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Monday, April 30, 2012


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Brandilyn Collins is known for her Seatbelt Suspense®--fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists and an interwoven thread of faith.

What have been the benefits to you in having relationships with reading groups?

 I love talking to readers about my books and hearing how they related to the characters and story. Each reader reacts to a story depending on his or her past experiences. So you’ll get a wide range of reactions. Also I enjoy being able to tell readers some of the background that went into writing the story, e.g., how the story came to be in the first place, and why I wrote it the way I did.

Where would you like to see your relationship with reading groups grow? How do you think your goals can be met?

 I’d love to see more reading groups take a chance on reading one of my suspense novels. The problem is, there are folks out there who just won’t read a suspense, saying they’ll be too scared, have nightmares, whatever. It seems there’s one in every reading group, so that keeps the group from venturing into suspense. Of course I’m biased, but I tend to think they don’t know what they’re missing!

Do you have a set size a reading group has to be before you'll talk to them on the phone or in person? What do you feel most comfortable doing?

 Me and the real Cherrie Mae.
Not really. Phoning is easy. I can’t do a personal appearance unless the group is very local to me. That is fun, and I enjoy it.

Which type of book club meeting do you prefer? Why?

No set format for me. In general I enjoy a meeting in which people are honest and open about their reactions to the book, and are also willing to hear and absorb my reasons for writing the story the way I did. Also—for any book clubs reading my latest release, Gone to Ground: I’d love to tell the full story of my researching the book, and how I met a wonderful woman named Cherrie Mae, whose name was perfect for my character. The real Cherrie Mae gave me permission to use her name, and later played the part of my character Cherrie Mae in the book trailer. (Have you seen that trailer? It’s great! See it here )

What have you learned about your book and yourself from book club meetings? If so, what?

Just how vastly different readers’ reactions are! Again, the reason for that lies in personal experience, so there’s nothing I can do about that. No matter my story, even if almost everyone loves it, someone won’t. That’s life.

Did you learn more about your characters than what you had originally intended? If so what?
Terri Blackstock & Bradilyn passing time @book signing - Fun
Sometimes I do—not necessarily just from book club meetings, but from all the emails I receive. Sometimes—again due to personal experience—a reader might read something into a character that I didn’t consciously consider when writing the book. That’s always very enlightening.

Have you been surprised by readers’ reactions to one of your books? Characters? If so, which ones?

I can’t say reactions to any one book have greatly surprised me. In my latest release, Gone to Ground, which features three protagonists each telling her story in first person, overwhelmingly readers choose Cherrie Mae as their favorite character. I’m no longer surprised by that. And really, I can see why. She’s a great gal.

Has your book club experience - getting feed back from reading groups - helped you in writing future books? If so, how has it helped you?

Only in the sense that feedback from readers in general keep me keepin’ on—writing my Seatbelt Suspense®. That trademark carries a four-point brand promise: fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists and an interwoven thread of faith. Every novel I write must live up to that four-point promise, because readers are expecting that from me.

Why write Christian Fiction? What is the draw for you?

There’s the whole ministry side of it, but I’ll focus on just the writing side here. I find my suspense is far deeper, the characters more three-dimensional, when I can interweave a Christian-themed thread into the story. In suspense characters are pushed to the utmost in conflict—typically a protagonist’s very life is at stake. You’ve heard that saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” We understand that. When people are pushed into high trauma, even those who haven’t thought much about God in the past end up praying. End up realizing there may be more to life than just what’s in front of their face. In Christian fiction, I can show that. The human condition is three-fold: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Secular suspense deals with only the first two. But that’s only two layers of our humanity. When all three levels are portrayed, the characterization deepens.

What do you hope readers take away from your new book? Gone to Ground is a Southern mystery-suspense.

If someone has been afraid to read one of my suspense novels, this would be the one to try. It’s very character-driven and not scary. The story in a nutshell: In small-town Mississippi, six murders have occurred. Now to their horror, three women of three different generations realize they know who the killer is—someone dear to them. Independently, not talking to anyone, each woman must make the terrifying decision to bring the man down. But each woman suspects a different man. That’s the story on the surface. The (subtle) interwoven thread of faith has to do with hypocrisy, and how it can creep into anyone’s life. I’d love for some book clubs to read Gone to Ground and discuss how this element of the story affects each character. Other things to discuss in Gone to Ground: (1) The use of dialect for characterization. Did it work for the reader? Most readers say yes. To those who say no—how would the characterization have been affected if it hadn’t been used? (2) Cherrie Mae tends to quote classical literature, using a quote that speaks to the issue at hand. What is each reader’s favorite classical quote? In the back of Gone to Ground is a list of many other discussion questions that probe the story, characters, writing technique, and faith element.

Can you give us a peek at what you are working on now? When will it be out?

Double Blind, another stand-alone suspense, releases October 15. Story in a nutshell: When severely depressed Lisa Newberry hears of a medical trial for a tiny brain chip that can heal her, she knows it’s her last hope. But what if she receives only the placebo? What if something far worse goes wrong …?


