Wednesday, August 31, 2011

5 Things I learned at a Writers Conference I Can Apply to Life - Guest Blog by Jeanette Levellie, a client of Diana Flegal

Today we are going to divert from First Pages for a guest blog by author Jeanette Levellie. I hope it makes you smile. Look below for the author reveal of last weeks First Page.

5 Things I Learned at a Writers Conference I Can Take Through Life

When I attended the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference last weekend, God surprised me with some lessons on life. Whether you're a writer or not, you may find these 5 tidbits helpful.

1. Loving people is more important than making myself known.

God gave me several opportunities to choose between pushing my own agenda forward and putting others first. I hope I passed the tests. He didn’t need to see what was in my heart, but I needed to grow in trusting Him to open doors for me, not pushing them open by my own manipulations.

2. Everyone has a different take. We need to listen to the Lord for His direction, not be overly moved by people’s opinions.

One editor said, “This is so good, it needs to be in a big publishing house. We are small and not taking new non-fiction this year. I’m going to pray a large house picks it up.” Another editor said, “You need to find a small house, or self-publish your first book, and then when the sales on that are good, look for a larger house to publish the subsequent books.” Aha.

3. People do stupid, rude things to get noticed.

Shove in line ahead of another author in order to talk to an agent; interrupt a presenter to tout your book; wear gaudy clothes to draw attention to yourself. You can do all these things, but it won’t impress anyone. You’re only fooling yourself if you think this is what breeds success.

4. Truly great people, no matter how famous they are, are approachable and humble.

Cecil Murphy, Karen Moore, and Kathi Macias are three wonderful examples of legend s in the Christian writing world. Yet all of them were gracious and kind, taking time to help and advise those of us not as far along on the journey as they. Reminded me of Jesus.

5. Words on a page are powerful, whether they’re in a book or on a conference schedule.

When you print “Coffee and fellowship” in the 2:30-2:50 time slot and the coffee is missing, I feel betrayed. Mad, in fact! At least explain why the coffee is missing…

I know others give advice on attending writers conferences with everything from how to pitch your book to how not to dress. I thought I’d share some musings from my heart regarding character. Not just for a conference, but for life.

Jeanette Levellie is an Author, editor, speaker, vocalist and Pastors wife.

Last weeks first page was submitted by author Jeff Miller. This is a page from his current WIP.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Painting with Words by Andy Scheer

Last week I made a plea for writers to put their name on their papers.

I wrote, “A title like ‘Full Proposal for Hartline Literary’ may help you identify that document, but in the computer of a Hartline agent, it sticks out like one more penguin on the iceberg.”

Afterward, several readers commented on that phrase, “one more penguin on the iceberg”—how it caught their attention and communicated the essence of the situation.

That's the power of a word picture. And it’s one of the elements I look for when I evaluate a piece of writing. Does the writer have the knack to pick a phrase, to craft a fresh bit of verbal shorthand to sum up a situation and communicate it memorably?

It's a fine balance. You don't want to slather on picturesque phrases like a sixth-grade girl using makeup for the first time. If your wording calls attention to itself, like a parade of alliteration proudly acclaiming your profundity and verbal prowess, you've lost the battle. Readers should never be tempted to pay attention to the man behind the curtain—or even suspect his presence.

But in the hands of a master, word pictures attract and engage—and enable generations of writers to learn from their craft.

This past week, as I continue to read John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, I was captivated by his description, circa 1961, of attending a church service.

“Sunday morning in a Vermont town, my last day in New England, I shaved, dressed in a suit, polished my shoes, whited my sepulcher, and looked for a church to attend.”

“Whited my sepulcher.” With three words, he did more to set the tone for this section than most writers could accomplish in a paragraph.

In the next two paragraphs, notice how Steinbeck constructs a succession of brief, vivid word pictures:

“The service did my heart and I hope my soul some good. It had been long since I had heard such an approach. It is our practice now, at least in the large cities, to find from our psychiatric priesthood that our sins aren't really sins at all but accidents that are set in motion by forces beyond our control. There was no such nonsense in this church. The minister, a man of iron with tool-steel eyes and a delivery like a pneumatic drill, opened up with prayer and reassured us that we were a pretty sorry lot. And he was right. … Then, having softened us up, he went into a glorious sermon, a fire-and-brimstone sermon. … He spoke of hell as an expert, not the mush-mush hell of these soft days, but a well-stoked, white-hot hell served by technicians of the first order, This reverend brought it to a point where we could understand it, a good hard coal fire, plenty of draft, and a squad of open-hearth devils who put their hearts into their work, and their work was me. I began to feel good all over. For some years now God has been a pal to us, practicing togetherness, and that causes the same emptiness a father does playing softball with his son. But this Vermont God cared enough about me to go to a lot of trouble kicking the hell out of me. He put my sins in a new perspective. Whereas they had been small and mean and nasty and best forgotten, this minister gave them some size and bloom and dignity. I hadn't been thinking very well of myself for some years, but if my sins had this dimension there was some pride left. I wasn't a naughty child but a first rate sinner, and I was going to catch it.

