Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meet my Editorial Assistants

When submissions come in, chances are these ladies will be the first to work with it. They read queries and ask for proposals. If a proposal is good they may ask for a full read. They may even ask an author if they will make some changes they feel are necessary to be able to make a positive recomendation to me. They do not accept or reject, but I have to say they are VERY good and I am usually in agreement with their recomendations. I thought I would introduce them so you would know who they are:

Amy Alessio - is the co-author of A Year of Programs for Teens (2006) and Another Year of Programs for Teens (pending, 2010). In 2008, she edited the YALSA 2008 Excellence in Library Services for Teens 5th Ed, and the fiction anthology Missing for Echelon Press. She is active in YALSA, and has edited the online newsletter YAttitudes for that organization. Regular reviews and columns by Amy appear in Crimespree Magazine and She is the Teen Coordinator at the Schaumburg Township District Library in Illinois.

Teresa "Teri" Burns - Teri is an award winning writer, reporter and copy editor working on several newspapers and doing free-lance work. She majored in journalism at Stephen F. Austin college. In her spare time she is a certified EMT and volunteer firefighter and does freelance manuscript editing. Yes, she is my daughter and I'm very proud of her.

Kristine Pratt - Kristine is CEO of Written World Communications, editing, proofreading, and website services company. She has worked as an editorial asst for Terry at Hartline Literary and for Jeff Gerke at Marcher Lord Press. Written World Communications also publishes niche market magazines and books and she takes submissions for that as well.

These are the ladies who get the first look at your submission and I have every confidence in them.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Interview with Diana's Client Loree Lough

What’s going on in your writing life these days?

I’m so happy you asked!

On the heels of two Love Finds You releases (Paradise and North Pole), the next books to hit the shelves are 3-in-1 novel compilations released by Whitaker: “Tales of the Heart” (historicals) and “Prevailing Love” (contemporaries). The covers are just gorgeous, so I can hardly wait to see standing spine-out in a bookstore!

On the heels of those releases, a historical series for Whitaker that begins with “The Outlaw Wore Skirts” set in Eagle Pass, Texas in 1888. And then…. Okay. All right. I’ll spare the tedium of slogging through the rest of the list!

What genre do you write and why?

I write “inspirational romance”. By definition, that means “Christian”, and includes contemporaries and historicals that fall into the suspense, mystery, drama, and comedy categories.

The affectionate term is “inspys”, and I write them because God puts it on my heart to write them! He is the ultimate relationship expert. (Dr. Phil, step aside!) If we heed His word, the Lord is only too happy to teach us—from birth through death—how to get along with others. And in the case of love and romance, well, I have to believe He’s a big fan. Why else would he have started the world with a twosome!

How did you research The Outlaw Wore Skirts?

First, I chose the time period, 1888…the year my beloved grandfather was born. Then I picked Texas for the setting because, well, who doesn’t like cowboys! Next I pored over old maps to find the perfect spot for the handsome Neville cousins’ ranch. About that time, I was ready to ‘cast’ the characters. Once I’d chosen their names, described them, given them interesting backgrounds, I needed to know what sort of tools and weapons they’d need, what style clothing they’d wear, how they’d cook and clean and get from point A to point B…and so on. I had to learn about the Texas Rangers, politics in that era. Trains. Stagecoaches. How banks operated back then. And so on. And so on. And….

Where do you get your inspiration?

Every day, the mailman delivers letters from my readers. Reading them is all the inspiration I need! Some have become dear friends, others close ‘pen pals’. Almost without exception, they share their own stories with me (hardships, joys, losses, successes, romance, heartache, etc.). It’s hard not to be inspired when nearly every letter ends with “…when can I get my hands on your next novel?”

What has been the hardest part of writing your novel and how did you overcome it?

Oh, without a doubt, time management is the most difficult thing about every novel I write! Life has a way of intervening, interrupting, interloping, intruding. There’s laundry to do, meals to cook, family outings to attend, lawns to mow, weeds to pick, errands to run…and there isn’t a thing we can do to stop or slow it!

I’m getting pretty good at saying “No” (though admittedly, it’s still the most difficult word that passes my lips), and I’m getting pretty dependent on my trusty oven timer (because it keeps me from spending too much time on this and not enough on that)!

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

I hope that when readers reach The End of any story I’ve written, they’ll feel as if they’ve made new friends in the characters who’ve inspired laughter, tears, and gentle sighs. I hope their hearts will pound with fear, ache with sadness, leap for joy, and thump with excitement. I hope they’ll grieve at their new friends’ losses and celebrate their successes.

But mostly, I pray that some facet of each story will touch them on a spiritual level—one they’ll remember for a long, long time to come—and that they’ll learn by the characters’ struggles and triumphs that our loving Father wants to be a part of our lives, every minute of every day…even as we’re reading for the pure old-fashioned pleasure of it!

What new writing projects are you working on?

Right now, I have three novels and three proposals in the works. I’m also teaching (writing), mentoring (new writers), writing articles and columns, and ‘tending’ my (writing) web site and blog.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? The programs and speaking that you do?

They can find me on MySpace, Facebook, Shoutlife, and Twitter, at and

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

The best writing advice came from Nora Roberts, who when asked what is the secret to her success, “Park your bee-hind in a chair…and type.”

The worst advice, by far, was “Write the book of your heart.” (Because that book doesn’t have a market!)

Anything else you'd like to take this opportunity to say?

To writers of romance, I’d say be proud of what you do! With God’s grace and blessing, you will touch lives, mend hearts, and reach souls. This is very important work we’re doing, and while it should humble us that God has chosen us to help Him spread His word in this amazing and beautiful way, we should never feel defensive about what we’re doing for a living!

To readers of romance, I’d like to say be proud of what you read! Of course you need to make time to read the bible every day, to muse over devotionals that remind you how truly loving and merciful He is. But there’s a place for romantic fiction in your life, too, and you should never feel embarrassed to admit that you’ve chosen to spend a few relaxing moments treating yourself to the wholesome Christian messages found in inspirational fiction!

Now…go forth and read an Inspirational Romance!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Joyce's guest blog - Amanda Cabot

I’m happy to present a guest blog from my client, Amanda Cabot. Amanda has written fiction for ABA and also non-fiction technical books. She has three, three book contracts with Revell Publishing. Her editor is Vicki Crumpton. The first series is The Texas Roses trilogy. Paper Roses was released this year. Scattered Petals will be released in the Spring of 2010 and the third book will be released in 2011. Her second three book series is set in Wyoming. When Summer Ends, Waiting for Spring and Autumn’s Promise will be released in 2012, 2013 & 2014. The third series, set during WWI, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, The Perilous Night and Dawn’s Early Light will be published in 2015, 2016, & 2017,

A few weeks ago, Tamela posted answers to the question, “What should I expect from my agent?” That, of course, assumes that you have an agent. I’m going to step back a bit and talk about how to find the perfect agent. As someone with the dubious distinction of having had (and fired) four agents before finding Joyce, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

First of all, there’s a difference between finding an agent and finding the perfect agent. You’ve probably heard that a bad agent is worse than none at all. It’s true. A bad agent can keep you from selling a manuscript, simply by not sending it out or by sending it to the wrong house.