What are three things you wouldn’t want to live without? – (Besides family and your Bible that’s a given)

My morning latte, made my moi on my handy-dandy espresso machine,Jogging,My Select Comfort bed

Your friend has a time machine and their going to let you use it for a while. Where would you go and what would you do?

To the future in the year 3000 to see what the world and technology looks like. (If it’s still here.)

What are two places you’d like to visit if you had a chance? Why?

I’ve been to quite a few countries, but not to Australia. That’s the first. Second, I’d like to go back to Fiji. Both beautiful, tropical places.

What three movies could you watch over and over again?

The Blues Brothers. (Makes me laugh.) Scent of a Woman. (Wonderful movie, wonderful acting.) Witness. (Superb screenwriting. Almost every major turning point in the movie has no dialogue. Just brilliant.)

Name three favorite books you read as a child?

I read the Hardy Boys series. And the Bobbsy Twins books. Can’t remember any titles today, but there were plenty of books in both series to keep me busy for awhile.

~ Brandilyn

 Nora: Loved all your pictures Brandilyn. Looks like you and Terri Blackstock had way too much fun (or time on your hands) in Jackson, MS book signing!! Wish I could have been there. Grin! This book and your next one really look good.

I'm Thrilled to announce 
B & H is sponsoring a GIVEAWAY contest for FIVE copies of Gone to Ground.

 Contest starts MAY 19th - 21st @ The Book Club Network

See you there! 

Nora :o)
The Book Club Network CEO

Before You Hit Send on Your Manuscript

Nothing is more exciting and unnerving than finishing edits and getting ready to send in a manuscript to an agent or editor. Even if you and your critique partners have gone over your pages several times, doubts still nag.

Did I catch every misspelled word and homonym?
When I made my last edits did I inadvertently cut out or add another word?
Is my writing the best it can be?

Whether you’re a contracted author or an unpublished hopeful, there’s always some lingering anxiety when turning in a manuscript. Over the years I’ve learned a few things to help answer the above questions and make my manuscript the best it can be before I hit send.

Check for Repetitive/Weasel Words

No matter how many times I think I’m being creative in my word usage the same words seem to show up in every chapter, multiple times. Aside from starting my own Repetitive Word List with alternate synonyms I can choose from at a glance, I’ve been using Notetab light for years, thanks to a tip from author DiAnn Mills. While I'm sure this free download can be used for many different things, I use it to calculate my repetitive/weasel words. In a matter of seconds it calculates how many times (and what percentage) I use every word in my WIP. Then I identify my overused words and do a search and replace with the weasel words in all CAPS, so I can identify that word later in my read through and find an alternate. This search not only identifies my weasel words, but helps me identify passive writing so I make it active.

Listen to your Manuscript

No matter how many times I read my manuscript, there always seems to be one more mistake I missed. That’s why I listen to my manuscript before I turn it in. Even when I think my story is polished, my ear picks up several mistakes when I listen and read along. Microsoft reader has a free download where you can import your WIP and have it read back to you. There are other programs available like Natural reader, and you can even convert your manuscript into a pdf file and listen to it that way. These are all free and work fine if you don’t mind the robotic voice, otherwise you can upgrade for a more humanlike reader.

Do One Last Read Through

After listening to my manuscript and making the corrections, there’s always a chance my fingers added or deleted something unintentionally, so I go over it one last time. I can really be OCD about checking and rechecking, but no matter how many times I read or listen to my WIP or have my crit partners look it over, I always find one more mistake.

Double Check Your Attachment

Though many authors will agree you can edit your manuscript indefinitely and never truly be satisfied, there comes a time when you have to hit that send button. Still there’s one more ritual I go through even after I attach the document. I open up the attachment at least once to make sure I attached the right one. Just the other day I attached the wrong document because I had several earlier versions of the manuscript in my folder. Imagine my embarrassment to realize too late that I sent the wrong document. Thankfully that didn’t happen because I double checked my attachment.

Every author has their own pre-send ritual, but no matter what you do, you have to hit send on your manuscript sooner or later. Better find what works for you and be thorough and confident you’ve just turned in your best story possible, than have the doubts linger.

How do you get your manuscript in the best shape possible before you hit send?

Gina Conroy, a.k.a. "the other Gina," is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket. She's the founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Interview With Teen Novelist, Rachel Coker

Rachel Coker resides in Lanexa, Virginia with her parents, who’ve homeschooled her since she was a child, and two sisters. She has a passion for great books, and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her gift for writing became apparent at the age of eleven, at which time her parents, who owned a Christian bookstore,  signed her up for a year of lessons with a professional writing coach. Rachel also has a deep love for classical music and old black-and-white movies. When she is not writing or playing the piano, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends and serving God.

Rachel, I'm so happy you've found the time to do an interview here. I've been eager to find out a little about you and your work. Tell me about your recent release.

