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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Game of Love

Peter Leavell
Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. For relaxation, he writes westerns. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.

If God has told you to write, and writing wants you, then you have no choice. You must write.

Coaxing someone to pay money for your work—to become a published author—is brutal. An impossible dream. Your writing must be quality. But it’s worth it. How do snatch the public's disposable income with your story?

The game of publishing is like the game of romance. You have to learn the language.

My goal was to marry this girl. But first things first. I had to ask her on a date.

I marched across the college cafeteria straight for her. She was so cute, it made me sweat. As I approached, her cheeks reddened and she smiled.

Oh please, let this work. “Are you going skating tonight?”

Her brow rose as her large eyes enveloped my world. “I wasn’t planning on it. But…” She let the word drift between us.

I clutched my stomach and stumbled away. How could she reject my date proposal, despite the obvious attraction? At the exit, I spun and saw a look of hurt and confusion in her eyes. Why would she feel pain? I was the one she turned down. 

I grew up with two brothers and no sisters. To say I didn’t understand the dance between men and women is, well, an understatement. I didn't get the language. 

This girl was too cute to let go. I learned a little more about what I did wrong. Form the words differently. Will you go skating with me? She was my audience. I wanted her to buy me, aka spend her life with me. After a year of talking with her, I learned her language.

Writing is similar. You can’t use feminine grunts and strength or masculine looks and wiles to publish a book. It takes practice to learn the art. Yes, there are hurt feelings and bitterness along the way. Yes, you cry and shout. At times, moments are sweet and precious. But don’t forget the end goal—a well-written book someone is willing to pay money to read.

At the end of the year, the cute girl was cornered in the botanical gardens in Des Moines, Iowa. I dropped to a knee and opened a box. Inside was a Precious Memories figurine, an Eskimo giving his girl a block of ice. I Only Have Ice For You. Attached to the block was an engagement ring. And I knew the words my audience would respond to. Will you marry me?

She said yes.


The amount of work to become a great writer can be discouraging. The dance between readers and authors is difficult to understand. You must learn the language. Study the craft of writing, though, because becoming a published author—much like getting married—is the thrill of a lifetime.

April 2015
Philip Anderson keeps his past close to the vest. Haunted by the murder of his parents as they traveled West in their covered wagon, his many unanswered questions about that night still torment him. 
His only desire is to live quietly on his homestead and raise horses. He meets Anna, a beautiful young woman with secrets of her own. Falling in love was not part of his plan. Can Philip tell her how he feels before it’s too late?
With Anna a pawn in the corrupt schemes brewing in the nearby Dakota town, Philip is forced to become a reluctant gunslinger. Will Philip’s uncannily trained horses and unsurpassed sharpshooting skills help him free Anna and find out what really happened to his family out there in the wilderness?
April 2015


Friday, January 30, 2015

Triple Threat Marketing. Or How Not to C4 Your Marketing Attempts ~ Kelly Klepfer


Triple Threat or How Not To C4 Your Marketing Attempts

by Kelly Klepfer

Many authors have to do the majority of the marketing for
their books. Actually, let's just say all y'all do, some just have a little help from the pros.

One of those huge areas is securing reviews and influencers.

In case you need a refresher on dealing with reviewers, let me give you some behind the scenes help.

1) Searching for the Landmines

Most respected reviewers are sought after. I get at least thirty-five requests a week to review books. I can read, at best, two books a month. That leaves a lot of requests denied. My advice to those of you who need reviews and get a no from the reviewers you'd love to read your novel is to find newer reviewers who are honest, respectful and like your genre.

How you find these reviewers? Search out titles that are similar to your story and find reviews that meet your checklist.  Dig a little deeper and see how long the reviewer has been at it and how often she/he reviews. Authors who want to be published often go the review writing route first so they know a little about publishing and can write. Look for someone who has been reviewing on Amazon for about a year or two and has climbed pretty high on the top reviewer list. That's a good sign because it means people/customers read that reviewers opinions and consider them in their decision to buy or not buy. A really popular reviewer is going to get scads of offers though, so you want to find ones who are heading toward popular but not quite there yet for the quickest turn around.

2) Watch Your Step

Most reviewers have likes and dislikes. I don't really care for heavy political thrillers or sci-fi because I have a tendency to shut down when names, terminology and techy things are thrown at me. I also get a little gaggy when it comes to romance and Amish fiction. I know. I know. Un-American or something along those lines. But it is what it is. I'm very likely not going to love your book if you fall into those categories.

Find someone who loves books like yours. If you write clever dialogue or snarky characters or can make me cry with the depth of your prose, then I'm your gal. Feel free to use this when running your book past me. If you offer a reviewer a book he/she won't like, you won't get a good review and you might be burning a bridge. If you come upon an idea that would be his/her cup of tea in the future but you are under "tricked me with that stupid romance" in his/her memory banks you might regret the charcoaled remains of the bridge.

