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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Still Looking for Love

Writer’s Blog seeks M or F writers of Contemporary Romance. Interested parties, please reply to OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest.

If you’ve written a modern romance that you’re just swooning to share with the world, we’d love to see it. Primp and polish the first chapter, create your synopsis, and download the entry form. Then seal it with a kiss and email it all to

What? You’d rather write about dragons and princesses? Never fear, my shining knight, we have a slot in our contest for you, too. In fact, we’ve got something coming up for every genre.

The entry deadline for Contemporary Romance is April 10, so there’s still time for love. If you have a question you’d like to pop, email us at the address listed above, and you’ll receive a personal reply.

We're longing to hear from you!

Guest Blogger ~ Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck is a multi-published author living in sunny central Florida with her husband, Tony, a pastor. They have two ornery pets. She is a graduate of Ohio State University and a huge Buckeyes football fan. Rachel serves the writing community as a member of the Advisory Board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

The Romantic Obstacle of Newness

The summer between ninth and tenth grade, I fell into twitterpation. Working as a cashier at a south Florida Publix, I fell for a dark-eyed stockman who winked at me when he walked past, flashing his Eric Estrada smiled.

I lost twenty-five pounds in a month. I went to work early, hung around after I clocked out. I wrote pages and pages in my diary of what each little wink or nod meant to me. Between those pink pages are cash register receipts of my thoughts and feelings, oh, angst galore.

This was in the ‘70s, so I couldn’t text or Facebook him. The only time I saw him was at work. Oh, what a dreadful day when the manager posted the new schedule on Thursday and I saw my-man and I worked opposite shifts.

He was a flirt and liked to tease me. Our at-work teenage conversation swam in the shallow end of the baby pool.

“What are you doing?”
“Watching you.”
Giggle, blush, fiery flutter behind my ribs.

As a romance writer, I work to find all kinds of internal and external obstacles to keep my hero and heroine apart.

For example: She’s already in a relationship. He’s recently widowed. She’s wounded. He’s too career minded. She is raising her nieces. He’s trying to reestablish is professional credibility. Or, a favorite of mine, he’s attracted to her but can’t stand her. She thinks he’s an arrogant buffoon.

As writers, we need to find real obstacles to keep our H/H from declaring their love too soon⎯thus wrapping up the story⎯while convincing the reader, “these two need to be together!”

Over on Billy Mernit’s Living The Romantic Comedy blog, he advices that the real purpose of a romantic story is to show the reader or viewer WHY these two people need to be together.

Often, writers spend too much time showing why the hero and heroine need to be apart. But what readers want it to be convinced there is no one for Harry but Sally.

While writing my newest romance, Dining With Joy, I realized something simple but profound: the newness of my hero and heroine’s relationship provided plenty of internal and external obstacles.

I didn’t need to scale mountains or leap over city walls to build a believable conflict.

Think about the first time you met your spouse. Or think back to your first major romance. Even if sparks flew at first meeting, it took time to let down your guard and discover each other.

In the beginning, it was hard to determine how much the relationship meant to you. Was h or she worth your time and effort?

The idea of changing your schedule to met his wasn’t a priority. If he called, that was cool, but you didn’t wait by the phone. She might have stopped by your work to say hi, but you merely smiled, said it was good to see her, then met your friends at a restaurant.

All of these “newness” factors provide wonderful, believable conflict.

By nature, men are emotionally modest. They only open up when they feel the woman has become their friend. Women are physically modest. Even in this modern sexual world, we are shy about first kisses and touches.

How does this translate to your romantic story? It is very plausible to show your hero and heroine testing each other, wondering about their motivation and character, standing back to wait and see.

Is she sincere? Can I trust him? If I share my deepest thoughts, will she still love me? If I allow him to kiss me, will he want me tomorrow?

New relationships are fraught with complications and misunderstandings by the mere fact two very different people are trying to merge their lives.

There’s the fire of the first kiss. Emotional and physical temptations. Combining social activities and sharing friends. Meeting the parents. Realizing you’re in love but afraid the feelings may not be reciprocated. Breaking up. Getting back together. Finding the common ground on which you might build a life together. What goes, what gives, what takes?

In the movie “500 Days of Summer,” Tom and Summer meet while working at the same greeting card company. He’s too shy to ask her out. She’s bohemian and enticing. As the viewer, I was hooked with the idea of “newness.” How will he ask her out? Will she accept? I know they will get together, but how?

After a few dates, Tom gushes, “It's official. I'm in love with Summer. I love her smile. I love her hair. I love her knees. I love how she licks her lips before she talks. I love her heart-shaped birthmark on her neck. I love it when she sleeps.”

Newness! The discovery of Summer drew Tom to a place of love. At this euphoric point, she is perfect to him!

What a excellent set up for a great romantic disaster. Boy meets Girl. Boy thinks Girl hung the moon. Girl can’t believe she met the last good Boy on earth. He takes her to his favorite hang out. She drives him to her favorite picnic spot.

Readers go along, too, believing these two people are destined for eternal happiness. THEN, it happens. Disaster. The power of newness has worn off and becomes⎯for our storytelling purpose⎯the obstacle.

Tom loves Summer, but she doesn’t believe in love and ever after. Their ideas and life experiences begin to pull them apart.

Tom quickly changes to say, “I hate her crooked teeth. I hate her 1960s haircut. I hate her knobby knees. I hate her cockroach-shaped splotch on her neck. I hate the way she smacks her lips before she talks. I hate the way she sounds when she laughs.”

The loss of “newness,” and the eye opening truth of who Tom and Summer are become the very obstacle that drives them apart.

As you plot your next romance, brainstorm all the emotional and physical obstacles the hero and heroine face from the moment they meet. Then build in a story world that adds to their conflict⎯he’s blue collar, she’s blue blood⎯then weave in all the trouble of being “new” to one another.

Brainstorm ways the newness wears off. What is the fall out of the relationship when that “fresh” feeling fades? How vulnerable are your characters when the relationship ends after confessing their love and pouring out their hearts to each other?

Brainstorm the obstacles and possible conflict that arises after worn-off newness. He stops sending her flowers. She stops shaving her legs. He forgets to call when he’s late for dinner. She admits she can’t stand his best friend.

But remember⎯these two belong together. As you work the newness factor through your story, remember to keep in the shadows of the disaster why these two need to are ultimately a match made in heaven.

