Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Interview with Terry's client Caron Guillo

Caron Guillo, you have publishing credits, but “An Uncommon Crusade” is your debut book-length work. Tell us about your journey to publish your first book:

You know, I recently spoke to teenage writers who were dumbfounded that it took about six years from concept to publication. Of course, that’s a third or more of their young lives, but in this industry, it’s not unusual. Early on, I pitched “An Uncommon Crusade” to a couple of editors who were interested but ultimately decided to pass as they were steering clear of Christian fiction in a medieval setting. I’m grateful that Terry Burns loved the story so much, he read it in one sitting then signed on to be my agent. Kristine Pratt of Written World Communications was likewise intrigued by Simon, Elisabeth and Hugo’s journey. She told me recently that when WWC requested the manuscript in advance of a pub board meeting, a couple of folks there peeked at it early, and the thing went viral through the company. They’d all read it and were clamoring for it before it was even brought to committee.  

How did you research for this book?

I’m rather a research nerd, so it was a lot of fun to search libraries and the Internet for accurate, reliable information. My husband is an emergency room nurse and a combat veteran, so he provided quite a bit of insight regarding the progression of illnesses and injuries as well as battlefield strategies. As a former world history teacher and fan of historical fiction, I am especially sensitive to keeping the small details of the time period intact. If I wrote a scene where a woman wore a velvet dress, then I’d better be sure velvet was available at that time and in that location. I once watched YouTube videos so that I could describe the proper way to butcher a pig. I’m proud to say, it did not put me off peppered bacon at all.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

For this story, I came across a few lines at the end of an encyclopedia article (remember the part about me being a research nerd?) concerning a children's crusade that ended in tragedy, most of
the participants either dying prematurely in the Alps or being betrayed and sold into slavery in Africa.

I actually gasped and re-read the paragraph three or four times. What in the world would possess children to set off on such a misadventure or their parents to allow it?

Sometime later when I had the tools and time to research the subject properly, I discovered that at the forefront of the so-called children's crusade was a charismatic and egotistical young commoner named Nicholas, that most of the "crusaders" were young adults, and that parents were generally terrified of the movement, seeking to protect their children from a disastrous end.

I couldn't let the story go. Why would unarmed, untrained, unfinanced peasants think they could accomplish what professional armies had not? How desperate or deluded must an individual be to join such an ill-fated mission? And what about all those young people sold into slavery? How did they live with the consequences of their mistakes?

I began to envision a young woman who would do anything to win freedom from her past. A young man who dreams of rising above his lowly status to change the world. A would-be warrior looking for a fight, and perhaps a bit of fortune.

And so began my exploration into the lives of three young commoners who thought they had nothing left to lose.

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

To be honest, I’ve loved this story from the beginning. Because I tend to go lean on description, I had to work hard to include all the senses in my narrative, but I believe I’ve managed to immerse the characters in an authentic thirteenth century Europe or Palestine or Egypt.

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

I wrote "An Uncommon Crusade" to explore every man and woman's struggle to find deliverance from his or her own brokenness. I hope readers will come away knowing that God is faithful to the task, even in the midst of our darkest moments.

What new projects are you working on?

I'm currently working on a story based in large part on my experiences in Zimbabwe in recent years, my continued involvement in humanitarian efforts there, and my time spent at Imire Safari Ranch—a black rhino breeding station and game park.
In “Great Zimbabwe,” American Sara Jenkins travels to Zimbabwe to meet the father she’s never known and perhaps scrape together enough courage to deal with the challenges she faces in her life and relationships. Instead, she must solve the mystery of his disappearance more than two decades ago.

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

Folks can read more on these topics and contact me through my website at 

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

Best writing advice: “Show, don’t tell.” And I definitely owe author Jack Cavanaugh for taking the time to help me discover how to do that.

Worst writing advice: “Give up now while there’s still time to salvage your dignity.” Who needs dignity, anyway?

