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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Men Don't Read Romance

If you're a Christian man who reads Christian fiction, well, you're a dying breed. Call it payback for centuries of misogynist tyranny, but finally karma has caught up. Don't believe me? A stroll down the Religious Fiction aisle will cool your jets, bubba.

When it comes to Christian fiction, men are in the minority.

Many have undertaken to analyze the publishing industry's tilt toward women. One of the most common explanations is simply the masculine constitution. Men aren't wired to read. Compounding this genetic drag is th
e startling fact that 80% of the novels out there are romance and/or women's fiction. EIGHTY PERCENT! So not only must men struggle against their Neanderthal nature, we must do so in an industry that doesn't care much about us.

A while back, blogger Becky Miller revisited this complicated and controversial issue in a post entitled Women in Fiction. She wrote:

I heard a startling figure this last weekend—fully eighty percent of all books (not just Christian books) sold in the US are romances. Accurate or not, I think the perception is telling—we are a culture seeking relational bliss, women with men.

Yes, there are coming of age stories featuring guys. Hatchet comes to mind as does Peace Like a River. And there are some action-adventure stories mostly about guys. Alton Gansky has written at least one such book. So has Ted Dekker.

But for the most part, women show up in fiction, if not in the protagonist’s role, then in a role demanding her own subplot.

So I wonder. Is this why men notoriously don’t read fiction? Do guys really not want to read the romance, just as they do not want to go to movies identified as romantic comedies?

Do they not read because they don’t want to know what Jo and Meg and Beth and Amy were whispering about in their attic? Do they not read because they don’t care how Ann Shirley felt as a little orphan girl arriving in a home that expected a boy.

Do men not read because books are too cerebral and not visceral enough? Or manly enough?

And if women protagonists become tougher, more clever, stronger, and independent, will men want to read about those women more? (emphasis mine)

The connection between men not reading fiction and the market's glut of romance is, I think, perceptive. Could it be that men simply don't read more fiction because most of the fiction out there is romance?

Personally, I have no problem following a female protagonist. None. And to answer Becky's question, I don't require fictional females to "become tougher, more clever, stronger, and independent." In other words, a more "manly woman" is not attractive and definitely would not coax me into reading a straight romance novel. In fact, I'd suggest it's women who want "manly women" (confident, strong-willed, independent, professional females) in their tales, not men.

As regards romance, "getting the girl" is the stuff of men (and boys!). Heck, that's practically all the guys at my work talk about. (Of course, what that means for them is a whole other story.) Still, men want to be with women... it's just that that means two different things for perspective parties. Which could be part of the literary divide.

Why women's fiction dominates the Christian fiction industry and how its presentation of romance aligns with a biblical model are questions that female Christian writers and readers should undertake. But having got my hand slapped last time I undertook to do so, allow me to offer three reasons why male readers do not read romance:

  • Men fear complicated emotions -- Deal with it. We don't process feelings, nor express them, very well. It's the downside of our left-brainedness. So entire novels based on processing emotions scare the crap out of us!
  • Men define romance differently than women -- Sorry. You're dealing with genetics here. Candlelit dinners and fireside snuggling must lead to the bedroom... which puts Christian romance at an even greater disadvantage. Furthermore, reading about romance / sex is not satisfying to a species preoccupied with the physical, as opposed to the emotional, side of the dance.
  • Men view romance as only part of their story -- Males -- especially males who read -- are driven by things other than just romance. Career, competition, adventure, technology, food (okay, maybe food is just my drive), are bound up in the male psyche. Romance is just a compartment in your man, not his whole world.

So in answer to Becky's question, I agree that men don't read fiction because most fiction is geared toward romance. I would also add that it's not female protagonists, strong or weak, that keep men from reading romance, but a view of romance that is lop-sided and defined primarily by female novelists and their fans.

But this is just one Neanderthal's opinion.

Mike is a monthly contributor to Novel Journey. He is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. Mike's debut novel, "The Resurrection," is available in stores and online now. You can visit his website at

The Power of One

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Luke 15:4
“I love your blog. Keep up the good work...” My tears blurred the rest of the e-mail as I bowed my head. “Lord, You knew just what I needed today. Thank you.” The last few weeks had been hard as I tried to adjust to the changes that my continued eye problems necessitated. With reduced computer time and daily tasks taking longer, I had decided that morning to let go of blogging.

But through the day, as the words of the e-mail flitted through my mind, I reconsidered my decision, and marveled at the influence of one person’s words. As the sun’s rays disappeared beneath the horizon, I remembered the Shepherd who left the ninety-nine in the pen to search for the missing one. The One whose love embraces us one at a time, whose call reaches one heart at a time—something that’s sometimes obscured by mass communication, social networking, platform building, and marketing’s emphasis on numbers. So I’m still blogging, keeping in mind that God’s economics are different than mine. His words, written through each of us, wrap themselves around the hearts of one reader at a time, and maybe one reader reaches out to another and another…the power of one.

When Anita Mellott isn’t homeschooling, she writes to encourage others (From the Mango Tree  ( She has more than ten years of experience as a writer/editor in the nonprofit world. Her book of devotionals for homeschooling parents will be released by Judson Press in summer 2011.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Today Only !

Okay Guys,

If you're not subscribed to the Barnes and Noble newsletter, you might not know that today they are giving away a free cup of coffee for people who come in and test drive a COLOR Nook.

(As if we needed an excuse to go browse Barnes and Noble and take in the smell of books and coffee!)

Guest Blog ~ Don't Fear ! ~ Erin Healy

Don't Be Afraid of the Editing Process

By Erin Healy

I’ve been a writer since I was in first grade and an editor by profession for almost twenty years, but I only published my first novel in 2008, so that pretty much makes me a greenhorn. It would be dishonest to say I started writing without thinking I had an edge. With all this storytelling savvy encoded in the wee gray cells, all this experience working with the industry’s best authors, surely I could write a bestseller on my first try.

I know, I know. I might as well have been a Scandinavian brain surgeon with no English-speaking skills writing for a US audience. The very short summary of my humbling initiation to this new career is that I am still on a steep learning curve. The Editor Erin and the Writer Erin don’t even exist in the same hemispheres of my brain. After five novels, though, I’ve succeeded in getting them to shake hands across my corpus callosum. They’re even starting to like each other.

When the shock of discovering that editorial skill does not equal writing skill faded, I was comforted by the fact that editing nevertheless lent me one clear advantage: I don’t have any fear of the editorial process. And I believe that all the dread associated with urban-legend-variety editorial horror stories doesn’t have to be a part of your experience either, even if you’ve never been an editor.

Very few novelists don’t fear the process. Some have unwavering confidence in their creative choices. Some writers are only “edited” by friends. Some have only known editors who don’t have high expectations. Some approach editors as a necessarily evil, like a lecturing doctor; we submit willingly because we feel we must, while we grit our teeth and chant, This is for my own good. This is for my own good.