Secondly, the perfect agent for someone else may not be the right one for you. One of my neighbors thinks her hybrid is the perfect car. Another wouldn’t drive anything other than his full size truck. Although those are the ideal vehicles for them, neither one suits my driving style. It’s the same with agents. So, here’s my five step program for finding the perfect agent for you.

Step One – Identify your needs. Before you start your search for an agent, it’s important to decide what you want your agent to do for you. Are you looking for one who’ll edit your work before sending it out? Terrific, but not all agents have the background or the time to do that. Do you want extensive career planning advice? Again, some agents provide that; others do not. There’s no right or wrong here. What matters is what you need or want an agent to do for you. Remember, the agent works for you.

Step Two – Do your homework. Although I know some authors who send out blanket queries to agents, that can be a waste of time and, if you’re sending those queries by snail mail, money. Why query agents who hate mysteries if that’s what you’re writing? I recommend a targeted approach, where you learn as much as you can about an agent before querying him or her. How do you do that? Start with the Internet. My opinion, which I’ll admit not everyone shares, is that if an agent doesn’t have a web site, I’m not interested. A well-designed agency web site gives me the answers to key questions at the click of a mouse.

What are those key questions?

Has the agent sold books similar to the one you’re writing? Remember that agents are like editors. They have preferences, and if they’re not enthusiastic about your work, they will not be effective advocates.

Have those sales been recent? An agent who hasn’t sold within the last year may be experiencing personal problems or have other concerns that create obstacles to sales.

Have the sales been to your “dream list” of publishers? An agent who’s sold to small or obscure publishers may not fit your career plan.

Does the agent represent authors you admire? While that’s no guarantee that this is the right agent for you, it’s one more point to consider.

If the answers to any of the first three questions are ‘no,’ this is not the agent for you.

Step Three – Network. Once you’ve narrowed down the list of possible agents, it’s time to check references. If you happen to know any of the agent’s current clients, ask them about their experiences with the agent. The questions I find most helpful are “What do you like most about your agent?” and “If there were one thing you could change about your agent, what would it be?” Those open-ended questions have elicited some interesting – and revealing – answers and have kept me from making yet another mistake in choosing the wrong agent.

If you don’t know any of the agent’s clients, ask other writing friends if they’ve heard anything. Most of us belong to writers’ organizations. Check with them. When I sent out a request for experiences with a particular agent, I learned that he had a reputation for being extremely slow in paying his clients’ share of advances and royalties. I guess he hadn’t heard “Thou shalt not steal.”

Step Four – Query your short-list of agents. Now that you’ve culled the long list of agents into a short list of potentially perfect ones, it’s time to send out queries. Odds are some will be ignored, while others will elicit a polite rejection. No matter how discouraging a rejection is, remember that if an agent doesn’t love your work, he or she is not the perfect one for you. Be glad you found that out before you wasted any more time.

So, what do you do when an agent says, “I love your work, and I want to represent you”? Although your first reaction will probably be a shout of glee, don’t be too quick to sign a contract. There’s one last step you need to take.

Step Five – Do a Style Check. No, I’m not talking about hair or clothing. The agent-author relationship is just that – a relationship – and it’s important to ensure that it will be a productive one. Before you sign a contract with any agency, you need to have a conversation. Even if you’ve been communicating via email, this is time for a talk. Ideally, you’ll be able to meet your agent face-to-face, but if that’s not possible, pick up the phone. Your goal is to determine whether or not you and your potential agent have compatible working styles.

Some questions you may want to ask the agent are:

How do you prefer to communicate? If your agent thinks email is the greatest invention of the twentieth century but you prefer the phone, you may not be happy working together.

How do you notify clients about the status of their proposals? If the agent normally tells clients only when she’s made a sale but you prefer to know when each publisher has received the proposal and what response was received, even if it’s a rejection, unless the agent is willing to accommodate your needs, she’s not the perfect agent for you.

What contract clauses have you negotiated for other clients? Most agents are highly skilled in negotiating those clauses related to royalties and advances, but some are uncomfortable with others, including reversion of rights and non-compete. One of my former agents told me that asking to have some clauses changed was an insult to the editor. Wrong answer! She and I parted ways very quickly.

The key is knowing your comfort level and making sure that it matches your agent’s. Perfect agents do exist. I know, because I’ve found her.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Few of my Favorite Resources for Writers from the Heart of Diana

A Few of my Favorite Resources for Writers from the Heart of Diana

Over the years I have accumulated a good many books. In our home we have a total of six large (extra wide) floor to ceiling bookshelves, two smaller ones and stacks resting on most surfaces of the house and floor. A few boxes of books are waiting to find their place on bookcases that haven’t yet been built. Often when I present a workshop I like to recommend a few of my favorite resources for writers from the many I own.

At the top of my list is:

Anne Lamont’s, Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Anne writes in a way that resonates with so many writers. She is brutally honest about what it will cost you to be a serious writer. She writes from her own life and the life stories of other writers as well as her Father who was well published and a huge influence in Anne’s life. I read this book like a novel and then went back and read it again as a text. She writes of wonder – Awe and Ecstacy and warns the writer of other times you will want to kill yourself. I would love to quote Anne here, I have so many underlined paragraphs and sentences but I have not gotten the permission to do so. I will quote one writer she quotes though; E.L. Doctrow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Natalie Goldberg’s, Writing Down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within

Natalie’s book is a different writers ‘How to’. With chapter titles like Writing is Not a McDonald’s Hamburger, One Plus One Equals a Mercedes Benz, and Don’t Marry the Fly, you will be challenged to approach your writing in a new way. Great exercises to breakthrough your writers block!

I picked up this title because it is so similar to my way of looking at things. The Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen. This title claims to, “turn the dread of writing into a creative, puzzle solving personal adventure. An excellent title for a writers group to use. Terrific writing prompts and photographs meant to inspire a burst of creativity. Have some fun and give it a look.

More Than Words, Contemporary Writers on the Words that Shaped Them written by one of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey. This title speaks of the influence of literary masters and their works upon the contemporary writers of our day. To list a few of the authors enclosed: J. R. Tolkien, Flannery O’Connor, Charles Dickens, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ray Bradbury, T.S. Elliot, and John Milton. For us word lovers, it is a veritable treasure trove.

A few others titles that I have recommended to authors are:

Author 101 Best Selling Book Proposals, The Everything Guide to Writing a Book Proposal, How to Write Attention Grabbing Query and Cover Letters, The Artists Way and On Writing Well.

