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Thursday, May 31, 2012

And the Winner is ...

Martha Rogers! Congratulations, Martha. You've won Sandra D. Bricker's new release Always the Designer Never the Bride.

Writing Nostalgia and Other Period Pieces

Nostalgia is the deep bond we have with the past. It is delicate, but potent. In Greek, nostalgia literally means a pain from an old wound, a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. It goes backward and forward and takes us to a place where we ache to go again.

This paraphrase from Don Draper, the über ad man from Mad Men caught my attention and describes my passion as a writer: taking the reader on a nostalgic journey.

It’s not as easy as you think, but here are some guidelines to steer you in the right direction:

There must be a reason for placing your story in a certain year or decade.
A backdrop of world events or social customs unique to the era make a story feel organic.
This establishes credibility and gives texture to the story even if it’s not the major plot.
Everything else springs from this so choose your era and events wisely.

Research is vital.
Historical inaccuracy breaks the “fictional dream” and pulls readers from the story.
Memory is faulty, so it’s imperative to check the facts: music, TV shows, brand names, and products. If you get it wrong, your readers will tell you about it. (Ouch!)
“Rule of Threes” – try to obtain three sources. Consider the reliability of the source. For example: government documents or professional journal articles are more reliable than random blog articles.
Visit the setting. If that’s not possible, use Google maps for general lay of the land and read books and newspapers from the era for public opinions of the day.
Don’t impose modern views on historical characters.
Organize your materials (a whole other blog post!).

Vivid, specific details elicit emotion.
Sights, sounds, and smells draw the reader in. Music is a powerful tool. Nothing nails an era like its particular “sound.”
Smell evokes emotion because it is associated with memory.
Visualize scenes like a movie in your head. Smell the popcorn at the theater. Hear the guns blazing in the wide screen of your mind. Watch the colors and the landscape drift by. Voices and speech patterns will come more naturally with this exercise.

Language and slang.

Language and slang create a doorway to your time period and give regional distinction to your writing. You hardly ever hear anyone today say, “cool cat” or “the cat’s pajamas.”
Likewise, don’t have your vintage or historical characters use modern slang.
Dialect: Use sparingly, if at all. Use syntax and grammar to denote dialect. An occasional mention of an Irish brogue or that the character came from the hills of Arkansas, and readers will get it. Promise.

Are you up for the challenge? The ultimate sweet reward is having a reader say, “I felt like I was there and didn’t want to leave.” Transport your readers into the fictive dream and give them an emotional experience. They will thank you for it.


Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. A child of the fifties and sixties, she recalls it as a glorious time when the summers were lazy, colors were brighter, and music filled her heart. Carla’s desire is to take readers back to the times when they knew they were loved, to that warm, familiar place in their hearts called “home.”

Her award-winning novels include Chasing Lilacs and Broken Wings. Stardust is her newest release. She loves readers and participating in book club discussions. You can learn more about Carla and ways to connect with her at, twitter:!/ChasingLilacs and

STARDUST Book Blurb:

In the bayou country of East Texas, the neon sign of the STARDUST stands silent, no longer beckoning visitors to its cozy cottages. But two days after Georgia Peyton buries her unfaithful husband, a curious thing happens: the STARDUST sign sputters to life and winks at her. Sustained by a memory from the past and determined to build a new life, Georgia acquires the STARDUST with hopes of breathing new life into it too.

But the guests who arrive aren't what Georgia expects: her gin-loving mother-in-law; her dead husband's mistress; an attractive drifter who's tired of the endless road; and an aging Vaudeville entertainer with a disturbing link to Georgia's past. Dreams of a new life are crippled amid the havoc. Georgia's only hope is that she can find the courage to forgive those who've betrayed her, the grace to shelter those who need her, and the moxie to face the future. One thing is certain: under the flickering neon of the STARDUST, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Branding, by Sandra D. Bricker & Book Giveaway!

For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mom became ill in Florida, Sandie left L.A. and screenwriting behind. With 15 books now in print and 5 more slated for publication through 2013, Sandie has carved out a niche for herself as a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market.

NR: To be entered in a drawing for Always the Designer Never the Bride, leave a comment for Sandra. U.S. residents only, please.

The topic of BRANDING has been a hot-button issue among writers lately, and I recently assembled a group of industry professionals to discuss it for a blog I wanted to put together. Before my writing days, I was a publicist for actors, and I had to deal with the issue of typecasting on a pretty regular basis.

But around the time that Always the Baker Never the Bride was released by Abingdon Press, branding entered my radar for the first time as an author. My dream of writing suspense was shoved to the sideline by a successful string of romantic comedies from Summerside and Abingdon Press.