In Notting Hill, William Thacker is perfect for Anna Scott because he sees her for who she really is, not the superstar actress. In While You Were Sleeping, Jack is the same kind of dreamer as Lucy. In The Proposal, Drew and Margaret share a love for the written word. And deep down, Drew gets Margret’s vulnerability. She admires his determination and strength.

So, let’s recap. Newness is a huge factor for our romantic leads. Have fun dreaming of the discoveries and conflicts a couple just starting out faces. Yet, keep to the real heart of any great romance⎯convincing the readers there is no man for the heroine like the hero. No woman for the hero like your heroine.

Write well.

Visit Rachel's website to learn more about her books. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tips for Live Interviews (pt 2) ~ Kathy Willis, Publicist

To continue our discussion about being an effective interview guest, here are more helpful tips for you whether you’re on television, radio, or being interviewed for print and Internet publications.

· Use humor (but only sparingly). Improvisational humor is better than canned jokes.

· Smile—Have Fun. Being prepared, relaxed, and confident helps a lot.

· Focus on the host and not the camera (or crew).

· Tell brief stories to make your points instead of rattling of statistics.

· Know what you want to say, practice it, and then say it when the camera's rolling.

· Think in terms of 8-second sound bites. Have about 5 points to make and learn how to integrate them into the interview no matter the questions.

· Forget that youʼre talking to millions of people. Just speak to the interviewer naturally—in your normal tone and volume—as if he is a good friend.

· Stay calm. A TV studio is a hectic place, whether itʼs a local news station or The Today Show. Donʼt panic if the staff seems stressed and disorganized; thatʼs just life in television. Ignore the hubbub and take control.

· Stay on track.

· Be yourself. Try to relax and speak to the reporter in conversational language. Avoid using "buzzwords" specific to your industry or organization that the reporter or the audience will be unfamiliar with; they will likely not make it into the story.

· Over-think your responses or they will sound canned.

· Repeat the question, because it comes across as giving yourself time to fabricate the answer. So, reword the question only as a last resort to buy time to think of the right answer.

· Take notes with you except to review briefly before the show.

· Answer questions that are either irrelevant to you or for which you do not know the answer.

· Argue with a reporter, especially when you are on-camera.

· Feel that you should fill empty space after you've given a response. If you are not prepared to elaborate—donʼt. Sometimes interviewers use the pregnant pause, hoping you will panic and blurt out something to fill the quiet space. Just sit there and smile and wait for the next question after you believe youʼve sufficiently answered the question. If the pause is awkward, then if all else fails, offer to fill it with an anecdote rather than a fact you arenʼt sure of.

· Whether youʼre on TV to promote yourself or something else, youʼre there to convey a specific message. When itʼs your turn to speak, make sure you get your point across.

· Avoid being sidetracked into a subject not directly related to the subject of the interview. Also avoid rabbit tracking.

· Watch the pace of your reply. Talk too fast and it will appear you think you have more material than time and youʼre trying to cram it all in. Too laid back and you donʼt appear passionate about the subject.

· Beware of being monotone. Allow your voice to naturally rise and fall in pitch, volume and tone.

· Enunciate. Thereʼs nothing worse than an audience misunderstanding because you didnʼt properly enunciate a word or phrase.

· Beware of the “s” and “p” sounds because they tend to hiss and pop with certain mics.

· Make sure you know which time zone you are scheduled for any phone call interviews.

· Be clear in advance if they are to call you or if you are to call them, and have phone numbers for both parties (the guest and the host), just in case.

· Set up your phone so you don't get call waiting, which can interrupt the interview and create a silent pause each time it rings.

· Use a landline if at all possible for phone interviews, to cut down on risk for cell phone static interference and disconnects.

· Send an interview sheet in advance, but be prepared for other questions aswell.

· On the interview sheet, also put your bio, and your photo. Even if theyreceived your press release, it might not be in front of them. This will help the host know not only know what questions to ask, but also feel like they are connecting with you since they see your face on the sheet.

· Don't forget to ask permission to get an mp3, CD or DVD of the interview, to use for promotional purposes after the show. See if you are allowed to post it to your site. Some prefer you to link to their online archives and others will give you full permission to use as you wish.

· Have talking points, but don't be obvious about your talking points--youwant to come across as an expert on the topic or someone passionate about the topic, rather than a politician.

· The same goes for mentioning your book--you want to mention it, but limityour phrases of, "Well, in the book..." "When you read the book, you'llfind..." And the worst is, "I'm not going to answer that question. You'll haveto get the book to find out!"

The final word on interview guesting is this: if your main goal is to sell books, you will come off sounding like an infomercial. But if your main goal is to connect your message to the audience, then God is going to use you in a might way. He’s all about making sure your motives are pure. And the great thing is, when your motive is to shine HIS Light, He takes care of those other loaves-and-fishes sorts of needs in your life, such as selling books and getting exposure.

Kathy Carlton Willis own her own communications firm and enjoys shining the light on others as they shine THE Light. She’s also wife to Russ, mom to fur babies, family and friend to many, and pastor’s wife to her church family. Find her on all the social networking sites, as well as her professional blog:

Write Kathy at with your questions on how to promote your books and your branding.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Is "The Lord of the Rings" Christian Fiction?

by Mike Duran

When it comes to defining Christian fiction, Tolkien's epic fantasy is a reminder of the genre's inherent stickiness. While many Christian readers embrace The Lord of the Rings novels for their literary depth, depiction of good and evil, redemptive themes, as well as the author's religious worldview, those same readers are not so quick to label the tale "Christian." Why is this?

However one chooses to define Christian fiction, the following three elements are usually contained therein:
  • Author -- Christian fiction is written by Christians
  • Audience -- for Christians
  • Message -- and contains at least a marginally accessible Christian message
These three earmarks -- author, audience, message -- serve as a barometer for much of what we call contemporary Christian art.

But by those standards, Tolkien is only 1 of 3. He was definitely a Christian author. (In fact, his greatest accomplishment may, in the end, not be his fantasy trilogy, but his role in C.S. Lewis' conversion.) Yet in regards to audience and message -- two pivotal planks in the prevailing argument -- he strikes out.

David Dark, in his book Everyday Apocalypse, expounds upon Tolkien's "moral aversion" to message-driven fiction:
In his efforts to overcome the popular misreading of his work on Middle-Earth as a project in allegory, J.R.R. Tolkien expressed a distaste for the domineering quality of the allegorical while offering a helpful distinction: "I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader; and the other in the purposed domination of the author."