My debut YA novel, Interrupted: Life BeyondWords, just came out in March! It’s been so exciting to watch this book grow from just an idea in my head, to some words typed out on my computer, to an actual book that I can hold in my hands and read! It’s a story that’s really close to my heart and one that I love talking about and sharing. Interrupted revolves around the life of Allie Everly, a teenager growing up in the 1940’s. From a very young age, Allie has to cope with caring for her terminally ill mother and dealing with the grief that surrounds her death. After her mother passes away, Allie is sent to live with an adopted mother half-way across the country! Interrupted is really just the story of how Allie goes from a grief-stricken, bitter and angry girl into a woman who realizes that she can open her heart to love and family, even if she’s not experiencing the life she had originally planned on. Her eyes are opened to the love that surrounds her, and she comes to realize that the best way to deal with pain and sadness is not to cling on to the past, but to embrace what God has given you in the present. It’s a very sweet story.

Ah, yes, we are often so busy weeping about the past or waiting for the future that we fail to live in the present. What is your goal when you put Christian messages into your novels?

Well, my goal is not to be preachy or judgmental. While my books do have a Christian message, I always try to work it in as a part of that character’s story, not a five-point sermon. When the reader gets to a passage in one of my books where a character learns about God’s Word or comes to salvation, I’d love for that person to feel inspired and encouraged, not angry or hostile. The message of the Gospel is one of hope. We realize that even though we have rejected Christ and gone our own way, we are still offered the gift of salvation and peace. Many of my characters find joy and peace in Christianity, and that’s what I hope my readers will find as well!

When you started did you think you'd get the book published?

It never even crossed my mind, to tell the truth! I was a fourteen year old kid (I can say that now, with all the wisdom of my sixteen years), and I was just writing because it’s what I loved to do. It wasn’t until I finished writing Interrupted that I started thinking about getting it published. But even then, it wasn’t as much of a life-long desire and out-of-reach goal, as much as it was the extremely mature approach of: I spent a lot of time working on this and I might as well try to get it published. When you’re fourteen, you’re kind of ignorant about how difficult that might be.

But with God all things are possible! And it helps to have an agent. How did you find yours?

Once again, this sounds so immature and silly, but I literally just Googled “Christian literary agents” on my computer. I checked out a book from the library on how to write cover letters, and sent a short email to about a dozen different agents. I can honestly say that it was by God’s grace alone that I ever got published, because only one man was even interested in reading a book written by a teenager, and that’s the agent who I ended up signing my book with.

Smart man. OK the question we all want answered…how in the world did you find a publisher? It's pretty incredible for a sixteen-year-old girl to be published. You are a great writer, but did you have to fight to be read? Do you think it was harder for publishers to take you seriously because of your age, or do you think your age helped you because you're unique?

I think that my age was both a stumbling block and a catalyst to my entrance into the publishing world, if that makes any sense. So maybe you could say that my age tripped me on my face and then picked me and carried me across the finish line. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but it’s definitely true! Publishers were wary about signing a minor because of not only the legal implications, but the risk of immaturity. It’s hard to focus on working and writing when you have all the stress of school, growing up, and basically trying to be a normal teenager. On the other hand, I think that Zondervan realized that my story would appeal to a lot of teenagers all over the world. We all fit into the same basic mold. We’re trying to grow up and make our voices known and gain the respect of adults, but we don’t want to lose our individuality. So I think that it’s encouraging for teens to hear about my story because it lets them know that they can still do what they love and be successful at it, no matter what their age.

But they probably won't all be published quite as quickly as you've been. It's not easy to get published. I think you put a lot of work into this. You say you were fourteen when you started this book (I hope your parents eased some of the stress by letting you work on the book as part of your schooling!), but most authors don't get the first thing they write published. Did you write other things before you wrote Interrupted?

I wrote my first fiction story in sixth grade. It was a short story for a school assignment, and oozed of melodrama and sentimentalism. But it had good bones, and I guess my mom saw the potential. So she hired a fiction writing tutor to help me learn how to write, and I worked with him for about a year. After seventh grade, I was on my own. I just wrote all the time and tried to develop my own style and voice.

What are your three favorite novels?

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell; Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson, and Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. Kind of an eclectic mix, but I love them all.

What do you think is most important--conflict, characters, or voice? What should we work on first, or can they not be separated?

Characters. Books should always be focused on characters first, story second. The first thing I always think of when I’m coming up with a new book idea is my main character. Is she quiet, funny, sweet? What kind of background does she come from? What are her hopes and dreams for the future? And then the story sort of centers around that. As my characters grow, the story moves along with them. Just like in real life. What’s important isn’t what’s going on in the world around us, it’s how those changes impact our personal lives and journeys.

What is your favorite part of writing novels?

Getting to know my characters. I like to call it “meeting new people”. When you take the characters-first approach, you really view the individuals who make up your book as real people. You know their hopes and dreams and fears and all their innermost parts. And you really grow to love them because of it. You cry when you have to put them through something embarrassing or painful, and you get giddy with excitement when you give them a really great moment. You care about them as if they were your real friends.