During my chats on the subject, author Jenny B. Jones commented that one of the down sides of branding, for her, has been that readers aren’t totally aware that she writes anything EXCEPT YA, even though she clearly does. “I've seen bloggers mention one of my women's rom-coms and call it a YA,” she explained.

Agent Tamela Hancock Murray believes that, once an author becomes established, readers look for certain types of books from that author and could be disappointed when they find they’ve bought something else entirely. She uses music as the comparison. “If you are a fan of a dance music group, wouldn't you be disappointed by a recording featuring nothing but ballads?

No matter how good the ballads are, they are still slow grooves and not the upbeat tunes you were expecting. In my view, giving readers what they expect from you, but still keeping stories fresh, is the best path.”

Jeane and Tyson Wynn, longtime publicists for the Christian market, chimed in with their perspective. “It’s a waste of effort and lost opportunity,” Jeane says, “if authors don’t use the cheap and, in most cases, free tools available to them to reinforce their brand.” Through modern tools such as social media, she expounds, authors can “regularly engage their fans, which constantly goes to establishing their brand.”

Barbara Cameron, an author known in recent months for top-of-the-line Amish fiction, hopes that – branding aside – she has established herself as “a good writer, not just a good Amish writer.” And I’ve had the same hopes, especially in the beginning of my career when I had my eye on writing suspense rather than romantic comedy.

However, once the Another Emma Rae Creation series took off, I’ve found that my readers pick up my books with the specific expectation of a healthy dose of humor. The thought of letting them down is what inspired my quest for professional insights on the topic of branding.

One of the things I’ve learned is that branding is a bit of a familiarization technique for an author to effectively “make friends” with readers. Jeane Wynn cites the example of tag lines, such as mine: Author of Laugh-Out-Loud Fiction for the Inspirational Market.

“Brandilyn Collins is known by her Seatbelt Suspense,” Jeane explains, “and Terri Blackstock writes Up All Night fiction, so even though they both write suspense, the branding really enables both of those suspense authors to carry their own identity.” So fans of previous books provide a built-in market for new books, and there are always opportunities to try to expand within your brand.

With all the talk of platform these days,” Jeane’s husband and business partner, Tyson Wynn, adds, “it’s always a plus to take an existing potential market to a publisher when hoping they’ll publish your book. Branding can help to build that platform, which certainly is no guarantee of a publishing success, but it can help decision-makers as they decide whose book they want to take a chance on.”

As I’ve to make a definitive decision on the impact of branding on my future directions as a writer, I can’t help remembering an actor I used to know in Los Angeles. He left the steady paycheck and sort of stratosphere kind of notoriety of the soap opera he was on, and ended up coming back a year or two later.

When I asked him about it, he said that no one wanted to see him for anything other than that character he’d made famous. Meg Ryan had the same challenge when she branched out of the cute little romantic comedy heroines she made famous.

So for any writer considering their next move, I do caution you to think about branding as you look into the bigger, more far-reaching picture of your ultimate career path. A little analysis now can go a long way in building a writing career on solid ground rather than hindsight-seeking, shifting sand.

 Always the Designer, Never the Bride

How many dresses can a designer design before she finally designs her own?

Audrey Regan spent years establishing herself as a wedding dress designer and to date, she's been roped into creating dresses for nine of her girlfriends. Request #10 follows her vow to "Just say no!" and comes from her very best friend. She can hardly turn Carly down!

Audrey arrives in Atlanta to perform all of her maid-of-honor duties and the festivities make her question whether there's a prince of her own anywhere in her future. Enter the groom's brother and best man. J.R. Hunt couldn't be any more different from Prince Charming is he rode in on a Harley Davidson. Oh, wait. He actually did ride in on a Harley!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Random Highlights From The Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference

Last week I hung out in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains with fellow whackos in the publishing industry, so I thought I’d toss out a few random thoughts about the conference:

