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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rejection, Rotten Reviews, and Social Media: 7 Ways Writers Need to be Like Rhinos

by Ruth Harris

Writers are always urged to have or develop  “rhino skin.”

But let me add a few words about rhino skin.

When I wrote ZURI, I did lots & lots of research about rhinos. As it turns out, rhinos have thick hides but sensitive skin—quite different from the usual perception.

What rhinos have is, in fact, is exactly what writers need:

1) We need thick hides to help insulate us from rejection, rotten reviews and incoming from the demands of marketing and social media.

2) We also require the sensitive skin that gives us the heightened awareness and sensitivity to others and to our surroundings that result in compelling fiction.

As I was contemplating the misconception about rhinos and their skin and the difference between a thick hide and a thin skin, it occurred to me there are a number of other rhino characteristics that would serve writers well:

1) Good sense of direction. 

Although rhinos have no GPS to guide them, they do have a superb sense of direction. Rhinos remember a route they have taken only once. They don’t get lost or distracted.

Writers need to keep from getting lost, too. Whether it’s deep in the thickets of a complicated plot or trying to decide between self-pub, small press or trad-pub, writers need to take a cue from rhinos:

Don’t get distracted and be careful not to get lost, lose sight of the goal or the way to get there.

2) Excellent memory

Rhinos remember people and places and can distinguish between friends and enemies.

Writers sometimes need to do lots of research (something rhinos can’t do) but writers, like rhinos, need to remember the apt fact, the relevant anecdote, the specific situation and the emotions linked to them. That depth and richness of memory allows us to describe a unique setting, a particular individual, and will contribute potent detail that result in powerful storytelling.

Writers also need to distinguish friends from enemies and, in our plots, the good guys from the bad guys. (Even though sometimes we try to keep it as complicated as possible, especially if we’re writing mysteries!)

3) Bond well with others. 

Although rhinos are nearsighted, they bond well with other rhinos (contrary to the popular perception of rhinos as solitary, in fact they are social and live in small groups). In addition, rhinos bond well with their human friends and keepers.

Writers will find much support from communities of other writers and, of course, writers want to bond well with their editors and readers. ;-)

4) Speed, strength, and resilience.

Despite their size, rhinos are surprisingly fast: they can attain speeds of 35-miles-per-hour over short distances. Writers also have a need for speed: to please readers who are anxiously waiting for the next book and, on deadline, a writer needs the ability to develop high speed over short periods of time as well as strength for the long haul.

It goes without saying that rhinos are huuuge! Rhinos, members of a mammalian class called odd-toed ungulates, are among of the largest creatures on earth. Fully grown, they can be six feet tall and weigh anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 pounds which makes them very, very strong indeed. Strong enough to withstand rejection or a rotten review? You bet! Can you imagine a rhino sulking over a crappy review? Hardly. Strong enough to power through a block? Plenty strong for that.

Can you see a rhino getting defeated by anything except maybe another rhino if he’s of the male persuasion and they’re fighting over a girl rhino? Nope. Rhinos are like the old Timex commercial: They take a licking but keep on ticking.

Ditto writers: Speed through and get that book finished—some will love it, others will hate it—but the writer keeps on writing.

5) Great listening skills.

The nearsighted rhino is blessed with superior hearing. What s/he can’t see, s/he can hear.

Writers would do well to hone their listening skills because good hearing equals good dialogue. A writer who really listens to what people say and the way they say it, will not burden his/her book with clunky dialogue. People speak in fragments and uncompleted thoughts, not long, well-considered sentences and paragraphs.

6) A nose for news

Rhinos have an excellent sense of smell, a quality that helped me write a triumphant ending for the baby rhino, Zuri.

For writers, a good sense of smell heightens the ability to sniff trends and detect BS in others, in their characters—and, most of all, in themselves.

7) What? You thought I wasn’t going to go there????


What about you, scriveners? Can you develop a thick hide over your sensitive writer skin? Do you have a rhino  "nose" for news and BS? Do you think you can tell friends from enemies as well as rhinos do? What helped you develop your "rhino" habits?

Anne and I love our readers and, because we want to keep them happy,  we are offering special deals every Sunday. This week, in honor of all I’ve learned from and about rhinos and in appreciation of our readers, I’m reducing ZURI to 99c from its usual price of $3.99.

 Only 99c for a limited time! At Amazon US. Amazon UK, NOOK

The kindness of humans.
The intelligence of animals.
A book that will move you like no other.

ZURI's triggering event is the near-extinction of Africa's black rhino. Rhino horn is more valuable than gold and the illicit global trade in wild animals is third only to the smuggling of drugs and weapons. (Contains no sex or cursing and is appropriate for older YA readers as well as adults.) 

NOTE to readers outside the US
: We apologize if sometimes our links go to a full-price book. We can't access prices in other countries' Amazon sites, so we have no way of checking. This is yet another reason why we recommend Mick and the gang at Ebook Bargains UK (EBUK) who send you daily book deals with links to UK sites: not just Amazon, but Waterstones, Foyles, etc. (and no, we're not getting kickbacks. We just like them because they're affordable. :-) Now how about doing some more newsletters for our Canadian, European, and Aussie friends, Mick?)