There are more but I realize that you all have other things you must attend to today. (Like writing). I do hope you take a look at these and see if they can be of any help in your writing journey and please feel free to share with us in the comment box what titles are a favorite tool in your writing box.

Hoping today you will stand in awe of the gift you have been given and feel a renewed sense of mission and passion for it.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

After the Conference Ends: “What to do when the circus leaves town.”

Before I get into my blog let me take a moment to brag on one of my clients, Susan Miura, shown in the picture on the left. Susan won the runner up for the Genesis Award given by the American Christian Fiction Writers for the best new writer in the young adult genre. Congratulations to her.

And since the ACFW Conference just ended I'm going to turn my blog over today to another Client, Curt Iles, for a blog on how to get the most from the money that was spent on the conference with proper follow up:

After the Conference Ends: “What to do when the circus leaves town.”

“Turn out the lights, the party’s over.
They say all things must come to an end.”
-Willie Nelson

I’ve read many excellent articles about preparing for, and attending, writing conferences. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one on what to do after the conference.

What a writer does after the conference may be more important than what happened during the event. As an avid conferencegoer, I’ve thought about several items essential in the hours and days after the conference ends. Here are some thoughts:

1. Plan some time for introspection and reflection. Leaving a conference means returning to our busy worlds at home: family, phone calls, jobs, and responsibilities. If we don’t have a plan for both written and mental reflection, many of the things we’ve learned will fall through the cracks.
If you’re flying, take time to journal, set goals, and during your waiting and flight time.

2. Take time to follow up on the relationships you’ve started and continued. Being a professional writer involves building relationships with other authors, and industry doorkeepers (agents, and editors.) As soon as the conference ends is the perfect time to solidify these friendships by:

A. Follow-up up with emails or notes to all of the business cards you’ve collected. A good plan is to use a glue stick to attach the cards in your journal or event program. Jot notes of details about this person. Follow up with an E-mail, Facebook invitation, or Tweet. Adjust your email signature where it includes a small photo of you. This will allow recipients to remember who you are.

B. Building relationships is a privilege of being a Christian writer. It’s also one of our responsibilities. Networking is a key ingredient in building a writing career.

C. Don’t forget the power of a personal note. E-mail is great, but a hand-written personal note is one of the most cherished things you can send a speaker, conference host, or award winner.
Read my article, “The Power of a Personal Note.”

D. Send a thank you email/note even to professionals who may have turned down your proposal. This shows Christian grace and class and is the sign of a professional writer. Never burn a bridge on the road of life, especially with writing doorkeepers. As my mother reminded me, “You can’t have too many friends.”

3. Make time to follow up on all requests for proposals, book ideas, and requested information. I’ve heard agents and editors relate how many times they never receive requested materials from authors. Don’t miss the chance to walk through the door of opportunity.

4. Set written goals to send requested materials. A common disease after conferences is “WritersDoubtSyndrome.” You’ve gone to the conference with that next bestseller firmly in hand. After sitting in seminars on the craft of writing and receiving critique feedback, you feel the need to start all over on your novel or project.

Even if a doorkeeper requested a sample or proposal, the tendency is to rework it until we feel it is editor worthy. This is good unless it leads to never sending until we think it “is perfect.” Enlist the support of fellow writers and friends who will hold you accountable to update and submit your work by a certain date.

5. Make a folder of materials you brought home from the conference. If you attend the conference next year, it will be a valuable resource.

6. In this folder prepare a “L.B./N.T.” file. In a ministry I formerly led, we had a “Liked Best/Next Time” form. After each event, every employee wrote what they liked best about the event as well as what we’d do differently next time. It was an invaluable aid in planning and preparing for the future.

Going to a writing conference is a thrill and privilege for all authors. Our investment of time, travel, and money is worth it. By developing your own follow through plan after the conference, it will result in the greater benefits.

Copyright 2009 by Creekbank Stories Curt Iles
Learn more at

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Morning Musings

Agent/Author Negotiations

Monday Morning greetings. I hope your weekend was fun and restful. I usually get a Sunday afternoon nap, even though our Sunday’s are pretty busy with church activities. We are blessed to attend a wonderful church here in our area. God has given us many friends and we are thankful. It’s a pretty large church but we’re involved in a lot of small groups, which is the key. Also Jim, my dear husband, is one of the seven pastors.

I recently read an article on the Writer’s Digest web site newsletter. Their web address is I recommend subscribing to this newsletter if you don’t already. The author of this article, Howard G Zaharoff gave 5 quick tips for Writer/Agent negotiations. I thought I’d answer the points he made with information regarding our agency policies.

-The first was “Watch for Red Flags” Of course the most obvious is “does the agent charge reading fees.” Our agency has never charged reading fees, nor do we charge any upfront fees. We work on straight commission.

-“Excessive commissions.” We charge 15%, which is standard. For movies we charge 20-25% because we work with sub-agents and have to split the commission.

- “Commissions on speaking fees” – we do not charge commissions on speaking fees, the only exception might be is if we acted as a speaker’s bureau for you.

-“Control over expenses” – we rarely bill for any expenses. We pay the postage for any manuscripts sent out, we do not charge for phone calls. Most of our work is done via e-mail. The only exception would be manuscripts sent overnight. However, that is rarely necessary because most manuscripts can go to the publisher via e-mail.

- “Timely payment of royalties” – Our policy is to pay within 10 days. Fortunately, most contracts today are written so that the author’s royalty payment (85%) is sent directly to him/her. The agency commission is sent to the Pittsburgh office.

Some other things I cover in my agent workshop are:

- Communication – does your agent answer your e-mails or phone calls?

-Is your agent keeping you up to date on proposals sent out and rejections?

-Does your agent keep you posted on all conversations concerning your book?

If you don’t hear back from us, please try again. Our e-mail load is pretty heavy and sometimes we look at the e-mail intending to get back and answer it. We can get distracted and not get back to it. Or, sometimes messages get lost in cyberspace. Don’t be afraid to check back with us if you don’t get an answer.

If you have any other questions you’d like answered here, we welcome them.

Blessings to all,

Joyce Hart

Friday, September 18, 2009

Interview with Joyce's client Suzanne Fisher

I’m pleased to present author Suzanne Fisher. Suzanne is writing about the Amish way of life, both in fiction and non-fiction. I’m excited about how the Lord is using Suzanne and her books.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a wife and mom of four, I live in the San Francisco Bay area and am a raiser of puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. The thing about puppies is…you just can’t take life too seriously with a puppy in your life.

What led you to the career choice of becoming an author?

I’ve always loved to write, probably because I wasn’t any good at anything else. Especially math. After college, I wrote for a variety of magazines and became a contributing editor to Christian Parenting Today magazine. A few years ago, I took the plunge into book writing. I started with a small press and, eventually, with Joyce Hart’s help, I received contracts with Revell.