  • If you’re ever tempted to send a few e-mail zingers to the faculty e-mail list about how you’ll never get up on stage in front of the entire conference with a tiara on your head, trust me, don't do it. (No, there are no photos.)
  • Alton Gansky and Edie Melson consistently put together one of the best faculties of any conference. I repeatedly found myself wishing I wasn’t teaching because I wanted to go to two or three other classes being taught while I was speaking.
  • If you have a 15 minute appointment with an agent, editor, or author, use the time wisely. During one of my appointments I had a talented and sweet lady tell me about her book for fifteen minutes. I kept waiting for her to stop and ask me a question or two, but time ran out.  It’s so easy to get talking about our story or project we miss the chance to pick the brain of the person we've set up our appointment with. Ask questions first, speak second.
  • Torry Martin (who writes for Adventures in Odyssey among his 3,492 other talents) pegs past the red line on the entertainment scale. (He keynoted on Wednesday night and slayed all of us with his stellar sense of humor.)
  • Cecil Stokes (producer of the ground-breaking movie October Baby) is persuasive when you’re kind of hungry at 12 midnight there’s a Denny’s close by:
    James L. Rubart, Dina Sleiman, Susie Warren, Cecil Stokes, and Steven James
    • About half an hour into our meal someone asked if author Tosca Lee would be at the Christy Awards in July. (Steven, Susie, and I are up for the award as well and were discussing who among us would be at the ceremony.) I said I’d text her and find out if she would be there. Someone commented that it was 12:30. I said, “Yeah, but it’s only 11:30pm where Tosca lives. She’ll be up.” She was. Tosca proceeded to demonstrate why she should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for her speed-of-light texting ability. She was simultaneously texting all of us and sent out her multiple messages--and working on a side project as well--in the the time it took each of us to send one. And her texts were more than a few words.
  • Authors Susie Warren and Steven James have RADICALLY different ideas on how to craft a novel. Definitely entertaining to hear them (passionately) explain the merits of their methods—and question the other’s techniques. Since both of them are award-winning, bestselling authors, it’s a great reminder that there’s more than one way to craft exceptional fiction.
  • There’s never enough time to hang out with all the people you want to spend with. There’s one person in particular I didn’t get time with—next year I’m going to see them first.
  • It was confirmed once again the biggest highlight of the Blue Ridge conference (and most writing conferences) is the new relationships formed and the deepening of existing ones. In other words I love my fellow crazies dearly, and hanging out with them is gold.

If you’ve been to a conference this year, tell us about a few of your highlights. Inquiring whackos want to know. (And yes, feel free to guess why we're pointing in the photo above.)

James L. Rubart is the best-selling and award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. His next novel releases in October. More at

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How Do We "Glorify God" in Our Writing?

When asked what they hope to accomplish with their writing, Christian writers are fond of saying that they want to "glorify God." They want to magnify, exalt, honor, give witness of and uphold God in the stories they tell.

Which leads to a confession: I have no idea what they're talking about.

Of course, I realize that Christians are to glorify God in everything they do.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31).
But doesn't this render the Christian writer's response moot? I mean, if you're supposed to do EVERYTHING to the glory of God, why must you single out your writing?

  • Do you glorify God in how you eat?
  • Do you glorify God in your TV habits?
  • Do you glorify God in how you manage your money?
  • Do you glorify God in how you treat your boss?
  • Do you glorify God in how much you serve others?
  • Do you glorify God in your online presence?
  • Do you glorify God in how you market your book?

"Do ALL to the glory of God."

If this is assumed, then why are Christians writers so concerned to point out that their literary mission is to "glorify God"? That should be a given. In fact, if you're not glorifying Him with your whole life now, why should it matter that you stick references to Him in your stories?

And, sadly, that's what many folks mean by glorifying God in their writing. For most Christian writers, glorifying God is all about their message. It means not backing away from the Gospel and not avoiding references to Christ in their novel. It means developing content that is virtuous, redemptive, and spiritually uplifting.

Which leads me to ask: Can only writers of explicit "Christian content" glorify God in their writing? Can a Christian sportswriter glorify God in his writing? Can a Christian textbook maker glorify God in her writing? Can a Christian chef God in their cookbook? Can a Christian op-ed columnist glorify God in their editorial columns? Can a Christian scriptwriter for Nickelodeon glorify God in their writing?

IF NOT -- if only Christian writers can glorify God in Christian stories -- then how can a Christian ever hope to "do all to the glory of God"?

IF SO -- if Christians can glorify God in whatever kind of story they write (or task, service, job they perform) -- then how is glorifying God in a Christian story any different than glorifying God in a "secular" story?

Call me a stickler, a wet blanket if you like. But glorifying God seems to be a lot more than just going to church, quoting Scripture, referencing God, and distributing Bible tracts. Glorifying God is a lot bigger than just our message.

So why must our novels be any different?

* * *

Mike is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket. He is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, and an ebook novella, Winterland.  You can visit his website at

Listening for God's Voice

Sandra D. Bricker was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years. She is now a best-selling, award-winning author of laugh-out-loud fiction for the inspirational market. As an ovarian cancer survivor, she gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure. Her latest novel, Book #3 of 4 in the Another Emma Rae Creation series for Abingdon Press, is Always the Designer, Never the Bride. Sandie invites every reader to click the FOLLOW button on her newly-redesigned BLOG and contribute to the ongoing conversations.

I’m pleased to be back to share with you a special Bible study that I write for my church, CedarCreek, and their daily Bible study program called Living It Out (LIO). Each study is taken from the pastor's Sunday sermon, attempting to bring clarity and further explanation, or just to bless you in a deeper way as you strive to "live out" the teachings of the Bible. If you're interested in a deeper look at what you read here, please feel free to SIGN UP  for daily emailed studies to be sent to your inbox, or check out the audio versions for a quick Bible pick-me-up each day.

