Monday, October 31, 2011

Books for the Road by Andy Scheer

Especially since the time I got stuck at O'Hare for nine hours on the way to a writers conference, I take very seriously the matter of selecting books to accompany me when I travel.

I always take an extra book in my carry-on, preferably a thick one, just in case. Plus, an additional mass paperback or two in my checked suitcase.

No, I don't use an e-reader (though my son, who worked at Barnes and Noble, tells me the Nook is my best choice). I'm a traditionalist, I'm a cheapskate, and the three new Goodwill stores in town (which offer free coffee in their well-maintained book departments) sell used mass paperbacks for fifty cents.

This week I'm driving to the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference, followed by speaking to writing students at Taylor University, then driving to Kansas City for the Heart of American Christian Writers Network annual conference. That's twelve days on the road. I think I'll bring three books, perhaps four.

True, most evenings I'll need to invest several hours answering emails and evaluating proposals. But especially after a day of driving cross-country or teaching and taking conference appointments, I know I'll need some down time. So that's where the spread of paperbacks on my desk comes in. After combing my shelves, I've pared the candidates down to six.

But how do I choose? This time I've decided not to bring any books I've already read. That cuts deeply through my collection, including the series by W.E.B. Griffin I'm currently reading.

Still, that leaves room for yet-unread titles by authors whose other books I've enjoyed. Hence these two candidates: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears and The Sign of the Book by John Dunning.

Set in England in 1663, Fingerpost runs just over 700 pages. In four consecutive accounts, it presents the perspective of four unreliable witnesses to the same murder. Years ago I'd started reading it, but set it aside. Recently it's been calling me to begin the quest anew. But will it require more mental prowess than I'm able to muster, especially if I can grab reading time only in short snatches or at the end of a long day?

Much less daunting, The Sign of the Book is the fifth in a six-book series featuring a policeman turned rare book seller. I've enjoyed the other five. One cause for hesitation is that it's one of those new tall-format mass paperbacks that I find harder to read because of the excessive amount of space between the lines of text. And it's been several years since I've read the other Cliff Janeway stories.

I'm also considering The Historian. At 900 tall-format pages, it's definitely something I can sink my teeth into. A cover blurb describes it as “the phenomenal #1 bestseller” and “a compelling contemporary novel, a late-night page-turner.” But a Boston Globe blurb on the back cover describes it as “genuinely terrifying.” (Personal note: “Seatbelt suspense” writer Brandilyn Collins has inducted me into her “Big Honkin' Chicken Club” for people who find her books too scarey.)

Then there's The Boat, a submarine warfare story set in the Atlantic in 1941. I've read extensively about the Second World War, and this book promises some 550 pages of reading. Rather than relying on academic research, the author himself served in the German navy, including time on submarines. But the entire story is presented from a first-person point of view—in present tense. And I'm a traditionalist.

Next, there's Emerald Decision by Craig Thomas, who, according to a cover blurb, “writes far better than Ludlum.” The back cover calls it a “serpentine thriller—the master writing at the electrifying top of his form” about a quest for a World War II secret “so lethal and shocking that all evidence of it had to be obliterated.” (Has some researcher ever tallied the number of books that turn on a shocking WWII secret?)

Finally, I'm considering The Tribune (“a novel of ancient Rome”) by Patrick Larkin, a comparative lightweight at just under 400 pages. While I've read at least three detective series set in ancient Rome (featuring hard-boiled, gum-sandals), all I know about this book is what I see in its promo blurbs. The author is a “New York Times Bestselling Author,” and one of the endorsers calls the book “a terrific, well-researched thriller” that “does for ancient Rome what The Name of the Rose did for medieval Europe and Gorky Park did for the corrupt Soviet Union.” I've read both of those comparison books, Rose at least three times, but never realized they were “doing anything” for their settings. Still, I liked Gorky Park and have read others by Martin Cruz Smith. But what does that mean for taking The Tribune on my trip to the Midwest?