"Purposed domination" is a wonderfully illuminating phrase in Tolkien's explanation not only in regard to what he assures us he isn't doing in The Lord of the Rings but also concerning a mode of creative expression to which he feels an almost moral aversion. Purposed domination, we might say, is the method of propaganda. It leaves the audience with no room for "applicability," and the propagandist wouldn't have it any other way. The tightly controlled "message," after all, was the point in the first place, not the dignity of the reader or the story (if we can even call it a story).
The very thing Tolkien eschewed, this "tightly controlled message," is often a defining factor in Christian storytelling. Like it or not, much Christian fiction relies on the "domination of the author" rather than "the freedom of the reader." As I suggested recently, if it needs interpreting, it ain't "Christian". Multiple opinions as to what your novel "means" (especially opinions that lack Gospel distillation) could be evidence that your "message" wasn't "tightly controlled" enough.

Dr. Ralph Wood, Professor of English at Baylor University and a Tolkien expert, in his wonderful essay, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: A Christian Classic Revisited, states that Tolkien, "...called The Lord of the Rings 'a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.' Its essential conflict, he insisted, concerns God's 'sole right to divine honour' (Letters, 172, 243)." But despite the author's stated intent, Wood affirms that "Tolkien's work is not self-evidently Christian."

And herein lies the rub.

Even though J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian, an expert at his craft, and his work was "fundamentally religious," it is the subtle, nuanced, non-explicit presentation of those themes that keeps him outside the camp of "Christian fiction." In other words, the very thing Tolkien decried -- i.e., "the purposed domination of the author" and unwillingness to allow "the freedom of the reader" -- are the very things that cause many believers to paint his masterpiece as un-Christian (or at least, spiritually neutral).

It makes me wonder whether we have collapsed the boundaries of Christian art too far. Unless there is "explicit Christian themes" and overtly Christian characters, or a "tightly controlled message," the artist, no matter how Christian she is or how "fundamentally religious" her work, falls outside the pale of Christian art. How many great Christian writers, musicians and artists are not embraced by the Christian subculture simply because their work does not adhere to a predetermined template? Well, if it's any consolation, neither did Tolkien's.

So is The Lord of the Rings Christian fiction? Your answer will ultimately determine what you think Christian fiction is or should be.

Home Movies and A Procession of Importance

Marcia Laycock is a pastor's wife, mother of three daughters and an award-winning writer and speaker. Her novel, One Smooth Stone won her the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. The sequel will be released soon. Marcia's devotionals have appreared in many publications and go out to thousands via email. Visit her website -

Watching old home movies can be a hoot, especially if the amateur moviemaker was as technologically challenged as my father. We have reams of family memories on film, but you have to know the people well to figure out who they are. "Oh look, that's Mom's knee ... isn't it?" "And Ron's feet. I'm sure those are Ron's feet!"

When my parents made a trip to San Francisco, the camera went along. A few weeks later the rest of the family enjoyed seeing China Town - superimposed over an inverted Golden Gate Bridge. It was a little blurry, but no one seemed to mind.

On one occasion my father relinquished his camera to my eldest brother. He was somewhat better at capturing the significant events of our lives on film. In fact, the footage he took on the main street of our hometown, one day in the mid 1960's, could be called a classic. It's a bit bouncy, but that was because Ron was running as he filmed. It's a bit blurry, but that's because the vehicle he was filming wouldn't slow down. In spite of these disadvantages, my brother managed to capture a brief picture of Queen Elizabeth II, waving to a large crowd.

Well, okay, the film isn't really a classic, but somehow it does capture the wild enthusiasm of the people. We see them leaning forward, smiling, hands upraised, eager to dispense their praise as the procession flows by. Somehow that blurred, bouncy film makes you lean forward eagerly too, straining for a brief glimpse of that person of importance.

Such was the atmosphere surrounding the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowd leaned in, chanting their praise, waving their palm branches, laying them at the feet of their hero. "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they cried, "Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:1-11). If we had been among them, we would have been chanting and waving palm branches too. This was indeed a man of importance, they said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

A few days later they crucified Him. When He rode into Jerusalem they thought He might take over the city, or set himself up as a King, or at the very least, lead a revolt. Instead, He allowed himself to be arrested. He allowed the hated Romans to beat Him and execute Him. And He did nothing to save Himself. So those who had leaned in close with praises on their lips now spat on Him and demanded his death.

If we had been among them, we probably would have done the same. But His mercy and grace is poured out on us anyway, as it was on those who were there that day.

The procession Jesus led into the city looked like a triumph and His death looked like a defeat. In reality, His death was His victory. In reality, His death was our victory.

"Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

And More Book News

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is back- April 24th & 25th at UCLA

Appearances by Wil Wheaton, Buzz Aldrin, Sarah Silverman, Amber Tamblyn, Jeffrey Ross, Dave Eggers, Carl Reiner, Reza Aslan, James Ellroy, Ryan Adams and Many More

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Abounding with book enthusiasts, families in search of weekend entertainment and fans of comic books; wafting with the aromas of tasty treats; and buzzing with the rollicking sounds of local musicians, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books roars to life on April 24th & 25th on UCLA’s campus.

The largest public literary festival in North America will mark its 15th anniversary by once again delivering an exciting and diverse world of culture and amusement under the beautiful Southern California sun to more than 130,000 people of all ages. The ever-expanding palate of things to do, see and experience at the free-to-the-public festival celebrates everything the written word inspires. Seven outdoor stages will feature everything from celebrity and author readings, book signings and Q&A’s, live music, comedy and children’s activities to cooking shows, culinary demonstrations, a mobile scavenger hunt and unique food and drink (check for program updates).

General event information can be found at or by calling 1-800-LA-TIMES, ext. 7BOOK. Admission is free. Tickets are required to attend author/panel discussions and lectures due to limited seating and will become available on Sunday, April 18, 2010, at 12 noon through for a nominal fee. Information is also available and frequently updated on the Festival of Books Facebook Fan Page and through the official Twitter stream (@latimesfob).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Author Melanie Dobson ~ Interviewed

MELANIE DOBSON is the author of six novels and the former publicity manager at Focus on the Family. Her novel The Black Cloister won the 2009 ForeWord Magazine Religious Fiction Book of the Year Award and was nominated for an ACFW Book of the Year Award. Melanie grew up in a small Ohio town but now lives with her husband and two daughters in Oregon.