3) Put on Your Seatbelt and Big Kid Underoos

I don't need a thank you. If I loved a book that is thank you enough. But what I definitely don't need, what is completely inappropriate, and what is not burning bridges but C4'ing them into oblivion is suggesting that I didn't "get" a book, and that you'd like to explain it further to me. If it's written and published you've had your chance.  Another dynamite comment would be " if you would make a tweak of your review that would be awesome."    

Why is this an issue? Well, by seeking a review you are taking a chance that reviewers won't love or get you. Reviewers are representative of readers. Not everybody is going to get you, like your story, your sense of humor or your favorite outfit. It is what it is and you give up all control once your book is in the hand of the reviewer. Keep the lid on the gasoline can and respectfully and silently agree to disagree.

This might be a new thought for you as authors: my reviews are written for my audience, and yours. Readers. I believe that the majority of reviewers would agree with that statement. Otherwise reviews would be blurbs and wouldn't necessarily be considered in whether or not to part with money for a book. What I would like to know about a book before I buy it is what I like to share with readers. I do my best to do this kindly. I will not write a review on a book I don't like at all. I review books I'd buy or think others would find worth reading. But what I write -- with the exception of mechanical issues like the spelling of the author's name -- is my opinion of the book. If I am asked to reassess or change my review I am very, very unlikely to read any more from that author. Yes, I have been challenged, and yes, it is really annoying and no, I will not change a review and yes, I have put that handful of authors in my "don't go there" file.

Here is an additional marketing bonus tip. . . and you might be surprised at how often this is an issue. When you agree to do something to market your book, follow through. A blog post, an interview, a review of your work are all bridges to relationships with other folks in the industry and ultimately to your readers. Your choices, even the tiny ones, can honestly make a huge difference in your career. Be responsible, reliable, professional and humble. It will take you far.


Bio: Kelly Klepfer finally figured out that she loves to learn. And then share what she's learned with others. She reads and reviews and manages Novel Reviews because there is much to learn about life from fiction. Her own personal journey includes a zany mystery novel in process, co-authored with Michelle Griep, violin lessons, and cooking, baking and making some serious messes. Kelly shares about her life at Scrambled Dregs blog, in a collection of randomocity, recipes and her lessons learned.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Breaking News: “Inflate-gate” expands!

By Michael Ehret

Are you over-inflating your writing?
This national story just in: Many, if not all, of your favorite authors have admitted to inflating the word counts of their latest novels, particularly in their early drafts! In fact, so widespread is this padding of novels—what is being informally referred to as “Inflate-gate”—that if you’re a writer, chances are the novel you’re working on right now is a bloated, over-written mess.

Why would authors, whose names you’d recognize if I named them, engage in this practice? After all, they’re already good enough that they don’t need the extra words to compete on the literary playing field.

What is their the motivation? Is it an inherent wordiness? A lust for the written word? A case of bibliophiles gone mad?

Or is it more? Is it just part of the process?

Tight writing

While the rest of the world is watching Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (from that football team on the East Coast) deny any and all knowledge of “Deflate-gate,” even as they throw each other under the bus in doing so, writers worldwide are battling inflated word counts, muddied prose, their own egos—and in some cases deadlines—to wrestle their novels into a more marketable size.

They are trying to write tight and edit even tighter. It's called self-editing. However, because of all the research, planning, plotting, exploring, and experimenting we writers like to do, we tend to think everything has to make it in the book. But that defeats tight writing.


All of these things can help cause inflation
What is tight writing? Simply, it is writing that uses every word necessary to tell the story, engage the reader, and impact the emotions—and not one word more. In tight writing, paragraphs don’t meander and sentences don’t lead readers astray.

Tight writing wins contests, agents, contracts, readers, and awards. Tight writing rocks.

Know word definitions

Redundancy is a big problem for many trying to write tight. Can you spot the redundancies in this sentence?
  • Mandy was absolutely certain her advance planning would pay off when she got to the final conclusion of her first fiction novel. (22 words)
  • Mandy was absolutely certain her advance planning would pay off when she got to the final conclusion of her first fiction novel. (18 words)
This ham-handed example sentence could still be much improved, but just eliminating the redundancies helps. It’s important to know the definition of a word and to choose the right word.

There is no doubt in certainty, so it is already absolute. All planning is done in advance; by definition it can’t be done in the past. Unless you’re filming The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King when you come to the conclusion, you’ve reached the end. All novels are fiction. There are no nonfiction novels.

