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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Delusions of Grandeur

Marcia Laycock is a pastor's wife and mother of three grown daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone, and has published two devotional books, Spur of the Moment, and Focused Reflections. Visit her website - http://www.vinemarc.com/

It was a silly, pre-adolescent movie. The plot involved a group of misfits who wanted to be super-heroes. They dreamed about it, dressed like it, talked the talk and even tried to walk the walk. In the end they do save the day, of course, in a manner that would make all those who love underdogs cheer wildly. But in the end, one of the characters has learned that it’s okay to be “just Roy.” It’s okay to be just a guy with an ordinary name, living a normal life.

We all have delusions of grandeur. We all have dreams of doing something great someday, something that gets noticed, something of significance. We all would like recognition, even a taste of fame. And of course the fortune that comes with it would be nice too. Deep down inside, we all want to be “somebody.” This common human trait goes back to man’s earliest days. There’s a record of it in the first book of the Bible. The writer of Genesis tells us the descendants of Noah disobeyed God and began to scheme. It seems they wanted to be super-heroes. “Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves...” (Genesis 11:4)

The desire for grandeur is part of us because in fact, we were created to be grand. We were created in the image of God, meant to be as glorious as a reflection of Him can and should be. So it’s natural that we long for it. But like the descendants of Noah, we try to achieve greatness in ways that God does not support. He tells us to serve but we want to be the masters. He tells us to seek spiritual food, the knowledge of God, but we want burgers and fries and everything else the world offers. He tells us to care for the poor and the oppressed but we struggle for prosperity on our own behalf. He tells us to praise and honor Him but we have better things to do with our time. Like the descendants of Noah, we want “a name for ourselves” and it is not the name God has given us.

All the things God tells us to do are meant to bring us the grandeur we seek. They are meant to make us more like Him. The irony is that we will achieve that grandeur only when we submit to Him and be content with who we are. When we discover that it’s good to be “just Roy,” a person living an ordinary life in obedience to God, we make a grand discovery. We realize we are growing into the image of God. Then the grandeur we seek falls in line with the grand creatures we were created to be, creatures who act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God. (Micah 6:8)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Donations Needed for Book Auction!


Here is a drive for books that I thought you guys would be interested in learning about. If you'd like to donate books, you can contact Ms. Doyle via e-mail: doyle1718 {At} comcast.net




My name is Donna Doyle and I write the web site Romance Reviews (www.romancereviewsmag.com). I live in Crofton, Maryland (located between Annapolis and DC).

Crofton needs a community center - badly. The Crofton Regional Community Center (CRCC) was organized to accomplish that goal. It is a non-profit, tax-free organization. Plans are for a two-storied building on property leased from the county for $1 per year next to the Crofton Library with an adjacent Skatepark. The cost of this endeavor is estimated to be $10 million and present plans are to raise $2.5 million annually until the date of construction - 2014. Subsequent operational costs are expected to be $500,000 annually.

That's a lot of money, but CRCC believes it is attainable and is currently engaged in serious fundraising - no easy task in these tough economical times.

As a member of the Executive Board of CRCC I am heading a fund raiser called Book Lovers Auction on September 11th. I am asking for your help. The silent auction will be held at a reception in a local restaurant's glorious meeting room.

Please, I need your help to make this a success and to see that Community Center built. Could I count on you for a donation - such as a basket consisting of your books and other miscellaneous items? Or some autographed books? Do you have any posters or cover art to donate? How about an autographed manuscript? If you plan on being in this neck of the woods sometime after Sept. 11th, perhaps a lunch date with a winner could be arranged? Anything you could contribute would be deeply appreciated and I welcome your suggestions.

I can assure you that your generosity will be well publicized. I appreciate your interest and hope to hear back from you soon.


Thank you.

Donna Doyle, Executive Committee of CRCC

Friday, February 26, 2010

Author Steven James ~ Interviewed




Steven James is the bestselling, award-winning author of four thrillers, including The Knight, which Suspense Magazine named one of the top ten books of 2009. Armed with a Master’s Degree in Storytelling, James is a popular conference speaker and has taught writing and storytelling throughout North America, as well as in India and South Africa.

Read reviews of Steven James novels HERE.

What two or three things would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

Early in my writing career, I took on whatever jobs I could in order to make some money. Sometimes these included projects I was interested in, sometimes I was just putting down words in order to get paid. Over the years, I’ve realized I would personally only feel satisfied when I’m writing the stories that are true to who I am; stories I honestly believe in. This has helped me find my voice as an author and has kept me from the cookie cutter approach I sometimes followed earlier I my career.

If I could change something, I would avoid the work-for-hire type projects I did earlier and focus on the original ideas that I have.



What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it?

The editing process.

Imagine that you are a painter. You spend a year of your life on a project, then pass it on to a museum. At the museum they hand out paints and brushes to a number of artists who have only recently graduated from art school, who have 15 years less experience than you do. Then they tell the aspiring artists to fix the parts of your painting that they don’t feel are right. An artist would go insane if something like this happened, yet, this is what happens every day to novelists.

Handling it isn’t always easy, but communicating your expectations with the editor from the start will stem off some of the problems before they arise.



What is the best writing (or life) advice you have ever heard or wished you had followed? Why?

Don’t fall in love with your first draft.

Very often when we write we believe the words we are punching down on the page are the best words ever written. However, if you set your work aside, and live a little between drafts, then go back to your work, you will be able to look at it more objectively and always be able to improve it.



What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn't write?

Several times I’ve had the opportunity to visit the slums of India. Seeing the horrifying conditions that many people throughout the world live in, makes my heart ache.

Also the fact that so many innocent children are killed through legalized abortion is deeply troubling to me.

I believe that my writing affirms the value and dignity of human life, and hopefully will inspire other people to treat the underprivileged with more compassion.

If I weren’t writing or speaking, I believe I would like to be involved with some type of humanitarian work.