Words truly do matter! After all, if you misspell a word or forget a word, it could change the entire meaning of what you are trying to say. Take a gander at excerpts from actual church bulletins across the country and see why words matters:

  • Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles, and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
  • The outreach committee has enlisted 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.
  • Evening massage - 6 p.m.
  • The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.
  • Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30 p.m. Please use the back door.
  • Ushers will eat latecomers.
  • Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.
  • The Rev. Merriwether spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.
  • Next Sunday Mrs. Vinson will be soloist for the morning service. The pastor will then speak on "It's a Terrible Experience."
  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.
  • Don't let worry kill you off—let the church help.

Although we can get a good laugh from these Bulletin Bloopers, we need to realize that we are competing with voices and words trying to drown out the Word of God and its truth and how God speaks to us and impacts our daily lives.

Looking through the window on the morning of an unexpected snow, it can be difficult to spot the traces of the familiar path of the driveway or the sidewalk. But since you’ve lived in that home for many winters, you know it’s there; it’s just a matter of hauling out the shovel or the snow-blower and getting to work at finding it. It’s the same with searching for God’s voice. You’ve heard it before, so you know it’s there.
An important thing to bear in mind is that our God desires to commune and fellowship with us. In 1 Corinthians 1:9, Paul writes that He “has invited you into partnership (fellowship) with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Fellowship involves a great deal more than occasional or sporadic communication. In this technological age, when it’s so much easier to maintain and nurture long distance friendships because of the capacity to keep in closer touch beyond the occasional phone call, consider the many options we’ve also been given to nurture our relationship with God.
If the love of your life lived somewhere else for a time, you would certainly utilize every platform possible to keep in touch and to fellowship with them. You would email and text regularly, set times for intimate phone calls so that you might exchange little details about one another’s daily lives, perhaps even chat with hope about that coming day when you’ll be reunited at last.
How much more diligent can we be about listening, praying, reading His Word, and pushing through the noise to find that still, small voice within us that seeks a conversation? His desire is to share an intimate fellowship with each of us…even in the winter of our relationship with Him, when we have to haul out the shovel to find it.

When listening, reading, or even praying doesn’t clear the path to God’s voice, keep digging. It’s there, beyond the noise.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Two-Time Christy Winner, Jill Williamson

I'm so happy to have Jill Williamson here today. Not only does she write great fiction, but she's an Alaskan girl--lived just up the road from where I lived--so I really enjoyed talking with her.
Jill’s first novel, By Darkness Hid, won the Christy Award. She loves working with teenagers and gives writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children. Visit Jill online at

Welcome, Jill! First, tell us about your latest release, please.
Replication: The Jason Experiment is the story of a girl who discovers that her father is working at a cloning lab. It’s also the story of Martyr, one of the clones who escapes the lab and discovers the world for the first time.
I loved Martyr’s voice. Loved how he viewed the world. Did you have fun writing him? (Loved the dog!)
Yes, Martyr was a lot of fun to write. I found it interesting to see the world through his eyes, to appreciate things that I so easily take for granted every day.
He offered a great way for you to preach the gospel without making the book preachy. When did you realize that would be the case?
When Abby first prayed for her breakfast that day when Martyr was there. He asked the question and he just kept asking questions. Martyr wants to know everything, so he naturally wanted to know about the Creator of Everything too.
I thought it was brilliant for you to have this character who knew nothing and who was naturally curious.  Where did you get the idea for him? Where did you get the idea for Jason Farms?
I was riding in a car through upstate New York, on my way to pick apples with my family. We passed farm after farm after farm. And I got thinking. What if there was a farm that grew people? Clones. They could call it Jason Farms!
Oh! Upstate New York? Where did you live in Alaska? I lived off of Wasilla Fishhook for eighteen years, and I was sure Jason Farms was right there in the valley
I didn’t know that about you, Sally! I grew up in HoustonAlaska, which is about 25 miles north of Wasilla. Truly, when I first wrote Replication, it took place in Wasilla. But it was the Wasilla I remembered, not the Wasilla of today. When I was a kid, Wasilla had one stoplight. Now it’s massive! So I made up the town of Fishhook, based on Wasilla-Fishhook Road, and put it pretty much in the same place. 
When I moved to Wasilla, it had three stop lights. I haven't been back since it's been massive. What does it have now? Ten stop lights? :) 

I think I saw that you had another book coming with Marcher Lord Press, is that correct? Can you tell me what's coming out in the next year or so?
I do! The New Recruit is scheduled to release in September 2012. It’s the story of Spencer, a jock, who’s more interested in video games than God, being forced to join a spy organization that’s run by Christians. One thing he learns right away: this is no bible club. These guys mean business!
And I also have a dystopian novel scheduled to come out in February 2013 from Zonderkidz. Inspired by the first chapter of Daniel, Captives tells the story of a village conquered and three brothers, who fight to unite their people against the lure of wild entertainment, instant gratification, and materialism unbounded within their new home.
Those both sound great!

