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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Married with Fiction by Andy Scheer

Most Christian authors I know are married. Ditto for their readers. So why not fictional characters?

A few weeks ago I moderated a webinar that novelist DiAnn Mills taught about adding elements of romance to other genres. While she provided good content, she concentrated on
attraction between characters who were single.

Why not married romance? It can happen. During a break in the webinar as I gave a voiceover message about services from the Christian Writers Guild, DiAnn stayed on camera and her husband, Dean, brought her chocolates and a rose.

Perhaps in the eyes of the publishing industry, married love isn’t worth writing about.

I know a few authors who’ve had novels published about married couples. In the CBA market about fifteen years ago, the late Stephen Bly and his wife, Janet, wrote the Hidden West series about a tightly married couple. In the general market, Clive Cussler and co-writer Grant Blackwood introduced in 2009 a series featuring a pair of globetrotting treasure hunters along the lines of the 1930s Thin Man series with Nick and Nora Charles.

Indie author Heather Day Gilbert recently tried to interest CBA houses with a historical series and a contemporary series featuring a married protagonist, but repeatedly found her stories didn’t quite fit the industry boxes.

There have to be more examples out there. If general market authors can make a killing with stories about vampires, is it too much of a fantasy for CBA authors to find a way to write believable stories about characters who are happily married?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Watching Heroes Go by Linda S. Glaz

          At least for my generation, one can barely turn the news on any one day and not find out that another hero has passed away. Today, it was James Garner. He was a terrific actor. Didn’t seem like the same character in a different setting from one movie to the next. Creative and able to bring a fresh voice to each role he played. He understood the need to reach folks with his characters’ diverse personalities.
It doesn’t always happen. There are a few actors today who play the same old, tired character with each new role. I can close my eyes and imagine the boring reactions before they even happen. Those actors haven’t reached the point where they can be someone different in each role.
The same scenario plays out in books. Are your characters just a different name and setting in a similar format? Or have you given each of them fresh personalities, fresh situations? Readers expect something new with each book they read. Even a formulaic romance had better deliver a novel read—no pun intended.
At the end of each book, we lose our hero. He lives on only in our imaginations, but he had better be good enough that your readers will continue to think about him, wonder what happens to him, care whether or not his decisions are brought to fruition. Did Rhett ever come back? Was tomorrow a success at reclaiming love? Anyone who’s read Gone With the Wind wonders long after the last page whether or not the romance will be a success. I, for one, have never forgiven Margaret Mitchell for not writing the sequel. I was so invested in the story that I think today about how they might have arrived at a different ending. How about you?
It’s important for us to be able to let go of our heroes, but hopefully our readers will continue to long for a different ending, a prolonged ending, a sequel because they simply can’t say good-bye to new best friends.
Our true life heroes have to leave at some point, but your characters can live on indefinitely. Give them a life to be proud of. One that will be revisited time and again.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Meeting with Agents and editors by Terry Burns

It’s the conference season and many are preparing for those all-important meetings with agents and editors. Well, hopefully my clients are just meeting with editors. If they have an agent, should they even be doing that? Absolutely, whether I am at the same conference with them or not, it is their chance to make a personal connection with an editor that they can say they will have their agent follow up on. It’s even more important if it is a conference that I am not attending.

A couple of things to keep in mind: First, ten or fifteen minutes depending on the length of the appointment is not long enough to sell your book. Most agents and editors will tell you they have seldom if ever made a decision about a project while at a conference. I think I have done it twice. However, it is enough time to generate interest to send a proposal and create a favorable impression so they will remember you when that proposal arrives.

Second, make a good, brief pitch and then shut up. Those who spend the whole time talking tend to not engage the interest of those they are meeting with. Allow the agent or editor to ask questions about things they want to know so they can gauge their level of interest. The target is a dialogue or exchange, not a lecture.

Finally, it is good to have a one sheet and or a proposal with you but be aware that most of those you meet with do not want to take hard copy material with them. But like the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared." Occasionally there may be that person who wants to read something while they are there or on the airplane home and will select something for that purpose. And it’s a good idea if the one sheet has your picture to help them remember you, and include the contact information for your agent.

Remember you are there to impart AND RECEIVE information. Impart enough to pave the way for the proposal you will probably be invited to send, and receiving information about the interest of the person you are meeting with that you can reference in your cover letter and personalize it. And do not count on the person to remember what was said in the interview. They are meeting with dozens of people and you should refresh their memory about anything from your interview that you want them to remember.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Importance of Mindset by Diana Flegal

In all things it is important to maintain a good mindset and think happy thoughts.

Recently, in my quiet times and from those that I allow to speak into my life in the role of teacher, I have been reminded to replace critical self talk with more positive words.

Many a tea bag has offered me proverbs on thinking better thoughts toward myself. 

