest novel for an adult audience, entitled COLD AS WINTER WOODS, is soon to be published under the name J.F. Akin. It’s a thriller about the victim of a kidnapping, and how she fares when misunderstandings lead investigators to dangerously incorrect conclusions. It’s about unrequited love that isn’t love at all. It’s about little white lies, false allegiances, one woman’s fight for survival, one man’s insanity, and another man’s fight to stay sane. And, when all is said and done, COLD AS WINTER WOODS is about the tenacity, the strength, the sorrows, and the “hiccups” of love.

On the eve of publishing this novel for adults (just as when my book for middle readers, THE FILIGREE SLIPPERS, was published), I could write pages and pages about a writer’s disappointments and struggles. I know that many of you wordsmiths out there could write those pages with me.


I mean, once we get beyond the months–often the years–of developing back stories for our characters, researching technology or professions, planning our stories’ trajectories, writing down the stories and conversations of our characters’ lives, there is the waiting for agents to get back to us about our submissions. But, first, there is the rigmarole we must go through in just supplying an agent with the appropriate package so she won’t end up tossing our work in the circular file* before she even reads it! And even when we give an agent all she asks for, we might find she never contacts us about it at all. Ever.

Disappointment. Struggle.

Of course, there’s always  self-publishing–no going through the watchdogs of the literary world in order to have our voices heard there. Once considered taboo in the industry, self-publishing is now accepted as legitimate in more circles than you’d expect. I’ve got editing clients whose novels have won self-publishing awards through Writer’s Digest Magazine–once the bastion of anti-self-publishing snobbery.

Still, either way we go, traditional publishing or self-publishing, we’ll experience disappointment and struggle.

But we continue to write the next thing. We’re always writing the next thing or editing the last thing. What else can we do? We’re writers, and we must write.



I’ve completed three novel-length manuscripts and four partial manuscripts in the last few years. The actual newest one is a mystery which I finished in mid-2017, but the mystery’s final editing has taken a backseat to the manuscript I am calling my “newest”–COLD AS WINTER WOODS. I actually finished writing COLD AS WINTER WOODS in 2002, but I put it away at the time of my mother’s death not long after. Then I took more college courses; my husband and I spent a lot of time fixing up a terribly neglected 1840 Colonial; we sold the Colonial and moved–a few times–and, finally, we settled in New England in 2016. THE FILIGREE SLIPPERS (written under the name Jean Foster Akin), was published in the midst of all that in 2011.

Then, my laptop was stolen in 2014. It housed all my novel-length and all my partial manuscripts that were just waiting for me to get back to them. Crazy disappointment. Crazy struggle.

The thought of rewriting all those manuscripts was beyond daunting.

I would have to re-write characters and plots based on the backstories I’d written for all of them in black and white notebooks. The bones were there in those notebooks, yes, but nothing anywhere near the sinews and flesh of those stories, nothing anywhere near the beating heart of those stories. As for COLD AS WINTER WOODS, I had interviewed detectives, patrol, and undercover cops–both male and female–over a 24-month period  in the early 2000s. As the years went by, I always knew that if I wanted to see that novel  published, an update on technology and investigative/police practices would be necessary. But the manuscript was now gone. Lost forever with the rest. All I could do was mourn its loss.


Imagine my shock when my husband found the entire novel again in 2017–ALL my pre-2014 unpublished novels, in fact–on a forgotten thumb drive! Disappointment. Struggle.  And, in this case, sheer disbelief in my good fortune.

I’ve spent months, from late 2017 to early 2018, editing and rewriting, and bringing the 2002 technology and police procedures in COLD AS WINTER WOODS up to 2018 standards. It’s finally finished.  And right in time for Spring.

When COLD AS WINTER WOODS is published in the next few weeks, I’ll give you a shout out. I want to ensure the first many copies from Amazon are FREE for you early-birds.

And I hope you’ll find COLD AS WINTER WOODS a thrill to read!



*an author/agent term for the agent’s trash can 😛

Photos of “Wintry Trees” and “Potted Plant on Windowsill” by Jean Foster Akin

Other photos: Unsplash.

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Kinda & Sorta: The Indecisive Twins


by Jean Foster Akin

From the mouth of a parenting expert being interviewed on a national television program: “Babies are sort of helpless, so new parents need to be vigilant in anticipating and supplying their children’s needs.”

Really? Babies are sort of helpless? Gee whiz, Captain Obvious, tell us more.

On a dog-related program, from the mouth of a television personality who makes more money in one show than you make in half a year: “You have to kind of brush the dog in order to keep up with her shedding in the summer.”