What made you start writing?

I’ve been compelled to write ever since I began jotting down my thoughts into a bright red diary in second grade. During middle school, my fascination with Nancy Drew pushed me to start a number of “mysteries,” but I discovered early in life that endings are hard to write so I never finished these stories. After college, I pursued a career in public relations and journalism instead of fiction writing. I always thought I would start writing stories again when I was “older,” but it wasn’t until a few months before my thirtieth birthday that I realiz
ed I was indeed older. God renewed my passion for fiction, and a decade after the big 3-0, I’m still writing novels.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

The most difficult part for me is the actual writing. : ) I love creating the characters, dreaming up the storyline, and doing the research, but I often freeze when it’s time to actually write the novel. I have to force myself to get the story out of my mind and onto paper no matter how terrible the first version is.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

At some level, I try and identify with all my characters though sometimes this is extremely difficult (particularly in The Black Cloister where my antagonist is a very disturbed cult leader). Some of my characters are more like me than others, but no matter their motives or their backgrounds, I strive to understand each character before I write his or her story.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

Critiques keep me accountable when my writing gets lazy and help me see things I may have missed so before each of my novels are published, I ask a core group of talented writing and reading friends to critique my manuscript. I still have to decide which suggestions I should implement, but if the majority of these readers recommend I change a certain character or plot line, I almost always rework it.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa is set in one of my favorite places in the world--the quaint and very peaceful Amana Colonies. The story is about a lively Amana woman who thrives in her community and a broken man from Chicago who longs for the security of a home for his daughter.

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

I’ve been intrigued by the Amana Colonies and culture since I lived in Iowa during my high school years. There is no place else in the world like the Amanas so it was an honor for me to visit and write a story of what life would have looked like in these communal villages during the late 1800s. As I worked on the story, I contrasted the contented Amana people with the stress and worry following the financial Panic of 1893. The collision of these two very different worlds is the premise of Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

With Liesel Strauss, I’ve tried to capture the characteristics of many of the young women during the Amana’s communal era. Liesel thrives on her friendships and her faith, and she has a heart to help others. Everything is provided for her so she doesn’t concern herself with money or other worries of the world, but she loves to tell stories and sometimes gets herself into trouble for her childishness.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

Spending five days in the Amanas was the highlight for me. I loved attending the Amana church service and learning about their heritage and unique history (and I really loved tasting the amazing pastries baked in a hearth oven). My least favorite part of writing any novel is testing and growing my characters. I never want anything bad to happen to them…

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

Even though most of us can’t live in the Amana Colonies, this story was a good reminder to me to take a step back from the never ending craziness found in the world and savor the peace and joy that Jesus offers all who choose to follow Him.

What does your writing space look like?

Most days I join several other writers at a local coffee shop to work, but when I’m not crashing the coffee shop, I have a dark blue home office that looks out onto a forest. I have a hard time focusing when it’s too quiet so I’m grateful whenever I can get out of the house to write.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I enjoy reading, walking, and line dancing, but when our family really wants to escape, we enjoy traveling to Colorado so we can hike and explore ghost towns and relax in the hot springs pool in Little Switzerland (otherwise known as Ouray)

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

My novels are often sparked by a real-life story with either a sad ending or no resolution. This story haunts me, and I can’t stop wondering what would happen if… During my morning walks, I pray for direction and brainstorm until I have the skeleton of a novel. Then I flush out the details of my characters and the remaining plot at the coffee shop. Once I have my general story outline and characters, I begin writing. In the mornings, I edit work from the day before, and then I usually write about two thousand new words. Because I outline before I write and edit as I go, my rewrites usually take about a week.

What is the first book you remember reading and what made it special?

One of my favorite first books was Emily Climbs. Emily Starr loved to write, and I wanted to be just like her.

What are a few of your favorite books and why are they favorites?

The Mitford series is like comfort food for me. Jan Karon’s characters are both likeable and memorable, and I love escaping to this mountain (and sometimes beach) town over and over. I recently read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and it’s a new favorite for me. I was enthralled by how these authors told such a compelling story through letters.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

Reading authors like Angela Hunt and Kristen Heitzmann inspires me to work harder as I strive to create strong, likable characters and more lyrical writing. I love getting lost in a story, and when I do, I often go back and reread to figure out how the writer captured me by his or her words.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

I was really anxious in my earlier years, trying hard to find a publisher for my work. Looking back, I wish I had been less anxious about getting published and more focused on improving my craft. Because it took seven years for my first novel to be published, I eventually learned a lot about novel writing as I sought publication. Now I’m very thankful that I had those years to learn and practice because after I received my first contract, I’ve published at least one book a year (three are coming out this year).

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

My publisher (Summerside Press) does an amazing job at marketing and distribution. Many of their “Love Finds You” books are set in small towns, and after writing Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana for them, I discovered that readers across the country who were connected to Liberty were very interested in this story. Thankfully they also told their friends and family about it.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

My next novel, Refuge on Crescent Hill, releases in April. This is a contemporary romantic suspense set in a dilapidated Ohio mansion—a mansion hiding a number of both past and present secrets. The Silent Order, my next romantic suspense novel through Summerside, releases this fall. This novel is about a Cleveland detective who hides out in Ohio’s Amish country during the late 1920s.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

A bestselling author once said in an interview that she was a horrible writer but a fabulous re-writer. When I watched this interview, I was thinking and talking about writing all the time but I wasn’t actually writing because I was terrified I would fail. And if I failed, my dream of becoming a writer would die.

Once I realized that my first draft would stink, I let go of my fears and began spewing random thoughts onto my computer. After I had my first draft on paper, I polished and reworked and rewrote until it was coherent. Even though I still get anxious each time I start a new book, I’m no longer as scared of the process.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Win a copy of Writer's Digest's- The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide

3 commentors will be chosen to receive a free copy of the book. ( U.S. residents only please.)

UPDATE: Congratulations: Patrica W., Cynthia W. and Julia, your names were randomnly drawn! Please email Gina your mailing address: rnglh1 at yahoo dot com. Happy critiquing!

The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide

How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self Edit, and Make Revisions

by Becky Levine

Writer's Digest Books announces the publication of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, the best way to create a respectful, productive writing or critique group, discussing all the important details of finding a group, running a critique meeting, and building a group that will evolve with its members.