What are you currently working on?

Well, since you asked, I’m doing quite a bit to help promote the recent release of Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World. Speaking to groups, giving radio interviews, a blog tour, and a Facebook launch party, to name a few. At the same time, I’m finishing up final edits with the project editor for The Choice, the first in a 3 book series. And I’m also polishing the third book in that same series, to send it to the Acquisitions Editor.

How did you do the research for your Amish books?

Writing Amish Peace was an amazing experience and became a great foundation for the novels that follow it. I started with a handful of contacts within the Amish community. One led to another, to another, to another. And many relationships that developed were accidental…stops I made as I drove through the Pennsylvania and Ohio areas. I’m a believer in “full disclosure,” so whenever I met with the Amish, I was upfront about wanting to write a story about them. Afterwards, I sent them the completed essay and asked for permission plus corrections. There were times when I was asked to change the names or identifying details about the subject, but everyone gave permission. I also interviewed experts-in-the-field, so that I felt sure I understood theological issues correctly. All in all, I have developed some lovely friendships with many Amish families, of whom I feel very protective.

What has been the hardest part of writing your books?

This is an industry where no one is looking for you. Rejection is part of this writing gig. So is discouragement. Oddly enough, that learning curve—taking constructive criticism and applying it, persevering, striving to improve your craft, not taking things too personally—is vitally important. I’m a better writer because of that struggle. And oh…I am so very grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to write! I don’t take any of it for granted.

What do you hope people will take away from your books?

My goal is to have a reader feel closer to God after reading a book I wrote. I don’t ever want to whack readers on the back of the head with an evangelically motivated 2x4…but I hope and pray that they have a desire to know Him in a deeper way.

What is the best writing advice you ever got?

“Hangeth Thou In There.”

The worst?
I can’t think of any…probably because I’ve dismissed it as useless!

What new projects are you working on?

Soon to follow Amish Peace are three novels about the Amish, starting with The Choice on January 1, 2010. In August of 2010, Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom for a Simple Life.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If you’re on Facebook, consider yourself invited to my Facebook Launch Party to celebrate Amish Peace on Monday, September 28th from 5-7 pm. Revell is offering terrific prizes and giveaways during the party, culminating with a giant Amish basket filled with Amish-made products that relate to Amish Peace.

Find me on-line at and you’ll see a button for the invite.
Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Timing: It’s a God Thing! from the Heart of Diana L. Flegal

GOD IS GOOD -GOD IS GREAT- GOD IS SLOW BUT NEVER LATE! (quote courtesy of Eddie Jones)

It’s not about you! We hear it all the time yet fail the test over and over again. You might email your agent many times to see what is happening, chew your nails down to the quick and lose sleep wondering if anyone out there is going to consider you a real writer or buy your second book. Waiting is often the most difficult thing a writer has to do.

God is all about the process. In our personal lives as well as our professional writing and agenting lives. God’s timing is often in question yet He is sovereign. When we think He is late- we are wrong. When we think He is early - we are wrong.

As literary agents, dealing with an industry that most often moves at a snail’s pace- we often hear the frustration of our authors as they wonder what is taking so long. Haven’t you heard back from the editor yet? – they were going to committee two weeks ago, or they publish books like mine all the time, why can’t I get mine sold? We often feel the same frustrations.

Eccles. 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven

God’s timing is impeccable. Joshua 10 tells us he caused the sun and moon to stand still. So many things had to happen astronomically for this to occur- so many things inter-related. In publishing we have the writer, the agent, the editor and their families. God is working in each life, orchestrating His plan through every one.

Here are a few suggestions of what one can do while you are waiting on God:

1) Further hone your skills by attending writer’s conferences, taking workshops, becoming a member of a critique group and availing yourself of the many ‘How To’ titles out there that can help you with plot and character development.
2) Build a platform through speaking engagements, developing a website and blogging.
3) Research the internet for comparative titles.
4) Read the genre you write in.
5) Join a critique group and surround yourself with ‘excuse me but you have Broccoli in your teeth’ folks
6) Edit, edit and re edit your material and your work will be the better for it. Even in this present economy with fewer slots open for each genre- great writing will find its way to a publisher.
7) Submit reviews to online bookstores like, and
8) Write articles for publication.

I leave you with a wonderful thought to meditate upon. ‘God has the ability to orchestrate those who do not even know they are in the orchestra’, Pastor Lance Lecocq

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dear Sir or Madam

It was on a day when I had gotten a number of submissions marked "Dear Literary Agent," "Dear agent," and various innoculous salutations that clearly said it was being mass-mailed to a number of agents without a great deal of thought to who would be reading it. The shotgun approach, just hoping to put enough bullets into the air to hit somebody with one of them. This one said, "Dear Sir or Madam" and I responded with the same salutation:

Dear sir or madam,

I recently received a submission from you which in one form or another was addressed "dear occupant," at least that's is how that sort of submission is looked upon by agents and authors. If you really would like to publish may I suggest that:

1) you take the time to individually find out who the appropriate person is for your work and address it to them personally.

2) that you look at the submission guidelines to see what they wish to receive and how they wish to receive it. The range of what they want and how they want it varies widely.

3) That you look to see if this is really an appropriate market for your work.

It's more work to do it this way but most of the "dear occupant" letters or emails are simply thrown away with no response so although you are taking more time you at least have some chance of success if you do it right. Normally I would have thrown this away as well but I have gotten several today so I decided I would put together a form email which is about as personal as your submission was to me. However, please do not think I am chastising you, I am actually telling you something you really need to hear if you wish to successfully publish.

Mass-mailing submissions very seldom works in any manner, but what they do accomplish is to accumulate many more rejections much more rapidly, but that is not as important as burning a bridge that with a proper submission might have worked for you.

If getting such an impersonal note bothered you, that is exactly what I intended. That is how the people who get notes that are clearly to a mass mail audience react. Please remember how you felt when you submit your next submission and show the editor or agent that you are addressing them as a person. Trust me, the extra work will pay off for you.

Best wishes,

Terry Burns, agent
Hartline Literary Agency

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Joyce's Client Terry Burns receives Will Rogers Medallion

Jean Jones presenting award

Terry is not only a Hartline agent but also my client and is an author in his own right as well. His young adult novel "Beyond the Smoke" won the 2009 Will Rogers Medallion for best youth western. The award was presented at the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock September 12th.

Charles Williams, EVP of the Academy of Western Artists said: "It is with a great deal of pleasure that I recognize your book,"Beyond The Smoke", as a 2009 Will Rogers Medallion Award Winner. The Will Rogers Medallion Award is presented each year to those books that represent an Outstanding Achievement in the Publishing of Western Literature. Your book exemplifies the combination of excellent content, high production values and honoring of the Cowboy Heritage that the award was created to acknowledge.

