Tag Archives: J.J. Brown

21 Steps to Twitter Love, by J. J. Brown

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Elizabeth and JJ at Word Sharks Conference

From Karen…

Back in June, I met with long-time online friends in Newark, DE, for the first-ever Word Sharks Conference. In attendance – J.J. Brown, Elizabeth Cottrell, Pamela Wight, Jessica Pettengill Messinger, and Barbara Forte Abate.

Since then, we have stayed in touch sharing blogs we like, having book discussions, and sharing other resources and insights.

Out of one of those conversations came some fantastic insight into Twitter by J.J. Brown. She shared her philosophy and advice on how she uses Twitter. I thought it was so good, I called “dibs” on sharing it in a blog.

Welcome, J.J.!

* * *

Article by J. J. Brown

I love twitter because it is a free and open conversation that’s so fast-moving. Twitter is quite famous for NOT being a place to sell books or much of anything else. So, I don’t have advice about how to use twitter to sell books.

Being active on twitter is a wonderful way to meet writers and readers, and exchange thoughts on the writing process and story ideas, as well as inspiration. And once in a while I get a tweet asking to review a book of mine, or to be interviewed on a blog, or submit a post for a website, or a story to an anthology, which is fun.

I can’t count the many interesting people I’ve met and shared views with on twitter, and sometimes later in-person as friends (none of whom were creepy).

21 rules I apply loosely, depending on how much time I have are:

How to tweet:

  • Be interesting and super brief; don’t repeat identical tweets.
  • Talk about yourself and the books you’ve written, but not ALL of the time, just sometimes.
  • Post provocative things about writing, about your books, and the news – things people react to.
  • Share other writers, artists, and thinkers works, at a good ratio. Tweeting 5 of others’ things then 1 of yours works well.
  • Use a photo in your original tweet so more people will see it. This magnifies your reach because more people look at pictures than words, even on twitter.
  • Tweet quotes from famous authors or artists who inspire you, just to share the joy.
  • After you tweet something original or important, stay on a few minutes to respond to any replies.
  • Retweet things others post that you think need a broader audience because they’re great, funny, or important.
  • Say something insightful about any link you share on twitter, don’t just hit the Tweet button though it’s tempting.

How to interact:

  • When someone tweets your work or retweets you, thank them via direct message (which is private) or tweet (which is public).
  • When people react to you, tweet back like a conversation. It hurts to be ignored there like in any conversation.
  • Never argue on twitter. Yes, sometimes a person will be mean to you. Ignore them. Praise, or add a new thought, or brood away silently.
  • Use #amwriting (for insights, personal progress) #amreading (for reviews) and other hashtags to enter writer’s conversations, then respond when people join your thought stream.
  • Follow people who follow, retweet, or comment to you, IF you’re interested in their twitter feed.
  • Don’t follow people who offer to buy twitter followers or increase your reach. That is kind of spammy messy stuff I don’t get into at all.
  • Seduce people you’re most interested in on twitter, tastefully, by retweeting and commenting on their tweets.
  • Think of the new contacts as friends and connections, not followers or fans.

How not to drown in the twitter stream:

  • Don’t look at your live stream, it’s a jungle in a thunderstorm.
  • Make lists of groups like writers, editors, publishers, artists to organize your new friends.
  • Do look at your lists’ tweets, your favorite people’s tweets, and any hashtags trending on that day that stimulate you.
  • Keep an eye on the clock. I limit my twitter socializing to about 30 minutes on a free day, 10 minutes on a busy one.

I hope this is helpful. I started on twitter about three years ago, when I started publishing books. At first, I was baffled. Now I love it. But I keep it to short doses. And only log on when I’m in a pretty good mood.


JJ BROWNJennifer J. Brown, PhD, is an editor at EverydayHealth.com by day, and writer of books and short stories by night. She completed a PhD in genetics and worked as a research scientist for 20 years before turning to writing. In her fiction writing, she is obsessed with exploring death and the meaning of dreams. Published author of seven books as J.J. Brown, she was born in the Catskill Mountains of New York and lives in New York City.

Find out more about J.J. Brown’s book news at her author website.