Ha! I remember the first time I had characters kiss and call each other silly pet names. I was embarrassed for them. I thought, "If they knew we were all watching them, they wouldn't be acting this way. They think they're alone." I felt bad for not giving them privacy.

OK, last question: Do you have a life verse or a Bible passage that shows the direction you want to go with your writing?

Yes, absolutely! I sign all of my books with the verse Galatians 6:14, which says, “But may it never be that I would boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” That’s a really special verse to me, because it reminds me where I come from. I love sharing my special story with people and inspiring them to achieve their own goals and dreams, but I always try to remember that everything I do is not a result of my own abilities or talents, but because of the grace of God in my life.

Wonderful reminder! Thanks so much for answering my questions. I appreciate your time and I'm going to be watching your career expecting great things. It's wonderful to see young people committed to serving Christ through writing and committed to serving their readers by presenting Christ in a winsome manner. 

 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, April 27, 2012

Getting closer...

No, I'm not talking about the dreaded mid-April tax deadline. In case you didn't notice, that's come and gone.

I'm talking about another important date: the first deadline in our Launch Pad Contest, the event we've designed to help launch your manuscript out of the slush pile.

We're currently taking submissions for all categories. But if you plan to submit to the Historical category, you'll have to get your entry to us by 11:59 pm on May 10 -- and that date's coming right up.

But never fear; we have other categories to choose from as well, like Contemporary Romance, Middle Grade/Young Adult, and SciFi/Fantasy, among others. So if you're an unpublished novelist and would like to participate, click the Launch Pad Contest tab for the complete rules. But don't dilly-dally. We look forward to seeing your submission!

Pam Zollman, Novelist, Author and Founding Member of RWA

Today, I had the opportunity to interview Pam Zollman, one of the founding members of Romance Writers of America.
Pam Zollman is the award-winning author of 40 children’s books and numerous short stories and articles. Her middle-grade novel Don’t Bug Me!(Holiday House, 2001) has been translated into other languages. It was a Sunshine Sate Young Reader book, in the Florida Battle of the Books, and was one of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of 2002. A Chick Grows Up(Scholastic, 2005) was an honor book for the Maryland Blue Crab Readers Choice Award in 2006.  Many of her books are included on school and library reading lists, and her Life Cycle series for Scholastic have been translated into Spanish. Her short story, “Millie’s Garden,” won first place in Highlights for Children’s annual fiction contest in 1996.
So many aspiring writers think there is a set path to getting published, would you tell us about your journey to publication?