The picture is one of him with Will Rogers impressionist William Reeder.

"As you know, Will Rogers was a respected writer as well as cowboy entertainer. We hope and believe that the Will Rogers Medallion Award willhelp to expand the heritage of literature which honors the traditions andvalues of the American Cowboy, which Will did so much to embody and demonstrate. The Medallion Award was created initially to encourage the continued upgrading of the quality of published books of Cowboy Poetry. This year, other categories have been added to honor a wide range of Western Literature, including Western Fiction - Young Adult .

Williams continued: "While the Will Rogers Medallion Awards are separate from the Will Rogers Awards, they do share a common goal of recognizing outstanding achievementin the advancement of contemporary cowboy skills. Congratulations on your selection. It was well deserved, and we hope to see further award-quality publications from you in the future."

Terry said, "I'm pleased to receive it for obvious reasons, and even more so because it will help to get the youth title out where it may help introduce more young people to the western genre."

Terry's Publisher, the JourneyForth imprint of BJU Press also received an award plaque for the book. Editor Nancy Lohr said, "Congratulations on receiving this honor, authors like you are few and far between. So light the campfire and cobble up s'mores, time to celebrate. We will be pleased to also nominate this book for the Spur Awards given by the Western Writers of American as well."

Interview with Diana's Client Jena Morrow

You have a book contracted to Moody Press entitled "Hollow" and I understand it is due out in May because they fast tracked it. It is a memoir of your battle with Anorexia Nervosa, is that correct? Can you tell us something about this book and the story behind it?

Yes, "Hollow" narratively shares my testimony of a nearly three-decades-long battle with disordered eating and body image distrubance, and tells the story of how I came to trust in God's power and faithfulness to bring me out of that darkness, one step at a time. I'm grateful to Moody Press for taking on a project so honest in its telling. They knew from the outset that the book offers no "happy ending", but is instead a slice-of-life glimpse into a very real spiritual and psychological battle, shared by nearly eleven million Americans today.

My own battle began at age three and continues to be something of a thorn in my side... but I am learning that, by being vulnerable and telling my story as honestly and unflinchingly as I have chosen to tell it, others are able to see themselves in my story and feel less alone in their own struggles. I have had both men and women alike tell me that, even though they did not have an eating disorder themselves, the story was completely relateable to them. Which goes to show that this human condition of imperfection and fragility is one we all share in our own ways.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

My goal in telling my story was to communicate a realistic message of hope regarding eating disorders. Too many ED stories have been told which either painted a picture of hopelessness and chronicity or of an unrealistic, too-tidy happy ending. Recovery is not so much a destination as it is a journey, as cliche as that may sound. It is a process, and my hope is that people will read my story -- people struggling with eating disorders or with any other unhealthy, self-destructive habits -- and realize that life can be chosen, one day at a time. God's mercies are new every morning, and anyone who struggles with an addiction or behavioral disorder will find comfort in that discovery.

Are you working on other projects, and what are they?

I am. As I work on the editorial process for Hollow, I am also at work on a devotional book for women recovering from eating disorders, as well as on a one-act Christmas play. Once those two projects are completed, I am eager to try my hand at contemporary fiction. I have an outline done for a story about a husband-and-wife team of marriage counselors whose own marital alliance is threatened by infidelity and sexual sin, and the conflict they face in their work because of their personal struggles. The story has already begun to take on momentum in my imagination and if I can't get to work on it soon, I'll begin writing it in my dreams...

What is the best writing advice you have ever been given? The worst?

The best came from Anne Lamott's amazing book on writing, "Bird by Bird." In it, she encourages writers to allow themselves to write a horrible first draft. She uses another choice expletive other than 'horrible', but you get the idea. I needed to hear that, as I was in the thick of writing the first draft of "Hollow." The writing process must be allowed to be messy, which does not come easy for a perfectionist like myself. Creativity is not pristine the first time around, and usually, pristine is boring, anyway.

As for the worst writing advice I've ever been given... I read an article once that said to always begin with a writing exercise, like a prompt, before you begin working on the project at hand, sort of like a warm-up. I don't agree with this practice... If I am eager to get to work on a story that has already taken on a life of its own inside my head, why postpone that creativity?

What would you like to take advantage of this opportunity to say?

Thanks for asking! I'd like to take this chance to say God has been amazingly merciful and kind and good to me, in life and in the process of writing "Hollow" and finding a publishing home for it. His hand has been on this project from the beginning, and I give all glory to Him (and "props" to my incredibly hard-working agent, Diana) for any success the book enjoys. There was a time, a few years back, when I wasn't sure I wanted to live anymore. I am endlessly grateful to God for not giving me my wish at that time, but for gently and patiently leading me out of that place and further along on my adventure with Him, to a place where I can tell my story and bring others along with me on narrow path.

What a privilege He has allowed me!

Thank you Jena for joining us here. I look forward to your titles release May 2010. I believe many lives will be saved as a result of God using your book and life testimony.

From my heart to yours,

Friday, September 11, 2009

Interview with Terry's Client Donn Taylor

Today we're going to visit with client and I'm proud to say my good friend Donn Taylor

Donn, your mystery "Rhapsody in Red" and your poetry book "Dust and Diamond" are both doing well in the marketplace, and we're working on marketing
the sequel and trying to get a reprint deal for your earlier work, "The Lazarus File." What are people liking about "Rhapsody"? What are they saying?

Almost every comment has been positive. Readers like the characters--the widower professor plagued by musical hallucinations, the feisty female professor of comparative religion, the sometimes-surprising secondary characters like MRS. Blossom Harlow. People have commented favorably on the novel's light satire of political correctness and the small-college scene, and they like the ironic encounters between the professor and the school administration. Quite a few have commented on the mystery's climax and the wrap-up chapter. I've been pleasantly surprised by people I don't know e-mailing to ask when the sequel comes out.

What's next in the pipeline from you?

I've just completed a historical novel set in 1948, when America was trying to restore normalcy after WW II but worrying about early stages of the Cold War. That's the setting, but the story turns on how a small town too proud of its own virtues deals with its first murder. I'm working on a sequel to that one, with a third book possibly taking those characters through America's entrance to the Korean War. I'm also doing the early work for a second sequel to "Rhapsody."

You do programs at writing conferences, what are you presenting on and how do program people find out more?

I teach workshops on poetry writing. They cover the elements that make poetry different from prose, how to get started writing poetry, how to make your poetry different from most of what's being written, and some of the unique special effects poetry can achieve. I also do one-on-one poetry critiques at conferences. Descriptions of my classes are can be found in the Faculty and Workshops link at My Web site,, contains examples of my poetry as well as sample chapters of "Lazarus" and "Rhapsody." Interested parties can contact me via e-mail,

What's the best piece of writing advice you ever got? The worst?