Each chapter, whether discussing plot or character or voice, teaches the writer how to read for a critique, learn from criticism, organize and prioritize feedback, revise based on the specific feedback they receive, and more.

Perfect for writers and creative-writing students, this book offers tangible instruction on how to spot legitimate problems in any genre and how to give and apply feedback in a helpful and meaningful way.

Becky Levine is a writer, freelance editor, and speaker. Becky is a book reviewer for The Horn Book Guide, speaks regularly at writing clubs and conferences, and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Sisters in Crime (SINC), and the California Writers Club (CWC). She lives in South Bay , CA . Her website and blog are and

Available at bookstores everywhere!

Liz Curtis Higgs ~ Guest Blogger

LIZ CURTIS HIGGS is the author of twenty-seven books with three million copies in print, including: her best-selling historical novels, Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Christy Award-winner Whence Came a Prince, and Grace in Thine Eyes, a Christy Award finalist; My Heart’s in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland, an armchair travel guide to Galloway; and her contemporary novels, Mixed Signals, a Rita Award finalist, and Bookends, a Christy Award finalist. Visit the author’s extensive website at to view her complete bio.

Doing the Work, Loving the Labor

Those of us who write fiction have not taken an easy path. W. B. Yeats called writing, “The fascination of what’s difficult.” Isn’t that the truth? However challenging the process, however long the hours and meager the royalties, weaving stories is simply what we do. When we were “made in the secret place,” when we were “woven together in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:15), our love of narrative was born. We didn’t decide to become storytellers one bright, sunny afternoon; storytelling was part of our cellular structure from the very beginning. Kinda scary, when you think about it; thrilling too.

For me, the actual writing process itself is the reward. The intense research, the time spent on character development, the crafting of the story, the fine-tuning of each scene—those are the elements that make my heart sing. Holding a finished book in our hands is wonderful, and receiving letters from readers can be very encouraging. But unless we enjoy the work itself, done in the solitude of our writing places, we’ll be hard-pressed to finish a single novel, let alone a stack of them. As Katherine Mansfield said, “Once one has thought out a story nothing remains but the labour.” We gotta love the labor, the actual work of writing.

One of the joys along the way is having the Lord teach us an important truth when we least expect it. While we’re busily spinning a tale about a young woman giving birth to her first child or a middle-aged father facing the loss of his job, the Lord is demonstrating the timelessness of his Truth and the complex workings of the human heart. I plot extensively before I start writing and follow that plan quite closely at first, but invariably the characters start living and breathing and going about their own, messy lives and I have to start following them instead of my plot. In most cases my characters haven’t led my astray; rather, they’ve taken me to the core of their issues, and therefore to the heart of the novel.

The real work of writing is, of course, rewriting. Robert Burns confessed, “All my poetry is the effect of easy composition, but of laborious correction.” Some of my favorite books on self-editing include Revising Fiction by David Madden, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White, and Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. While editing, I also consult my list of clichés and pet phrases that invariably creep into my writing and banish them to the winds.

Sometimes cutting a word here and there isn’t enough, and we must eliminate full paragraphs, whole pages, or even (gulp) entire chapters. Samuel Johnson advised, “Where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out." Ouch. Because it’s so painful to toss out those hard-earned sentences, I move them to a file called Save This, so I won’t feel the time and effort were wasted. Those words are still on my computer; they’re just not in my story.

Every now and then I’ll realize some piece of dialogue or turn of phrase that didn’t work in Chapter 5 is a perfect fit for Chapter 25. But most of those deleted words never see the light of day. For my latest novel, Here Burns My Candle, I have 16,000 words of unused material sitting in Save This. I edited those words for the sake of the book, yet hung on to them for my sake. Henry Miller is right: “Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.”

One way to improve the quality of our words before we write them is to read the very best fiction in our genre. Since I write historical novels, I often reach for stories written and published in my time period. For example, Here Burns My Candle was set in 1745, so I immersed myself in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, originally published in 1740, not only to examine his literary style, but also to absorb a 1740’s mindset. What did folk think about, worry about? What topics were never broached? How did people express themselves? What words were commonly used? How did men and women interact? How did they spend their days? It’s particularly heartening to see what a huge role faith in God and a knowledge of the Scriptures played in the lives of people three centuries ago.

On days when the words seem stuck inside my head, I remind myself that God has already written every story I’ll ever write: “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD” (Psalm 139:4). Our job is to listen for the Spirit’s leading through the process. I keep QuickVerse open in Windows so I can go to the Bible for encouragement or direction with the click of a mouse. If, while I’m writing, the characters don’t sound authentic to me, if I can’t hear them breathing, if I don’t taste their tears and feel their sorrow, then something is not right, and I start the scene over, listening for that still, small voice.

God has placed in our hearts very particular stories that we alone can tell. Our labor of love is to sit down at our computers, take a deep breath, and write.

A mother who cannot face her future. A daughter who cannot escape her past.

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her.

Her husband, Lord Donald, has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips. 

His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.

One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface, even as bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745, intent on capturing the crown. 

A timeless story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope, the brightest of tapers, lights the way home.

Read Novel Journey's review of Here Burns My Candle.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tips for Live Interviews ~ Kathy Willis, Publicist

Authors look for interview opportunities to help brand them, build name recognition, and promote any current book releases. My firm is often asked to coach authors as they prepare for their upcoming interviews with media. This media might be: radio (either in-studio or by phone), television (live or taped), print publications, or Internet. Today and during our next guest post, we will coach you to be a gracious interview guest. By following these tips, you will engage with your host and audience, and will accomplish the goals set in place when scheduling this exposure.

· Watch casual remarks. Keep in mind that nothing is really off the record, and anything you say may end up in print.

· Answer every question. “No comment” is never an acceptable answer. You will find a way to avoid certain issues by transitioning to other topics. Use “bridges” to steer the conversation to a new topic, in order to avoid sticky questions, or to get to the meat of your message. One example of bridging is, “That's a good question, but the more important issue here, which is...”

· Flag key points. When you're speaking, use “flags” to signal key points. Let the reporter know youʼre about to make a main point by using an indicator phrase such as, “the key point is ...” or “the important thing to remember is ...”

· Be interesting. If you are passionate about your subject, it will help make a better story.

· Women, bring your own makeup in case no makeup artist is available at the studio. If no artist is available, touch up your eyes and give yourself more color. Wear lip color!