Kind of brush the dog? What does that even look like? It isn’t the actual brushing of the dog, apparently, so what could it possibly be?

Talking Heads of the media are full of this, and it’s hard to take: many of them supposedly went to college for journalism/communication, they’re getting paid to speak well, and, quite frankly, they should know better.


There are plenty of places you can  use “kind of” and “sort of” and make sense at the same time. Say you want to express a lack of certainty: “We chose a blue for the bedroom that was kind of a mixture of blue, purple, and green. It’d hard to explain, but it’s very soothing.”

Or, perhaps you’re trying to describe an unusual flavor: “It’s tastes sort of like broccoli, but with green bean and spinach flavors too.”


The words kind of/sort of can also be used to express hesitancy. “Darling, I love you, but I kinda think we need to take a break from each other.”

You’re going to experience the other person’s tears or shouting, and it won’t be pleasant for either of you, so you hesitate a little before dropping the bomb, and you try to soften the blow with kind of/sort of. It won’t work, by the way, because any fool knows that what you’re really trying to say is: “I’ve grown tired of you, dear. I find you annoying and your incessant chatter mind-numbing.  I want you to go away now so I can pursue that hottie over by the bar.”

Mother says (while running for the Band Aids): “Tommy, you’re a smart kid, but trying to ride your bike down the staircase was kind of dumb.” Notice here that Mother doesn’t  want to call Tommy dumb, but she wants Tommy to see that he has done a dumb thing. Notice, too, how kind of/sort of in this case adds a soupcon of UNDERSTATEMENT (it’s actually extremely dumb to ride a bicycle down a flight of stairs, so soupcon is an understatement too).


When you want to be funny, using the words kind of/sort of can add that humorous understatement many of us enjoy.

Growing up in the city, my siblings and I enjoyed watching a fellow by the name of Tom Jones. That was not his real name; that was the name we gave him. Tom Jones was known all over the city for standing on busy street corners in tie-dyed t-shirts and bell-bottoms that looked like they’d been made on his Grandma Jones’s sewing machine, using her old kitchen curtains. On special occasions he wore a turquoise zoot suit that he must have gotten at Good Will, and bright green platform shoes.  He’d hold an invisible microphone (I think it was also magic) and crooned loudly and off-key to passing vehicles and pedestrians. He really put his all into it, and we loved the guy–from a distance, of course.

One day, my brother and I were heading to a coffee shop uptown when we were forced to move over on the sidewalk. You see, Tom was adding some Saturday Night Fever moves to his performance that looked a tad dangerous to passers-by. When we got out of earshot, my brother looked at me in a deadpan way and said, “You know? I think that gentleman is kinda crazy.”

Understatement at its best, and the perfect job for kind of/sort of.

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Do I Use “Less” or “Fewer”?

by Jean Foster Akin

He spent LESS time writing this week as opposed to last week.

There were FEWER cats at the shelter this year than in previous years.








There is a difference between the words FEWER and LESS that makes interchanging them improper. It makes interchanging them a mistake. It isn’t the worst mistake a person can make, but let’s see if we can fix that mistake, regardless, so that it is one less mistake we make. Okay? Okay. Here we go:


The word FEWER relates to the NUMBER of INDIVIDUAL ITEMS OR THE NUMBER OF  PEOPLE we happen to be counting. For instance, the number of pencils in a box, the number of toothpicks in a cup, the number of colored glass balls on a Christmas tree, the number of people at a party. The word FEWER relates to COUNTABLE things.


CORRECT: “Unfortunately, there were fewer people helping out at the Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless than at last year’s event.” You can count people individually, so the proper word to use in this sentence is FEWER. 

WRONG: “There are less people here than there were last year.”

CORRECT: “Have you noticed that Alpo is putting fewer dog biscuits in their boxes now, but charging consumers the same amount?” You can count the dog biscuits individually, therefore, use the word FEWER.

WRONG: “There are less dog bones in this box than the last time we bought dog biscuits.”

CORRECT: “Because of the fear of dangerous additives in the flu shot, fewer people are getting them.”  We can count the number of flu shots administered, and therefore the number of people taking them. We can count people and flu shots INDIVIDUALLY, therefore, we use the word FEWER in this sentence.

WRONG: “There are less flu shots being administered this year.”


The word “less” relates to SINGULAR MASS ITEMS, such as all-purpose flour, or sand, or grain, or rice, or salt water in the Atlantic ocean. Even the air around us is a singular mass item.


CORRECT: “Oh look at this! Last year I paid two dollars for a 16 ounce bag of rice, and this year I’m paying the same amount of money for 14 ounces! Those sneaky rice sellers are putting less rice in their bags!”