Best: That's an easy one: LEARN THE CRAFT. The hard part is figuring out what parts of it I don't yet know. From my college teaching days I had no problem with the mechanics of writing. But in changing from academic and technical writing into fiction writing, I had to learn the theory of structuring scenes and entire novels. Then I had to practice until I could make the theory work. And as Cec Murphy says, we must never stop learning. There's another barrier of ignorance I'm trying to break through now, but I'd better not name it.

Worst: That's easy, too: the idea that "It's all subjective." Not so, and the statement is all the more false because it's partly true. There are some subjective elements, such as an editor's judgment of whether a particular subject will sell to the readers. But to enlarge the subjective factors into the whole picture is to create an excuse for failure--an excuse not to get better. Craftsmanship is not subjective, and sloppy writing won't be rejected on an editor's subjective judgment because the poor craftsmanship will stop it before the content gets evaluated.

Anything you'd like to take advantage of this opportunity to say?

I like novels that temper suspense and pathos with humor. That technique worked well for Shakespeare, and I'm surprised more of us don't imitate him in practicing it. And C.S. Lewis was all too correct in saying that the hardest thing to portray in any art is simple goodness. Nevertheless, we need to put in the necessary effort and the ingenuity. If we don't, our writing ends up overbalanced in the other direction. I only hope I can actually practice what I preach.

Thank you, Donn, great answers. I encourage readers to sign up for a rss feed to automatically get this blog as it alternates between introductions and advice from my clients, answers to writing and agent questions people ask, new book releases. and a variety of other topics.

On 9/11

The agents of Hartline Literary and our families send our heartfelt condolences to those who lost loved ones 9/11. We know that hitting this date brings that day back fresh in your minds. It brings it back fresh in all of our minds and well it should . . . we should never forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some of my favorite quotes

I like to begin my workshops by sharing a few of my favorite quotes. Today I am going to share a few of them in the hopes they may inspire you, make you laugh and above all help us not to take ourselves too seriously!

Writers aren’t exactly people…they are a whole lot of people trying to be one person.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

I write because I want more than one life; I insist on a wider selection. It is greed plain and simple. When my characters join the circus, I’m joining the circus. Although I’m happily married, I spend a great deal of time mentally living with incompatible husbands.
Ann Tyler (1941- )

I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves.
E. M. Forster
“Two Cheers for Democracy” (1951)

A well composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way. Caroline Gordan (1895-1981)

A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return. Samuel Rushdie
Imaginary Homelands (1992)

In all my work what I try to say is that as human beings we are more alike than we are unalike.
Maya Angelou
Interview in New York Times
(January 20, 1993)

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. Robert Benchley (1889-1945)

I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.
Henry David Thoreau
Walden (1854)

I like a thin book because it will steady a table, a leather volume because it will strop a razor, and a heavy book because it can be thrown at a cat. Mark Twain (1835-1910)

And last but not least:

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of the night.
Attributed to P. J. O’Rouke (1947-

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Day?

We get questions posted on the blog, sent directly, and sometimes at conferences. This one asked, How do you handle the large number of submissions you get? How do you prioritize your day?

To tell you the truth it’s hard to handle the quantity and occasionally I drop a ball. Yes, I’m sad to admit it but it does happen. Fortunately not often, but that’s because I have some great help. I’ve had help this year from three great editorial assistants, Teri Burns (yes she’s my daughter and a long time copy editor), Amy Alessio (YA librarian, editor for a couple of small publications and nationally recognized expert on the YA genre) and Kristine Pratt ( editor at Written World Communications and for Marcher Lord Press).

I try to run a paperless office so I accept submissions per our guidelines at as a word or .rtf attachment to an email. A single file please, nice professional proposal with your query letter in the email itself if you are thinking of sending. I receive a quantity of them each day, a couple of thousand a year. When they come in, query letter or proposal I briefly look at them. Some are overtly not a fit and I respond to those immediately trying to be encouraging in the process. If they might fit they go to an assistant as a first reader. They go over them thoroughly, sometimes asking for more, occasionally asking if some changes can be made, picking the projects they want to recommend to me. The most common fix asked for is the manuscript opens too slowly. If they really like it they’ll ask for the full manuscript.

By the time I’ve worked my email I’ve weeded out obvious no fits, parceled out reading, gotten rid of junk mail that made it through my filters and I’m left with an inbox that has items I need to deal with. Obviously any communication with editors is at the top of the list. Communicating with clients is a close second. My client group is like a little writing group. They are on a closed list where they can talk and where I send out a weekly update telling of any successes that we as a group are having. They all seem encouraged to hear what one of us is doing even if it wasn’t them getting the good news. If there is any jealousy it isn’t mentioned, they seem genuinely happy for any success and constantly pray for one another.

Where I want to spend most of my time is in targeting submissions for clients and getting them out. An agent submission is not much better than any other submission if it goes in blind without knowing who the proper person is and some assurance that the project is AT LEAST a good potential fit for them. In the wake of the economic slowdown this targeting can be difficult. Here the writer’s group is helpful as we all go to conferences and get submissions requested, but in addition we all pick up all of the input and intelligence that we can and report it back hoping to somehow benefit someone in the group even if it doesn’t benefit us.

It takes some pretty sophisticated systems to track submissions and contacts, look to see when follow-ups are needed, keeping track of the information that is coming in and seeing what markets it might be point to that are ripe for submissions. This is where I like to spend the bulk of my time, as Diana said in her posting, looking for those perfect matches.

The difficult thing to schedule is the full reads. I don’t like to do them in pieces; I like to get some time where I can read it straight through. The projects the ladies refer to me as a potential client usually have full manuscripts by that point. Hopefully I will read straight through because if it doesn’t hold my interest I’m probably through at that point. I also look over the projects coming back that they recommend are not a fit for us and why to see if I concur. They are VERY good and I usually agree. However, I don’t delegate the authority to accept or reject.

Things seldom prioritize this neatly though and messages often come in that you drop everything to handle. I go hunting a place to submit one project and find a good match for another one instead so I do that one. Hopefully projects we take on come with good professional proposals that take little work to prepare them to submit. Occasionally I like one enough that I’ll take it and then have to try and make some kind of good proposal for it. This doesn’t happen often as authors know their projects much better and can almost always make a better proposal than I can do. These often take longer to get out as we have to find the time to work up the proposal.

I take a break periodically to scan email and facebook since I do have to maintain a certain visibility level. I may continue well into the evening or in the evening I may work on one of my own projects, same with Saturday. I try not to work on Sunday at all unless I’m just casually reading on a manuscript on Sunday afternoon in between church sessions. That’s something of the big picture, although life fits in here too and there are always things that have to be done. There are blogs to maintain, honey-do’s to get done and bills to pay. I know clients sometimes think I shouldn’t do anything but work for them, but Saundra and mom sometimes don’t see it that way.