“ … All across the country I went to church on Sundays, a different denomination every week, but nowhere did I find the quality of that Vermont preacher. He forged a religion designed to last, not predigested obsolescence.”

Please, don’t try to go and write likewise. You’re not John Steinbeck, and it’s not 1961. But what kind of word pictures can you craft for your readers now? As you rework your drafts, where can you cast out a stale description—or revive it by twisting a familiar phrase in a way unexpected? Do that, and your writing won’t look like just one more penguin.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Joyce's Client Sandra Orchard's Debut Novel Releases Sept. 6th

Is it possible to be a man of honor and live a life of lies?
Rick Gray hopes so, because as an undercover cop, he’s had to make too many sacrifices, including a future with Ginny Bryson, the woman he loves.
But when she finds herself in the center of an arsonist’s line of fire, Rick’s lies just might be what they both need to save their lives – and the lives of those they love.

Rated 4 stars by the Romantic Times, Deep Cover is the first book in Sandra’s Love Inspired Suspense series, Undercover Cops: Fighting for justice puts their lives—and hearts—on the line.

Released to book club members in July, Sandra is thrilled to have already received many touching letters from readers. She says, “This is what makes the years of writing and rewriting all worthwhile—learning that you’ve touched people’s hearts with your story, pointed them toward God’s love, and hopefully inspired them to know Him better.”

Deep Cover explores the challenge undercover cops face in being compelled to lie to do their job, and the consequences reaped in their personal lives as a result. The hero is tormented by the fear that his job will endanger the life of anyone he dares to love, yet is bound by a promise to his father to not quit. The heroine, devoted to caring for her mentally-challenged sister and dying mother, denies herself the grace she so freely shows to others and must learn that her worth doesn’t come from what she does.

For Sandra, seeing characters in Christian fiction battle the same questions, yearnings and frustrations she sometimes battles, and triumph through God’s grace, inspires hope and strengthens her faith. She hopes her books will do the same for others.

Sandra has an Honors B. A. & Sci. with a major in math, and taught high school math before starting her family. For almost two decades she home educated her children, and now divides her time between the administrative duties of the family business and writing. She’s an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, The Word Guild, and several RWA chapters, and recently began a blog for readers titled Conversations about Characters.

Edgy Fiction or More of the Same Old Same Old by Linda Glaz

The words edgy fiction are being tossed about like a marble on a teeter totter. I was recently given a work to proofread and was told I would enjoy it because it was “edgy fiction”. I read it; it was a wonderful romance, albeit formulaic. So where was the edgy?

Ah hah! I finally figured out what the author and publisher thought was edgy.

A lot more sex filled the pages. Is that edgy or is that just plain old secular?

Don’t panic. There’s no right or wrong answer to that question. You won’t be given a test. But think about it. Are we in the inspy market simply leaning more toward secular when we call our work edgy or are we jumping on the secular wagon and riding off into the sunset, guns drawn, bustiers showing, and kisses as well as other body parts flying here and there?

Okay, a bit melodramatic, but you get my point.

What defines edgy for you?

For me, it’s an author willing to push the limits of his/her genre. Takes steps no one else has. For romance, it means stepping outside the traditional formula and bringing a wonderful romance that might or might not have a happy ending.

Love Story anyone? There’s hardly a woman who lived in the seventies who didn’t read/watch that romance. I can’t tell you all that I read back then, but I can tell you almost scene for scene what happened to Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw’s love. For the story’s time, IT WAS EDGY!

As an inspy writer, do you merely throw in a bit more sex, violence, or **shudder** a couple obscenities and call that edgy? Or do you dare delve into difficult topics that might bring thought-provoking interest to your work?

This is an issue very dear to my heart.

You will hear more on it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Facebook Tips by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

A couple of weeks ago I responded to a few concerns about Facebook on an email loop and had a suggestion to post a blog about it. I did, and I thought I would share it here as well. 
I think Social Media is like writing. You have to work at it through trial and error before you figure out your voice and discover what works best for you, your personality, your goals, etc. Plus, goals change, so I think our social media will go through stages, just like our writing.