NOTE to followers who've been reading this blog in Google Reader. Google Reader died today. RIP. But don't despair. You can either subscribe by email (in the sidebar, just under the blogfriends widget) or use any of a number or other readers. You can get great suggestions from Suzannah at Write it Sideways or Meghan Ward at Writerland.


1) Iron Writer Insane-a-Thon! The Dreadful Cafe will hold their annual writing marathon on July 13, 2013. There are prizes for the most words written in a 24 hour period and for raising the most money for their charity, St. Jude's Hospital. It's a wild and crazy insane-a-thon for a great cause. More at The Dreadful Cafe. Send in your entry before midnight on July 13 to: submissions@dreadfulcafe.com

2) Quirk Books "Looking for Love" contest. They offer a $10,000 prize for the best quirky love story of 50,000 words or more. Visit the Quirk Books website to download the entry form or for further information. Quirk Books was founded in 2002 and publishes around 25 books each year. Their bestselling titles include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. (Soon to be a major motion picture) Entries close October 1, 2013

3) Escargot Books
is expanding its catalogue and are now accepting submissions. Crime fiction (dark thrillers to cozies), women’s fiction, wealth and fitness, children’s, sci-fi and dystopian. All books will be published in digital format. Some books will be chosen for print and/or audio as well. Escargot Books does not offer an advance, but they offer higher royalties than traditional publishers, especially for direct sales from our website, as well as editing, formatting, promotion, and the company of bestselling authors. They have some big name authors and a good track record. Here’s their online submission form

"We're currently assembling a new Market Book titled the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing, and it's been great except for one problem-we need more freelance designer listings! It's currently filled with listings for self-publishing companies, freelance editors, and other services of value to self-publishers. But we need more freelance designers. If you are a freelance designer, send an e-mail to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with the subject line: Freelance Designer and request a questionnaire. It's only one page, and the listing is completely free."

5) Affordable book advertising to British readers from Ebook Bargains UKAll ads half price for the next two months. Lots of authors and publishers have had huge successes with their FREE or SALE books by advertising on BookBub, ENT, KND, POI, etc. But none of those target the UK, and their links go to US sites Brits can't use. But now there’s a newsletter for UK readers only. It links to all the big UK retailers like Apple UK, Waterstones and Foyles as well as Amazon UK. They don’t sell books direct or get paid for clickthroughs, so they don't have any restrictions on how many free books they can spotlight. So it's THE place to tell Brits about your book when it goes free or on sale in the UK.  And if you're in the UK, do sign up for their newsletter. It brings links to free and bargain ebooks—at the UK bookstore of your choice—in your inbox every morning. You can subscribe here.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

No wonder you know so much about Rhinos, Ruth!
Rhinos don't stop and think about the things that often stop us - they just power through and keep moving.
And long since replaced Google Reader with Feedly and Bloglovin'. I wanted time to get used to them before Google's died.

June 30, 2013 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Hi Alex! I really got to love rhinos! The more I found out about them, the more interesting they were.

Problem is African rhinos are almost extinct which is what inspired me to write ZURI. Rhinos are listed as an endangered species as poachers murder them for their horns. The horns are thought to cure cancer/impotence/etc in Asia and as Asia gets richer, the demand for rhino horn increases. The work of scientists, vets & African animal orphanages are all that stand between rhinos and extinction. A very sad story.

June 30, 2013 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Alex—Forgot to add that I made the switch to Feedly as soon as The Big G announced the demise of GR. Had no problem and find Feedly works very well indeed.

June 30, 2013 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger The Desert Rocks said...

The pictures are adorable and yes, I wish I was more like Zuri.

June 30, 2013 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Trekelny said...

Great stuff there. Rhinos CAN be very defensive when aroused, which sounds familiar to me. But I guess that's just the rogue bulls. So I should stick together with the writing community I've found.

And grey's my favorite color so I take no urging to enjoy the rhino. Wish the Lands of Hope had some, but haven't been too deep in the Argensian jungle to date...

June 30, 2013 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

TDR—Thank you! I love those pix too. Shows a whole different side to rhinos. I found them when I was writing ZURI and think my rhino heroine looks just like them and has an equally chic red blanket!

Trekelny—Thank you for the kind words. A mommy rhino will get very PO'd if she thinks you mean any harm to her calf, that's for sure.

June 30, 2013 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Natalie Aguirre said...

Great analogy between rhinos and writers. I definitely need to develop more of the tough skin for querying. And I agree with Alex about rhinos not stopping to think.

June 30, 2013 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

I never imagined I'd be happy to imagine myself as a rhino - but I totally am! I'm all rhino-ed up now with a tough skin and a nose for BS. Thanks for the analogy and all the tips. :-)

June 30, 2013 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Julie Luek said...