Inflation is subtle

Unlike deflated footballs, which was almost certainly done on purpose by someone, over the course of a book it is easy to unintentionally inflate your word count. This example isn't egregious, but imagine how many words you can save over the course of a book?
  • Before the conference, Jim created a summary of his story. (10 words)
  • Before the conference, Jim summarized his story. (7 words) 

Help from the experts

I asked several author and editor friends for their top of mind tips to help writers with “Inflate-gate.” Here are tips from those who’ve been there and will be there again—just like you. I actually received more than 30 suggestions, but I'm trying to write tight.

Kimberley G. Graham

KGG is a member of my critique group, Thesaurus Wrecks, and the author of one of the finest books I read in 2013, The Rocking Horse of Tuscumbia

“To trim the fat, delete the ‘that’.” 

Pamela S. Meyers

Pam is a member of another critique group I’m part of, Penwrights, and the author of Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

“One method a friend shared with me when I had to cut down my word count was to divide the number of the current word count by the number of pages in the manuscript. That is the amount of words needing to be cut on each page to make the desired number. It really helps when you see it’s only seven words a page or whatever. Makes it less overwhelming and more doable.”

What I like about this tip is that it’s not a writing tip, per se, but an execution tip. Self-editing can be intimidating. Tips like this help, too.

Michelle Griep

Michelle is another Penwrights member of renown and the author of Brentwood’s Ward

“Get rid of stupid, unnecessary words like ‘like, really, that,’ etc. And don’t use so many adjectives like ‘stupid’ and ‘unnecessary’. Nouns and verbs are where it’s at, baby.”

Dori Harrell

Dori is a member of the Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network and the proprietor of Breakout Editing

“Delete all those unnecessary tags we authors seem to insert like ‘to himself,’ as in ‘he thought to himself.’”

Margot Starbuck

Another member of the Christian PEN and the proprietor of Wordmelon Literary Consulting

“If it can be cut, and still retain the essential meaning, cut it. If it feels too difficult, consider highlighting the extraneous text in grey, and reading through what remains. If it's stronger (Hint: It will be), then delete the grey!”

That pretty much sums it up. Do you have other tips that you like? Share! Through sharing we all get better.


Michael Ehret loves to play with words as a Marketing Communications Writer for CHEFS Catalog and as a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. Ehret is the former editor of the ACFW Journal and has edited several nonfiction books, proofedited for Abingdon Press, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Once Beyond a Time ~ by Ann Tatlock

By Yvonne Lehmann
Ann Tatlock is a novelist and children’s book author. Her newest novel, Once Beyond A Time, was published in December 2014 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her books have received numerous awards, including the Christy Award, the Midwest Book Award and the Silver Angel Award for Excellence in Media. She also serves as managing editor of Heritage Beacon, the historical fiction imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She lives with her family in Western North Carolina. Please visit her website at www.anntatlock.com.

Once Beyond A Time
A Non-Paranormal Paranormal Story

I want to tell you up front that I don’t believe in ghosts. The idea of disembodied souls haunting shadowy places—rattling chains, slamming doors, walking through walls--just doesn’t fit with my world view. People aren’t meant to remain earth-bound. We either end up in the presence of God or separated from Him eternally. That’s what the Bible says and that’s what I accept as true.

And yet my new novel, Once Beyond A Time, was rejected at several houses for being a ghost story. Too paranormal, they said. As a Christian publisher we don’t want to promote anything having to do with the paranormal.

But it isn’t paranormal, I argued. Not a single character in the book is dead.

No matter; they didn’t want it. Years passed, and I finally found a house happy to publish it. Oddly, this particular publisher wanted to promote it as paranormal.

But it isn’t paranormal, I argued once again. The premise has nothing to do with ghosts.

That may be, the publisher argued back, but what happens in your book isn’t normal—what, with people talking to people who live in different times—so that makes it paranormal.

We decided we have different definitions of paranormal. Which, I guess--to make us both happy--means my newest offering is a non-paranormal paranormal book.

What the book actually deals with is time. Or more accurately, God’s timelessness: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8 KJV).

Unlike humans who occupy a single point in time, God stretches from start to finish, he is and was and is to come, and therefore he is the Eternal Now. He created time for our use, but he remains outside of it and is unhindered by it. So, I wondered, what if one was able to “step out of time” and experience what God experiences? That’s the premise of my story.

It's 1968, and Sheldon and Meg Crane have just moved their family from suburban Philadelphia to the town of Black Mountain, NC. Sheldon has resigned in disgrace from the ministry after an affair. He will now sell used cars for his brother-in-law's auto dealership. Sheldon is burdened by his wife's unwillingness to forgive and his daughter's anger over the move. The oldest son is in Vietnam. The only happy member of the family is his eight-year-old son, Digger.