· Even when they say a makeup artist is available, be prepared to do your own makeup if the hosts are late and the artist is tied up doing their makeup until airtime.

· Be rested and avoid puffy eyes by using a cool compress across your eyes before applying makeup to have a more refreshed look for those early morning interviews. Or, if you know your skin is agreeable to the product, try Preparation H for puffy eyes.

· Get someone with fashion sense to advise you. The visuals are all-important on TV. Dress like you mean it, at the level to which you're aspiring. Consider your branding to select the appropriate image. Keep in mind that the person interviewing you will most likely be wearing a smart suit, and have had a haircut recently.

· During a television interview, when you are not actually speaking, always keep a pleasant look on your face. You never know when the producers will switch to a shot of you.

· There will often be a "monitor" (a television screen placed somewhere off-camera that faces you and shows the on-air "talent" what's being broadcast). Don't look at it! If you are looking at it and the producers switch to a shot of you at that moment, you will appear to be looking down and away from your host, as though you are distracted or not paying attention. Also, anyone watching the program that is familiar with television production will know that you are looking at yourself.

· Donʼt stiffen up. Lean forward now and then while talking to the host. The audience is quickly bored by mere conversation (“talking heads”).

· Speaking of “heads,” avoid the bobble-head look of vigorously shaking your head yes. It really accentuates double chins and stretched or wrinkled skin around the neck, and also looks unprofessional.

· Watch newscasters with the sound off to see how they talk. What you'll see may surprise you. They use a lot of body movements. Since many camera angles are from the shoulders up, that means that all the interest normally provided by human motion has to be compressed into the head, shoulders, and perhaps hands. Don't go crazy; don't make yourself look foolish. But put a little more energy into your conversation than you normally might. As Marshall McLuhan famously observed, television is a cool medium. It craves heat—and it's up to you to provide it.

· Think about a host you like and emulate his/her style. Heʼs probably at ease, direct and affable. You too can pull of this winning combination.

· If you are debating someone, keep a pleasant look on your face. Even viewers who agree with your opponent will like you and take you seriously if you appear calm, reasonable, and pleasant.

· This isnʼt a game show requiring you to beat the others to the buzzer, so you have a moment to collect your thoughts before answering a question. Take it.

· If you donʼt understand a question, ask the interviewer to repeat it.

· If you stumble or make a mistake, correct yourself immediately. You want to make the most of this opportunity. If the interview is being taped and you donʼt like an answer you gave, ask to start over.

· The importance of story—personal examples trump statistics.

· The host is human too—donʼt be intimidated.

· Be relevant.

· Raise your eyebrows or stand on your tippee toes (if a radio interview) to project positive energy (but avoid being hyper like a Chihuahua).

· Your talking points.

· Breathe in, breathe out—relax and enjoy the process.

· Be flexible to adapt to whatever they throw your way.

· Be available.

· Have your book (or your project) fresh in mind—re-read it if necessary.

Kathy Carlton Willis own her own communications firm and enjoys shining the light on others as they shine THE Light. She’s also wife to Russ, mom to fur babies, family and friend to many, and pastor’s wife to her church family. Find her on all the social networking sites, as well as her professional blog:

Write Kathy at with your questions on how to promote your books and your branding.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Romance, Anyone?

Just a reminder that we’re lovingly embracing entries for the Contemporary Romance category in our OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest.

If you’re writing a modern romance that you’re just swooning to share with the world, we’d love to see it. Pinch the first chapter's cheeks until they glow, spritz your synopsis with cologne, and download the entry form. Then tie it all up in a satin ribbon, seal it with a kiss and email it to

What? You’d rather write about dragons and princesses? Never fear, my shining knight, we have a slot in our contest for you, too. In fact, we’ve got something coming up for every genre. Here’s the schedule for the rest of the year:

The entry deadline for Contemporary Romance is April 10, so there’s still time for love. If you have a question you’d like to pop, email us at the address listed above, and you’ll receive a personal reply.

We hope to hear from you soon, because we’d adore the opportunity to read
your story.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Nothing Wasted

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 -

1 Samuel 3:19 – “So Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” (NKJ)

I took great encouragement from this verse when it arrived in my inbox one day. The calling of Samuel has always held a fascination for me. There are many things to be gleaned from that passage of scripture, many that pertain to being a writer.

Samuel responded to the call even though he was not sure what it was, where it was coming from or where it would lead. Sometimes the nudges we get from the Lord are like that. We’re not sure about them, but we move forward. Sometimes we feel God is telling us to write a certain article or poem or book. We have no way of knowing what God intends for that piece of writing but we move forward, show it to friends, have it critiqued, finally submit it and perhaps see it published. Then we stand back in awe at the amazing things God does with it.

Samuel sought out the wisdom of his mentor and it was Eli who directed him to turn to the Lord and to respond. Our mentors, our encouragers, our critique partners are all vital in our growth as writers. They have been put in our lives for good reason. We would be wise to seek their counsel and help often. We would be wise to listen to the critiques of our work, recognize others see weaknesses that we are blind to and be willing to make the changes necessary.

Samuel stayed close to the Lord throughout his life and became one of the great prophets of Israel. He learned obedience at Eli’s knee and never forgot it. Note the last phrase in the scripture above – “the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” All of what Samuel spoke to the people of Israel bore fruit for God. Nothing was wasted.

It is the Lord who directs and guards our words. It is the Lord who will take them to the right people at the right time and use them to His purposes. Note the word, “none.” I take great encouragement from that word alone. Nothing God pours through us is wasted. Each article, each poem, each novel, each devotional, each book will bear the fruit He has in mind. Even those things we write that may never appear in print are important as part of the process. They are doing things in us and the results will show in our work. We may not always see the results God has intended, but we can be assured that they will be accomplished.

In God’s economy, nothing is wasted. Not even one word.

Book News

Here's some book and writing happenings:

The Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club’s Women in the Arts Program proudly presents a conversation with Carolyn See

Writer and novelist Carolyn See will give an intimate afternoon talk on the subject of memoir and family history at the historic Santa Monica Bay Women's Clubhouse, Sunday March 28th at 4:00 pm.

A Los Angeles native, Ms. See is the author of seven novels, including Golden Days and There Will Never be Another You, as well as two memoirs. Her awards include the prestigious Robert Kirsch Body of Work Award (1993) and a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction. Currently, she is working on a new memoir entitled The Very Rich Hours about getting old in an extended family.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the WOMEN IN THE ARTS Program Fund of the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club and the Santa Monica non-profit Daybreak, a project of OPCC.