I welcome any comments or questions and will give a copy of my eBook “Pitch and Promote like a Pro” to respondents asking a good writing related question.

Happy trails,


Monday, September 7, 2009

Interview with Joyce's client Jane Kirkpatrick

Today I am so happy to interview long time client, award winning author, and my very good friend Jane Kirkpatrick.

Jane, tell us about your latest book and the next one in the series to be released next spring.

My latest book, A Flickering Light, is based on my grandmother, a turn of the century photographer when photography was mostly a male profession. She traveled around and ran the studios of men who were ill from mercury poisoning or helped their widows run studios until they decided what to do with them. She was a talented woman but talent as a currency can be invested, saved and sometimes, wasted. The book explores aspects of her talent-related decisions that put her at odds with her employer whom she develops an infatuation for.

An Absence so Great is the sequel. It’s really about the way this young woman comes to terms with choices she’s made and the consequences of those choices. Jessie, the protagonist (my grandmother) wants so much to own her own studio which was unusual for a woman of that period. It’s also about the absence of spiritual connection and how that affects dealing with the absences of people in our lives. It’ll be out in March.

Oh, and my latest nonfiction book is Aurora An American Experience in Quilt, community and Craft. It’s the story of a Christian communal society of the 1850s, the only one to survive west of the Mississippi. The women were skilled textile artists and the men fine craftsman. We get the word Craft from the Greek Poema meaning poem. They crafted poems and are remembered because of the work and stories they left behind. My Change and Cherish novel series is based on one of the primary women in that community.

How do you do research for your books?

Oh goodness, everywhere, all the time! I draw on historical books, old magazines and newspapers, the internet, e-Bay (I can at least see items from a certain period even if I can’t afford to buy them!). I read books that my characters might have read. I interview descendants of the people I write about, visit museums, libraries, take notes, travel to sites related to the stories. I use old photographs and penny postcards and read first person accounts of people who lived during the time period. Lots of theology books grace my shelves as I try to weave people’s faith journey into the story in congruent ways. And I read historical novels of the period because you never know when some little piece of tidbit will open up a new idea for my own plot. Oh, and I watch Antiques Road show with a note pad in hand!

What has been the hardest hurdle in your writing career and how did you overcome it?

I haven’t over come it yet but I’m working on it. It’s the negative voices that tell me I ought to take up some other occupation besides writing. Silencing them could be full time work!

What do you hope people will take away from your books?

I hope my books serve as doors to open their hearts to healing, to seeking redemption, to finding ways to forgive themselves and others for past wrongs and mistakes. I hope they finish the books (literally!) and that when they do they feel their time spent was worthy. I want to tell a story that speaks to individuals in encouraging ways and for them to see the love of God within the words, the story and even the white space on the page.

What are your speaking and promotional plans for the Fall?

Always lots happening. I’ll be at the Women Writing the West conference speaking and receiving a nice award for my latest nonfiction book Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft. I’ll be at the Houston Quilt show in October; I’m presenting classes at The Nature of Words a well-regarded writing program in Bend, Oregon; several bookstore events, historical society presentations and next week I’m helping with inaugural activities for Dr. Andrea Cook at Warner Pacific College in Forest Grove, Oregon. You can check out my schedule at

What is the best writing advice you ever got?

It’s about the story, not about you. Tell the story the best way you know how and trust that you’re not alone in the telling.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Publishing can be a crazy world but there are good people in it willing to encourage and guide. Hartline Literary Services is one of those guides.

Thank you, and thanks to our readers from dropping by– what we are doing is each of our agents are taking a day to write a blog and then we’ll put interviews on other days. We’re not going to try to copy any other agent’s blog, just be ourselves and promote our clients and our agents, but at the same time help authors learn more about the craft.

Again, Jane, thank you for being my guest.


Oh – the address –

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Writing a blog is not easy for me.

Photo L-R Diana Flegal, Joyce Hart, and client Diana Taylor at ICRS

Maybe I’m more of a private person than I realize. As a pastor’s wife for all these years, I’ve learned not to share a lot of what is going on, so it makes me a little nervous to “tell all” on the internet.

I have been asked to speak to a business class at the Penn State College, McKeesport Campus. next week. The professor wants me to tell her class how I started the business and how the industry has evolved during those 19 years. Ideally, I would have had a business plan, I didn’t have a written one, but I did have a goal and that was to earn a living.

I worked at Whitaker House Publishing for 11 years and worked up from being a secretary to the Vice President and to the editors to being the Vice President of Marketing. When I went to work there I found my niche – Christian books. I loved selling books and when I decided to quit the corporate I wanted to stay in the industry, so I started my own company.

How did I ever have the nerve to do that?

This is what I’ll share with these young students. It takes persistence and consistence. I had mentors and support from people who knew computers. I knew nothing about computers, but I knew they were an integral part of what I wanted to do. I knew the business and I had the contacts, I just had to find publishers to work for as an independent rep. Thus, I became Hartline Marketing and did that for at least 10 years. The industry changed, Spring Arbor was bought by Ingram and that changed my business dramatically.

All along people had been sending me manuscripts to “look at.” I sold my first manuscript for Jane Kirkpatrick in 1992 – we sold it to the first publisher I called, Multnomah. They told me “We don’t like to work with agents.” I asked why and they said because agents are too pushy. I told them I was a nice agent. Our editor was Rod Morris. Jane is still my client and we’ve sold 13 or 14 of her books. She is one of my dearest friends. Eventually, I changed the name of the company to Hartline Literary Agency and hired 3 agents to help with the many proposals that were coming in via USPS and e-mail.

God has been my guide all along. At first I would lay my head on my desk and say “Lord, I can’t do this,” and then get up and work. What I want to share with the students is that it takes persistence and consistence. It takes a good work ethic. I get up every day and “get ready for work” even though I work from my home office.

I’ve read that small businesses are the hope for our nation. Even as authors working from home, hone your craft and write the very best book you can. This industry is tough right now and the editors are looking for stellar writing. Prepare a proposal that will catch their attention. I don’t mean with fancy fonts and pictures, just a well organized, well written proposal. Authors tell me that the proposal is the hardest part of writing. I tell them that it is one of the most important parts of getting the book published. Finding mentors and networking are so important. If you are writing fiction join ACFW and RWA; be a part of a critique group. Writing is lonely; you need to connect with other authors.

I still love this industry and I love working with our authors.
Joyce Hart

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Interview with Joyce's Client Ace Collins

Tell us about the four books that are out and are coming out in 2009?

The year started off with our book “Sticks and Stones – How To Make Your Words A Powerful Force.” It’s a book that really embraces the way that I live and allows me to share what I have learned from the thousands of interviews I have done over the years. When you read this book you are pretty much reading my philosophy of life.

“Stories Behind Men Of Faith” is a companion book to one on women of faith that was released a year ago. It was a great learning experience researching the sixteen men who were placed in this book. There are some angles and stories in MOF that will surprise readers who thought they knew every facet of these men’s lives.