Thursday, February 25, 2010

Author Interview ~ Diane Wei Liang

Diane Wei Liang was born in Beijing. She spent part of her childhood with her parents in a labour camp in a remote region of China. A graduate of Peking University, Diane participated in the 1989 Student Democracy Movement and was in Tiananmen Square. A former professor of business, Diane is the author of Lake With No Name, a memoir of Tiananmen and a previous novel featuring Beijing private detective Mei Wang, The Eye of Jade. Her novels have been translated into over 20 languages. She lives in London.






What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

I have just finished the third installment of the Mei Wang Mysteries. Mei is targeted by a mysterious governmental organization. A private detective is killed investigating a business that has close ties to the Chinese military. Mei is under-pressure to discover the real killer amid police cover up.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.


I had the idea of writing my first book, a memoir about growing up in China and the 1989 Tiananmen events in summer holiday in July. I was at the time teaching at University of London. By October I had written a couple of chapters and a book proposal. I sent them to a dozen of agents in London where I lived and had a few positive responses. It took another four months for me to complete the first one hundred pages of the book, which my agent sent out together with the book proposal. A UK publisher offered me a contract. Six translations followed. Since I was new to writing, I did not think much of it.

Three years later, I finished my first novel, which was sold in pre-Frankfurt Book Fair auctions. I remember getting a call from my agent, which began with, “I hope you are sitting down.” I had read about writers getting such calls from their agents, but never thought that one day it would happen to me. All I could say at the end of that conversation was thank you.

Do you experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Yes, all the time.


What’s the worst mistake you’ve made while seeking publication?

I wish I had worked more on my book proposal and my writing before I went out with them. I now know that the more a writer can perfect her/his book, the easier for others to see its value.


What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

I suppose this is the standard advice from writing programs: characters first, plot second. I have never had any writing training. I followed this advice to the tee, until a friend told me to first work out the plot so that I could have a peace of mind focusing on characters. It turned out to be a great advice.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I wish I had known how important a passionate and driving editor is to the success of a book. Publishing is a very personal business. Now I look for such a person when I choose publishers, while at the same time that editor is hopefully choosing me.


Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

Mei Wang series are published in twenty-eight countries so inevitably there would be my editor or publisher leaving the publishing house that is publishing my books. It has which created problems.

What are a few of your favorite books?

Home by Marilynee Robinson
The Line of Beauty by Allan Hollinghurst
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald


What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

The third Mei Wang book that I’ve just finished writing. I feel that I have learnt a lot and made a great leap forward in the new work.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I am sometimes discouraged by the turnover of editors and publicists, especially if they are good.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I drop off my children to school by 9am. I either sit in my office at home or go to a café with my laptop to write (these days more and more to café), until I need to pick up my children from school at around 3:30pm. If I am not too tired by evening, I will also try to write for a couple of hours before going to bed, which is typically around midnight.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Precision and control, from Marilynne Robinson.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I would like to write good books that will be read beyond my existence.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Yes. While I was working on the third Mei Wang book, there had been an eight months period during which I did not write anything and did care whether I carried on writing.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

My favorite part of being a writer is to be able to work anywhere and anytime. My least favorite part of it is when the writing does not work, the world becomes grim – it is all consuming.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I go on book tours and participate in literary festivals. I also do a fair amount of TV and radio work, though sometimes they are not directly related to my books. From my experience, the degree of promotional success depends on the capability of the publicist. If I believe in a particular publicist, I’d do everything she sends my way.

Parting words?

Writing is the most enjoyable and enriching experience I have ever had. I hope more people will try it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Author Interview ~ Jennifer AlLee

As a child, Jennifer AlLee lived above a mortuary in the heart of Hollywood, California, which may explain her unique outlook on life. Her publishing credits include The Love of His Brother, a contemporary romance from Five Star Publishing (November 2007) as well as skits, activity pages, and over one hundred contributions to Concordia Publishing House’s popular My Devotions series. Her latest novel, The Pastor’s Wife, released February 1, 2010 from Abingdon Press. She’s an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and serves as the Nevada Area Coordinator. Jennifer resides in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband and teenage son. Be sure to visit her website.

This is your first CBA novel and your first time on Novel Journey. To begin, tell us about your new release.

Thanks, Ane. As a reader of Novel Journey, it's a real thrill to be here! Here's a short blurb for The Pastor's Wife: Maura Sullivan thought she knew what she was getting into when she married soon-to-be pastor Nick Shepherd. But when she realized the 'other woman' in her marriage was her husband's congregation, she ran.

Six years later, she finds herself back in the small community of Granger, Ohio for the reading of a will that names both her and Nick as beneficiaries. Now Maura must face the husband –and the congregation – she left behind.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

I spent many years working as a secretary for two different pastors. When I was working on the original concept for this novel, I thought about the pastors’ wives I’ve known over the years, all of whom have handled themselves with amazing grace under pressure.

But what if another woman couldn’t? What if a young woman thinks she knows what she’s getting into, but the reality of losing who she is and becoming a “pastor’s wife” is more than she can handle? What if some other tragedy pushes her over the edge? Would she run? And what would happen if she had to return to the scene of her heartbreak years later? All those questions eventually became The Pastor’s Wife.

Did anything strange or funny happen while researching or writing your book?

Because of the nature of the book, I didn't have to do much research. But during the writing, I found myself being very careful not to accidentally insert any people that I've known and worked with over the years. Not only is there the matter of confidentiality, but the last thing I would ever want to do is embarrass or hurt anyone.

The one exception is the church secretary (who has a very small role in the book). I modeled her after my friend and former co-worker, Pauline. It's my tip of the hat to her and all the years we worked together.

Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication?

It's been a long, winding, and sometimes broken road! I sold my first short story back in 1984. After that, my published work was almost non-existent. In 1994, I started doing freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, writing skits, activity pages, and a ton of devotions. But my first book wasn't published until 2007.

Silly me, I thought once I had my foot in the publishing door, the rest of my body would be quickly ushered through. Not so much. Now it's 2010 and my second book is coming out. I've learned that seeing a book through from inception to publication is a slow process... but I still love it and it's the only thing I want to do.

Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

No, I have too much respect for the wall. Seriously, I do get blocked from time to time. Usually, I'll try to plow through by writing something, anything, just to get me going. So I might write a paragraph or two that I know I won't use but then I flow back into the story. If that doesn't work, I have to get up and do something else. Some days, you just can't force it.

Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?

You know, I'm not, which is funny when you consider how much I love TV and movies. Right now, I'm co-writing a book with a friend of mine, and we're using actors as models for our characters. It's the first time I've ever done that, but I think it's important in this situation so we're both visualizing the same person. On my own, I see the people and places in my mind and write from there.

Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What's the most difficult part of writing for you?

The supporting cast! I like to write about my main characters and deal with them, so sometimes I forget to surround them with other people.

How do you overcome it?

It's a very intentional process. When I start a book, I nail down the main characters. Then I have to ask questions about them: Who are their friends? What are their parents like? What other people live in this town and what role do they play in the story? This ensures that I have a novel populated with real people, not just folks who pop up when I have an emergency.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?

We have a spare room that I get to use as an office. You can't see it in the picture (thank heaven) but the room is pretty full. There are two small file cabinets on my right, another small one and a tall one on my left. Behind me are two bookcases and stacks of stuff I'm going through. We're in the process of buying a house now, and I hope my new office will be a little more imaginative and a whole lot neater!

What does a typical day look like for you?

I don't have a hard and fast schedule. During the school year, I usually get up around 7:00 AM, but that gets pushed out to 8:00 on holidays and in the summer. So I get up, turn on the computer, read emails while I eat breakfast, take my son to school, then come home and get back to the computer. My working day is divided between writing on new projects and marketing existing books. I'm off and on the PC all day until I shut it down around midnight and go to bed.

Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to tweeze each word out?

I have been blessed with the occasional flowing stream of words, but they don't normally come that easily. I have a tendency to edit as I go, which really slows me down. If I can turn off the internal editor and just write, the work goes much more quickly. As for word count, I consider the day a success if I hit 1000 words. My personal best was 2800 in one day, which is a common occurrence for some authors. I sure was proud, though!

Do you prefer creating or editing? Why?

Even though it can be difficult, I prefer editing. For one thing, it means you have a complete manuscript to work with. More importantly, the editing phase is when you really get to make the book shine.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

This is one of those really hard questions because I love so many books, but here are three.

Watership Down by Richard Adams – I still have the copy I bought in high school. I've read it so many times, it's falling apart. What I love is that Adams creates an emotional story about a complex society of rabbits. It's got everything we're told won't work: It opens not with an inciting event but with description of scenery; it's about animals who talk to each other; it's got footnotes! But it's a wonderfully rich, moving story.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – What's especially impressive about this is how real the protagonist is, especially since HE was penned by a woman. I loved meeting the 93-year-old Jacob in a nursing home and then experiencing him as a young man working and traveling with the Benzini Brothers circus. The ending was thoroughly gratifying, exactly how I hoped it would be.

Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee – This book blew my mind. First off, Tosca is a word-artist. She could probably write a technical manual and make it interesting. What really amazed me, though, was how she could create such a beautiful picture of the love of God while telling the story of a demon.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

"Just write the book!" That's a paraphrase from Stephen King's book, On Writing. Of course, it's been reiterated by just about anyone who knows anything about writing, and with good reason. Lots of people talk about writing a book, but they never get past the third chapter. (I used to be one of them.) You need to sit yourself down and write a wonderfully sloppy, imperfect first draft. Then you've got something to work with, which goes right back to that question about editing.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in your journey to publication?

I wish I'd known more about how the whole submission/acceptance process works. I think there's a belief among many novice writers that you can finish your manuscript on Monday, email it to an editor on Wednesday, and have a contract in your inbox by Friday. Well, not only will you probably not sell that first manuscript, but it could take several months to find that out. That kind of stuff is a lot easier to handle when you find out it works that way for just about everybody.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

If you dream of a career as a writer, don't try to do it by yourself. Writing is often a solitary undertaking, but you've got to have a support system. The best thing I ever did was join American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Through them I have a network of people supporting me in a professional capacity. I've also made very close friends that I can talk to about anything that's going on in my life. If you don't already belong to a writing group, I highly recommend that you find one. It will save your sanity.

Thank you, Ane, and Novel Journey readers. It's been fun spending this time with you! I'd love to hear from you, too. 

Here's how you can reach Jennifer in cyberspace:
 

Maura Sullivan never intended to set foot in Granger, Ohio, again. But when circumstances force her to return, she must face all the disappointments she tried so hard to leave behind: a husband who ignored her, a congregation she couldn’t please, and a God who took away everything she ever loved.

Nick Shepherd thought he had put the past behind him, until the day his estranged wife walked back into town. Intending only to help Maura through her crisis of faith, Nick finds his feelings for her never died. Now, he must admit the mistakes he made, how he hurt his wife, and find a way to give and receive forgiveness.

As God works in both of their lives, Nick and Maura start to believe they can repair their broken relationship and reunite as man and wife. But Maura has one more secret to tell Nick before they can move forward. It’s what ultimately drove her to leave him six years earlier, and the one thing that can destroy the fragile trust they’ve built.

For a review of The Pastor's Wife, click here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What's in a Tagline ~ by PR Lady Kathy Willis


Kathy Carlton Willis will be one of our guest bloggers over the next six months. In this and future visits she will share some tutorials with our readers, to coach authors in skills that will advance their writing careers.

What’s In a Tagline?

What’s in a name? In days of old, parents named babies in a way that would be almost prophetic of what that child would become or what that child represented. We’ve gotten away from that tradition, but today, we use taglines. Part of branding for an author is to come up with a tagline.

A tagline isn’t a commercial jingle or a mission statement, but it has that same sort of feel. It is a punchy slogan that defines your body of work. A successful tagline evokes an instant image of the one being described, succinctly leaving a positive impression. You want to pick a tagline that will be broad enough to cover the entire scope of your work, but narrow enough to be unique in capturing your essence—your passion. It’s not just telling others about you, it’s telling them what’s in it for them when they read your work.