Death and the Dream. Short storiesDeathandDreamCover

Vector A Modern Love Story. Novel9780983821137

The Doctor’s Dreams. Novella

Stream and Shale. Coloring bookStreamandShaleFrontCoverFinal

J.J.’s Facebook author page




Filed under Blogging, Branding & Platform, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Social Networking

Untying Knots by Writing Fiction (Because Story Telling is Good for You)

J. J. BROWNArticle by J.J.Brown

Have you ever had a real knot you couldn’t untie, that was driving you mad? Or have you heard about an issue that seems impossible to solve? Try writing a story about it.

Story telling is good for you.

One of the ways I cope with difficult issues is by writing stories. I had a brain-splitting conflict worse than a migraine, about an environmental issue recently–called “fracking”. Fracking is a method of gas drilling, and is short for “hydraulic fracturing”. Literally means using water to break apart rock. Sounds clean. The parts not implied by this name are dark and dirty:

  • Adding hundreds of chemicals – many poisonous – to the water
  • Exploding the water with sand and chemicals deep under the earth’s surface
  • Contaminated, poisonous, and sometimes radioactive water coming back up

Fracking has become wildly controversial in the US, in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Ireland, Poland… Although fracking is going on in 34 states in the US, this industrial process is banned in all of New York State where I live, because of serious health concerns. That ban is about to expire. My goal was to do what I could to make a difference in this issue before that decision. And so from July to November 2012, I worked on writing a novel to help me deal with the issue of fracking. I made it, only just! I published the new book Brindle 24 in December. Our governor’s decision is expected February 27th.

After going through the process of writing a novel around an issue, I would like to share the experience. Here are a few tips on writing fiction to deal with an issue.

Get the facts.J. J.

Do your research. Read what the experts in the area are saying. I have a science and medical education background, and so I researched what scientists and doctors were reporting on the issue of fracking. The facts were horrifying, and made the idea of writing a book seem ever more important to me.

  • Watch documentaries and news programs about the issue
  • Talk to people to see what they are thinking about the issue
  • Listen

I watched the documentary film from Josh Fox, GasLand, on the effects of fracking in his family’s home state of Pennsylvania. Even farmers who have been fracked are talking about effects on farms and dairies. Many short documentaries have come out, like Kirsi Jansa’s Gas Rush Stories. I watch all of these that I can find. I collected the research and added links to a website for my book.

Find a role model.

Search out similar literary works that tackled issues successfully. I chose Upton Sinclair as my role model, for his amazing work, The Jungle. Some call it a novel, others investigative journalism. Whichever way you see it, the book made a tremendous impact on policy in the US on workers’ conditions. I was required to read this novel in high school, and the story stayed with me. I read the book again, this time as an author myself. He framed the brutal story of abusive working conditions with a delicate love story. For me, this made all the difference. As a young reader, I could not have read a long book about dangerous – and frankly disgusting – working conditions of urban meat packing. But the love story Upton Sinclair told in this setting was as gripping as Romeo and Juliet. I admit it, I read Shakespeare’s plays. I read that classic play again, while writing Brindle 24, which helped me come up with the opening scene.

J. J. 2Create conflict.

Based on the issue, ask: what is the biggest conflict? Write about the conflicts. For Brindle 24, I begin the novel with a fight between rural residents and outsiders from the city and from industry. I have experienced rural vs. urban conflict first hand during childhood as a rural resident of the Catskills upstate, and as a New York City resident now. But the biggest conflict I saw with fracking was the internal conflict, a crisis of conscience. How does a person do work for a job that could be poisoning others down the road? The “man against himself” conflict was a big one for me, in trying to understand the issue of what scientists were doing – or not doing – about fracking. I created a scientist as a main character in Brindle 24 to go through this crisis.

Add love.

We solve issues is not based on isolated facts, not out of conflicts either, but through love. In working on fracking issues in my story line, I explored how deep loving relationships among family members changed their choices. Their love for one another made the chemical contamination risks they each faced more significant. Losing a loved one is tragic. Losing a loved one from a preventable accident is even worse. I also included love of nature as a central theme in my story, to support the environmental views of central characters. In fracking, contamination, pollution, and destruction of nature have roused contentious debates. Nature herself becomes a character we love.

The next time an issue has your mind in knots, don’t get a headache. Tell a story.

  • Get the facts
  • Find a role model
  • Create conflict
  • Add love

I can’t wait to read what comes out of the process!

J. J. BROWN profileJ.J.Brown is the author of the short story collection Death and the Dream, novels Vector a Modern Love Story, and American Dream, and the poetry book Natural Supernatural Love. Born in the Catskill Mountains, J.J.Brown lives in New York City. The author was trained as a scientist and completed a PhD in genetics.