More often, a novelist sends off a manuscript and then hunkers down to make battle preparations, anticipating the editor’s objections, formulating arguments against the editor’s prejudices, and compiling feedback from an inner circle of readers who loved!!! the first draft.

This defensiveness comes from the belief that the editorial process is essentially a debate about who is right or wrong. I confess there are editors who have nurtured this idea, that I was such an editor once upon a time. As representatives of your financial investor (read: publisher), we get to pull rank and sometimes must. Worse, though, are the professionals who believe it’s their job to set authors straight and aren’t very good at thinking of their role as a partner. But Deuteronomy 2:10 instructs: “Do not plow with an ox and an ass together.” So I say to authors and editors alike: Don’t be an ass. Both of you had better be strong oxen pulling in the same direction.

When I grew up, I set aside my belief in editing-as-debate. An attitude of editing-as-partnership serves me well as an editor and serves me even better as a writer. I need my editors, because it is impossible for me to read my work the way they do, and they are trained to help me write bridges that reach my readers. My novels would be sub-par without them, in spite of all the editorial knowledge I possess.

If you’d like to have a fearless encounter with your editorial partner, try entering the experience with these assumptions:

1. Believe that the editorial process is really about learning how other people read your work, and how to get more people to read your work. Good editors will bring a great body of collective knowledge to this goal. Expect them to! Invite them to! The more information you have, the more informed your decisions will be.

2. Believe you and your editor will have a good relationship. Sure, things can and do go wrong. Not all matches are made in heaven. But many relationships go bad merely because one of the partners expects the worst at the outset. The opposite also tends to be true: respect breeds respect. The more you respect your editor’s contributions, the more you will be respected as a writer.

3. Believe that disagreements are worth having. What good is an editor who doesn’t challenge you to see your work from a surprising perspective? You don’t have to agree with everything your editor says. Neither should you disregard what you don’t like. Participate in the disagreement or risk stagnating. (Editors also grow this way; we’re students too.)

We novelists face enough fear and insecurity just because we’re artists. Why add to the burden we already carry by fearing the very people who want our art to be well-received?

Yesterday I delivered a 7,000-word editorial memo to a new client who’s written her first novel. She has poured blood from her heart into this story. I lost sleep worrying how to say without devastating her just how much work I believe the book needs. I figured she’d hate my opinion, and maybe even me. Instead, she wrote this: “It was overwhelming and I shed a few tears, but then I began to look at it as a new adventure, and a way I can take my writing to the next level.”

She’s a strong ox. She’s going to do just fine.

Erin Healy is an award-winning editor and bestselling co-author of the supernatural suspense novels Kiss (Thomas Nelson | 2009) and Burn (Thomas Nelson | January 2010) with Ted Dekker. Her solo debut, Never Let You Go (Thomas Nelson | May 2010), ushered in a new brand of fiction, building on her work with Dekker, that melds supernatural suspense with female-friendly relational drama.

Healy is the owner of WordWright Editorial Services and specializes in fiction book development. She has worked with popular authors such as Frank Peretti, James Scott Bell, Melody Carlson, Colleen Coble, L. B. Graham, Brandilyn Collins, Rene Gutteridge, Michelle McKinney Hammond, Robin Lee Hatcher, Denise Hildreth, Denise Hunter, Jane Kirkpatrick, Gilbert Morris, Lisa Samson, Randy Singer and Robert Whitlow.

Healy earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in communication studies from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., and began her career as an editor for Christian Parenting Today during the mid-1990s. After advancing from assistant editor, to associate editor, to editor while working for the magazine, she moved on to serve as a book editor for WaterBrook Press.

Healy currently resides in Colorado Springs, Colo., with her husband, Tim, and two children. She is a member of International Thriller Writers and the American Christian Fiction Writers. Visit for more information.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Writer's Conferences: From the Inside

First of all, let me apologize to anyone who’s ever organized a conference for writers. Even though, after each conference I’ve attended, I’ve tried to express my thanks for all your hard work, I now realize the appreciation I offered was inadequate.

I should have sent chocolate. Loads of it.

In early February, Christian writers from all over the U.S., Canada, and several other countries gathered in Denver for the Guild’s Writing for the Soul conference.
They came to be challenged and encouraged through speakers, classes, and clinics designed to hone their skills.

(Pictured: Keynote speaker Liz Curtis Higgs.)

This was my first Writing for the Soul conference and my first at all where I served as other than a conferee or newspaper reporter. The average writer who attends a conference likely has no idea of the behind-the-scenes actions that keep the conference running smoothly—from weeks (even months) before the event and continuing for weeks afterward.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Most conference organizers aren’t in it for the appreciation—or the chocolate. And certainly that’s not our motivation at the Guild. But as someone who’s now helped organize a conference, let me share a bit about why I do it—and why I can’t wait to do it again:

“I received confirmation that my writing has value and the inspiration, encouragement, contacts, and advice I needed to go forward.” —Norma

“I left with a greater sense of my mission and increased clarity in the processes.” —Anonymous

“I appreciated the eagerness of the editors, publishers, and workshop teachers to impart their ‘secrets.’ I also came away with lasting friendshipssomething I did not anticipate.” —Judy

“The keynote speakers spoke to an empty place in my soul. I’m going home revived and encouraged.” —Anonymous
(Pictured: Charisma House editor Jevon Bolden with conferee.)

“This conference was instrumental in me fully embracing my God-given gift as an author—for His name and fame.” —Donna

“I received direction for what I believe God is calling me to move forward with now.” —Anonymous

“I came to the conference tired, discouraged, and emotionally drained. I had lost my passion for writing. I am leaving the conference refreshed, renewed, and rejuvenated. I have found my passion again and am excited about writing.” —Chris

I could go on. These are actual quotes from people who attended our conference this year. I’m sure organizers of other conferences receive similar comments on their evaluation forms.

This is why we do it. This is what makes the hours of planning and labor worth every minute. In what other job could I have a share in making this kind of impact? In what other ministry could God’s Holy Spirit touch so many through me and the others I work with?

And when I think about how these invigorated writers will touch others eternally with their writing, I thank God that He allows me to come alongside where He’s already working and pitch in.

To all my coworkers and friends who get to organize writers conferences:

“This is the reason I kneel in the presence of the Father from whom all the family in heaven and on earth receives its name. I’m asking God to give you a gift from the wealth of His glory. I pray that He would give you inner strength and power through His Spirit. Then Christ will live in you through faith.

“I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation”
(Ephesians 3:14-17, God’s Word translation).

And that is way better than chocolate.

Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the ezine editor for American Christian Fiction Writers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True ~ by guest blogger Mary Ellis

Before “retiring” to write full-time, bestselling author Mary Ellis taught Middle and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate for 20 years. She grew up close to the eastern OH Amish community, where her parents often took her to farmer’s markets and woodworking fairs.

Mary enjoys reading, traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming. Before “retiring” to write full-time, she taught Middle School and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate for 20 years—a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits.

To Thine Own Self be True

I’ve been thinking about the famous quote by William Shakespeare lately. There’s been much talk in the writers’ loops about rules that new writers must follow if they hope ever to be published.

I jotted some of the rules down, but I still have my original list from my early days as a beginning writer: Reduce adverbs; never use –ly words. Never use passive verbs. Eliminate multiple prepositions in a row. Remove dialogue tags. And of course, let’s have no redundancies, euphemisms, petty modifiers, clichés, or hyperbole.

I won’t even get into the rules regarding punctuation. Many writers of various levels can benefit from looking over the list prior to a final edit of their work. I, myself, was once guilty of walking slowly instead of staggering and eating hungrily instead of devouring my fried chicken. Now I use stronger verbs to convey my meaning, and I wouldn’t think to writing something like whispered softly.

But let’s be honest, sometimes a good old –ly word is just the ticket. Fellow writer, Mary Johnson, offered this marvelous example from Dick Francis’ best-selling novel, Hot Money: “I intensely disliked my father’s fifth wife, but not to the point of murder.” A lovely sentence…ly word and all, don’t you agree?

To leave out the dastardly adverb would have sacrificed much. Does anyone remember the first line of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield? “I was born” is the epitome of passivity. Now I don’t put myself in Dick Francis’ league, and certainly not in Mr. Dickens’, but Ms. Johnson said it well, “In the end, the craft is there to serve the art, not vice versa.”

Another rule I read on the loop is “never use more than two POV’s in a romance.” I was midway through a short romance containing one main plot, advanced by four POV characters. I sat up straight and asked, “huh?” and then called my editor. She replied that she’d never heard of such a rule and wondered who made these things up.

Before you fire off an email to me, insisting that fledging novelists need guidelines to hone their skills…I agree with you. But the list of rules should be guidelines to improve a manuscript; not laws never to be broken.

Writers who rely too much on critique partners’ or contest judges’ suggestion also scare me. I once read the comments from a contest I had entered with confusion. One judge felt “I should have better developed my hero/heroine to create empathy,” while another judge felt that “I’d spent too much time sketching characters to the detriment of the plot.”

What did I learn from the two opposing viewpoints? Not too much. After I dried my tears that I hadn’t finaled in the contest, I learned that judges have subjective opinions.

I also read in the [ACFW] loop about one writer who presents her work to her critique group at the end of each chapter. Her fellow writers probably offer good advice on how to improve the pacing, etc., but when she finishes the manuscript, will the book still have her voice? I’m not so sure.

A writer’s voice is the only thing that sets her/him apart from the thousands of other writers in the same genre. A writer gets an idea, creates a story in her mind, and sits down to tell the tale. Any advice on how to improve should come after the first draft in finished. The book might have the same theme or plot twists that have already been rehashed to death. But in a new voice, this story can come alive for a reader.

Contest judges, critique partners, editors who are kind enough to offer suggestions—these people can offer great advice for improvement. But remember, they have subjective opinions. You’ll never please everyone, so you should first please yourself with the work you create. Happy writing.

Abigail's New Hope

Love Blooms in Unexpected Places

As an Amish midwife, Abigail Graber loves bringing babies into the world. But when a difficult delivery takes a devastating turn, she is faced with some hard choices. Despite her best efforts, the young mother dies—but the baby is saved.

When a heartless judge confines Abigail to the county jail for her mistakes, her sister Catherine comes to the Graber farm to care for Abigail’s young children while her husband, Daniel, works his fields. For the first time Catherine meets Daniel’s reclusive cousin, Isaiah, who is deaf and thought to be simpleminded by his community. She endeavors to teach him to communicate and discovers he possesses unexpected gifts and talents.

While Abigail searches for forgiveness, Catherine changes lives and, in return, finds love, something long elusive in her life. And Isaiah discovers God, who cares nothing about our handicaps or limitations in His sustaining grace.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Getting to Know the Publishing Industry Better

Chip MacGregor is President of MacGregor Literary Inc., a literary agency that works in both the CBA and general markets.
I frequently have people ask me, “How can I get to know the industry better?” It’s not brain surgery. I can think of a number of things that would help a writer do that...

1. Read frequently.

2. Read outside your genre (for example, if you’re a romance reader, pick up a suspense novel; if you’re a CBA person, read books outside your safety zone).

3. Study the bestseller lists (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, your local newspaper -- all have them). Spend time on and to see what's selling.

4. Note who publishes the books you read and the books on the bestseller lists. (In case you haven't figured it out, not all publishing houses were created equal.)

5. Take a look at trade journals to find what's hot, what's not, and what's happening. These journals would include Publishers Weekly, the email version of Publishers Daily, Publishers Marketplace, Library Journal, Writers Digest, possibly Bookstore Journal. You may also glean some good information in some entertainment journals.

6. Keeps tabs on the economic climate of publishing and bookselling. Right now everybody is talking about Borders going bankrupt, and bemoaning what bad shape the industry is in... but this year there will probably be more book pages published and sold than ever before in history.

7. It's important that you study a publisher before sending anything to them. Harvest House may be the right place for your Amish book, but it's the wrong place for your techno-thriller. So go to web sites and read catalogues to figure out who publishes what. If you research the house and its list, you'll be better able to target the right publisher.

8. Check out market resources like the Writer's Guild, Writer's Digest, Sally Stuart's CBA Market Guide, etc. Go online and check out the best writing blogs. (I happen to be a fan of Rachelle Gardner's excellent CBA Ramblings, as well as Mike Hyatt's blog on the industry. There are plenty of others.) Anybody with internet access can do some basic research -- anybody who can get to Barnes & Noble can do some more. Walk around with a pen and a notepad for an hour or two at a store and see what you can glean.

9. Ask around. If you're part of a critique group or writers organization, you ought to have some connections with fellow writers, editors, publishers, and agents to bounce your ideas around. If you're attending a writer's conference, by all means ask in the sessions or the panel discussions -- or even in a face-to-face meeting.

10. Many publishers will print a style guide. Ask for one, and if they share it with you, follow it. Nothing makes an acquisitions editor unhappy faster than having to wade through a pile of manuscripts that only tangentially relate to the house's publishing focus.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!

"Will you walk a little faster?"said a whiting to a snail,
"There's a porpoise close behind us,
and he's treading on my tail."