Sometimes a tagline is also referred to as a strapline or even a slogan. When identifying the components of a good tagline, I look for three elements: 1) Does it succinctly voice your mission? 2) Does it offer the consumer a promise of what’s in it for them? 3) Does it fit consistently with the rest of your branding elements (logo, book titles, speaking titles, bio, etc.)? It’s important to not merely focus on the product itself, but what you as a total package offers.

Make sure your tagline doesn’t only define, but uses pizzazz to punch up the sell-factor and make you a household commodity—at least to your identified niche-markets and target audiences.

Keep your tagline short—long ones are hard to remember. Make it catchy. And be sure your tagline holds interest for anyone beyond your mother or spouse. You don’t want to leave the potential consumer going, “So what?” Use originality, humor, or drama to make your tagline memorable. Some use puns and use them well, others use puns in a tired, corny way. Be sure you know the difference if you try this technique.Once you have brainstormed a tagline, you can use it in all sorts of ways: on business cards, with your logo as a header on your Web site or blog, as part of your signature line on e-mails, as part of your print materials and letterhead. Also, your tagline might be a good thing to use on your query letters, one-sheets, and proposals. It gives others a quick snapshot of what your heartbeat looks like. Much better way for them to get to know you than showing them your 6th grade school photo!When you use a tagline as part of your branding efforts, you funnel all of your work into this one defining description. It gives you a consistent message, voice, stylization, and image. One goal is to build a specific perception with your audience and potential audience. It causes your audience to feel a certain way, and when they read your work, they seek that same “something unique” in each of your books. Your tagline helps define what makes you distinctly different from other authors.

Taglines will help you build your public exposure, your name recognition, and even gives an implied promise that the consumer will get a certain special “something” consistently with you as the “product” being described by the tagline. The tagline will hook your target audience because it’s relevant, real, and fits the consumer’s implied need or want.

If your tagline defines you, defines your work, and grabs readers at the heart and the mind—then you’ve discovered the right tagline.

Here are some samples of great taglines. (Permission granted by each author for me to use these taglines in this article.)

Where romance meets therapy
Jeannie Campbell, LMFT
http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com

Stories of Unscripted Grace, Christa Allan http://christaallan.com/

Uncovering the Unthinkable, Deborah M. Piccurelli
http://www.deborahmpiccurelli.com

Southern-fried Fiction, Ane Mulligan http://www.anemulligan.com
Cozy mysteries - with a kick! Lorena McCourtney http://www.lorenamccourtney.com
Exploring the Deep Questions of Faith, Cheri Cowell http://www.DirectionAndDiscernment.com

Stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark, Cynthia Ruchti http://www.cynthiaruchti.com

Yesterday's women—Today's issues, Ann Shorey http://www.annshorey.com

Finding the extraordinary God in our ordinary lives,
Patty Wysong
http://pattywysong.blogspot.com/

Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace,
Winnie Griggs
http://www.winniegriggs.com/

What’s In a Tagline, by guest blogger Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm. Kathy and her team get jazzed shining the light on their clients and their Lord. See more at their blog:
http://www.kcwcomm.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

'Avatar' and Agenda

by Mike Duran

James Cameron's 3D sci-fi epic "Avatar" has evoked a wide range of responses from Christian critics and moviegoers. While some see the film as anti-military, environmentalist, New Age propaganda, others see it as a rather harmless story with fantastic special effects.

What's being lost in all this discussion, I think, is the rather tenuous connection between art and agenda. Christians are often scolded for using their art as a vehicle for their "message." But apparently, we aren't the only ones using stories to propagate a worldview. Only, in this case, the other guy gets a pass.

In an L.A. Times interview entitled Is 'Avatar' a Message Movie? Absolutely, Says James Cameron, the filmmaker eliminates all speculation as to an agenda:
...as his sci-fi epic "Avatar" sails past $2 billion in worldwide box office, breaking the record set by "Titanic," his last movie, Cameron takes no small delight in the way conservative commentators have attacked the movie. "Let me put it this way," Cameron says during a recent dinner conversation at a Hollywood cafe. "I'm happy to piss those guys off. I don't agree with their world view."

...Yes, the movie boasts insane technological leaps for the medium. And, yes, there's a rock 'em, sock 'em action story with greed-head, colonial-minded humans battling blue-hued humanoid aliens over the resources of an Eden-like planet. But
those elements are the hook, Cameron says, to make audiences absorb the movie's pro-environmentalist "medicine."

...And what of those critics who say that "Avatar" is a success despite its message? Can audiences enjoy the movie's fantastical elements and have its cautionary content fly over their heads?

"The movie is designed to work as a straightforward adventure and a romance, and if that's all you want from a movie, that's fine," Cameron says. "But
the message isn't going over people's heads... " (emphasis mine)
So does this rule out Avatar as "simple entertainment"? Maybe not for a fifteen year-old video gamer. But anyone with an iota of discernment would be hard-pressed to miss the stereotypes, ideologies, and religious worldview ensconced in the movie. Or as Cameron himself put it, the stunning visuals and fantastical settings are just "the hook." He's trying to "make audiences absorb" a much deeper message.

Some would argue, I think rightly, that every artist has a message. We cannot compose anything without bringing our worldview with us. So what's wrong with James Cameron importing
his? Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. In fact, I think it's misguided, especially for Christians, to charge Cameron with propaganda. Why? Because we do the same thing. Christian art (film / fiction / music) is notoriously agenda-oriented. It is created by Christians, for Christians. Through it, we seek to bring hope, inspiration, and conviction of sin; we want to frame a biblical worldview and flesh out the Gospel so audiences can "absorb" our Message. Sure, Avatar is a gospel of another kind. But apart from its actual message (and a $500 million budget!), how is it really any different from agenda-driven "Christian art"?

For this reason, I think it's tactically wrong for us to critique Avatar on the basis that it is (as the Times puts it) a "Message Movie." Rather,
it is precisely Avatar's "message" which we should engage.

In a post entitled Avatar's Fickle Deity, I criticized the filmmaker, not for having an agenda, but for constructing a religious worldview that is daffy.