After settling into their new home--an old house nearly hidden on the side of a mountain—the family soon discover it’s no ordinary place. And this is where it gets to be “not normal.” The family can see and speak with people who have lived there in the past, and with those who will live there in the future. They are trying to make sense out of this odd phenomenon when the unspeakable happens: Digger disappears. They don’t know whether he has been kidnapped or whether he has wandered off into the mountains and gotten lost.

As the family deals with brokenness, heartache and—yes—the paranormal experience of “stepping out of time,” they discover the house is a gift, one that teaches them about the healing power of forgiveness and the loving sovereignty of God.

No ghosts. No rattling chains or slamming doors. Just a chance to take an imaginary journey beyond time. Sometimes the “not normal” can offer a fresh perspective on grace. I hope it will for you.


It’s 1968, and Sheldon and Meg Crane have just moved their family from Pennsylvania to the small town of Black Mountain, NC. Sheldon, recently ousted from the ministry due to an illicit affair, takes a job as a used car salesman at his brother-in-law s auto dealership. Burdened by his wife’s unforgiveness and his daughter’s resentment over the move to “Barney Fife country”, Sheldon finds a measure of solace in his eight-year-old son’s ability to cope. After settling into an old house high on the side of a mountain, the family discovers their new home is no ordinary place. Family members occasionally see and speak with the home’s previous residents and the ones who will live there in the future. While attempting to come to terms with this portal in the past and future, their son, Digger, suddenly disappears. Was he kidnapped or did Digger wander off into the mountains and become lost? The answer lies in a place once beyond a time in a realm where the mysterious power of forgiveness removes sorrow and heals even the most egregious sins. 

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What’s a Novelist Like You Doing in a Neighborhood Like This?


by Alton Gansky

Last week my newest book. 30 Events That Shaped the Church, hit the shelves (including digital shelves). Another nonfiction. It surprises some of my readers and fellow writers to learn that I write book-length nonfiction. After all, most of my books are novels. My first published book was a novel and a bunch more followed. So why write nonfiction? Why would a novelist wander the mean streets of the nonfiction neighborhoods?

That’s a little difficult to answer. Writing is a series of personal decisions. Those who have heard my “writing testimony” know that when I set out to be a writer I first assumed that I would write articles and nonfiction books. Novel writing appealed to me and I messed around with some short stories (which went nowhere).  I had a few articles accepted but nothing of consequence. I was still splashing in the shallow end of the writing pool.

Then, as a young pastor, I was called to Children’s Hospital in San Diego where one of the children who attended my church was being treated. The toddler had fallen from a moving car. Turns out, all was fine, just a few bruises and scrapes. Still, I had to walk through Children’s Hospital and that can be grueling. I glanced through a few open doors and saw enough pain to make me shift my focus to the shiny floor. I wished for the gift of healing and that got me to thinking about what might happen if a healer strolled the halls of a major hospital—my first real storyline. That idea became By My Hands (which I recently re-released). From that came over 30 other novels.

Still, the old urge to pen a nonfiction book stayed with me. Over my two decades of professional writing I’ve written 9 book-length nonfiction books and co-wrote 2 others. I have plans to write more.

So I ask again: What’s a novelist doing in the nonfiction neighborhood? Well, I’m fulfilling my mission of making my readers think. When someone asks, “What do you do for a living?” my brain seizes. Writer. Editor. Consultant. Novelist. Blogger. Podcaster. Teacher. Public speaker. How to respond? I’m tempted to say, “I’m a communicator,” but that just causes confusion.

Let’s face it: We writers have voices in our heads. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed the arts and sciences were inspired by the Muses. Some have more than one muse, that is, more than one field that interests them. On a good day I feel my mind is a multifaceted diamond; other days I’m pretty sure it’s just fragmented glass.

I view novels as exploration; nonfiction as explanation. I want my ideas, my books, to communicate as well as entertain. I want readers to think and learn and for some ideas I can only do that through nonfiction. 30 Events That Shaped the Church would be difficult to do as a novel. Yet, the material is important, especially in a world where much of church history is forgotten, overlooked, or undervalued. Because of that, most Christians have no idea what the church endured to become what it is today.

Nonfiction stretches me too. Writing nonfiction is very different from writing fiction, but I don’t think I could do it without all that I learned from writing novels.

I’ve always have been troubled by categories. I’ve also admired those who can focus on one thing and make it a life’s work. For me, however, writing is writing, and as long as it does something enduring, then it has great value.

Turns out, I like both neighborhoods.

Alton Gansky writes novels and nonfiction. He is the host of Writer's Talk and the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. When not writing, editing, blogging, podcasting, and the such things he likes to eat and sleep. To get the real down-low on Al visit www.altongansky.com