Thus begins the famous Lobster Quadrille from Lewis Carroll's
Alice in Wonderland. In a juicy little book by John Goldthwaite, The Natural History of Make-Believe, this verse is quoted during a discussion of didactic intrusion in children’s stories, and interpreted as a commentary on that tricky balancing act. According to Goldthwaite, porpoise=purpose, and in much of children's literature, the cetacean presence is painfully felt, "treading on my tail."

Maria Tatar, in her book
Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood, writes, "Whenever a book is written by adults for children, there is a way in which it becomes relentlessly educational, in part because the condition of its existence opens up a chasm between the child reader and the older, wiser adult who has produced the book. Our current agenda and the wisdom of our time may seem vastly superior to [James] Janeway's sanctimoniously lurid descriptions of dying children, or Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann's unforgettable images of thumbsuckers getting their digits sheared off, but they are ultimately our own adult ideas about what is "for their own good."

"The question," agrees Goldthwaite, in a crucial distinction, "is not whether a book teaches but what and how and whether its intent is to humanize a child or merely to socialize him."

The desire to socialize children with the "wisdom of our time" has become an eager, laudable advance in children's literature. Many talented authors write stories with the idea that "children’s books are a wonderful way to begin the process of educating people about how varied human experience is, and about how all of it, all of it, is normal." (Laurel Snyder)

Maria Tatar admits that " declare that adults should stay out of children's literature is utterly unrealistic--adults write the books, publish them, review them, buy them, and read them..."

If, however, our proper focus is what a book teaches, and how, it is ironic that the "interference" of a parent or teacher with the literary choices of their charges often produces such cries of horror from the educated community.

Tartar is emphatic on this point. "To argue that adults should not interfere in the reading process is as misguided as arguing that they should not intrude on children's lives. Letting children be wholly on their own as the readers of a story can, in some situations, count as a not-so-benign form of neglect that leaves children without any sort of compass to guide them as they enter, pass through, and exit a world of fiction...."

"The tales heard during childhood become fixed and lasting possessions," reminds Katherine Cather, in an old manual on
Educating by Story-Telling. "They stay with the hearer through the years, and because their ideals become his ideals, do much toward shaping his character." Or, as Kathleen Kelly gushes in the 1998 film You've Got Mail, "when you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your life ever does."

With such high stakes, discerning between an author bent on humanizing a child and an author bent on socializing him becomes a task that cannot be ignored.

"The old-time raconteur swayed the destiny of nations because he was an artist, because he himself believed in the message he brought," declares Cather. The future of young readers is still being swayed by storytellers, men and women who devoutly believe in the messages they bring, and in the "wisdom of our time." Unfortunately, much of that "wisdom" is merely sugar-coated flimflam, spooned into young minds until every sweet lie tastes true.

It would be ridiculous to call for an elimination of porpoises in children's literature. No matter how fast we walk, they will always be close behind. It is the nature of story to mold and illuminate. Every novel is part of the Great Conversation. But as children enter the world of a work of fiction, it is crucial that they have a compass in one hand and a guide within earshot. An ever-growing sense of True North must be nurtured, so that when they do feel the tread of a porpoise, they can turn around and exclaim with just indignation, "Do you mind? That happens to be my tail."

“Ain’t No Journey Hopeless.”

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. The sequel to One Smooth Stone will be released in 2011Visit her website at

In the film, Hurricane, there’s a thread that I’m sure warms the heart of every writer. A young man, whose life is full of distress, picks a book from a bin at a second-hand store and takes it home. The book not only changes his life, but, because he is moved to connect with its author, in prison for a crime he did not commit, it changes the writer’s life too. When the young man and the writer meet, Hurricane Carter asks him, “Do you think it was an accident you picked up my book?” Hurricane implies it was not. He implies it was in the plan. The book was meant for that young man. It set him on a path, a journey designed for him.

God often works that way. He puts things and people in our path, like books on the top of bins, which give us what we need for that time in our lives. Some years ago, it happened to me. I was on the campus of a Bible school with my husband. He was not having a good day. I don’t remember what the issue was, but his mood was decidedly gloomy. We went into the campus bookstore and I headed for the bin of reduced items. Right on the top was a book called Writing Religiously by Don M. Aycock. I snapped it up, thrilled that I’d found something that seemed to confirm what I believed God was telling me to do – write for him.

I showed it to my husband. His reaction was not very polite. In fact, it stunned me with its harshness. Please know this was not characteristic of my husband. In fact I can’t remember another time when he has ever spoken to me the way he did that day. I was so stunned I put the book back and left the store. A few moments later he joined me, book in hand, and apologized. We then had a “clear the air” kind of conversation in which I told him how much writing meant to me now that I had become a believer. It was the first time I told him that I believed writing was my calling, just as being a pastor was for him.

I believe that day and that conversation were meant to happen. That book was waiting for me. It was the spark that launched my career, and my husband’s comment, though it was harsh, was the spark that gave me the determination to begin. God knew exactly what I needed at that time in my life. He used an ordinary book that day, but I also believe He uses a very special book to do the same - the Bible.

A friend recently sent me this quote – “..And in Bible-story journeys, ain't no journey hopeless. Everybody find what they supposed to find...” (from "Sounder" by William H. Armstrong.) Talk to anyone who reads the Bible regularly and they will tell you that statement is more than true. Hebrews 4:12 says – “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow...”

The Bible story journeys are meant for each and every one of us. They will provide the hope, the joy, and sometimes just the dogged determination we need to keep going on the path we are meant to follow.

Never underestimate the power of your words, or His.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Quotable Quotes

For a man to write well, there are required three necessaries: to read the best authors, observe the best speakers, and much exercise of his own style --Ben Jonson

There is no way of writing well and also writing easily. --Trollope

When you can with difficulty say anything clearly, simply, and emphatically, then, provided that the difficulty is not apparent to the reader, that is style. When you can do it easily, that is genius. --Lord Dunsany

Practice is nine tenths--Emerson

Friday, February 18, 2011

Clash of the Titles ~ The Story

What sparked your idea for your review blog Clash of the Titles?

For a long time, I searched for a unique way to blog—something not done before, something to break all the molds. It came to me one day while I was on the treadmill watching Bobby Flay’s Throwdown (there’s nothing like the sight of fatty foods to keep you walking). You gotta admit it’s a neat spin on a contest. Take two of the best cooks, pair them up, and give the taste-testers a voice. Within 24 hours, I had a name—Clash of the Titles, where authors compete and readers judge. Months later, with the invaluable help of my wonderful staff, it became a reality.

Do you feel your creative tweaking of something that a lot of authors offer on their own blogs/websites (offering book reviews) has helped you along in your career as a novelist? How?

I answer that question with a resounding “yes.” Clash of the Titles (COTT) has been one of the most exciting and challenging ventures I’ve undertaken. All the added exposure for myself, I’ve met loads of talented authors. And in the writing world, we need each other to survive. I’ve developed wonderful friendships I never would have had otherwise. COTT has pushed me to do more, be more, and trust more. In short, it’s been a God-send.