Rather than a first-page exercise in “would you read on?” consider this an opportunity to ponder “would you take it with you?” that you can apply the next time you go on the road—or write a one-sheet for your novel. We all have different tastes in books. But when I travel, whatever genre of book I bring, I want an account that can keep me involved even when my snatches of reading are interrupted or come at times I'm easily distracted.

Thanks for your help. I think I've decided which four to take--and which two I'll read first.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Change is Coming, Whether We Like It or Not, by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Soon we won't even be using keyboards. It will be a laser beam on a flat surface wherever we go.

The old idea of projecting something up on a wall with a projector plugged into a computer will be history. We won't be giving presentations on PowerPoint, since we'll be showing 3D holograhics projected right from our computers, ipads/tablets, and phones, much like the old pop-up story books for children. Remember those?

Yep, you guessed it. We went from landline phones, to cell phones, conference calls with multiple lines, to video conference calls using Skype and Google + Hangout, and now by 2015 we'll be able to do 3D hologram video conference calls. Remember the 3D hologram images that were projected in the 1970's in Star Wars? Guess what? It's here. Check out the video below. This is what ipad will do for you NOW.

Bear with me, I have an upcoming birthday this weekend where I'll be hitting a new decade. It's enough to give me pause and moments of reflection about the past, where I am now, and where I'm heading. When I think back to how different my childhood was from my parents, and then to my daughter today--it's staggering to think how far we've come. Yet, we're now seeing glimpses into the near future. I believe more change will be taking place in the next 10 to 20 years than many of us can imagine.

Just this morning they announced on the radio that shoes with GPS are now available for $300 for those of us with parents and grandparents who might tend to wander off and get lost, such as those with Alzheimer's and dementia. Next, will be children's shoes with GPS in case they get lost.

I'm sure my daughter doesn't remember a handwritten prescription. Our doctors forward our prescriptions directly to our pharmacist.

“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”  (Daniel 12:4)

This verse is talking about a vision that the Lord gave Daniel regarding the end of time. I believe we and our children and grandchildren are the generations that will witness much of this increase in knowledge. Much of it is taking place so rapidly that many of us aren't seeing or realizing the significance of it. Some are fighting against it to no avail. The Bible has prophesied this and it WILL happen.

I worry about some of the older generations who are fighting this progress. They argue, "What do I need to know that for?" I'm retired, "I don't need all those gadgets. That stuff is for the young people." But then they get frustrated because they don't understand how things work and everything around them is constantly changing. They won't buy anything online because they are frightened of the security and they don't know how to protect themselves. Faith and knowledge will protect you, so don't be afraid. LEARN, so no one can take advantage of you.

This includes the changes taking place in the publishing industry. Brick and mortar stores are struggling to survive in this digital age where ebooks are growing and evolving and the process of producing books is changing. I visited with a Barnes & Noble Manager a few weeks ago, and he said that the entire section of the CD/DVD area will soon be gone. In the next 5 years when you walk into a store, the whole front section will be all digital.  If you want a printed book, they will be printed right there in the store, not stocked on the shelves as they are today.

Change is coming whether we like it or not. The best thing we can do about it, is embrace it rather than fighting it and pretending it won't affect us. How do we do that? We embrace it by learning as much about the new technology as possible.

The other day Agent Rachelle Gardiner posted an excellent blog (Book Marketing Disappointment) about how authors are whining about their publisher not doing enough promotion and publicity for their book and how all the promotion is now lying on the author's shoulder. Granted, some of these complaints may be legitimate, especially for authors who have been around for a while and they remember the good old days when they used to get a little more promotion support from their publisher.

Here's the deal. Those days are gone. They won't come back anymore than $0.99/gal gas prices. If you want to be or remain a published author, you will have to learn how to build your platform and promote your work simultaneously while learning the craft of writing. You must change your way of thinking. Writing/promotion is now your new job. You can't do one without the other.  