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

I insisted my photographer not touch up the photos for my website. I didn’t want anyone to be shocked or sorely disappointed when meeting me in person. :)

Caron's book releases Jan 4th and may be ordered now at Amazon:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 2010 from Joyce Hart

The end of another year already, it is hard to believe that we’re heading toward 2011.
This has been quite an eventful year for me.  I’m thankful for the success of my spinal surgery.  It is wonderful to not to live with severe pain.  I’m glad I was able to keep working through most of the year.  God is good.

Both Terry and Tamela have talked about changes.  It seems that Christmas makes us reflect on past years.  Our families change, we lose loved ones, new babies come along, new in-laws marry into the family, and the circle of life goes on.  We can’t help but think of Christmases when parents were alive, when we were kids, when our kids were kids.

This year we lost our beloved little dog, Abbie a few weeks ago.  What a difference that makes, she was with us constantly and I am still crying when I see a toy or have a memory of cute things she did.  She was a good dog, so surely she must be in heaven waiting for us.

We are blessed to be in a wonderful church family, we’re so looking forward to our candlelight Christmas Eve service this year.  Then we’ll go to our son’s home and celebrate with our family, both sons, their wives and our grandson.  Christmas day we’ll all be at our house for our traditional ham dinner.  I’ll make it a little healthier this year, with veggies and salad.  Of course there are certain items on the menu we can’t give up – green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes & ham gravy, yum! 

2009 was a good year for Hartline Literary Agency.  Our agents have been busy selling books for our clients.  Every year seems to get a little better than the previous one.

I do have a few prayer requests, one of our authors, Thom Hunter and his wife Lisa lost their home a fire last week.  Also, Diana Flegal’s father died on December 10th, Sandi Rog is in the hospital for chemo this week, hopes to be home for Christmas Eve. 

Even with all the changes in our lives we serve a God who does not change.  He is faithful and just. His love is everlasting.  Lamentations 3: 22 & 23  “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”

I pray that you will have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year.

In His service,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Past - by Terry Burns

 Christmas used to mean a pilgrimage to Grandma's house.

Those days are still very special to me and were the subject of this little poem:

Christmas at my Grandma’s house was there ever such a time?
And I a button scarcely large enough that I could climb
Upon the wing of Grandpa’s rocker, feet upon the rail
And watch him smoke his pipe & smile as I told him many a tale.

Christmas at my Grandma’s house and the tree would reach the ceiling.
The smell of cooking filled the air & the world was bright with feeling.
From the height we looked the presents stacked more than halfway up the tree.
And came back down near half the wall, and many of them for me!

Christmas at my Grandma’s house, and music filled the air.
Uncle Ray’s piano shook the room as he played without a care.
Uncle Bills fiddle took it high, Daddy’s guitar filled it in;
We kids supplied the chorus, though maybe a little thin.

Christmas at my Grandma’s house, but we always had to wait
For Uncle Edgar to get back home from the shopping trip he’d take.
We kids would gather round his door and try to peek inside
As he wrapped those final presents while the smallest of us cried.

Christmas at my Grandma’s house, and how excitement grew!
For though the gifts cost not too great neither were they too few.
As parents, aunts, uncles & cousins all bought something small
For each kid, and our eyes bugged out as our stack grew oh so tall!

Christmas at my Grandma’s house, and little did I know
That I was filling my heart so full of love that through the years would go.
I still recall and see it clear, the faces plain as day
And though I live a hundred years, I’ll always feel this way.

For Christmas at my Grandma’s house is a fairy tale in time!
When love and laughter filled the air and everyone felt just fine.
It cannot be repeated, nor would I if I might;
For our own have been as special, but still there was that night....

When Christmas at my Grandma’s house made all the world seem right.
But now I would remember, and have YOU see that sight.
And as you celebrate this year comes this vision from the past
And I hope this time is just as good and hope these joys do last.