A selection of Ms. See’s books will be on sale courtesy of Village Books of the Pacific Palisades.

Tickets are 10 dollars cash at the door, subject to availability. They can also be purchased in advance for 8 dollars by visiting our website or in person at the Club between 9:30-11:30 a.m., M-Fr. (310) 395-1308.

National Library Week is April 11-17. Their theme this year is "communities thrive @ your library." This might be a great time to get involved and see if you can help with their community events and get to know them better.

First Annual My Book Therapy writing contest, the Frasier, is now accepting entries!

My Book Therapy believes in helping unpublished novelists find their voice!

And that's why we designed the Frasier contest -- a contest aimed at helping you get your novel published. With feedback and recognition for the finalists in the industry, the Frasier is about helping you reaching your publishing dreams -- especially since the grand prize is a scholarship to one of the My Book Therapy’s intimate yet intensive writing retreats. ($500 value).

What is the Frasier?

A great story is comprised of the same elements – a great hook, storyworld, a compelling inciting incident, a sympathetic characters, stakes that matter and a strong voice. The Frasier is designed to pick out the best of the best – no categories, just storytelling. Using the elements of a great book that we’ve blogged about at MBT over the past few years, the Frasier award will go to the story, regardless of genre, that best captures the reader.

Finalists will be announced June 1st.

The winner will be announced at the annual MBT Pizza Party (at the 2010 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis, IN)

"Tearing Down the Walls Promotion"

In honor of Stephen’s achievement, and all aspiring writers, Sourcebooks has decided to tear down the walls that keep writers from honest and helpful feedback about their work from the publishing industry. That means: no more form letters, but an actual critique of your submission from an agent or publishing company

How Does It Work?

1. Purchase a copy of Publish This Book, Stephen Markley.

2. Between March 9, 2010 and May 9, 2010 submit your proposal along with a proof of purchase (receipt, order confirmation, etc.) via the form below or by email at

3. Wait 2-6 months (While you’re waiting, why not read your new copy of Publish This Book? It’s amazing.)

4. Receive a 2-4 paragraph critique of your submission.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Guest Blog ~ Kristin Bair O'Keeffe ~ Where's My Mojo?

Debut Novelist Asks, “Where’s My Mojo?”

My debut novel Thirsty was published back in October (Swallow Press, 2009). Since then I’ve been touring, schmoozing, talking, sharing, Twittering, Facebooking, blogging, offering contests, riding a unicycle across three continents with THIRSTY plastered on my forehead (well, not really, but that’s what it feels like), and lots of other things in order to get Thirsty into the hands of readers. It’s been fun, exciting, educational, and yep, utterly exhausting. Since I’m also working on finishing my next novel, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about two of the most important “ivity” words for writers: creativity and productivity. Neither of which I’ve got much of right now.

“Where’s my mojo?” I’ve been asking myself over the past few weeks, looking for it in random places—under a stack of books, behind the couch, in an old pair of shoes. “It’s gotta be here somewhere.”

In an effort to jumpstart my creative juices, I’ve ordered myself to do three things:

1. Doodle – When I write, I doodle. I get three or four sentences on the page, then I draw this weird, chromosome-shaped thingy and color it in. For me, doodling indicates that I’ve gotten to that wonderful, mushy, creative state of mind I refer to as “Writerhead.” In essence, doodling = good, not doodling = bad.

2. Read. – To write, I must read. (And if I dare: To live, I must read.) So over the past few weeks I’ve read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Julie Klam’s Please Excuse My Daughter, and right now I’m midway through Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

3. Step away from the process. – “Take a break? What for?” I’ve been saying as my head lolls forward and lands with a splash in my bowl of wonton soup. Like a lot of writers, I’m not famous for recognizing when I need a break or for that matter, taking one once I’ve recognized the need. But—and this will reveal exactly how creatively exhausted I am—I’m going on vacation. To Borneo! And I won’t be working. (Well, I might post a photo or two to my blog, but no work-work.) Instead I’ll be swimming, playing with my daughter, eating fresh fish, reading under a sunbrella, canoodling with my hubby, and getting reacquainted with my mojo.

How’s your creative mojo? What do you do when your mojo says, “Enough”?

Kristin Bair O’Keeffe is the author of Thirsty and an American who has been living in Shanghai, China, since April 2006. She is also a voracious reader, a happy mom, an engaging teacher who believes in “telling the best story you can…believing in your writing…and working your arse off,” a fierce advocate for the end of domestic violence, and a writer who spends as much time as possible in writerhead.

Kristin’s work ha
s been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Poets & Writers Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine, The Baltimore Review, The Gettysburg Review, and many other publications. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and has been teaching writing for almost fifteen years. If you’d like to learn more, visit here and here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

10 Things You Can Do Now to Promote the Novel You Haven't Even Sold Yet

When you’re constantly receiving rejection letters from publishers or agents, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is publicizing a novel you can’t even seem to sell.

Before I continue, let me stop a moment and give this very loud and clear disclosure: nothing, nothing, NOTHING, matters more than writing a killer book. Spend 99 percent of your writing time perfecting your craft and fashioning a story that will change the lives of those who read it, or at least entertain the heck out of them.

But with the other one percent of your time, even if you’re just starting out, start building yourself a PR folder. You’ll thank yourself later.

My debut novel, Crossing Oceans, is releasing this May with Tyndale House Publishers. Though it's the first to earn a publishing contract, it is actually the fifth novel I’ve written. I started my marketing folder back on book two because I was sure it would be published. Although book two still collects dust, as does three and four, I’m lucky to have gotten that head start.

The thing with publicity is if you wait until your book is releasing or even about to release, you’re almost too late.

Once you sell your first novel, you often are under contract for a second, and possibly third. I am contracted for a second novel which is due the end of the month my first novel is releasing.

I had more than a year to write this novel, so I didn’t stress. I’m stressing now. Why? Well, I had some personal things that set my writing back. I got married to an amazing man who distracts me just by walking by. Major life changes, no matter how good have a way of slowing the literary flow—for me at least.

After what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, I finally turned my sample chapters in for approval… they weren’t approved. The story was too different in tone from the first. I was asked, for my own career good, to hold off on this one and try something else. Both my agent and publisher were in agreement, and after a little consideration, so was I.