Balance is the key. You will have to figure out how much of your time goes to writing and research verses how much of your time goes to promotion and platform building. Don't compare yourselves to other authors. What is right for you, isn't right for someone else. Just like you have to find your unique writing voice, you will have to find the right balance for you.

I'd like to leave you with one more video to show you how our children and grandchildren will soon be learning in school--simultaneously with other children around the world. This is awesome! By the way, this is Microsoft's vision for 2019. Many of us will still be around. It isn't that far away.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Books and Covers by Terry Burns

 Having four authors with books coming out from one publisher within days of each other is not a normal function around here, but it's kinda cool. Oak / Tara Publishing is releasing "Thyme for Love" by Pamela S. Meyers on November 14th. "April Love has always dreamed of being a chef. But she didn't expect a former fiance' or murder to be part of the recipe for her new job." This is the first book in a three book series.

Lynda Lee Schab's "Mind Over Madi" is set to release November 15th from Oak / Tara. This is the first of the The Madi Series, Delightful. Witty. Entertaining. Real. Poignant.Light-hearted Women’s Fiction at Its Best.
Madi McCall admits her husband lacks a little in the romance department, but all in all, he’s been a good husband, a good father. Now, though, she suspects Rich is having an af  air with Fawn Witchburn, the mother of one of his fourth-grade students. To say Fawn shows of   her “assets” more than should be legally allowed in public is an understatement, and Madi’s insecurities kick into high gear. When, in a heated moment, she asks Rich to leave and he complies, Madi is forced to deal with her issues. Issues of love and trust she’s tried so hard to avoid. Issues that trail all the way back to her childhood and make her act like a total moron.

Suzanne Hartmann's "Peril" is set to release from Oak / Tara November 18th. This is the first of a three book series.

A top secret agent with enhanced strength must use her extraordinary abilities during several high-profile assignments from the White House to NASCAR tracks. When unwanted publicity threatens to expose her, she herself becomes a terrorist target, with danger surrounding her on all sides.
“Plenty of action and unexpected twists.”
Foreword by Jimmy Makar, General Manager of Joe Gibbs Racing
Also endorsed by the founder and director of Midwest Raceway Ministries.

Jonathan Wakefield's "Fatal Reality" is set to release from Oak / Tara November 18th. This is the book that best-selling author James Scott Bell said "Grabs you from the start and doesn't let go." Fatal Reality is an action-packed reality show in a book in a contest where only the winner will be allowed to live. When media celebrity Kyle Borders wins a spot on Extreme Mortality, the biggest reality show ever, he's determined to live out his faith before a worldwide audience.

In addition to the above titles, Randall Mooney's "WOGBOOK" releases on 11/11/11 at 11am from Crossover Publications. Randall feels that fewer teens are not reading the Bible much because they don't relate to the language. There are a lot of translations out there that deal with this but the WOGBOOK  (Word of God Book) is a New Testament that is true to the King James Bible but written not as a Bible but an easy to read book. None of the verses have been omitted and the author has made no effort to offer a private interpretation of the words or text. This is something truly unique and is intended to easily be read over and over again.

Max Elliott Anderson's "Terror at Wolf Lake" is releasing from Comfort Publications. Max is the author of 36 middle reader "books for boys" and has a very strong following. Eddy Thompson was known for one thing and one thing only. Eddy was a cheater. He cheated on anything, anytime, anywhere, until something happened up at Wolf Lake. It wasn't the brutal cold. It wasn't when he fell through the ice. It wasn't even when two scary men arrived at their remote cabin. What happened would change Eddy's life... forever.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Dear Reader;
Would you read on? We look forward to your comments. Be sure to scroll down for the name of last weeks courageous author who offered their first page to you for critique. This weeks First page follows:

Shanghai, 1933 / Year of Rooster

Every few minutes, the young female mourner paused from her loud wailing. She wiped her face with a grimy cloth, and peeked curiously at the people crowded along the street watching the funeral procession. This was her first experience as a paid mourner in Shanghai, and Li-ming was hot and sticky in the stiff white mourning robe and hood covering her patched, dirty clothes. But she barely noticed her discomfort as she gazed at the amazing city where she had arrived just yesterday by ox cart.