What has been your favorite head-to-head book contest/clash and why?

The recent Most Gut-wrenching Clash was my favorite because of the many similarities between the excerpts as well as the quality of writing. It was a really tough decision for many readers, which makes things more challenging, and fun!

What response have you gotten from authors who've had their books "clashed?"

Without fail, they have sung COTT’s praises. Besides being fun, you just can’t beat the exposure. Few blogs promote authors to the extent that we do.

What does an author need to know about Clash of the Titles and how to submit their work to you?

All writers of Christian fiction are welcome, including the unpublished. Our submissions process is simple, and if an author can’t find a slot her work might fit in, we encourage her to submit to our Author’s Choice, which is always open for submissions. For full submissions guidelines, click HERE.

April Gardner has been a military brat, missionary's kid, and military spouse. After 21 years in various countries overseas, April happily resides in Georgia with her USAF husband and two sweet kiddos. In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.

Librarian, reviewer, and avid reader, April adores anything books. She writes a regular column for the joint blog, Reflections in Hindsight, and is the founder and senior editor of the website, Clash of the Titles.

April loves to hear from her readers at:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Scariness in Fictionland

Sometimes being a novelist is scary. For example, over the last year or so I’ve seen dozens of emails from other authors who claim they strongly dislike the first person point of view. That’s a frightful development for a serious novelist.

The first person point of view transcends all periods, genres and literary styles. It has existed since the dawn of language. It is as fundamental to literature as oil paint is to visual arts, as antibiotics are to medicine, as the Ten Commandments are to law. For an author to say she doesn’t like an entire point of view is as if a motion picture director had said, “I don’t like male actors,” or an architect had said, “I don’t like south facing windows.” It’s not as if these authors confined themselves to dislike of mere genres, not as if they said, “I don’t enjoy murder mysteries.” It’s more like they said, “I don’t like the letter 'a'.”

If you still don’t understand why I find this so disturbing, imagine if this took hold, and in another decade or two all the seminars and books on how to write started teaching that the first person point of view is against the rules. What if publishers and literary critics jump on this bandwagon? What if everyone decides the first person POV “draws readers out of the story” or “distances us from the action”? What if the day comes when third person is the only acceptable point of view left to us? While you’re at it, imagine living in a world where ice cream shops sell only vanilla.

Don’t scoff at the possibility. This trend which so concerns me is already underway, and has been for many years.

Once upon a time there was a thing called “third person omniscient” narration. You know: a Voice which tells the story from an all-knowing perspective, a “meanwhile back at the ranch” or a “little did she know” kind of storyteller. In centuries past, thousands of wonderful novels were written in this point of view by literary giants such as Dickens, Austen and Tolstoy. Once it was a perfectly acceptable part of the novelist’s tool kit, but you’ll hardly find third person omniscient used today, and when it is, you’ll often hear impatient complaints from The Powers That Be. We’re told it’s “telling, not showing,” and it “draws readers out of the story,” or “distances us from the action.” So they’ve already killed an entire point of view. First person might be next.

Then what? The death of adjectives and adverbs?

Well, as a matter of fact, yes.

While I agree it is a bad idea to dress up weak nouns and verbs with weak descriptors, I also know for a fact that an adverb or adjective can do some very heavy lifting if chosen wisely. For example, Sol Stein in his peerless and pragmatic Stein on Writing (Read it! Read it!) points to this sentence from Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter:

“Wilson sat on the balcony of the Bedford hotel with his bald pink knees thrust against the ironwork.”

Read that sentence again and omit the words “bald pink” for incontrovertible evidence of the power of adjectives—two adjectives in a row, actually!—in the hands of a great writer.

It's Greene's brilliant writing that makes the adjectives so wonderful. Without him, they are simply inert tools with no qualities to like or dislike whatsoever. To say "I don't like adjectives," (or the first person point of view, the third person omniscient, or adverbs), is like saying, “I don’t like guns.” Until the gun is used, it is just a clump of metal. In the wrong hands, a gun can indeed be dangerous and harmful, but in the right hands a gun can put dinner on the table and keep evil at bay. We tend to focus on the damage done by those who don’t know how to use these literary tools, or by those who deliberately abuse them, and we say, “Therefore, I don’t like the tool.” What a sad, irrational mistake.

While I’m at it, let me add I’ve also noticed a growing impatience with “long” (as in, you know, more than one paragraph) descriptions. Of anything.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who sees the king is naked. What in the world is going on here?

To understand how we came to this, it might help to think of where we are in the history of literature. Around the turn of the last century, the reaction against Romanticism and Aestheticism (and a few other egghead “isms”) which had already begun in the visual arts and philosophy also started to take hold in architecture, dance, music, and literature. Some people said the arts were just too fluffy.

By the middle third of the century, Modernist painting had been stripped down to the bare essentials, simple fields of color, or stark lines, and Modernist architecture had been reduced to a “form follows function” approach that removed all ornamentation. In the same way, Modernism began whittling away at the novel, deleting adverbs and adjectives and the “unnecessary” omniscient narrator, until authors like Hemingway and Fitzgerald were hardly even bothering to write descriptions of characters or settings. Everything boiled down to dialogue and action, period.

That spare approach to fiction is a legitimate aesthetic, and it led to some true masterpieces, but as is often the case with human nature, the pendulum swung too far. Andy Warhol’s soup cans overwhelmed a basic concern with beauty in the visual arts world. In the same way, Modernism’s starkly reduced style of storytelling fascinated all the most important editors and critics in the world of literature, and The Powers That Be in New York City developed a universal disdain for such things as adjectives and adverbs, non-participating narrators, and “long” (you know: more than a paragraph) descriptions of settings, no matter how beautiful the language might be. In fact, “beauty” as a fundamental goal of literature was almost totally forgotten, until today we hardly ever speak of it alongside character, plot, theme, setting and so forth, as I have mentioned in this column before.

It’s a well-known psychological fact that our environment conditions us to prefer our environment. (Stockholm syndrome is one extreme example.) So without really knowing anything about the theoretical reasons for the shift, the reading public came to prefer the stark and spare Modernist style of literature which had been almost universally forced upon them, not because it’s necessarily better in any way, but simply because it had indeed been so universally forced upon them.

Also, it’s a well-known psychological fact that we develop habits mainly because they are more convenient. At rush hour, when presented with a choice between a scenic route and a shortcut, a person falls into the habit of taking the shortcut between their home and workplace. But after doing that a while, the person also takes the shortcut even when they’re not in a hurry, and even though they’re missing a chance to see more beautiful scenery.