You won two Christy Awards with books published by Marcher Lord Press. I was at the dinner when you won the second one, and I heard Chip read your letter. It was very funny and well received. How did winning those awards affect your career?
I think it gave respect to both Marcher Lord Press and my name, that even though the books had come from a small press, they were of high quality. And they opened the door to my working with Zondervan and signing with an agent.
Why did you decide to publish with Marcher Lord Press? Did you try bigger publishers first, or did you want to go with Jeff because of his love for fantasy?
I had talked with some bigger publishers, but most of them weren’t interested in anything YA back then. It was bad timing for a YA author to be trying to get published in CBA. But I wasn’t trying to get published by Jeff when I showed him my chapter of what I then had called Bloodvoices and eventually became By Darkness Hid.  I respected his editing genius on The New Recruit (which I had paid him to freelance edit and, years later, he’s now publishing). So I wanted to know what he thought of my fantasy story. He asked me why it had to be young adult. I said that I guess it didn’t. And that was that.
Very cool. So, do you own an e-reader? Will you ever consider publishing your own e-books?
I do! I own an old school Kindle. It’s a second generation, I think. I love it because I can read other people’s books on it and get away from the computer that I sit at all day. But I must have paper copies of my favorite books too.
And, yes! I’d publish my own ebook right now if I had one ready. My son and I were working on some early reader books that we were going to epublish starting this December, but I’ve got a lot of books scheduled for the next two years, so I don’t know if it will work out.
Well good for us. I'm looking forward to all those books! 

Do your children read your books? Do they offer critique? Do they give you fodder for the books (with or without knowing it)?
I read my books aloud to my kids when I’m doing my final read-through. I catch more errors when I read aloud, and my son often asks questions to clarify. So far my kids haven’t given me too much fodder for my fiction, but my kids are only eight and ten. I suspect that soon they will be a constant source of inspiration!
Speaking of inspiration, do you have a life verse or a Bible passage that shows the direction you want to go with your writing?
Yes I do. It’s Psalm 96:3—“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”
Thanks for stopping by, Jill!
 is the local liaison for SCBWI in Cobb County, Georgia. She has published short works in a number of places and has received an SCBWI Work in Progress grant. She can usually be found blogging about young adult novels at

Friday, May 25, 2012

Silencing Your Inner Editor

Is your Inner Editor a friend or foe? For most of us the answer is dependent on where we are in the writing process. This overly helpful voice lives inside most of us and comes in handy when we’re putting the finishing touches on our manuscripts. But when we’re in the midst of a creative surge, that same help can short-circuit our progress.
There’s a scientific reason for that roadblock. The creative act of writing a first draft stems from the right side—or creative side—of the brain. Later in the process, when polishing begins, the left side takes over.
Right Brain
  • Visual in process, focusing more on patterns and images.
  • Generally intuitive, led by feelings.
  • Is the epitome of multi-tasking, able to process ideas simultaneously.
  • Progresses from the big picture to the details.
  • Lacks organization, utilizes free association.
Left Brain
  • More verbal, needs to find specific words to express ideas.
  • Analytical, led by logic.
  • Takes things step by step, one idea at a time.
  • Organizes details first before moving to the big picture.
  • Very organized, utilizing lists and detailed plans.
Mixing up the process—trying to use both sides of the brain at the same time—can lead to a tangled mess and a major roadblock. All of this is good to know, but what if our left-brained Inner Editor won’t go away? There isn’t one way that works for everyone, but here are some tips that should help.
  • Don’t give in to temptation. Our Inner Editor gets stronger the more frequently we give in to his demands. If he thinks you need a certain word before you can finish that sentence, stay strong. Type xxx and go on. Later, during the rewriting process, you’ll have plenty of time to find the right word. At this point in your manuscript, speed is your best friend.
  • Set a daily and weekly word count goal. This can often sidetrack the Inner Editor because of his need to meet a goal. Sometimes, in his drive to succeed he can even become an ally.
  • Make lists in a separate notebook. Use your computer for the story, but if the need for details overshadows the creative urge, make a quick note in a notebook. Don’t let yourself get bogged down.
  • Don’t give in to fear. Many times our Inner Editor is driven by fear. Fear that this draft isn’t good, won’t work or just doesn’t make sense. Remind yourself that this version isn’t written in stone. Sometimes just giving ourselves permission to write a crummy first draft is all we need to derail our inner editor.
No matter how insistent your Inner Editor, these tips can help you change his role from enemy to encourager.

Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog,The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She currently has two books available, the best selling eBook, Social Media Marketing for Writers, and her latest project, a devotional for those with family members in the military, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle.Married 30 years to her high school sweetheart, Kirk, they have raised three sons.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Doing New Things

“Sing to GOD a brand-new song. He’s made a world of wonders! He rolled up his sleeves, He set things right.” (Ps. 98:1, The Message)

Do you like doing new things?

I thought I did, until I had to do a really important new thing—find a job. Then I realized that what I really like is routine.

I enjoy the comfort of getting up in the morning and knowing, within some parameters, what I’m going to do that day.

Writers straddle this line

We love working on our existing manuscripts—crafting characters, deepening plots, adding in those glorious sensory details. We love writing, but more than that we love having written, as Dorothy Parker said.

I treasure the opportunity to spend more time with my characters, messing up their lives and figuring out how to fix it. I dread coming to the end of the book—until I’ve written “The End” and then I love it.

For about 30 minutes.

That’s when I first start to think about what comes next: Starting a new book. Shortly, the creative paralysis sets in.

Can’t afford to shut down

Knowing this about myself as a writer, coming to a screeching halt is what I need to avoid when looking for a new job. After all, as a job applicant, there is only so much you can do—and then you’re waiting on some company’s Human Resources department.

So I determined to move forward with an idea I’d been toying with for several years, but never had the time to pursue: freelance editing. This week I debuted

What fine line?

You’ve heard someone say, “There’s a fine line between ‘this’ and ‘that’.” Well, I see fine lines everywhere. For instance, there’s a fine line between:
  • Being ready for publication and being published.
  • Having completed a manuscript and having that manuscript ready for publication.
  • Having the desire to write and having the determination to complete a manuscript.

I believe, based on my past experiences and my skills, that I can help writers cross over the fine line separating them from the next step on their journey.

What you’ll find on my site

On Tuesdays, come Into the Edit with me as we look at one author’s writing before, during, and after my edit. Ane Mulligan was this week’s author.

Thursdays we’ll look at ways you can improve your writing (also known as self-editing) to move you closer to your goal–whether that’s publication or ministry-related. Today begins a two-part look at ways to add clarity to your writing.

Then, on Saturdays, stop in for a clever or humorous writing quote as a way to ease out of the week.

Doing something new can be scary, but The Word addresses this, of course:
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! (Isaiah 43:19, The Message)

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying a new playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor/writer at and as a contributor here on Novel Rocket. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Somewhere over the Rainbow. . .

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie grows much of her own food and is active in the local food movement as well as her church. She only hopes her imaginary friends enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, gardening and geocaching with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Check out her website and blog at

Rumor has it that somewhere, over the rainbow, there's a pot of gold. Occasional reports trickle back from that distant land. Some confirm the existence of treasure while others express doubt.
As prepublished writers, that first contract seems as elusive as a pirate's hidden treasure box. But when it's in hand, we realize the trail isn't over. There are more rainbows, more pots of gold (mostly metaphorical). More dreams of multi-book deals, of royalties, of bestseller lists, of fame. But how do we get there? 
I can't give you a path. I've only reached the first milestone myself. But like any good treasure hunt, there are a series of waypoints, or intermediate goals, along the way.
My husband and I began geocaching in 2008. This is an electronic treasure hunt game using a GPS (global positioning system) receiver to find your exact position on the planet: the latitude and longitude. Having found the coordinates for a cache online at, you're now trying to get yourself to the same coordinates so that you can locate the physical cache. Sometimes the website will give you clues--either a little poem, a riddle, a cryptogram, or some other veiled hint to help you find your way.
Not only did I get a story idea or two from the adventure of trudging along behind my husband up steep mountain trails in search of the latest geocache, but the correlation to writing began to seep into my mind.
The geocache is a defined, precise goal. You know when you've found it. You open it up, peer inside, and sign the logbook. You can exchange a piece of treasure you've brought for something someone else has left behind. Getting a book contract is also a specific goal. When you sign that contract, you know that particular target has been met.
I've seen Jim circling around a clearing in the woods or over boulders beside a river, watching his step and his GPS unit at the same time. The coordinates are right. That cache has got to be here somewhere. It's so close we might be tripping over it.