Yet above all of the wonderful times with family and friends we must be ever mindful that the reason for the season is the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior.
Merry Christmas to you one and all . . . . .

Monday, December 20, 2010

Special Gifts - by Terry Burns

The Bible says that all believers receive at least one special gift, the gift of faith.  It also promises in  multiple places that we may receive others.

I went to the Christian Writer's Workshop at Glorietta one year. As I went I was looking for direction as to including my faith in my writing, and I got it. (See writing  testimony on my website)  But I've talked about that.  As a product of getting there I went through a course designed to identify special gifts. It was pretty extensive and very revealing. They concluded  I had three in addition to the one we all have, writing, music, and the gift of encouragement.

I accepted that, and it has seemed to be the areas I needed to work in. The writing is pretty evident and I've talked about it enough. The music  is pretty much confined to church as we sing in the choir and Saundra and I are known for doing duets. We're singing in the Christmas program this year.

Then there's the gift of encouragement. I do a little teaching at church, but my schedule doesn't let me do that on a regular basis.  Mostly I've used it in the writing groups I've been in and continue to be in,  trying in my limited way to pay forward all the help others have given me. I consider the programs and workshops that I've been doing more and more of another means of trying to use it, and it was the motivating factor in my deciding to become an agent. I'm much more motivated by helping get good Christian work out there than by trying to make money.

Mostly I hope to do it through a daily walk that is a mute testimony to my faith. We talked about that in Sunday School yesterday and there was a quote I really liked about a Christian that needs to "be in the world but not of the world." The lesson said that a boat must be in the water to be useful, but the water shouldn't be in the boat.

I like that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What are the odds? by Terry Burns

 Today is the day for Diana to submit but she is dealing with some very serious family issues and I sincerely solicit your prayers for her and her family on the home-going of her father.

85% of all manuscripts written will not be substantially published. That sounds so depressing. However, the reason that they aren’t substantially published is because the people involved do not take time to be in a critique group or get their product edited, didn’t go to conferences or workshops and learn their craft, didn’t make their product exceptional enough to stand out from the crowd . . . or just gave up after they got a few rejections.

I can’t think of any business that someone can just do without learning how. Even posthole digging requires learning a few simple techniques. So why do so many think they can just automatically write a book and it be a bestseller without learning the right skills? Or can just send it off and get it published without learning the right way to do it?

The good news is if we are learning our craft, if we are getting the product right and doing the submissions right, we aren’t competing with this 85%, we are in the 15% that is actually in the running. Much better odds, wouldn’t you say? The writers that substantially publish take the time to learn what they are doing, then they have the patience to see it through.

That’s my 2 cents worth anyway.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can Formatting Get a Submission Rejected? by Terry Burns

 The simple answer is yes.

Oh, you won't see editors saying that much, although I do have them admit it from time to time. They point to other things or say "it's not a good fit." But formatting enters into it.

I had one author say "Sometimes I think all this hype is deliberately aimed at getting writers nervous and creating a sense you won't get published unless you hire a free-lance editor. It's getting so a poor bloke won't be able to write unless he mortgages his house to hire a staff to get his manuscript in ship-shape order because supposedly publishers aren't willing to even read a a less than perfect manuscript."

I responded, "It isn’t that they aren’t willing to read it, but the fact that they have been cut back so drastically that they don’t have people to do heavy editing. That means they are looking for manuscripts that are good books, but more so are ready to go without a great deal of work. The cleaner one is the better it competes against other ones that are coming in and are ready to go."

It’s called “survival of the fittest.”

I've pointed out in the past that we get hundreds of good books each month. Hundreds! Obviously we can't represent that many, and whether coming in direct or from a number of agents, editors are getting far more submissions than they can publish, even if they are good. Quite simply that means good is just not good enough. To make the cut a manuscript must be exceptional. It must be a unique story in a unique voice, and yes, it must be as clean and ready to go as we can possibly make it.