Why do they do it? Because it’s easier not to think about which route to take, or to have to think about which way to turn at this intersection or that one. They choose against the beautiful scenery because it’s easier (more convenient) to simply do what they always do, with their mind on autopilot, so to speak.

Similarly, a reader learns to “suspend disbelief” and go along for the ride in one form of novel, and then when presented with a different mode of storytelling, they choose not to indulge, even though it may have great promise, because it’s easier to just stay with the form of fiction they already understand.

The near-death of third person omniscient narration is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Although it was once the most popular form of novel, many readers (and authors) today say omniscient narrators tempt them out of the “fictive dream”. It is as if these people think the narrator they experience in the story is somehow outside the story.

Of course, that is not true at all. In the hands of a skilled author, the narrator can be as much a part of the novel as any other character. After all, who has the right to say a character must participate in the action to be in the novel? Who says we can’t make that omniscient narrator character interesting in other ways? Who says a skilled author can’t introduce a reader to that Voice, and get them thinking, “Oh, good. I like this person,” every time the narrator speaks?

We have forgotten that it was our decision to think of adverbs and adjectives as “superfluous”, our decision to be impatient with descriptions of settings or characters, and our decision to think of omniscient narrators as exterior to the story. These are mere fads and opinions, not objective facts. Indeed, millions of authors and readers who went before us would strongly disagree with all of that. We have been told these perfectly fine literary tools are distractions by the so-called “authorities,” or “critics,” and like sheep we have accepted their judgment, not because doing so has actually improved fiction in any way, but simply because the pendulum has swung too far in one direction.


Heaven forbid me to become that much a slave to fashion.

I believe no serious author—no writer who genuinely wants to grow and improve in every way she can as a novelist—would ever reject any literary device out of hand, just as I believe every serious author will immerse herself in novels of every style, genre, and point of view. To always strive to learn, to grow, and to maintain openness to everything that might offer the chance of better storytelling . . . that is the universal hallmark of a true novelist, and a true lover of novels.

Athol Dickson's novels transcend description with a literary style that blends magical realism, suspense, and a strong sense of spirituality. Critics have favorably compared his work to such diverse authors as Octavia Butler (Publisher's Weekly) and Flannery O'Connor (The New York Times). One of his novels is an Audie Award winner and three have won Christy Awards including his most recent novel, Lost Mission. His next story, The Opposite Of Art, is about pride, passion, and death as a spiritual pursuit. Look for it in September, 2011. Athol lives with his wife in southern California.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Author Interview ~ Dineen Miller

Dineen A. Miller is an artist at heart and loves everything creative. Her God-given creativity translated into art college where she hoped to break into the world of graphic design with a bang. God ultimately had other plans. She delights in penning words to share God’s great love and hope. Fiction and nonfiction alike are the staples of her passion for ministry to the spiritually mismatched. Her devotional writing has been featured in Our Journey and Christian Women Online Magazine. Married for more than twenty-three years, she shares her life with a great guy who adores disc golf, her two daughters who never stop surprising her with their own creativity.

You can always find her at Spiritually Unequal Marriage blog, the book's new website, on Facebook and Twitter under her name, Dineen Miller. Her first book, Winning Him Without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage, releases this week from Regal Books/Gospel Light. 

I'm so excited to have you on Novel Journey, Dineen. We've waited a long time for this. Tell us about your new release:

Winning Him Without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage is the culmination of over 30 years of mismatchdom, fifteen of which are mine and 17 belong to my co-writer, Lynn Donovan. She and I made a lot of mistakes in our marriages, trying to convince our husbands they needed God. Well, that never really works out too well. Thank goodness God is so good at redeeming everything and our husbands are patient and committed men. LOL!

God took us both on an incredible journey that included some pretty tough learning curves. The result is we learned to trust God completely with the salvation of our husbands and just focused on loving our guys as Jesus calls us to love others—unconditionally. Amazing things happened. Our marriages morphed into wonderful and thriving places, a ministry was born and now a book.

What finally sparked the process on writing this book? Was it difficult to "bare your soul?"

It seemed to be the natural course and result of our ministry. There are less than a dozen books out there on this topic, and those that have been written are either out of print or nearing 10 to 20 years old. Not a lot out there to help. And churches are ill equipped to help the spiritually single because they’re geared more for families, and the spiritually mismatched tend to stay in the shadows.

The feedback we got on the blog ( was amazing. Then our site started showing up on churches’ resources pages all over the country. God was definitely onto something here! We spent a week brainstorming the idea and again stood in awe of how easily it all fit together. Lynn had five key areas and I had five. Thus the ten keys were born! The rest we collaborated on.

When Lynn told her husband about our idea, he was all for it because he didn’t want to see other couples struggle like they had. My husband thought it was a great idea and was/is very supportive. He didn’t like the word “unequal” though. I’m glad Regal did such a great job titling and subtitling our book.

As for baring my soul, the only part I was concerned about was sharing the reality of this kind of marriage and still honor my husband. That was important to both of us (Lynn and I), because to do otherwise would completely negate our message. I could write a book about all that. Oh yeah, I did! ;-)

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

Hmmm, lots of God putting things into place, I will say that. Including how Lynn and I wound up writing together. God had inspired us both with the idea of blogging about being unequally yoked at the same time. Lynn met Camy Tang at the Mount Hermon conference in 2006. A few weeks later, I had lunch with Camy and told her my dilemma—how did I blog about my mismatched marriage and still honor my husband? Camy wound up being the catalyst God used to connect us. The rest is amazingly and wonderfully covered with God’s fingerprints.

As far as researching, we had only our own lives and tons of experience (mostly gained the hard way) to draw upon. Seeing it all come together still blows me away. That’s what God does best—redeems everything, wastes nothing. Now we get to share all that with others struggling in their mismatched marriages. That alone leaves Lynn and I awestruck on a daily basis.

Every writer has a journey. I know your road to publication has been a long one. And now, suddenly, you have both a non-fiction and a fiction coming out. Tell us about it.

Oh man, do we have time for another book here? I’ve been seriously writing and pursuing publication since 2004. Lots of rejections, jumped too fast into an agent-author relationship early on that wasn’t the right fit, then wound up having to put my writing on hold for a year when my teenaged daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

I can look back and see how impatient I was to get published and see what a blessing it was that I didn’t until now. My daughter had to be a priority (and easy decision!) until she recovered. And I will confess right here on Novel Journey that I just about gave up last fall after a rejection that left me wondering if what I wrote would ever find a place in CBA.

My newly contracted fiction book, The Soul Saver, doesn’t categorize easily. This story has a heroine who translates into sculpture faces of people God gives her to help, her husband is an atheist, and her latest “mission” is a pastor who has a demon for a sidekick. I wrote this book to tell through story, the struggles and intense spiritual warfare that’s inherent in mismatched marriages. My own husband is an atheist so I had lost of experience to draw upon.