Ruth, it does take rhino like traits-- what a fun post and your points are so well taken. I really liked the thick skin vs staying sensitive. Well said.

I switched to Blogluvin weeks ago so am all prepared. I actually like it better now that I'm used to it.

June 30, 2013 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Natalie—Glad you enjoyed the analogy! Alex made an excellent point: rhinos don't stop to second guess themselves. Or revise & edit ad infinitum! :-)

Lexa—Thanks. Getting in touch with our inner rhino can only be a good thing! :-)

June 30, 2013 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Julie—Thanks for the kind words. Our rhino-selves will conquer the world, right? ;-)

June 30, 2013 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger mshatch said...

Holy Cow! I had no idea Rhinos got THAT big! And I sure hope I can develop a thick skin when it comes to reviews.

June 30, 2013 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

mshatch—Huuuge! I suspect you will...the thick, review-protective hide comes from experience & perspective.

June 30, 2013 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger AJ Sikes (aka Mitchell Brand) said...

Didn't Henry Ibsen write a play about this? :)

In all seriousness, I love the idea of being like a rhinoceros. Great post :)

June 30, 2013 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Denise Covey said...

Love the rhino allusions. Thanks for the book offer too.
So much useful info here as always. I hope you don't mind, but I've linked this post on my next blog post (next week) and have advertised two of the writing opportunities. Let me know if this is a problem.


June 30, 2013 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

AJ--That was Eugene Ionesco. Brilliant play to read. Kind of tedious to stage. :-)

June 30, 2013 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger Damyanti said...

Thanks for sharing the links for submissions. And love your parallels between Writers and Rhinos-- didn't know they had so much in common.

June 30, 2013 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger J.L. Murphey said...

Great post!

June 30, 2013 at 8:40 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Wonderful post as usual, Ruth. So much you said resonated with me. Especially the don't lose the direction. The other day I had to remind myself whose story I was telling. It really helped to pause and think about this before I moved on to Act III of my novella. Also the full speed ahead point. That's just what I needed to decide to finish this story by the end of July and set a deadline for getting it to my publisher. Once in a while we writers need a kick in the pants. So thanks for the kick. :) I've got "Zuri" on my Fire and can't wait to read it. That's the third thing I wanted to say. All the best, Paul

June 30, 2013 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Sheena-kay Graham said...

Your 'Rhino' post was great and nice of you to share this submission listing.

July 1, 2013 at 2:11 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

AJS aka MB—Anne is right: Ionesco.

I share your love for being like a rhino. Tough but tender; strong but fast. What's not to like? :-)

Hi Denise, thanks for the kind words and thanks, too, for the link!

Damyanti—All credit to Anne for the links!

I didn't know writers & rhinos had so much in common until I wrote the post. Writing is an excellent way to find out what you actually think and what actually makes sense. It even occurs to me that almost anyone—not just writers—could gain something by getting in touch with their inner rhino!

JL—What can I say except thank you? Much appreciated!

Hi Paul, so pleased the post resonated. A writer needs to juggle so many ideas & goals, it's all too easy to get lost in the trees and lose sight of the forest. Interesting, too, that different points resonate with different writers.

Hope you enjoy the adventures of Zuri and her friends—animal and human. This is the first time I've written animal characters and I loved it. Kind of proves you never know what you're going to like until you actually try! :-)

Sheena-kay—Awwww, thanks for the compliment. And credit to Anne who shared the submission listing.

July 1, 2013 at 4:36 AM  
Blogger Melanie Schulz said...

Great analogy- dead on.

July 1, 2013 at 5:34 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Melanie—Thanks! Glad the analogy worked for you. Sometimes the right analogy can make something we already know especially vivid!

July 1, 2013 at 6:24 AM  
Blogger LD Masterson said...

I enjoyed this post - lots of facts about rhinos I didn't know. As for emulating them as a writer...well, I've got the huge part down pat. (I really MUST go on a diet.)

July 1, 2013 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

LD—lol ;-)

July 1, 2013 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Stephsco said...

P&P&Zombies is one of my favorite books--really, it's that funny. I don't think I can write quirk that well though. Seth Grahame-Smith really nailed it with that spin on Jane Austen.

Thick skin in social media--you are so right-on. It's sad how mean people can be online. I've been a part of message forums and communities online since 1999 and I'd like to say I'm tough, but it still hurts when people are intentionally cruel while hiding behind a screen name. I just witnessed a fellow writer get harassed on twitter yesterday, and just...why? It's so frustrating.

July 2, 2013 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Steph—Thanks for taking the time to comment. The cruelty is shocking and makes it very difficult to stand strong. Getting in touch with your inner rhino is a good image to keep in mind because, much as it can hurt, no rhino is going to melt down.

July 2, 2013 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

I think I shall adopt "be the rhino!" for my new motto!

July 2, 2013 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Charley--I have no doubt you will be a fine rhino--one we will all do our best to emulate! Go Charley!

July 2, 2013 at 2:09 PM  

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