I think every writer I know has taken a different path. It seems that some of friends didn't start writing until later in life.  Me? I was seven. I wrote a rhyming poem about a bee and a tree and my family loved much so that my mother can probably recite it for you if asked (or even if *not* asked). I won a silver dollar in elementary school for a poem about the American Revolution. I wrote a novel when I was twelve (it was "only" 50 pages and I didn't do a lick of research, even though it took place in France and I'd never been there). I wrote short stories in high school and college. My teachers all through school encouraged me to write. So, my family and teachers set me on the writer's path at a very young age. When I look back now, I think it was expected of me to someday become a rich and famous writer. Well, I'm neither rich nor famous, and I still rhyme bee and tree, but I am a writer. My family and teachers may have pushed me in that direction, but it was a direction that I loved. I've always loved reading, and as a child I wanted to read all the books in the downtown Houston library. I was dismayed when I discovered that the library bought hundreds of new books every year. Dismayed, but not discouraged. In fact, that was when I decided I wanted to write books that would be in that same library.
I know you were an integral part of the original RWA group, can you tell me the story of how it began.
I first met Rita Estrada and Parris Afton Bonds back in mid 70s when I attended my first writers conference (the Southwest Writers Conference, which was held on the University of Houston campus). It was Rita’s first conference, as well. We met in the registration line. Also in line was Kit O’Brien Jones (a published romance author) who took us under her wing and introduced us to a lot of people. We all stayed in the hotel on campus and spent time after hours in our rooms getting to know each other.  
After the conference, a few of us met informally in an occasional critique group. Rita, Kit, Mary Tate Ingles, and I all lived fairly close to each other on the far northwest side of Houston. Parris lived at that time in Dallas, I believe. We went to the next several Southwest Writers Conferences and Rita brought her mother, Rita Gallagher.  We asked the conference people for more romance workshops. The next year (1979, I think) we met Vivian Stephens, an editor with Dell Candlelight Romances, and we dreamed of a writers conference focused only on romance.
Rita Estrada has always dreamed big. People say I dream big, and if that’s true, then I was taught how by Rita. She talked about starting a writers group just for romance writers and having a conference. She and Parris started talking to a lot of other romance writers that we all knew, and Rita decided that we should all meet and discuss forming a group. I had just had my first baby (Keith) in April of 1980. He was around 8 months old when I took him with me to that first gathering of romance writers (both published and unpublished) in the bank conference room, December 1980. There were 40 or so people attending, and we quickly formed a new writers group, called Romance Writers of America. We elected officers, and Rita Estrada became our first president. We decided to have our first conference the following June 1981 at a hotel in The Woodlands (just north of Houston). From December 1980 until June 1981, we offered a charter membership of $15 annually for life and we were amazed at how many people joined us. We were hoping for around 100 people at our first conference. Well, the media found out about us and we wound up with close to 800 people there, including editors, agents, writers, and media. It was a mad house!  We crammed people into class rooms, we ran out of food, and we had to shuttle people from other hotels (because the hotel where the conference was being held was too small).
Have you heard the story about the editor who was in a bathroom stall and was handed a manuscript under the door? Well, this is the conference where it first happened, and the editor was Vivian Stephens.
We had our first writing conference at that conference and awarded the Golden Heart to the winning unpublished manuscript. Since then, we added the Golden Medallion for the winning published manuscript, as well as dividing into a variety of categories.  The Golden Medallion was changed to The RITA to honor Rita Clay Estrada, our co-founder (Vivian Stephens is credited as our other co-founder and has the RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Standards award in her name).
After the conference, RWA had so many members across the nation that we had to divide into chapters. Houston, itself, had four chapters, and Rita asked me to organize the Northwest Houston chapter. We met for the first time in September 1981 and I was elected president, serving for three years. RWA’s first headquarters were in Rita’s dining room. I went there once a week, when Keith was in Mother’s Day Out, and spent time helping with all the paperwork that such a fast-growing organization generated. We were in her dining room for several years, before we finally moved into an office. Rita Gallagher (Rita’s mom) started the monthly newsletter, The Romance Writers Report, which is now a glossy magazine, and I helped proofread it and write articles.
While I was president of the Northwest Houston chapter, I wanted to have an autograph party for several people who had books coming out that year, Rita Estrada being one of them. Rita said, “Think bigger.” So, I decided to include all the romance writers in the Houston area who had new books coming out. Rita said, “Think bigger.”  So, I included the surrounding states...and wound up with 33 authors from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. We called it Autograph Extravaganza and held it at the newly opened Willowbrook Mall in far northwest Houston. The mall was very excited about this three-day event and gave us free advertising in the food court, plus the media covered some of the events. We had authors sitting at tables up and down the mall. We sold t-shirts and pens to autograph those t-shirts. Publishers donated books, and we had so many that we gave away bundles of books every hour. The other three chapters (West Houston, Bay Area, and one other that didn’t last and I can’t remember what it was called) helped us with transporting the authors and putting them up in their homes. The authors all paid their own way because we didn’t have enough money.

Pam is continuing to reach out to new writers through her local writing studio, The Writer’s Plot. Through this unique experience she offers the opportunity for writers to grow and network with one another and industry professionals.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Editorial Process ~ by Steve Laube