Connect with J.J. on her Facebook Author Page, the book site (built around the issue), her Book Page on Amazon, and on Twitter.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers

Quick Editorial Tips III

Photo by Angie Ledbetter

“Was” and “Were”

Y’all have heard about passive voice, but you are still using it. Stop that horse and dismount!

Here is one simple problem I see, over and over –

“Kathryn and Angie were eating gumbo in Baton Rouge.”

Try instead, “Kathryn and Angie ate gumbo in Baton Rouge.”

“Tracy was standing next to her horse.”

Photo courtesy Tracy Hinkel

Try instead, “Tracy stood next to her horse.”

“The writers were attacking the editor.”

Try instead, “The writers attacked the editor.”

Seemed, appeared (also show, don’t tell)

Tonia Marie seemed nervous. Blah. Shawn appeared bored. Blech.

Don’t use seemed or appeared or any similar wishy-washy words. Don’t tell us a character “seemed upset,” or “appeared bored” – show us how she is upset or how she is bored.

Show us the beads of sweat on her brow, her chewing on her bottom lip, her clenching fists.

Show us her slouchy posture in the chair, her wandering or rolling eyes, her picking at her nails.

Boring dialog vs. character-driven dialog

I recently edited J. J. Brown’s American Dream. All of J.J.’s characters have a personality that translated into the dialog.

One of J.J.’s characters is a Frenchman, and his English dialog has a French flair. He would often say, “Oui?” or “Yes?” or “No?” at the end of his bits of dialog.

Do you work on giving each character a distinctive voice?

A character clears his throat before speaking

A character has a Southern accent or a Jersey accent

A character uses a lot of similes or clichés

A character uses no contractions

A character quotes the Bible

Number of words in a sentence

All your sentences have the same number of words. There is no variety in your novel’s sentence structure. I am getting bored by your mundane sentence structure. I beg you to give me some sentence variety.

All the sentences in the above paragraph have the same number of words. Boring, right? Though it is never exactly like this in the projects I edit and proofread, some sentence structure is hauntingly similar.

Giddy up! Some sentences go directly to the barn door. Other sentences take a wandering path around the side of the barn, meander behind the barn, and come out at the corral.

Photo by Jink Willis

See also Quick Editorial Tips I and Quick Editorial Tips II.

Photos courtesy of Angie Ledbetter, Tracy Hinkel, and Jink Willis.

Karen and son Kenton

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com.


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

A place for writing inspiration

Most boring blog photo ever

Great writing spaces

I read two blogs on the same day, within the same hour. I think the universe is trying to tell me something about my abysmal writing space.

Poet and songstress Laura LME on J.J. Brown’s blog. Laura writes at a cherry table that has been in the family for over 40 years and was once a part of her father’s studio. The table speaks to Laura – of powerful family memories and children’s laughter.

Author p.m. terrell often writes in a living room amongst bright pastel walls under the watchful eyes of her angel fish. From the desk in her office, she can see crepe myrtles, tea tree plants, gardenias, and rose bushes.

My view

Inside, the bland walls of my still-temporary housing surround me with virtually no color (except for my Phillies throw and a small collage). I am not allowed to put holes in the walls; tape won’t stick with anything heavier than a sticky note.

In front of me is a small window that looks out onto a rutted dirt and torn-up-asphalt road often full of construction and moving vehicles (trailers in, trailers out). The lawns I see are brown or weedy, some with heaps of churned up earth.

Around many of these temporary trailers are forlorn collections of personal items in a mish-mash of piles. Many temporary residents have taken to using loading-dock pallets to create walkways to combat the mud.

No wonder I’m not inspired!

A bright spot

Artist Angie Ledbetter sent me a hand-made collage last November. It’s the only bright spot in the place. It’s propped up on my fire extinguisher bracket.

Maybe I can use the cheesy crown molding

Perhaps I can use the cheesy crown molding to tack up some posters or hunks of brightly-colored material.

Any other ideas?


Do you find inspiration in your home office, living room, or kitchen? Do you have a special desk or an item on your desk that provides inspiration? Do you go outside the home to find inspiration? What colors do you find inspirational?


Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer, and a fabulous grandmother. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, literary, historical, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and University of New Mexico, and was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her writing has been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.


Filed under Blogging, Editing & Proofreading, Personal Articles, Social Networking