The checklist that I use is online at and I automatically check for these items as I read. You see, my estimation of a writer goes up significantly if I'm reading their submission and find I'm not having to do much formatting or finding typos and extra spaces stuck in all over the place. I know an editor feels this way as well and when they are reading a clean submission that doesn't seem to require as much editing, they concentrate more on the plot and the storyline. That's what I want and why I try to make anything I send to an editor as clean as possible. 

But I have a limited amount of time to do such work as well and when a project obviously needs a great deal of work, well . . .

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rubbing a Cat by Terry Burns

 Today is the day for Diana to submit but she is dealing with some very serious family issues and I sincerely solicit your prayers for her and her family on the homegoing of her father.

If we're rubbing a cat and it's making his fur stand up and making him uncomfortable, the cat needs to turn around because we're rubbing him the wrong way. If we read in the Bible and it makes us uncomfortable and rubs us the wrong way, then maybe we need to turn around too.

I like that. When people come to the Lord its because they come under conviction, start getting rubbed the wrong way, and can only find peace by turning around their lives. But children of God can get turned around too, and if reading the word starts making our fur stand up we had better start paying attention.

I try to read the Bible through each year and will be starting the New Year reading it through again. I hope as I go that I'm going to be sensitive to the places that pinch and bind a bit, places where the fur starts getting ruffled. I surely don't want to be lulled into trailing off following the ways of the world instead of strengthening my walk with the Lord. When that still, small voice inside me starts talking I want to be listening.

Who would think just rubbing a cat would have such a profound message?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Joyce’s client, Lena Nelson Dooley guest blog

Joyce’s client, Lena Nelson Dooley, is an expert at social networking and marketing online.

Here is Lena’s blog on Blog Tours.

Blog Tours, Who Needs Them?

Electronics have come of age, and a large number of people have embraced the Internet for many things. Readers welcome the ability to meet authors, learn about their lives, and more importantly learn about their books. With the economy so tight, people are careful about their book budgets.

I have blogged for readers since 2005, when I started interviewing authors about their latest releases. With several thousand hits per month, as well as an unknown number of people who receive a feed of my blog, readers are flocking to the site. And authors are no longer strangers to the average reader.

Authors, publishing companies, and literary publicists have chosen to utilize this electronic interest in authors and books. One of the best ways is through blog tours.

Blog tours are a lot of work but worth every minute invested. I’ve had authors tell me their stats on Amazon and similar sites spike while they are featured on my blog.

I’ve planned a couple of the blog tours for myself and other authors who shared a release. With most blog tours, all the stops on the tour get the same information to use. I’m not sure how many use all of the information, but I chose to do it a different way.

With my own personal author-interview blog, I’ve written several different sets of questions. So readers who come to my blog get different information from whatever else is out there about that book and author.

I applied that principle to the blog tours I set up. I had each of the authors answer all the questions I wrote for the interviews. Then I divided all the questions and responses between the people on the blog tour. That way, readers at each stop got new information.

Other things can bring readers to a blog tour. Book giveaways always interest a number of people. Other giveaways include gift baskets, jewelry, food items, trips, etc. I personally don’t know which draws the most readers.

I think I was the first person to start giving away books on a blog. The people who left comments were entered in the drawing. But my readership includes a vast number of people who never leave comments at all. And the commenters love to interact with the authors. The more active the author is in the comment section of the blog, the more people are drawn to participate. Some very interesting conversations ensue, which is good for the reader and good for the author.

How do I choose the blogs for a tour? I began compiling a possible list for blogs to tour. Then I checked them out. I only chose blogs with quite a few active commenters. I felt it was the wisest use of the promotional books.

Next time you have a release, you might want to consider setting up a blog tour.
Lena Nelson Dooley – multi-published author of Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, and Family Secrets.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why Electronic Submissions by Terry Burns

 Today is the day for Diana to submit but she is dealing with some very serious family issues and I will post something in her slot to help out. I ask you to include her and your family in her prayers as she surely needs it.