Steve Laube, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency, has been in the book industry for over 31 years, first as a bookstore manager where he was awarded the National Store of the Year by CBA. He then spent over a decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year in 2002. He later became an agent and has represented over 700 new books and was named Agent of the Year by ACFW. His office is in Phoenix, Arizona. (
The Editorial Process
It is important to understand the process through which a book takes under the umbrella called “The Edit.” I meet many first timers who think it is just a one-time pass over their words and that is all that will ever happen. And many who self-publish think that hiring a high school English teacher to check for grammar is enough of an edit.
There are four major stages to the Editorial Process. Unfortunately they are called by various names depending on which publisher you are working with, which can create confusion. I will try to list the various terms but keep them under the four categories.
Rewrites / Revisions/Substantive Edit
These can happen multiple times. You could get input from your agent or an editor who suggests you rewrite or revise those sample chapters of the full manuscript. Last year I suggested that one of my non-fiction clients cut the book in half and change its focus. We sold this first time author. But the writer had to do a lot of work to get it ready for the proposal stage.
There are some publishers that will do this stage after a book has already been contracted because they saw the potential in the proposal. And note that this stage isn’t always necessary. It all depends on the quality of that final draft you turned in to your publisher. Few get it perfect the first time.
Line Edit / Substantive Edit/Content Edit
Already you can see a descriptive term repeated. This stage is where the editor, usually a senior editor, or an editor is hired by the publisher to look at the book closely. This stage can morph into a rewrite (see above) if there are substantive changes. In some ways it is like a mechanic pulling apart an engine and inspecting the parts, and then putting it all back together again.
Sometimes this stage is very light sometimes it can feel heavy handed. Neither is wrong. Trust the editor to have the desire to make your book better.
Remember that this stage can be a form of negotiation. Ultimately it is your name on the finished book. An editor should not dictate but should facilitate. It is ultimately a partnership. And if you find that perfect partner…do what you can to work with them over and over. But also do not blind yourself into thinking that you are always right.
This can be done in-house or with a freelancer. One friend of mine calls this stage “The Grammar Police.” The copyeditor’s job is to check grammar, punctuation, spelling, and consistency. If your book has unusual spellings (like characters with Czechoslovakian names) consider creating a separate document called a style sheet which should be submitted with your manuscript so the copyeditor will know you meant to spell a word that way. Consistency is the key.
This edit takes a special skill. The editor is technically not reading for content. They are looking at each word for accuracy in communication.
It can be a stage fraught with humor. Like the time a copy editor changed the phrase “woulda, coulda, shoulda” to “would have, could have, should have” because the first was grammatically incorrect.
Unfortunately this stage can also be fraught with danger if the copyeditor suddenly takes the role of substantive editor, after that stage has already passed. I’ve heard stories of character names being changed, entire scenes rewritten, etc. If you have trouble at this stage, appeal to your senior (or acquisitions) editor and see if the changes had been approved before being sent to you.
Again, remember that this can be a place for negotiation. But if you are breaking the rules of grammar or spelling be prepared to defend yourself. But please, “Never Burn a Bridge.”
If the line editor is looking at the paragraph for content, and the copy editor is looking at every word for accuracy, the proofreader is looking at every letter and punctuation mark for perfection.
Again, this takes a special skill. I once sat on a plane next to an amazing freelance proofreader. I proudly showed her an article I was writing. She found ten mistakes per page. Every one of them was my fault for being sloppy. I ate humble pie with my bag of peanuts.
This proofreader is the last protection you have before the book is tossed into the market.
Error Free Publishing!
With all these eyes on your book you are guaranteed to have a product with no typos or errors of any kind….oops…that isn’t true.
Despite every effort and a lot of smart people working on your book, an error is bound to slip through. I remember one book where we had the author, three of his students, myself, a copy editor, and two proofreaders go through a book. Eight people. The book was published and the author’s critics found a dozen errors within the first week. Sigh.
Do your publishers a favor. If you find an error? Make a note of it (page number, line number, and error) and write a quick note to the editorial department of that publisher respectfully pointing it out. A file is usually kept of every book and when it is time to reprint the book they can go in and correct the error. And in the ebook world the digital file can be corrected fairly easy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Serving up Beauty, Seasoned with Truth, by Ann Tatlock

Ann Tatlock is an award-winning author. Her newest novel, Travelers Rest, will be released from Bethany House Publishers in May. Her previous novel, Promises to Keep, was named by Booklist Magazine as one of the top ten historical novels of the year. She has also authored a non-fiction eBook, Writing to a Post-Christian World. Ann enjoys teaching at various writers conferences throughout the year. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband Bob and their daughter, Laura. Her website is 

Serving up Beauty, Seasoned with Truth

In 1989 when the movie “Dead Poets Society” was playing in theatres, I did something I almost never do—I paid good money to watch it on the big screen twice. Not that I was a particular fan of Robin Williams, although I appreciated his portrayal of private school teacher John Keating. And it wasn’t because the movie was filmed in my home state of Delaware, at a school where I myself had once played field hockey as a teen, though that was an interesting bonus.

No, the reason I went to see the movie twice was because some of the insights offered by John Keating intrigued me. He was a teacher of literature and poetry and as such, he loved words. I was an aspiring novelist and I loved words too.

Specifically, the lines that drew me back were these: “We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

I couldn’t agree more. In 1989, as a young person not yet 30, I had a dream that maybe even I could create something of beauty that might enrich the lives of others.

Now, nine novels later, I face the question, at times asked outright, at other times implied, “Why don’t you get a real job?”

Actually, I think the job I have is very real. Because there’s something else John Keating said that I happen to agree with: “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Of course, there are good ideas and bad ideas, good stories and bad stories. A bad story is a shallow read, filled with profanity and gratuitous sex and unnecessary violence. These stories certainly affect our culture, obviously not for the better.

A good story, though….now that’s something else. A good story can make people think, can change a mind, can give understanding, can lead to action. A good story can help people make sense of this chaotic existence called life, can tell the truth about our place in God’s creation, can offer hope in a world with far too little understanding of what true hope is and where it can be found.

A good story, while entertaining, isn’t just a means of escape from life, but a moving toward what gives life meaning and purpose. Because through our story we can tell God’s Story. We can take His gems of truth and wrap them up in plot and character and theme, and in so doing, spread the Good News that transforms lives, one reader at a time.

I believe in the power of words and the power of story. If I didn’t, I would be a nurse, or a teacher, or a counselor—all noble professions and all professions that I once considered. But God said no. He had another way for me to serve. He asked me to serve up stories of beauty and truth.

Not just me, but you too, and everyone whose muse is the Holy Spirit, whose means is the written word and whose message is consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


A YOUNG WOMAN determined to honor her commitment...

AN INJURED SOLDIER convinced life is no longer worth living...

A RETIRED DOCTOR certain it's too late to be forgiven...

Jane Morrow has a dilemma, and love alone may not solve it. Her faith has never been strong, yet somehow she hopes God will answer her prayers and tell her what to do. The answer she finds may not be at all what she expected...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poll: What's Your E-Book Price?