...James Cameron’s 3D CGI epic, walks a fine line between cutting-edge virtual reality and complete philosophical gibberish. Yes, the visuals are a revelation. But at the heart of the movie is a religious worldview so skewed and nonsensical that anyone with a molecule of discernment — i.e., those not suckered in by the mind-blowing graphics — will see through its vacuity.

If only Cameron had put as much thought into the religion he’s selling as the world he created.

In a fantastic piece entitled Heaven and Nature, NY Times' columnist Ross Douthat described the film as "Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world." Even the Vatican hedges, saying the film "gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature." Not only is pantheism diametrically opposed to a biblical worldview, it creates innumerable conundrums for the peace-loving Na'Vi of Pandora. So all the while Cameron is constructing a neutral, New Age deity, that deity is busy acting very non-New Age and un-Neutral, arming her forces to the teeth. In the end, the Impartial, Impersonal Force of Avatar turns partial and personal, comes to the rescue and turns, tooth and claw, on the bad guys. It's an incongruity of the highest order.

Which leads me to ask: Are Christians "getting" the message of Avatar, or do they just not care?

In Avatar and Christianity, blogger Becky Miller concludes by lamenting the lack of discernment on the part of believers:
To be honest, I’m stunned. Christian writers not up in arms at the preachy-ness of the movie?...

And Christians not loudly declaiming the anti-Christian religious themes? Where are the people who condemned Harry Potter? Is the worship of nature somehow OK where as wizardry (even if that was what Harry Potter promoted, which it did not) is not?

Perhaps the most likely explanation is this: professing Christians have begun to incorporate tenets of New Age spirituality with their church traditions so that what many call “Christianity” has become the actual mishmash. As a result, the majority are comfortable with, even blessed by, references to false religion.

Where, oh where, has discernment gone?

Indeed. We cannot allow state of the art 3D CGI graphics to camouflage a pagan tract. Perhaps Avatar can be viewed as "simple entertainment." Nevertheless, Christians should be wise enough to look beyond packaging and spot the lie. The issue isn't one of boycotts, but of brains. Maybe the real problem here is not with agenda-driven art at all -- it's with people who "absorb" a message -- any message -- without discretion.

New Kid on the Block?

If you’re new to Novel Journey, you might want to check out our awards program, OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest.
It’s an experiment we started this year, but we’ve had a great response so far.
In January, we chose a winner in the Historical category.

In February, we revealed the Mystery/Suspense winner.

The judges are currently reviewing the
Contemporary/Women’s Fiction submissions, with the winner to be announced on March 8.

And we’re currently taking
entries for Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction (the deadline for those is March 10).

So kids, whether you’re 16 or 60+, if you’ve never published a novel, and have written a book you’d like to see in print, there’s time to submit your first chapter and synopsis. We don’t guarantee publication, but we do promise that the winner will get some good exposure.

Here's the schedule for the rest of the year:
Email your submissions, or any questions you have about the contest, to noveljourneycontest@gmail.com.

And welcome to the party! I’m sure you’ll fit right in.

Stretching

Marcia Lee Laycock now collects her firewood in Central Alberta Canada where she lives with her husband, two Golden retrievers and a six-toed cat. Marcia's devotionals have been widely published and endorsed by Mark Buchanan and Phil Callaway. Visit her website http://www.vinemarc.com/

The Yukon autumn was sliding into winter as my friends and I sipped coffee and stared out the window of our warm log home at the heavy frost on the ground. The conversation turned to the subject of wood. Firewood. We all admitted our woodpiles weren’t quite as high as they could be. We all knew what minus 60 was like, that our stoves would deplete the store of fuel in no time.

Then Anne mentioned a local sawmill was giving away slab wood. The slabs were mostly bark with only an inch or two of wood, but they were dry and made great kindling. Enough of them would be a welcome and needed addition to the stock of wood in our yards. But we also knew our husbands’ jobs left no daylight hours to haul wood. It was Barb who said, “So it’s up to us.” I was the last to agree. I knew how heavy our chainsaw was, having run it once or twice. The idea of spending a whole day running it didn’t appeal to me. But my friends assured me we could do it. Barb rented the truck, Anne packed the lunch and I prayed.

A few days later I found myself staring at our saw as my husband sharpened the chain and explained how to avoid stalling it. For most of that night I considered how I might get out of this adventure, but the next day the first crack of light found me and my two friends stacking slabs on the deck of a five-ton truck. As the pile grew, we took turns climbing on top to trim the ends on the far side. My arms, already aching from tossing the slabs, shook as I leaned over and tried not to think of falling off with a roaring chainsaw in my hands. But the pile slowly grew until the three of us, dirty, exhausted, but smiling, stood back and surveyed the stack of wood, piled as high as it could go on the back of that truck.

The sun was setting and the temperature dropping as we drove home. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on our husbands’ faces when we arrived with that loaded truck. The knowledge that we had made a significant contribution to the comfort of our families that winter made all of us smile. The episode had been a stretch for me, but the accomplishment made me realize with the Lord’s help I was capable of more than I had thought. It felt good.

I once heard a challenging sermon about stretching. “It’s in stretching that faith grows,” the pastor said. “It’s in stretching that we learn to rely on God’s grace.”

Stretching your faith might mean letting go of something you’ve been worrying about. It might mean reconciling with someone who has offended you. It might just mean attending a Bible study group for the first time. It might mean writing a poem or an article even though you’re a fiction writer. It might mean starting that first novel, or hitting the send button to put your words out there for the world to read.

Maybe you’re thinking the same thoughts I did the night before my wood hauling expedition – “I don’t think I can do it.” Maybe you’re right, but God’s grace can do it through you. So pray. Then go ahead and stretch.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Author Wendy Walker ~ Interviewed






Wendy Walker is a former commercial litigator who has been a stay-at-home mom for the past eleven years. She began writing several years ago and her first novel, Four Wives, was released in February, 2008, by St. Martin’s Press. It was also published in the UK and The Netherlands. Her second novel, Social Lives, was published by St. Martin’s Press in September of 2009, and is currently being packaged as a dramatic film by the producers of the Twilight movies.