A lot of editors and agents don't want any attachments to an email. Some want electronic submissions but want it all in the body of the email, no attachments. Others, like me, don't want hard copy submissions and do want them as an attachment, not in the body of the email. Some will take hard copy submissions and some, like me, don't.

These differences point up why it is so important to check the submission guidelines before we send to anybody. Those who don't want attachments probably are concerned about them containing viruses. I understand that. I have massive virus protection and several layers of backups, but understand at some point that I will have a problem. It's a cost of doing business.

A proposal in the body of an email is not a virus threat either, but I prefer them attached as a single word or .rtf file because I like to see if the writing is properly formatted, and if it's a project I like it is easier for me to use it as a base to build an agency proposal on. I actually am evaluating the proposal, whether it provides what we ask for in our submission guidelines at and whether we can see how well it would give us what we need to market the project as much as we are looking at the writing itself.

Why not hard copy? For one reason I lose them. I toss them in the inbox in the study along with a bunch of junk mail, and they can get away from me. I seldom work there, mostly I work wherever my computer is, so I don't get in there to dig them out and deal with them often. I don't feel all that bad about it because our submission guidelines say I don't take hard copy submissions at all, which means I'm dealing with people who don't or won't follow instructions anyway.

But the big reason for no hard copy submissions is that I do most of what I do online. Most editors I'm working with prefer to work electronically, so I need clients that will work with me in that manner. A person that tells me they don't know how to do attachments or they seldom email might as well be telling me they deliver handwritten manuscripts. I need people who are keeping up with the changing technology of the industry. A contract for one of my clients calls for delivery of a hard copy manuscript. That client is ready to send the final manuscript but when I checked with the editor to be sure, she said even though the contract calls for hard copy, she'd rather have it electronically. Exactly what I'm talking about, I want to see how well a submitting client handles the technology.

So often at conferences I hear people say "I don't see why they ask me to submit like this, or any reason a proposal needs to contain that, or some other facet called for in guidelines." We ask for a little more in a proposal than some others but we would rather have something and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Other Hartline agents (and other agents in general) may accept things differently, we should never submit to anyone without checking their submission guidelines to see if we are sending what they would like to have in the manner they would like to see it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The value of freelance editing - by Terry Burns

Here’s a question that a lot of people might relate to. I was asked:

“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 book is in. Editors are looking for books that are in a shape that they are ready to publish as they don’t have editorial staff to do a lot of work on them anymore. Agents are looking for books that they can present that are as ready to go as they can possibly be, and while we can do some work on them we don’t have time or staff to do that editing either.

We receive hundreds of books a month and most are good books. That means a good book is simply not good enough. To make the cut a book has to be exceptional. If you send a book that needs a lot of formal editing chances are it will be upstaged by the people that have done the work, or had the work done, to make their book reach that exceptional level.

But say you decide to just submit it and see if it is good enough, and it turns out it isn’t. What have you lost, right? Actually what you lose is probably burning a bridge that a book that was truly ready might have crossed. Now that avenue is probably closed to you. Yes it can be expensive to get some editing done, but what is the cost of spending hours upon untold 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 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 book is saleable before you invest in it? I can’t even guarantee that the books I choose to represent are saleable. I believe they are or I wouldn’t take them on, but there just aren’t any guarantees.

If an author decides they do need editing the next question is can I recommend someone to do it? The short answer is no. Recommending someone makes it look like I have a vested interest whether it be editing, a publicist, or any other writing related services which is the hallmark of some less than reputable agencies. It would probably get me thrown out of the AAR (Association of Author Representatives) which monitors such activities. I can and do keep a list of potential editors on my website, and do remove any editor from that list if I get reports of any questionable activity on their part, but recommend, no.

Even the ladies that work with me as editorial assistants can and do editing on the side but I never refer people to them, just list them along with others doing freelance editing.