As we wait to see how the law handles the charges that Apple and five publishers met to fix e-book prices, I've found myself surprised at the price point I've seen thrown around in the news. I mean, there's only so much I'll pay for "air" before I'd rather upgrade to a physical copy of the book. It's left me wondering what's the highest price people are willing to pay for an e-book. They say in real estate the house is worth whatever someone will pay--and the same is true for us. So here's the Question:

Feel free to post this poll at your blog, too! I'd love to get an idea of what price range gets the biggest percentage of buyers. Here's the HTML for the poll:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Publicity for Novelists: Opportunity Knocks Quietly, Listen Hard

Any publicist will tell you that drumming up publicity for a non-fiction author is a lot easier than doing so for a novelist. With the hundreds of thousands of novels published a year, there's a lot of competition for very few media slots.

Think about it. How often do you see a novel covered in the news or a magazine? Very rarely. Non-fiction just lends itself to these venues, because it gives them ready made material that by nature, is meant to make our lives better somehow. If you're a magazine editor for Vogue, would you rather feature the hottest new diet book which you can excerpt into an article called, Just a Spoonful of Sugar Will Make You Thin THIS MONTH or figure out how to work in yet another novelist's book which has no bearing on your readers other than being the fourteen hundredth this year vying to be the next recommend?

Kind of a no-brainer, right? So, how does a fiction author get coverage? You need to start thinking like a publicist and use every opportunity that presents itself to promote your work. This doesn't mean the hard sell and me, me, me, look at me! social media stance many authors take. It means keeping your eyes open for news tie-ins for your work.

For example, my sophomore novel, Dry as Rain, dealt with the subject of infidelity within a Christian marriage. If suddenly Brad Pitt is in the news because of being unfaithful to Angelina Jolie. (this is just an example, I have no gossip), suddenly the public becomes interested in relationships that seemed perfect, but behind closed doors were anything but. Or say another famous couple has a marriage that seemingly ends out of nowhere but we learn that things had never been quite right (think of Amy Grant some years ago). A window of opportunity opens that gets the press interested in a specific subject and you can jump through that window by pitching non-fiction articles on the subject. 10 Marriages that Shocked the World When They Ended, or whatever. Hopefully you get the idea.

Winning prestigious (or even not so prestigious awards) is also a good way to get media interested. I learned a few days ago that Dry as Rain was a Christy finalist. What was the first thing I did? Okay, call my friends. But the second was to alert local media. Winning or finalling gives them a news angle or a REASON to cover you. Take advantage.

In the world of publicity, be ready for lots and lots of no's and being ignored completely. You cast your widest net and if you get one yes out of a dozen no's, consider yourself lucky.

The thing with publicity is to keep that little snowball rolling, day after day, month, after month, year after year until one fine day, you cause an avalanche.


Gina Holmes is the founder of Inspire a Fire and Novel Rocket. Her debut, Crossing Oceans, was a Christy and Gold Medallion finalist and winner of the Carol Award, INSPY, and RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice, as well as being a CBA, ECPA, Amazon and PW Religion bestseller. Her sophomore novel,  Dry as Rain, released in 2011. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose. To learn more about her,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Myth of a Balanced Life

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.

For the last few months, Novel Rocket laid out the red carpet to me and allowed me to feature one of the devos from the line of devotionals for women on-the-go that I put together for Summerside Press. It was a wonderful way to uplift readers while introducing them to these wonderful books. As those weekly features came to an end, I was invited to permanently join the Novel Rocket team. I couldn't be happier about it! Starting this weekend, I'll join you here a couple of times per month. As a regular feature on the third Sunday of each month, I'll bring 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. I'm so proud and pleased to be an official member of the Novel Rocket team, and I hope to bless, uplift, minister and/or entertain you whenever we come together! --Sandie

On to The Myth of a Balanced Life:

The contemporary world view of finding balance is not the same one that Jesus represented in His daily walk. Today’s idea of achieving symmetrical life balance is a myth.

The dictionary’s definition of balance: to arrange, adjust, or proportion the parts symmetrically.
Countless studies, polls, research grants, and psychological reports have centered around the need for the average American to find optimum balance for their lives. But is this type of balance really an achievable (or desirable) goal?

Judging by today’s standards, Jesus didn’t lead a balanced life at all. He worked long hours, skipped a lot of meals, regarded His goals with a large degree of tunnel vision. He even removed Himself from His daily routine for more than a month, focusing on one thing and one thing only. Not exactly balanced, right?

In your busy life, what are the things you make time for, no matter what the cost? Sleep, even if it’s not as much as you’d like. “Bio breaks,” as they’re sometimes called, are pretty non-negotiable. A couple of meals each day, even on-the-go, are a requirement for everyone. Your spouse and kids are a required priority. Unfortunately, activities such as key relationships, leisure time and daily prayer often take a back seat for long periods when our lives are at full throttle, and we often perceive that as failure.