To see this book get a chance…well, what can I say except it’s a dream come true. All of it is. I’ve wanted to write books and get published since I was 18. God’s timing is always best. I can say that looking back, of course. ;-)

I am thrilled and so grateful to be a part of two amazing publishers, Regal and Barbour. My editors, Kim Bangs (Regal) and Rebecca German (Barbour) have opened the door and given me a chance to share a message I hope will inspire others.

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

I don’t know if it’s writer’s block or fear or distraction. LOL! Writing is not easy for me. I don’t write fast and as I said in the question before, there are so many distractions and needs in my life other than writing. Plus I’m a freelance graphic designer, so most days I juggle three jobs, between writing for our blog, marketing our book, helping the women we’re trying to reach and help, my design clients, writing fiction, and taking care of my family.

It’s a battle to say the least. I’m letting go of the design work, at least for a while so I can do the things (writing and ministry) that God’s put front and center—after my family of course. The creative process is such a dynamic animal. I’m fascinated watching it right now in my husband, who’s a software/app developer.

So far the best answer I have for that, for me, is to create a schedule and wrap my head around the idea that the next day, I have to write and reach a goal. I’d like to think my deadline-driven years in advertising will help.

Ask me that question again in a year. Maybe I’ll have a better answer.

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

Visual in the sense that I try to write what I see in my head—my characters, settings, scenes playing out. It doesn’t come easy though. As far as what’s around me, I like a neat office. I’m a “neat-nick.” Always have been. Of course, a messy desk can be a great way to waste time and avoid writing. LOL! See, there’s that creative process again.

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?

Getting started. Writing consistently.

How do you overcome it?

Sometimes the reality of the situation can be so overwhelming at first. That’s when I have to take a step back, let it stew and pray a lot. Thank goodness for great critique partners too. I have walked this journey the entire way with my awesome crit buds and best friends, Heather Tipton, Ronie Kendig and Robin Miller (Caroll). I’d be lost without them.

I’ve learned to walk away at times. If I can’t find the answer there in front of me, I take a break. I learned to do this with my design work. Giving our subconscious time to work is a vital tool. I love it when I get a breakthrough, which seems to happen either in the shower or in the middle of the night.

And writing consistently. I’m still working on creating a schedule for myself. It’s definitely a time of transition at the moment.

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

Funny you should ask that. I used to write in the cave that was the corner of my bedroom. We have a small house and two daughters. My oldest recently moved into her own place, the youngest got the “prime” bedroom, and now I have a real, dedicated office. I love it! It’s bright (I need lots of windows and outside light), roomy and perfect for me. Plus my hubby surprised me and painted it while I was on a business trip. It’s perfect!

What does a typical day look like for you?

After I get my daughter to school, I start with a cup of coffee, my Bible, and a couple devotional booklets I love to read. Then depending on what day of the week it is, I take our pooch for a good walk (she actually walks me) and then hit the shower. In between all that, I’m checking email and assessing what needs to be done for the day.

Then I stay at my computer and knock out my to do list. Some days are all design work, some days are a mix of writing, designing, marketing, and paperwork. Like I said, I’m in a time of transition so my focus is shifting to writing being my dominant goal as apposed to my design business. I’m really looking forward to that!

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?

Oh, I’m a tweezer. LOL! More like milking a rock. That’s part of what I’m really looking forward to, is seeing what I can produce with writing as my priority. A good writing day is producing an entire chapter so that’s around 2,500 to 3,000 words. I haven’t been able to do that everyday though. More like once a week, twice if I’m on a roll.

Thankfully, I have time to figure this out. The Soul Saver is already written, and my first official writing deadline that I have to meet is for a novella I have the privilege of writing with Ronie Kendig, MaryLu Tyndall and Kim Sawyer. God’s easing me in slowly (He’s so good to me!) while we get the word out about Winning Him.

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

Buy as much house as you can afford. Oh, wait, wrong topic. Ahem, take your time, learn the craft and don’t be in a hurry to get published. I just wish I’d done a better job at taking that advice. LOL!

Do you have any parting words of advice?

DON’T buy as much house as you can afford. Ooops, I did it again. Well, there’s a whole book right there and so many of them have been written. So I’ll say this:

Don’t compare what you do and HOW you do it to other authors and writers. Glean what you can from them for ideas, then do what WORKS for you. It’s not easy, but it’s a whole lot more peaceful.

Winning Him Without Words is for the many Christian wives who attend church week after week without their husbands by their sides. They are married to men who do not share their enthusiasm for God and the church. Their mismatched spirituality causes them to feel out of place, often causing them to pursue their faith less than wholeheartedly. Authors Donovan and Miller speak from experience and understanding, offering 10 keys to thrive by creating a loving home where God can work. Designed with group study in mind, the book includes discussion questions and a leader's guide.

Dineen can also be found on her website, and her personal blog, Kittens Come From Eggs

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Navigating Foreign Rights Without a Map

I was delighted to learn my novel, Crossing Oceans, was translated into Dutch to be sold in the Netherlands. I don't know what this means as far as fame or fortune goes, but I suspect it's not going to change my life much, but I also suspect that it's a priveledge not all writers get. Needless to say I was pleased regardless.

I had nothing to do with this foreign rights sale. A kind woman Marian Baay apparently chose my novel for her publisher to translate. How did she receive a copy? [Gina shrugs.] You know this business, it's a roulette wheel. I learned about this translation because I happen to be friends with the woman on facebook and she told me. (Isn't the cover lovely?)

The next day, I received an email from my publisher that said the book would also be translated into Romanian. Wow. Still not real sure what this means for me, but again, I suspect it's a good thing, not world shaking, but nice.
I hear we're in talks with a Korean publisher as well. I, of course, wouldn't be upset if I happened to become an "international best-seller", but even if that doesn't happen it's still very cool.

All of this got me thinking about how foreign rights sales work and if it's possible for an author to make this sort of thing happen for themselves. For me, my agent negotiated some, my publisher negotiated some, and possibly one happened because I was lucky enough to have the right person read my book and recommend it. The truth is, I don't really know how it all happened, but I wanted to offer you all something useful so I did a little research and came up with the following:

Article Source:

"For the uninitiated, typically a publisher buys a certain set of rights, permissions to publish the book in a certain geographical area. First US rights, first English language rights, first World rights - the variations are seemingly endless. There are also film and theatre rights, graphic novel rights, comic rights, audio rights, etc. As a writer, you will get paid each time a new set of rights is sold.

Foreign rights work the same way. Each sale earns the author more money. That money is applied against their advance until that advance earns out. Once it does, the author starts earning royalties, a situation we all like to be in. On the publishers end, the book is more successful with each sale made. So you would think that most publishers or author's agents would be actively working to sell additional foreign rights for the titles they acquire.