Tell us a bit about your current project.


My latest novel, Social Lives, was just released. This is a story about four women trapped within the stifling social structure of one the wealthiest suburbs in the country. From Cailtin Barlow, who is fourteen, to her mother, Rosayln and friends Jacks Halstead and Sara Livingston, these women are struggling to define themselves and navigate their lives in a world dominated by hedge fund wealth and sexual politics. While Caitlin is being sucked into a group of teens who engage in the “friends with benefits” phenomenon, h
er mother is desperately trying to manipulate the gossip that surrounds her. Meanwhile, Jacks is driven to action when she learns her husband is being investigated for a Bernie Madoff type scheme, and newcomer Sara is pulled into the storm that eventually involves all of the women. It is a plot drive book with profound issues that are right out of today’s headlines.


We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.


Wow. This is a story worthy of a novel itself! I started writing as a hobby with a dream attached many years ago after I became a stay home mom. I really needed something that was on a career path but still allowed me to make being a mom full-time my number one priority. A few years and two more babies later, I had finished a legal thriller and secured an agent. While that book was busy not selling, I quickly wrote a second one, this time drawing from my life and the world around me. That effort, my first novel Four Wives, was published in 2008. Of course, it wasn’t that easy! Along the way, I have struggled to get the word out that, in spite of its packaging, my work is not chick lit or Desperate Housewives melodrama. Both of my novels are issue driven stories with characters drawn from real life. When I finished my second (or third) novel, Social Lives, I had to fight with both my publisher and a major bookseller over covers that I felt were overly sexual, objectifying, and ultimately not reflective of what was inside. I am currently marketing Social Lives with a vigorous campaign to get the message out and attract an audience that wants to read something that is a little more serious than the genres I have been typically grouped with. Luckily, the producers of the Twilight movies agree with my vision, and are currently packaging a movie deal for Social Lives! I am crossing my fingers and working incredibly hard to continue to build my career.


Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.


Absolutely! Every day. Every page. Every review, good or bad. I don’t know that it ever leaves completely. Even after I’ve gotten great feedback on a few chapters, I read and re-read the next chapter wondering if I’m the only one who will get it. This is a tough business. The only thing that gets me through is having the experience now to know that I can, in fact, write and that if I miss the mark, someone in my camp will set me straight and I will get it right. It’s never blind faith, but rather an accumulating sense of confidence. It’s not easy.



What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?


Many things. First and foremost, get a bigger advance. Sometimes this is not an option, but here’s the thing newcomers don’t always know. When a publisher pays a large advance, they have to recoup that expense. If they are faced with two books – one with a large advance and one with a small advance, where do you think they are going to put the most time, money and effort into packaging, marketing, PR and sales? At every level, the advance becomes relevant and therefore self-fulfilling. Without this attention, it is very hard to launch a new novel. Authors in this position then have to fork out thousands of dollars for their own PR firms, Web site designers and the like to get their book out there. There isn’t one author I’ve met who didn’t tell me this with conviction. The advance is everything.


What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

My life and the world around me. I find real people fascinating, and while I never write about them specifically, I definitely draw from their emotional journeys.



Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

In my first novel, Four Wives, I have a character who is the town doctor. I named him Dr. Bill Harrison. Choosing names for characters can be tricky. I always want the name to fit the character, but try to mix up sounds, starting letters, etc and I try to never use names of people I know. Well, this time I missed one. Our pediatrician has the first name Harrison. Of course, I rarely think of him as “Harrison,” as he is known to my kids as “Dr. Pierce.” When the book came out, I was speaking at a book group in my town. One of the women there was Dr. Pierce’s daughter. She told me how their whole family had assumed I had done this on purpose and they were all comparing themselves to my character’s family. I was mortified! And, of course, with three little boys, I am in that office dozens of times every year. I can’t always catch everything in every book, but things like this make me try harder each time.


With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

Be patient. Choose the right agent, not necessarily the first. Choose the right editor and make the right deal. The only thing worse than not having your novel published is having it published and then not do as well as it could have.


What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

A novelist and writing professor names Brooke Stevens. When I finished my first manuscript, I gave it to him to evaluate. When he told me I had a shot at doing this for a living, he changed my life. This was a crazy pipe dream and he made it feel possible. I took his advice on rewriting and know I would not have gotten this far without him.


What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)

I am very proud of this new novel, Social Lives. I feel that I managed to merge a fast paced, plot driven book with compelling characters and messages that stayed true to my beliefs about the role of women in our culture today. I think this is why I have been fighting so hard to keep it from falling into the “sexy tell all” category. Each of the characters has a façade that hides deep emotional conflict, and no matter what they are doing, they are driven by complex social forces. Putting their stories together in a comprehensive way was grueling at times, but I am very proud of the outcome.



Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Yes. Everything has to be done over lunch or drinks. Fridays are half days, and August is a wash. I’ve never seen a business like this! But my biggest pet peeve is when agents and editors tell authors they are declining a project because “they don’t feel passionate” about it. I don’t care if my agent and editor love my work or hate it. It doesn’t need to be sitting on their bedside table. All I care about is that they think a ton of other people will love it and buy it. This is a business, and they are the professionals. I need to love my work and they need to sell it. Luckily, mine do both, but this is not and should not be a prerequisite.



Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

My goal in life, aside from raising healthy, happy kids of course, is to be able to do what I love to do every day. I do not believe in the philosophy of working to live. If you love your work, then life and work become one and that feeling of dread on Monday morning and glee on Friday evening goes away. Every day is enjoyed. For me, writing is it and sustaining this career so I can have that is my dream.



What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?

When I can have a long stretch of time to really get into a few chapters, that is bliss. I don’t have it that often, but when I do, it’s very satisfying. The last hundred pages of Social Lives was written over about three days, eight or ten hours each day. And the ending is my favorite part!



What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

Having children! Honestly. It pushes you to your limits and makes you feel things you never imagined you could feel. Also, being an honest and trustworthy friend. People confide in me and though I never write about them or betray their secrets, they make me understand the depths of human emotion. Using this knowledge in my characters is invaluable.



Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you'd like.

My bed in my pajamas! Sorry, no picture available : )


What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

I see each scene in my head so I don’t always know if I’m giving the reader ample detail to see what I see. I always go back and make sure I’ve described things well.



What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

I plot it out as much as possible. Because my books tend to have multiple characters and complex plots, it’s very important for me to know which tidbits of information I need to give the readers along the way so they can follow what’s happening.


Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

No. I have only the amount of time that I have when I have it because of my kids. I work when I can and just push through even if I feel stuck.


Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Plot, plot, plot! It usually changes, but that’s OK. It keeps the story moving forward.


What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

I always have to go back and cut out some internal thoughts from my characters. Just as I tend to skimp at first on the scene details, I can go overboard with character’s thoughts. I do this to make sure they are fully understood because my characters don’t always behave well! Understanding them and having compassion for them becomes crucial. This is what a good editor does – telling you when it’s too much of this or too little of that.


Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

Without question, having Wyck Godfrey, the producer of the Twilight movies, tell me that he got my book – that was a moment I will always remember. Every character, every motivation – he got it all the way I had intended. Because of his tremendous success ,which in his business emanates from sound judgment, hearing this from him was extremely gratifying.



Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?

Just plodding away every which way possible. Word of mouth, internet, blogs, friends and family, events, publicist efforts, radio, TV – anything and everything.



Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

If only! I will say this. Becoming a published author was a crazy dream. But I told myself I would give it a number of years and work as hard as I could. Looking back, I can see that it was every word, every page, every interview, every letter to an agent that got me here. Like a house, this career was built brick by brick. So now I tell my kids, dream big and work hard. If you enjoy the work, then life figures itself out from there.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Random Lessons From a Debut Novelist

Okay, in my quest to actually have something of interest to post on Thursdays, (I took over this day from Elizabeth Ludwig who has recently left us to start her own site: www.theborrowedbook.blogspot.com), I've been posting about my personal novel journey leading up the the release of my debut, Crossing Oceans.

While I was at my publisher Tyndale House, they made a promotional video with me talking about my novel. I thought they asked great questions and that I gave fairly decent answers and didn't look too stiff or say "um" too many times, which I have a bad habit of doing. I did learn a few things though through trial and error.

I learned to be prepared. When you watch this video, it may look like I'm speaking unrehearsed, but I did know the questions ahead of time and I gave some pre-thought to how I would answer them. After we did this video, my wonderful marketing person had a good thought of making a video addressing Novel Journey readers. This was completely unplanned. I gave no pre-thought to what I would say and therefore, really said nothing worth repeating. I should have asked for a few minutes to think. Maybe given Ane and Jess a call to get some ideas since I was at a loss. I would have done that differently. You live and learn.


I also learned that the camera doesn't put ten pounds on you, it puts fifty. I'm on the narrow side, but you sure can't tell it by watching this. And most importantly, I learned never, ever let myself be filmed or photgraphed from below.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pacing — Too Fast, Too Slow, or Just Right?


Pacing — Too Fast, Too Slow, or Just Right?

Pacing is the tempo of the story, the speed at which details are provided and the dynamics of the rising tension. It relates to the amount of dialogue compared to narrative/active scenes. Pacing, then, has to do with many elements that cause it to move on it’s journey down the river of life, the calms, the eddies, the white water, and the rapids that lead to a waterfall ahead.

Techniques To Heighten Pacing

Authors sometimes hear from editors or critique partners their pacing is too slow. Pacing is too slow when it bogs down with too many details, too much narration in the form of description or introspection or lack of conflict. Without conflicts growing, one after another, the story is lost. This is probably the biggest problem for new writers as they plot their story. Slow pacing bores a reader and leaves the story in a slump. It’s vital to have good pacing when trying to sell a novel or to keep your readers after you sell. So what can you do to accelerate the pacing?

Here are some strategic methods to use as you’re plotting:

Provide strong need or goal that can either change or be the demise of the character or his purpose.

Create powerful opposition that deepens the conflict.

Set up a compelling situation or duty that binds the character to his struggle.

Establish one problem that can be solved in two ways and force a decision.

Stay in one POV throughout a scene and make sure it’s the person with the most at stake.

Balance action, dialogue, introspection, and narration throughout the novel.

Resolve one conflict with a new one already established.

Techniques to escalate pacing:

Check each scene for a crisis situation. Something must be happening of importance.

Dialogue moves a story along. Write to allow white space on the page.

Avoid long, involved paragraphs. Use short paragraphs and sentences of varying lengths.

The shorter the sentence the more excitement grows.

Don’t over-describe the action. Clip it and focus only on the most important actions

Tension arouses emotion so focus on the conflicts and slow up on the setup.

If you follow some of these guidelines, you will improve pacing and to avoid what we call the sagging middle.

Techniques to Slow Pacing

Pacing is too fast when the reader has no time to breathe or digest the story. It’s a race from beginning to end or more often, it’s a pleasant stroll, but as the end approaches, the story tumbles forward and ends. This happens most often when authors have a word count restriction and realize the book must end soon.

Rather than cutting other less important elements, they just barrel along and the ending can leave readers feeling unsatisfied. They want to savor the romance or the criminal’s capture or enjoy the resolution of family issues. So why and how do you slow down pacing?

Pacing needs to be slowed when it disappoints readers. They want to watch the ending happen. They want to understand the nuances of these characters that they’ve lived with for 300 or 400 pages. They want to experience the joy of character’s emotion as he finds the hidden treasure, or captures the criminal, or falls in love. To make a greater emotional impact on the reader, these scenes must be more detailed and more character-driven than plot-driven.

If a scene revolves around a mother watching a speeding car head for her child, the author wants the emotion and drama to peak. Slowing the scene down frame by frame, emotion by emotion, works best. Using Dwight Swain’s technique of motivational stimulus leading to reaction, you want to present feeling, action, then dialogue.

For example, in the scenario above, the mother of the child freezes in times. She turns icy, her heart explodes, her adrenalin kicks in, and she races forward, her arms flailing, and she screams. Emotion must work this way. Picture this as a movie, each frame capturing a moment in time.