In John 4, Jesus set a good picture-type for us about setting priorities in our lives. When asked about stopping to eat in verse 34, He stated, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.”

Everything else took a secondary position to following the call of God on His life and fulfilling His purpose; yet He still made time for the other things. Jesus showed us throughout His life here on earth that true “balance” comes from knowing what is central, and building everything else around it.

It’s no wonder that the contemporary vision about building symmetric lives has created a world filled with defeated and harried participants. With Jesus as our Teacher, however, we can see that this idea that evenly measured distribution should be chased (and can be eventually attained) by every human being…is a MYTH.

The Safest Place

My husband and I watched the film "Iron Lady" last night - the story of Margaret Thatcher, one of Britain's longest-running Prime Ministers and the first woman to hold that office in the nation's history. I enjoyed the film and was particularly struck by one scene in which the PM is being interviewed on television. The host refers to her recent trip to the United States and asks what she learned while there.

"I learned that the people in the United States are not afraid of success," she said. An interesting and astute comment, I thought.

Then Sunday morning my husband preached on Joshua Chapter 3 - the scene at the Jordan River w
hen God tells Joshua how it will be done. "They were to put their most precious possession, the Arc of the Covenant, into a raging torrent," my favourite preacher said. And they were to trust God for success in all the battles to come.

I wondered as I listened to my husband, what those people might have been thinking as they crossed into the Promised Land. Were they at last ready to do battle? Were they afraid? Did they perhaps glance up-river to make sure the priests were still standing steady with the Arc on their shoulders? Did they kick at the dry sand under their feet and tremble at what God had done?

I think the answer to all of the above is yes. They were ready, because God had been preparing them for forty years. But I think they were afraid and no doubt kept an eye on the Arc as they crossed. And no doubt they trembled. But they did what God told them to do. They trusted Him, at least in that moment, and were confident of success because He had promised it to them.

My favourite preacher asked an interesting question during his sermon. "What if success did not lie so much in what was to come but in the very crossing itself? What if the process was what would make them perfect, "refined the fires of affliction?" (Isaiah 48:10)

I have just come through a process during which I was afraid and trembled and trusted God. And it left me believing that being afraid is not such a bad thing. It keeps us humble, keeps us on our knees, keeps us looking upstream for the source of our strength, God Himself.

As a writer, there have been times when I've been afraid of success and all the changes it could mean. (What if this manuscript really takes off and I have to travel all over the country and beyond?) And many more times when I've been afraid of failure. (What if this manuscript stinks and never gets published?) But I have been refined in the fires of the process more than once and learned that God is trustworthy. He will accomplish His purposes for my work, as He has promised.

So I've learned to put all my precious possessions - my family, my work, my hopes and dreams, into the middle of the torrent on God's shoulders. He will always stand steady. The middle of the torrent is the safest place for them to be.

Marcia's new novel, A Tumbled Stone has just been released. Visit her website -

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Passion vs Publishing

 Susan May Warren's got a lot to say about writing the story of your heart versus writing something “to get the sale.” Grab a cup of java, sit back, and read some of her sage advice...

I receive a lot of questions from aspiring writers and this one caught my eye.

Q: Have you ever had a story that you wanted to write, a spiritual message you wanted to share, but it won't let you just yet?

A: Yes, I have a couple stories sitting in my heart that I haven’t had the opportunity or perhaps the divine timing to write yet. 

I’m a firm believer that God will work out the story in the right time, so I continue to collect ideas, impressions, do research and let those ideas soak, waiting for the right timing.  But sometimes I’m not ready – emotionally, or even professionally to write it.  Maybe I don’t have the skill level yet.  And I certainly don’t want to waste my swan’s song on mediocre writing!  So, in the meantime, I move onto the stories I have the ability to write right now.

This is what happened with my “Josey” series.  The story of my hilarious happenings in Russia simmered in my heart YEARS before God opened the door to write it.  And when he did, the timing was perfect.  (My first book in that series, Everything’s Coming Up  Josey was a Christy finalist).   The same thing happened with Nothing but Trouble.  I cooked up my heroine PJ Sugar four years before I saw it come to publication.  And I’m glad I waited – I was able to write a deeper story than the one I had originally envisioned. 

I’ve always loved historical fiction, but I had to wait until I had the time to do the research, as well as the ability to pull them off.  I envisioned something more literary, so I had to grow into those skills, reading widely and doing a thorough scrutiny of my writing.  My first dive into the historical genre was Sons of Thunder (which won an ACFW Carol this year) , and I’ve continued my love of Historical with Heiress and Baroness (due out next month!) 

I think a lot of writers believe they have to write the stories on their hearts…but perhaps they’re also not ready to write that story yet.  I think it’s wise to ask God if it’s time…or if there is another story that could hone your skills in the meantime, in preparation for that heart story.
So, don’t give up on your heart story. Wait on Him, and be open to working on something else in the meantime to that you’re ready to write the “story of your heart.”

God Bless you on your writing journey!
Susan May Warren