WRONG: “Those sneaky rice sellers are putting fewer rice in their bags.”

Of course, you probably saw the problem with that last sentence, didn’t you? But, you CAN say, “Manufacturers are putting FEWER rice grains in their bags this year,” because grains of rice CAN be counted individually, though why would you want to?

You can also use the word FEWER if you say, “Those sneaky rice sellers are putting FEWER ounces of rice in their bags.” This is because we can weigh and COUNT THE OUNCES in a bag of rice.


The word FEWER is used in sentences connected to INDIVIDUAL ITEMS and COUNTABLE THINGS: people, animals, marbles in a sack, shoes in your closet, etc.  

The word LESS is used in sentences connected to SINGULAR MASS ITEMS: air, dust, water, advice, sunshine, publicity, etc.


Happy Holidays from Writing New Worlds!

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AUTHOR QUOTE: Finding Your Voice

If your passions are strong and you’re a fighter, the question of voice is a superficial one. You are eager to speak; you only need the podium. That is, you need the writing technique. But don’t worry about voice. If you make sure that you say what you mean, you’ll have a strong voice. However, “saying what you mean” means being graceful and clear, which takes a lot of labor. Being yourself when you write means to edit, go back, sharpen, to say precisely what you want to say.

Josip Novakovich, an excerpt from his book Fiction Writer’s Workshop.



posted by Jean Foster Akin, italics mine.

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Easy Trick to Using “I” or “Me” When Writing or Speaking

“Who? ME??”

by Jean Foster Akin

Do you ever wonder whether to use the pronoun “I” or “me” while writing or speaking sentences such as “Me and Bill,” or “Gloria and I”?  Today I have a simple trick for you so that you don’t have to wonder if it’s  “I” or “Me” again. I mean, this trick is SIMPLE!

We can just forget about worrying over using “I” or “me” if those pronouns represent ONE person in a sentence. Am I right? Most of us won’t get confused and say: “Me went to the store,” or “Should I take the dog on a walk with I?”

It’s when we have to speak or write about one or more people accompanying the “I” or the “me” in the sentence that we run into trouble. But it is so easy to stay out of trouble if you use the simple trick I’m proposing.


Is it “Anna and me were kicked out of the circus after Anna slapped a clown,”  or “Anna and I were kicked out of the circus after Anna slapped a clown”?

To find out, all you need do is REMOVE “Anna” temporarily from the sentence and see if your selection of “I” or “me” works on its own. “Me was kicked out of the circus…” or “I was kicked out of the circus…”? Looks like the correct sentence is “Anna and I were kicked out of the circus after Anna slapped a clown.” THAT’S IT!  THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO THIS TRICK! You can’t get much simpler than that!


Which of the following sentences are CORRECT?

1). “Verna and me played several rounds of Mahjong last Tuesday.”

ANSWER: Using “me” in this particular sentence is INCORRECT. By removing Verna from the original sentence, you see that it reads “Me played several rounds of Mahjong last Tuesday.” There’s nothing right about that. So, “Verna and I played…” is correct. If you want to use the pronoun “me” you must rearrange the sentence a bit, like so: “Verna played several rounds of Mahjong with me last Tuesday.”

2). Anna and I robbed the liquor store on Saturday night.

ANSWER: Using “I” in the sentence is CORRECT. By removing Anna from the original sentence, you see that it reads: “I robbed the liquor store on Saturday night.” Using “I” was the right thing to do. Robbing the liquor store? Not so much. Maybe you need to stay away from this Anna person; she sounds like a bad influence.

(3). Me, Donna, and Jennifer walked the poodles.

ANSWER: Using “me” in this sentence is INCORRECT. By removing Donna and Jennifer from the original sentence, you will see that it reads: “Me walked the poodles.” So, say instead, “Donna, Jennifer, and I walked the poodles.” If you want to use the pronoun “me” you must say: “Donna and Jennifer walked the poodles with me.”

4). My husband and me want to go on a cruise.

ANSWER: Using “me” in this sentence is INCORRECT. By removing “My husband” from the sentence, you will see that it reads: “Me want to go on a cruise.” So say instead, “My husband and I want to go on a cruise.” Or, again, you can say, “My husband wants to go on a cruise with me.”

The “I/ME” trick is so simple, you never have to make a mistake with “I” or “me” again!

You’re welcome!

Any questions? Ask ’em in the comment section below.




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#1 Fuel for Writing Great Stories

French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac is said to have drunk 50 cups of coffee a day. He stated:

“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move…similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.”


For a wonderful tongue-in-cheek article on the man and his brew, click here:


quote posted by Jean Foster Akin

Photo by Jean Foster Akin:  Trees in Reflection

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