Pacing needs to slow following a dynamic action scene where conflict and crisis filled the pages. This gives the reader breathing time. It provides the main character with a moment to gather the facts of what happened and to digest the information. These are scenes in a thriller or suspense when the detective reviews the evidence or tries to understand how he’d let the criminal slip through his fingers.

In romance or women’s fiction, it’s a time when one character ponders the relationship and makes decisions what he’ll do next. Even Shakespeare knew that high drama can only be sustained for a time and then needs a release. His tragedies always provided an occasional comic scene to allow the audience to recover from the weight of the tension that had followed.

Techniques to slow pacing:

Provide more detail.

Use the frame by frame feeling in presenting the scene.

Use longer sentence with more descriptors.

Add sensory details.

Use introspection techniques, back-flashes or flashbacks. (Know how to use these well.)

Use more narrative in shorter paragraphs and less dialogue.

By using some of these techniques, you can provide a more satisfying novel that doesn’t slow the story but provides meaningful scenes that allows the reader a more thoughtful, calm respite.

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, pacing can be too fast or too slow, or just right. Use these techniques to make it just right. 

Groom in Training

A widow with a sad past, Steph Wright finds comfort in her faith and her adorable Border collie, Fred. When scampering Fred becomes friendly with the neighbor's pedigreed Bouvier, Steph meets the very handsome Nick Davis. With a broken engagement and a busy job, Nick isn't open to love and romance. Especially when Steph needs an escort to a wedding, and Nick agrees to be her not-really-date. But through dog walks, long talks and a shared love of the Lord, Steph realizes there's some unexpected groom-in-training going on, too!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest blogger Kathy Willis, Publicist

Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm, will be one of our guest bloggers over the next six months. We’ve asked her to share a little about herself for this first installment, and in future visits she will share some tutorials with our readers, to coach authors in skills that will advance their writing careers.

Kathy, what is a publicist and what does your job involve?

A publicist helps create buzz about a person or project by utilizing press releases, arranging interviews with media, article placement, branding, blog tours, social networking, and more. My communications firm is involved in all of this, plus marketing books to stores and consumers, coaching authors, editing, book proposals, marketing plans and so much more. Our firm consists of my publicist assistant, and my clerical assistant and me. You could say it takes a village to get the word out!

The industry seems to increasingly want writers to have a developed platform before they will consider their projects for publication. How do you help writers build a platform from scratch, or expand an existing platform?

I love it when writers contact me before their books release to help them build a foundation for their work. The sooner we are brought into the picture, the better we can plan and brainstorm on more than just promoting a book—we promote the PERSON behind the book. Before writers can develop their platform they have to know who their audience (their target market) is. Then they can find ways to communicate with that audience through article placement, column writing, speaking, radio shows, social networking, and more. We consult with authors to help them find the best places to network with their audience and build a fan base. Platform building and branding are very strategic and must be customized to fit the giftedness of each writer.

I know that each publishing house has a marketing and PR person or team who promote their new book releases. Why should a writer hire an independent publicist? What would be the benefit in doing so?

Most publishing houses have a marketing team that often includes a publicity department or in-house publicist. Sometimes publishing houses hire us (independent publicity firms) to supplement what they do in-house, or to be the point person as primary publicist for the project. Other times authors choose to hire us because they want to maximize their opportunities to help get the word out about their books. We work in tandem with the publishing houses so we don’t duplicate efforts. The benefits are: increased exposure, reduced load on the in-house PR team, utilization of the relationships we have built with media and online personalities, and customized databases to fit the message of each book project. Also, since we are more of a boutique PR firm, we can help the authors create buzz in more unique approaches with innovative strategy to tailor-fit their promotional plan.

How should a writer go about selecting the right publicity firm?

Ask a lot of questions in person or by phone if possible, so you can get a sense of how your personalities gel. Find out what sort of databases they can use for your project, to make sure they have the connections you need. Ask them to brainstorm with you about how they might customize your campaign. Ask if they do phone call or e-mail follow-up on any e-blast or print promotional pitches. Request a written proposal to spell out what services are offered. Check out their references and ask your writing mentors if they would recommend this publicist or publicity firm. Communicate your desires for the campaign in advance so there are no misunderstandings or unmet expectations.

Kathy will be sharing her insights on promoting yourself as an author, book campaigns, marketing, and publicity. Feel free to contact her with your questions for this column at
WillisWay@aol.com. Here is her formal biographical sketch:

Kathy Carlton Willis shines the light on God and others through her communications firm as: writer, publicist, writer's coach, book doctor, speaker, and more. She gets jazzed when she’s fiddling with words! Kathy’s team builds relationships with a large industry network, so they can help writers connect to media, ministries and readers. She is affiliated with Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and American Christian Fiction Writers. Her columns and book reviews have appeared online and in print, and she served as grammar guru for three publications. She ghostwrites books and e-books for clients, collaborating with writers to help them find their voices. Kathy is a contributing author for The Reason We Speak, It Happened By Design: A Series of God-Incidence Stories and Groovy Chicks’ Road Trip to Peace. She has a background in newspaper journalism as copyeditor and feature writer. Kathy is a contributor and editor of daily devotions for The Christian Pulse and started a new column “For Readers” at Christian Fiction Online Magazine this month.

Kathy loves pouring herself into the lives of other writers and speakers, and can be heard leading workshops and keynoting at several writers conferences and retreats each year. In the first half of 2010 she will be the career track faculty member for Write To Publish, the retreat speaker for Word Weavers, and workshop facilitator at Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference. She’s also co-launching a new CLASSeminar in the near future. She’s known for her integrity and generosity, giving away several grants for customized services each year. Kathy and her pastor/husband minister together in Raymondville, Texas.

Kathy is always looking for blog tour hosts and book reviewers, so contact her at
WillisWay@aol.com if you are interested in learning more. The KCWC Verse for 2010 is Proverbs 4:18: “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day,” (NIV).

Learn more about Kathy at her professional blog:
http://kcwcomm.blogspot.com/

Her website:
http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com