Writers often self flagellate.

According to the Free Dictionary by Farlex: 

self-flag·el·la·tion (slfflj-lshn)
1. The act of severely criticizing oneself.
2. The act of punishing oneself.
Today, I would like to give you permission to make a list of all the things you like about yourself and your writing.

And next time, buy the tea bags with good things to say on the bag tag.
Life is too short not to giggle a time or two a day!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Readers & Collectors by Andy Scheer

I just returned from the library with a copy of a new hardcover … the same title I bought a month ago at a signing.

I'd driven an hour-and-a-half to the downtown event, paid to park, then paid full retail for title at the independent bookstore that hosted the event.

After hearing the author speak, I waited in line to get the new book signed. Plus hardcover copies of some of the author's first books. And especially an advanced reading copy (ARC) of the new title.

Why didn't I simply read the signed copy? If you were a book collector, you wouldn't have to ask. Signed copies get wrapped in mylar covers to protect their dust jackets, then placed on a special shelf with others by the same author.

Unsigned, less-than-perfect copies are relegated to the status of “reading copies.” Like the one I checked out from the library.

I'm far from a hard-core collector. I limit myself to just a few authors and refuse to pay hundreds of dollars for rare first printings, let alone try to accumulate all the large-print editions, book club editions, and foreign editions. But driving multiple hours to a signing? What's unreasonable about that?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Truth? Can You Handle the Truth? By Linda S. Glaz

            I like to read through reviews of my books in order to be a better writer. I told myself that all along until I got the first review that really hurt. Did I really want the truth?
Author rushed a couple scenes that didn’t allow me to connect well with the characters. I paraphrased this, I think she actually said it a bit kinder, but the words still stung.
Rushed scenes? And then it hit me, Jack Nicholson was right, I couldn’t handle the truth.
First, I merely dropped my head against my palm and heaved a huge sigh. Rushed scenes. That meant it was confusing to the reader, right? I lost her. For how long? Did she put the book down and walk away trying to decide whether or not to even finish it?
Then I just denied her words. Walked away, didn’t look back. Pretended I hadn’t read the review. Reread all of the good ones.
Until the next morning when I pulled out the book and started to read through it as a reader this time, not as an author. And you know what? I rushed a few of the scenes. I wanted so desperately to have filled the pages with exciting suspense that I forgot to keep the impetus on the main characters. I had broken my promise to the reader to keep the romance in the forefront. I let her down, made her question whether or not she should have spent her hard-earned money on a story that had a promise attached to it.
My best review ever. Worst rating—best review. Because she taught me something valuable as an author. Never let down the group you are writing for, no matter how much you want to break away a bit from the formula. If you are writing for a group that you know has specific expectations, you must not give them something too different.
I learned more from that review than from all the five-star ratings I’ve received. I appreciate the reader’s honesty and am grateful that she was willing to put it all out there to help this author remember just who she’s writing for.
Did I handle it? I finally did. And am so indebted to that honest reviewer.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Freelance editing? by Terry Burns

Here’s a question a lot of people ask:

“Following a careful look at your information, I hope to submit my work to you in the near future. I have just a bit of tidying up to do first. But I am unclear about formal editing. To hire a freelance editor is quite costly and I am a bit reluctant to take on that expense until I have some indication that my work is saleable. So my question is: Do you want formal editing before a work is presented to you, or can that come after?”

I’d have to say first and foremost that it depends on what shape the manuscript is in. Editors are looking for manuscripts that are in publishable shape so that a company’s editorial staff won’t have to do a lot of work on them. Agents are looking for ready-to-go manuscripts.

We receive hundreds of manuscripts a month, and most are good. That means a good manuscript is simply not good enough. To make the cut, a manuscript has to be exceptional. If an author submits a manuscript that needs a lot of formal editing, chances are it will be upstaged by those authors who have done the editing, or hired a professional copy editor, to make their manuscripts reach that exceptional level.

But let’s say you skip having your manuscript edited and submit it to see if it is good enough. It turns out that it isn’t. What have you lost? You may have burned a bridge to publication. Had that manuscript been properly edited, it might have crossed that bridge, but now that avenue is probably closed to you. Yes, it can be expensive to have your manuscript edited, but what is the cost of spending hours and hours writing the book, only to not get it published? Agents and editors keep logs of what has been submitted and do not like to see projects resubmitted after it has been turned down (at least without getting advance permission to resubmit).

So the short answer is, what does your manuscript need to make it truly ready, to allow it to rise to that exceptional level and stand out from all the good books being submitted? That’s a question you have to answer for yourself. Can you get a guarantee that your manuscript is saleable before you invest in it? I can’t even guarantee that the manuscripts I choose to represent are saleable. I believe they are or I wouldn’t take them on, but there just aren’t any guarantees.