You would think.

Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Publishers might be too tied up with their latest blockbusters to push foreign rights for your new mass market paperback, particularly if you are writing in a genre like horror. Your agent might not have an interest in foreign sales or might be partnered with a sub-rights agent who doesn't have the same faith in your work. Like most everything else in the publishing industry, there are a thousand different variables that come into play.

As an author, you CAN do something about this. Educate yourself on what's selling where. Understand what foreign publishers regularly by translations to be republished in their country. Know who the editors are who are making those acquisitions. Inform your sub-rights department (if your publisher controls foreign rights) or your agent (if they do not). I try to provide both my sub-rights rep and my agent with a list every few months of foreign publishers who have acquired book similar to my own, at least in general terms, and politely suggest that they submit to these individuals, citing these recent acquisitions. At worst, all it means is a few minutes of work and another rejection. At best, another sale. And that sale can increase your worth in the eyes of your publisher, making them more prone to attempt other foreign rights sales or more interested in your next book.

And that's a good thing.

There are several places you can do some research with regard to foreign publishers. I'll suggest two, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. The first way is to make a habit of researching publishers in your local library's International Literary Marketplace. This exhaustive book lists all of the works coming out from foreign publishers and provides information about the publishing companies themselves. Another way to do it is to join Publishermarketplace as a member and use their Deal List to review recent sales of foreign rights. The advantage of this latter method is that it often tells the name of the agent who sold the rights as well as the name of the editor who bought them.

In today's market, making that first sale is great. But selling that book two, three, four or more times means greater success for you and greater interest from your publisher."

Joe is the internationally bestselling author of the Templar Chronicles trilogy and a trained writing/creativity coach. Jumpstart your fiction with him at

Article Source:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Writing Contests: What Good Are They?

I recently read a discussion about whether a writer should enter contests. The conclusion was a vehement No.

The reasons:

1 - Winning a contest doesn't influence the decisions of agents or editors to whom you submit your work;

2 - The folks who organize and administer writing contests are only out to sell you something and/or collect the entry fee;

3 - Who's judging these things? Chances are, they don't write as well as you do;

4 - Better to spend your time polishing your work and submitting to a paying publisher than chasing after a useless award certificate.

Agreed, entering contests is no ticket to a publishing contract – not even (except perhaps in rare cases) if you win. And yes, some contests are designed to lure in customers for the sponsor’s critique services, training seminars, or other business offerings. But not all of them. You need to be discerning.

Judges? Well. Having been on both sides of that fence, I could tell you some stories. But I won't.

The sad fact is, writing contests are subjective. Unlike an athlete whose race is timed, score is tallied or distance is measured, a writer isn’t judged by a non-negotiable standard. In the literary world, the only difference between barely competent and truly exceptional is the opinion of the reader. So, yeah – you could be a better writer than the judges and still get a poor score.

So why bother?

If you choose not to, I couldn’t fault you. But there are some valid reasons to play this game:

1 - A win looks nice on a resume, provided the person you're contacting is familiar with the contest and knows it to be reputable. That is, taking first place in Uncle Ralph's Best Children's Story at the family reunion probably doesn't need to be mentioned; but a Second Place finish in a Writer's Digest contest demonstrates that you've got the basics under control and you might even know what you're doing. The person you're querying will read on.

2 - Many of these events charge a (usually nominal) fee, but they can also provide helpful feedback. Take the ACFW Genesis contest, for instance, where for $35, you get three detailed critiques. Not a bad deal.

3 - Judges. Okay, so they're human. So are you. Get over it.

Seriously, though – at least, in my experience – the judges know their stuff and are fair-minded. You might not think they "get" your story – and maybe they don't, particularly if they have a different philosophical viewpoint. But chances are, they see your story more clearly than you do. You're too close to it. The judges aren't engaged in a personal vendetta, they're just giving their honest opinion. For whatever that's worth.

4 - Preparing your entry for a contest gives you practice submitting and helps you hone your pitch. The more you do this, the better you'll get at it. When you're ready to go pro, you'll know how to be professional.

5 - If you've never shown your writing to anyone but your grandma, receiving critical feedback from strangers could be good experience for you. Once you've been released from treatment for your depression, you might be better able to roll with the punches that will come your way in the wonderful world of publishing. If you think contests are a jungle, wait till you see the real thing.

The bottom line: There's seldom a pot of gold at the end of the contest rainbow, but it

is possible to benefit from the process. If you make your choices wisely, the experience can be a good one.

Yvonne Anderson is the person to blame for our Novel Journey contest program. In January she disqualified herself from ever entering any contest for unpublished novelists herself, by signing a three-book contract with Risen Books for her space fantasy series, Gateway to Gannah.

Besides being a monthly contributor to Novel Journey, she blogs at

Out of Love

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. The sequel to One Smooth Stone will be released in 2011Visit her website at

Staring at a blank page, knowing you have to fill it with something by a specific time is a little daunting. Knowing there are a lot of rules that have to be followed, that the words have to be just right, the content intelligent yet interesting enough to keep a reader’s attention, is a little nerve wracking. Realizing that the end result could be summarily dismissed with “does not meet our needs at this time,” is more than a little frustrating. Yet, as a writer I do it, day after day, week after week. Some might wonder why.

The answer is quite simple – I love the process, the challenge, and yes even the struggles and frustrations of writing. I do it because I believe in some small way, what I write can make a difference. It can change things. It is what I was created to do.

We all have these same fears, struggles and frustrations in our lives. We all do things that others shake their heads at and wonder why. We do them out of love. An interesting phrase, that. Out of love. Because of love. On account of love. It has been said there is no more powerful a force on the face of the earth.

There is One whose demonstration of that force must have been confusing to those who watched. He left a home and position that was beyond anything we can imagine. He allowed himself to be born into a poor family and a race that was one step above slavery. In accordance with His father’s plan, he kept himself hidden for the first thirty years of his life and when he did finally reveal himself, even his own family did not believe who he really was. He did miracles of healing and grace but people spat on him. He taught everyone who would listen how to find true peace but no-one understood, not even his closest friends. Then He offered eternal life to the world by offering himself in atonement for all their sin, and still, some refuse to acknowledge him.

Why did he do it? Out of love. Because of love. On account of love. And you can add grace and mercy to that. The gospel of John, chapter 13 describes it – “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” Then John describes the moving scene when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. An act of servitude, an act of profound love and grace that changed those whom he served. But then he topped it. He went on to suffer the humiliation and torture of the cross. That was an act of love that changed the world. That was why Jesus was born.

As Christians we strive to imitate Christ. As writers we must do the same. Do it all out of love. Because of love. On account of love. Not just of the process, the challenge and the end results, but of Him and those whom we serve.