I felt the same about finding a publishing contract for several years. I'd done everything 'right.' I'd finaled in ACFW's Genesis contest 3 years running. My writing was getting stronger. I'd worked my way through, past, or around the riddles and clues--aka writing advice--along the path, even though many of them conflicted.
Yet not every rock had been turned over. While all the signals I received indicated that I was on target and I'd find the 'treasure' at any moment, still I continued to stumble in circles. Why? It wasn't yet time.
There are so many kinds of treasure. A geocache is only one. While it's wonderful to use electronics to get off the sofa and into the awesome wilderness that God created for us to enjoy, finding a cache is only a temporary thrill.
A writing contract--a book in hand--is another prize. It's definitely a more permanent legacy that may last longer than our lifetimes. Much good, some of it of eternal value, can come from securing this treasure. But in itself, it still isn't the most precious wealth.
What is? The only treasure any of us can bring into eternity is a soul. All the prosperity we've amassed in our life on earth will stay behind. So while there's nothing wrong with seeking a geocache or a book contract, keep your eye on the real prize: believing God's gift of salvation and encouraging others to accept it, too.
Now that's a treasure worth striving for.

Valerie's one-and-only release is a novella in Rainbow's End, where four young women invite you to join them in a geocaching adventure along the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Will they find the treasure they’re looking for. . .or something else entirely? For more about Rainbow's End and geocaching, check out Romancing America.

Oh, My Galoshes, Noah Lukeman Was Right!

Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers. Her books have received an RT Reviewers Choice Award and a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence final. Find out more or join her newsletter in the space provided at 

OH MY GALOSHES, Noah Lukeman was RIGHT!

In case you’re wondering, the galoshes are because we have been bombarded by rain this week.

Sloshing onward…

Noah Lukeman, esteemed Literary Agent and bestselling author of many popular craft books, penned one of my favorites: The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile.

If you are an aspiring author and don’t yet have it, do yourself and your chances at publication a favor and purchase one for your Keeper Craft Bookshelf. His book can be purchased here:

In it, Lukeman discusses common writing mistakes that are across-the-board to new writers. He talks about the importance of Presentation…the immediate, out-of-the-gate perception that your first five pages will give to potential editors or agents.

In short, you have one shot within these first-impression pages to reel in or repel them.

Sounds harsh, I know, but you have to understand how intense the competition is and the astronomically high number of stellar submissions agents and editors get on a regular basis.

This is not meant to discourage you. This is meant to give your story a better shot at standing out among the multitudes.

This is VITAL information you MUST know if you are an aspiring author serious about breaking in: For two years in a row, I’ve been polling agents and editors from ABA and CBA about how long they read submissions before they know whether the manuscript is a go or a definite no go. I suspected that many of them would know by the end of the first ten pages, but was shocked at the outcome of this poll.

I phrased the question like this: If you are, or have been an acquisitions editor, or an agent, and have time to answer this question, I'd appreciate it. This is for a conference workshop.

Question: The majority of the time, how long do you MOST COMMONLY read material from a slush pile before you (usually) know for certain a manuscript will receive a "pass" verdict?

Please respond with one letter below.

A. First line.
B. First paragraph.
C. By the end of page one
D. Within three pages
E. Within five pages
F. Within ten pages
G. By the end of the first chapter
H. Within the first three chapters or before fifty pages
I. Mid-book
J. By the end of the book
K. Other (Please explain)

Without having seen anyone else’s response, A WHOPPING 97% of the hundreds polled gave “C” as the answer!!!

That means ONLY a handful of those interviewed gave an alternate answer.

NO ONE gave an answer beyond G other than ONE new literary agent who said he or she would actually read the entire manuscript. I’d be interested in knowing if this agent has since changed their mind about that. LOL!

In summary, how important is the first page of your manuscript? Crucial.

My advice?

STRIVE for absolute excellence in that first page.

Then write EVERY page as if it were your first page.

Thanks for being with me today. I’d love to know what your personal first-page weakness is.

Maybe in sharing, it can help others struggling.

The Doctor's Devotion

When he fled Eagle Point years ago, former air force trauma surgeon Mitch Wellington left only broken dreams behind. Now he's back with a new dream—opening a trauma center in the rural area and saving lives. He hopes to hire the quick-thinking nurse who impressed him during an emergency. But Lauren Bates lost her faith and doesn't believe she deserves to help anyone. Mitch knows firsthand what loss feels like. And it'll take all his devotion to show Lauren that sometimes the best medicine is a combination of faith, community—and love.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What are "Hidden Sales?"

by Mary DeMuth

She approached me from across a crowded hallway. "I feel like I know you," she said. "I receive your newsletters. Thank you."

I asked her about her family.

"I wanted to tell you thank you for Thin Places," she said after our small talk. "I've passed it to a friend who's passed it along several times."

In one quick moment, I felt sad. Passing a book along five times prevented five sales. But in the next moment, I smiled. I thanked her for passing the book along. I wondered who the book had been passed to, what had been the response, how God had worked.

Lying in my bed that night, I told my husband about the encounter. And I marveled at what sales might mean in eternity. Probably nothing at all. What will matter is influence, how my words expanded the kingdom of God. My hunch is that the passalong "sales" are what will make heaven so interesting. People I've never met who read my words, chew on them, and hopefully fall in love with Jesus more.