“Swope’s Ridge” is my second adventure novel in the Lije Evans Mystery Series. The reviews of this and the first book in this series, “Farraday Road,” have been super and I hope that this series finds a loyal audience because I want to continue to develop these characters. They are a joy to write.

“25 Days 26 Ways To Make This Year Best Christmas Ever” is my fourth book in our Christmas book series. Prepublication buzz has been very good on this and even though all the other books in this series have been bestsellers, I really think this one has the potential to bring the greatest joy to the holiday season and may ultimately have the biggest sales numbers too. It seems like a perfect book for the age we live in.

What do you have coming out in 2010?

We have a fifth Christmas book that comes out next year that centers of the stories behind the greatest hits of the season. This book will allow us to get the stories behind great sentimental favorites as well as some of the novelty songs Christmas. That book is due for a late fall release.

In the first quarter I have a neat book called “Gratitudes” that will be released by Zondervan. This book follows in the steps of “Sticks and Stones.” It presents life lessons and allows the reader to adapt a positive approach to every facet of life. This book is all about embracing the great gifts we are given that we often take for granted.

I have heard there is going to be a special coffee table edition of my “Stories Behind The Best Loved Songs Of Christmas” books that will include incredible art as well as sheet music to the carols.

Where do you get your inspiration for your books?

The inspiration comes from all around me. I take a good dose of it from my study of history, but I think most of it comes from observing people and visiting with them about their interests. If you know what folks want to read, if you know the kind of things they are curious about, then that knowledge allows you to merge ideas with practical direction. Thus it gives you a much better chance at ending up with a book that has a built in audience.

I also have a log book and if I see a story in the news, a quote, get an idea from a sermon or a speech, have someone tell me a story and even hear something in a song that sends me on a new direction, I write it down. In fact, I have book outlines in my files from twenty years ago that I am still anxious to develop and write.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That varies…if I am writing in a genre that I am very familiar with and working with an editor I know, then the process can go very quickly. The actually writing (and rewriting) time on my novel “Swope’s Ridge” was less than six weeks. Realize that does not include the prewriting time of outlining and putting together the story concept. Nonfiction books that require lots of research take much longer.

As I am usually working on a couple of different projects at the same time, and may be gathering research on one while I actually pen another, it is hard to say exactly how long each book takes. I do like to write four books a year. That keeps my in what I call “writing shape” and I stay focused that way.

What do you hope people will take away from your writing?

I would hope that what I write lifts people, makes them think, allows them to grow spiritually and mentally and, I can’t stress this enough, entertains them. I am a storyteller and good storytellers, even when they are delivering a message book, must entertain. So I never forget about that part of the project.

New projects?

Working on several different things including some new directions in novels as well as a book idea that ties in with “Sticks and Stones.” I also have a couple of novels I’ve written that I hope to place with publishers this year.

I am writing an ABA novel called “Words of The Father.” This is a mystery/adventure book I can only describe as “Indiana Jones meets the Di Vinci Code.” With a mix of ancient history, theology and faith tossed in with modern terrorism and commercialism, this is a very different book and a great challenge to write. Yet I really like it and I am hoping the lead character, Harlow Burke, is just beginning his literary appearances with “Words of the Father.”

Any advice you’d like to give new writers?

It is important to fight for what you believe in, but remember an agent and your editors will see holes in your work that you don’t see. Listen to them and adapt your work using the information that give you. Nine times out of ten your final product will be much better because you included the ideas of others.

Also, remember that you never write a book alone. It is a team project. So do all you can for that team, from your agent, to your editor, to marketing, sales and publicity. If you constantly assure these team members how important they are to you, your chances of finding success will be much better.

Finally, my very bestselling book was rejected more than two dozen times over a decade before it found a home at a publisher who originally didn’t want it. So if you have a good idea, don’t give up on it.

Where can the readers find information about you and your books?

A lot of spots have information on my work, but folks might want to start at There is a bio, as well as a chance to read sample chapters from my most recent books.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

The current book market it tough, therefore it is easy to get discouraged during these times. This testing period is one that can become the most important time in your career. This is when you find out how badly you want to pursue writing as a career.

I have many friends in the entertainment business who are very successful, yet they all talk about the time when they almost “starved out.” What separated them from those who quit was continuing to believe their work was their calling. During these tough periods they found themselves walking on water (faith). That faith in my calling has sustained me over the years and it can sustain you as well.

There will be a drawing from among those commenting on his interview for an autographed copy of a two book set of his books, Farraday Road and Swope's Ridge.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Make Me a Perfect Match by Diana

Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming! I often think this to myself as I stop what I am doing and smile – I am a Literary Agent working with the coolest authors and brushing shoulders with editors and other agents. Dear blog reader this is an answer to a prayer breathed a long time ago from under the bedcovers where I was covertly reading the latest Nancy Drew mystery by flashlight so as not to hear my parents yell up the stairs again, “turn off that light and get to sleep!” My heart breathed prayer was, “Lord can I please be paid to read someday?”

A lot of years later I am being paid to read, well for the most part, and I am involved in an industry that promotes and publishes books! I love my job and even though I have jumped into the turbulent waters of the economically stirred publishing pool, I am glad I am swimming around with the others.

I like to think of myself as a ‘Yenta’ or a Matchmaker. Think Fiddler on the Roof. The chorus of the famous song goes like this: “Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch. Matchmaker, Matchmaker look through your book and make me a perfect match.” As a literary agent this is exactly what we do. We compile the names of editors and what they are looking for in our books, meet with them at conferences, email them and try to find a match with a particular author and publishing house that will make for a longstanding relationship. A Publishing house that will recognize an author’s gifts and push them to further excellence. An author that will make that house and their agent proud. This means meeting their deadlines and acting in a professional manner, being reasonable in your demands. All to make for a 'Great Marriage'.

All relationships take work. Marriage does and business relationships require no less work from all parties involved. Respect must be a 2 way street for all and we must all remember that we are different than the world, we desire most importantly to honor and glorify the giver of our gifts and talents and to someday hear those words I myself long for, “Well done Good and Faithful Servant”!

So if you see me and I am humming under my breath, you can be sure I am humming the refrains of Fiddler on the Roof’s, Matchmaker. I am always plotting and planning that perfect match and let’s face it, it takes a little more time for some than others, but as my husband likes to say, ‘There is a lid for every pot’ and all good ‘yenta’s’ keep trying to find that perfect match!

So I must get back to work now, filling my books with the information that just might be the right match for …. ?

Diana Flegel

An advance peek

The joys of a brand new blog. A technical malfunction allowed some blog entries to post before their time. They have been pulled and will run at the proper time. If you are one that gets it sent to you just consider that you are very special and got an advance peek at what is to come. And sorry for any inconvenience.