Here are some perceptions/facts that we are going to have to accept and figure out how to work around:

1) People prefer to friend personal profiles over liking fan pages.
2) We can ask them to go to our author page, but we can't force them as we've all discovered.
3) People can unlike a page just as fast as they can like it.
4) Readers do want a glimpse into our personal lives. They like praying for us, connecting with us, and knowing all the news. I consider them my online church family, but I don't share everything.
5) Rules on FB change often, but one that has been consistent and has NOT changed since the beginning is that an individual cannot have more than one profile account and every Fan Page has to be connected to a profile. Please keep this in mind if you decide to convert your current profile into a Fan Page and then decide to create a new, private profile with a different email. 

I started out trying to keep my profile page personal, and luring everyone to my author page, but I gave up. I couldn't change other people's perception, so I had to change mine--the way I think about FB and my place/role there. FB isn't private. They own every piece of content and photo we upload onto their site, regardless if it is on a profile page or a fan page. If a hacker wants my info, he/she can get it.

Here are some suggestions that have worked for me. These suggestions will
not work for everyone, so please keep that in mind.

1) I recommend my author page to every person who friends me. Over half of them have not liked my page. I don't know why, but I do know that I don't want to lose my connection to them, so I've made the decision to sacrifice my profile to accept others. Some people who have NOT liked my author page did go buy my book. I don't understand it, but I stopped trying to analyze it a long time ago.

2) For those who have both friended me and liked my page, I make sure I post different things on each so it doesn't feel repetitive to them. I'm so used to it by now so it doesn't seem like extra work. It's merely part of my job.

3) The social culture of FB and Twitter are so different, that I don't link them. I tried this, and I started losing likes because FB people don't like as many posts as Twitter people. Therefore, I use Twitterfeed and I've set certain blog posts to go to FB and others to Twitter. That way some of it is automated and does free up time for me to post things I want to generate discussions on and to do other things.

4) If you want to generate discussion, ask a question. People love giving opinions and sharing ideas.

5) I give a glimpse of my personal life, but I don't share anything I wouldn't want anyone on the Web to see or know. I don't post many family photos on my author page, but I do post some on my profile. However, I'm careful. I don't post images of my 14 year old daughter in her swimsuit or talk about vacation until we are back home. I monitor her FB page and I don't let her accept people we don't know. Other authors have sent her friend requests, but I don't let her accept them.

6) I screen each friend request and the profile of anyone I send a request to.

7) When I reach my 5,000 friend limit, I'll have the perfect excuse to send people to my author page, and they will know it isn't because they didn't pass muster to be my friend. It puts the blame on FB's rules, not me. Plus, I won't have to screen people anymore.

8) I don't worry about keeping up with 3,000+ friends. I create my friend lists and use them as needed and I don't worry about it. I have enough pressure. I don't need to add more to myself. If I happen to see a post on my newsfeed and I want to comment, I do it and I forget about it. I don’t worry about trying to comment on everyone’s post. Based on some of the comments I've seen from others, I'm concerned that many are putting too much pressure on themselves to try and keep up with everyone. Don't do that. Just relax and let go.

9) I've set all my social media on an email address that is NOT my main email. That way, I'm not annoyed by alerts I don't want. I don't need to know that 20 people commented on a post after me. Also, if one of my social media accounts is compromised, they don’t have access to my main email.

10) I place ads on FB every so often and they have worked well. You can set a daily cap and target people who are not already a friend or fan. My husband and I have set up a separate credit card just for online purchases such as this so that it isn't linked to anything if it were to be compromised or stolen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I don't like the word by Terry Burns

One of my clients made it all the way through committee and they were supposedly putting the deal points together when it suddenly got nixed from somewhere upstairs. "We haven't had much luck with apologetics," was given as the reason.

The client's response was that the book was NOT apologetics, but I told him they had read it and if they thought that was what it was, then arguing with them about it would be futile.

But it did cause me to think. I know what apologetics are, defending a position (usually our faith) with logic and reason, a rational explanation against objections and alternate views. But I don't like the word, never have. It sounds too much like apology or  apologizing to me and I never have and never will apologize to anyone about my faith.

I wish there were another title we could get the genre label switched to. It's a lot like evangelism, but that word has a little different connotation. Maybe some word that had iron to it and didn't sound like passive defense but more like strong offense. I don't know what the word would be, do you?

Of course it will never happen and I will just have to continue to live with it, but...

I don't have to like it.