Now I find myself with just weeks left to publicize my all important, debut novel, and write my all important sophomore novel.

I also have five children, a day job and Novel Journey to tend to. Guess what? I’m stressed, but not as stressed as I would have been had I not started preparing for this moment years in advance. I’d like to share some of what has helped me.

What can you do now to get ahead of the eight ball?

1. Buy your website URL and begin to build it. You can go very expensive and pay thousands for a professional site, or you could start small and do something like godaddy, where you build your own site. I took a third route and hired someone to make me a template and then set it up like a blog, so that I could tweak and update it easily.

2. Get professional headshots. I hired a friend whose work I admired but who is still considered an amateur. For fifty dollars and my husband agreeing to baby-sit for an afternoon, I got a few really great and professional looking pictures. Don’t let anyone convince you that a good headshot is a waste of money for a novelist. On Novel Journey we post lots of author photos, many of which look like candid shots that other people are cut out of. Remember how important perception is. I look at a substandard picture and I subconsciously think this author is no perfectionist, and am less likely to want to read their work. Spend the money and get a good promo picture of yourself.

3. Keep a file filled with the names of magazines you come across that fit your writing. For example, if you write Victorian era historicals, Victorian magazines might later be interested in an article written by you. Jot down the names of them and any other publications you come across that might be a fit. This will save you a lot of research time later on.

4. Keep a folder of book reviewers you’ve come across that seem to enjoy the type of stories you write. I send myself emails with the reviewer’s name, books they’ve reviewed and liked, their email address and, if I know them, how I know them. While it’s true that they might not still be reviewing when your book finally releases, it won’t hurt to try.

5. Start reading marketing/publicity books now and take notes. My personal favorite is the simply titled Publicize Your Book. If you can only afford one book on marketing/publicity, I highly recommend you make it that one.

6. Read The Tipping Point. It will explain some very important concepts on what makes things popular. It’s an easy and surprisingly entertaining read.

7. Read How to Make Friends and Influence People. The book has been around forever for good reason.

8. Keep a list of natural influencers. You’ll call upon these folks later for help in getting the word out about your book.

9. Help anyone you can. For one, it’s just the right thing to do, for two, what goes around comes around.

10. Start building your platform now. Write articles, create a blog with excellent and frequently updated content, volunteer to teach classes on what you’re an expert in, or for whatever committees in ACFW, or other writing organizations you belong. People are much more likely to be interested in your book if they feel like they know you and you’ve shown interest in them.

In conclusion, Crossing Oceans is my debut novel, available for pre-order now on Amazon and CBD and May 1st in brick and mortar stores. Watch my sales numbers. Will my platform and diligent efforts pay off? I’ve tried to do everything right—to write an excellent story, to build a platform, network, help others, and everything humanly possible to publicize my book.
Will it make any difference?

That’s the kicker, maybe yes, maybe no. The thing with publicity is that no one really knows what works. All we can do is write the best book we’re capable of, not let any chance pass that will help get the word out about it, and say our prayers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Confessions of a Wannabe Perfectionist ~ Lisa Harris

Lisa Harris is an award-winning author who has sold twenty-one novels and novellas. She lives with her husband and their three children in Mozambique, Africa, where they work as missionaries. When she’s not busy writing or home schooling, she loves traveling, cooking different ethnic foods, and going on game drives through the African bush.

She is currently writing a series set in Africa for Zondervan. Book one, Blood Ransom, releases this month and is a powerful thriller about the modern-day slave trade and those who dare to challenge. It’s been described as emotive, enthralling, and spectacular. You can visit her website and her blog at to find out more about her and her books.

Confessions of a Wannabe Perfectionist

I have to admit, I’m not the most organized person in the world. Details like dusting the top of refrigerator or catching all the dust bunnies beneath my bed are easily forgotten due to the day-to-day demands of life. But while these details tend to easily slip by me, I learned early on that in writing a novel, organization in essential.

This was further brought home for me last year when I co-authored a medical thriller with a friend of mine. I realized that in order to stay on track with the fast-paced storyline, it was essential to find a quick way to keep our tight timeframe and chapter scenes in order.

I know there are dozens of ways to organize your story, but Excel has made it simple for me, and hopefully I can pass some new ideas of staying organized.

When you open up Excel, you’re able to make as many columns as you want. I typically make five columns, but these can be changed and rearranged as needed. Next, I give each column a header. This allows me to keep a running total of my word count, mark with an X when the chapter is finished and placed into my final manuscript, show the timeline, the POV, description of each chapter, and any additional notes.


Chapters / Finished / World Count / Time / Chapter Descriptions and Notes

Below the headers, on horizontal rows, I keep a running list of each chapter that includes the information from the header. I add additional rows to show the date and help me keep track of the timeline. This is especially important if you book takes place over a short period of time and includes several POVs. The highlighting feature can also be used to mark a problem you need to fix later, to leave additional notes, or to spotlight something. If you’d like to see a sample spreadsheet of how I’ve done this, check out the Writing Tips on my website.

This same system can also be used for character descriptions and storyline details. In writing a series containing overlapping characters, it is often necessary to need to know the color of John Doe’s eyes, that he has a black belt in karate, or that his favorite pizza is anchovies and onions (and he has bad breath!). All this information can be kept in an organized reference sheet allowing you quick access in one place.

This quick overview became particularly helpful for me when my editor asked me to take out a character and replace it with another. When I turned in the revised manuscript, I was able to show her, in one glance, the story before and after with all the changes, something she loved.

How do you stay organized? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works for you!

Blood Ransom

Deep in the heart of Africa, two American lives are about to change forever.

Natalie Sinclair is working to eradicate the diseases decimating whole villages in the Republic of Dhambizao, when she meets Dr. Chad Talcott, a surgeon on sabbatical from a lucrative medical practice now volunteering at a small clinic.

Meanwhile, things are unraveling in Dhambizao. Joseph Komboli returns to his village to discover rebel soldiers abducting his family and friends. Those that were too old or weak to work lay motionless in the African soil. When Chad and Natalie decide to help Joseph expose this modern-day slave trade—and a high-ranking political figure involved in it—disaster nips at their heels.

Where is God in the chaos? Will Chad, Natalie and Joseph win their race against time?

Romance and adventure drive this powerful thriller about the modern-day slave trade and those who dare challenge it.