Don't be discouraged, then, if you see your book at Half Price Books, or a garage sale. Don't be bothered by people checking it out from their library. Don't fret when people pass your book on because they love it so much. Instead, be encouraged. Be thrilled. Be expectant.

Those "hidden sales" will mean something.

I've simplified my life, making my facebook page truly for deep, sweet friends and family. If you'd like to get regular updates, join my public page here. Find out more about my books, life and crazy thoughts on my blog.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Part of The Kingdom - M. Laycock

A friend just sent me a link to a Youtube video of a bunch of musicians singing Stand By Me. I've seen it before; it has been circulating for a long time but it still made me smile as I watched it again. In fact, in made me choke up just a little. It's not just the song, it's the fact that the song was being sung by many different musicians all over the world, from New Orleans to Umlazi, from Moscow to Caracas, and many others in between. It's the idea of the possibility of that kind of oneness that makes me get a little emotional. It's the idea that people can and do join together in like mind, for one purpose, that is inspiring.

I remember another day when the tears seeped from my eyes. I'd only been a Christian for about two years when God moved my husband and me and our two little girls from a tiny town in the Yukon to a Bible College campus in Saskatchewan, Canada. The culture shock was still fresh when we attended our first church service there. As we walked to the church that Sunday morning I was suddenly overwhelmed. Throngs of people were walking, driving, biking, all in the same direction. There were about three thousand people doing the same thing all at the same time - going to a building on the bald prairie to worship God. And I suddenly realized there were many more, all over the world, doing the same thing.

We had come from a very tiny church in an isolated place and at times it often seemed that we were alone in the world. But on that day, for the first time, I realized I was part of something huge - part of a mass of people of like mind, moving together for one purpose. That morning I realized I was part of a Kingdom.
I'll soon be attending a writers' conference where about two hundred and fifty people will gather to hear speakers, talk to agents and publishers, and learn from one another. I remember the first time I attended a large conference like this; I had many of the same feelings as that day on the Canadian prairie. I felt part of something huge - part of a group all working toward one purpose, to build the Kingdom.

Writing is a solitary profession. You can feel like you're trying to do something all alone. But we are all part of something huge, something God-ordained. It's inspiring now and then to be able to lift your head and see the bigger picture - masses of individuals with their heads bent over their keyboards doing what God has asked them to do, bring glory to Him through their stories.

Yes, it brings tears to my eyes. And I'm humbled to know I'm part of it.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1).

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her debut novel, One Smooth stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone, can be ordered from any bookstore or from her website at

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top 5 Reasons Writers Write

Why is it when you tell someone you’re an author, they immediately ask how much you make? When I find out the fella sitting next to me at a potluck is a plumber, the next words out of my mouth aren’t, “How much does that pay?”

But even worse are those “discreet” people. The crafty ones who slink around the edge of the question they’re dying to ask and come at you with, “So, I bet your book is selling really well, hmm?”

Far be it from me to drizzle on everyone’s parade, but here’s a newsflash: most authors don’t have a Swiss bank account where they store their hordes of cash offshore. In fact, most authors are lucky to have an intact piggy bank sitting on a shelf in their bedroom.

I propose that the real question snoopy-snooperbees should ask isn’t how much do writers make, but why do writers write? What drives a relatively normal human being to stare at a screen for hours on end, fatiguing brain cells to create a twisty-turny plot with memorable characters, all for pennies per word?

Lots of reasons, really, but here are the 5 biggies…

Cheaper Than Prozac
Writing is a way to make sense of and sort through emotions. Who needs a shrink if you can work out your frustrations on paper? Fiction is a safe environment to build a world and play the what-if game.

No Felonies Involved
Some people are hooked on crack cocaine. Others sell their soul for meth. Let’s face it; writing is an addiction. A compulsion. The act of writing gives writers a huge warm fuzzy.

FAFSA or Student Loans Not Required
Writing is an education. There’s always something new to learn about the craft or a deeper level of knowledge to attain. And no matter what genre you write in, there’s always research to be done.

To Avoid Groping TSA Agents
Love to go on vacation but hate the hassle at the airport? That’s one of the best things about writing. Escaping into the world of story saves tons of money and you don’t have to apply for a passport.

To Breathe
The bottom line is that writers write because they must. It’s an expression of self. To deny that self causes huge amounts of frustration and invalidation…which makes for a very cranky person.

Not that getting a fat advance or a juicy royalty check isn’t important. It’s just not the end all and be all of a writer at heart. In the words of one of my favorite authors…

“I write for the same reason I breathe ~ because if I didn’t, I would die.”
~ Isaac Asimov

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas…professionally, however, for the past 10 years. Her latest release, UNDERCURRENT, is available by Risen Books. You can find her at: Writer Off the or on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.