Several weeks ago, she and her cousin had disguised themselves as boys and run away from their ancestral home in the remote northwestern village of Twentieth Tower Gate of China’s Great Wall. Soon to be married to aged widowers, they both agreed in secret they would rather die escaping than live forever miserable. And so on a moonless night, Li-ming and her cousin fled from the serpentine shadow of the Great Dragon Wall, with their dowry coins stolen from their parents securely hidden in their underwear.

After weeks of perilous travel, they had arrived at Shanghai’s West Gate, dust-covered, hungry, and their dowries nearly gone. There the plump manager of the Shanghai Sang-fu Mourning Company, with a leering smile, offered them food, work and housing. Li-ming had looked briefly at her cousin before nodding a silent acceptance for both of them. She desperately hoped their work as paid mourners would soon erase their impoverished past and, in time, enable them to repay and restore honor to their families.

The two had rejoiced in their hearts at this seeming good fortune bestowed by the gods. And as they hurried past a shrine on their way to the Mourning Company, they did a quick bai bai worship. However, the grimy idol looked back at them with stony silence, and neglected to warn them that paid wailing by day would soon be accompanied by far more unpleasant duties at night. And that now their chances of living for more than a year or two longer were few.

Last weeks victim, I mean author was the brave Vonie Harris. Thank you Vonie for sharing your first page with us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Books and Hammocks by Andy Scheer

Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed one more book and hammock session.

Writers often complain about the distractions that keep people from reading: television, the internet, and life's demands. The novel I took to the backyard faced far stiffer competition.

I was bushed. The previous week a last-minute editing assignment pushed me to put in two twelve-hour days over the weekend. I met my Monday deadline, the author responded in time to my revisions, and I returned the manuscript to the publisher with hours to spare. But the rest of the week came hard.

Fortunately, I'd planned ahead—and not yet taken down my hammock. And thankfully, this weekend brought the gift of weather and fall colors typically witnessed only on the pages of calendars. Knowing it would have been rude to reject such a gift, Sunday afternoon I carried a book out to the backyard. My dog, a ninety-five-pound lab mix the color of hardwood floors, lay under the hammock.

Sunshine. Colorado-blue sky. Autumnal aspens and maples. A companionable dog. A hammock. And a body and mind recently pushed near their limits. That's real competition for time in a novel.

I did what Solomon might have done in his wiser moments. For paragraphs and chapters at a time I let the novelist carry me away, before returning to the glory of the moment.

Later this week the forecast calls for up to six inches of snow with a high temperature barely above freezing. Perhaps before the front arrives I can squeeze in one more afternoon hammock session. If not, I'll still have a warm association with that worn, mass paperback. And until next spring, when the hammock comes out of hibernation, I'll just have to settle for my recliner next to the fireplace.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I hope you'll all enjoy this post from last year before my first contract. Now that my office is nearly done, I can put up some of those rejections to reflect on how far I've come and how far I have to go. I hope you can relate:

At some point, we’ve all said it.
I mean to do it. The day I receive a contract to publish one of my novels, I am going to paper my office with the rejections. And since I have such a large stockpile of “paper”, I can be discriminating.

:( I’ve kept the rejections in binders. :(

That way, I can go back and (torture myself), no, read the encouraging notes, which helped me, as well as the form letters which did little to "form" me on my path to publication. They came in an array of sizes, shapes, and colors.

Now, years later, working as an editorial assistant to Terry Burns, my agent, I begin to understand why and how the rejections are given out. Many writers, just like myself, are so close for so long. Just a bit more work and the novel would be accepted, but in our haste to “get the next bestseller out there” we cut corners, don’t study the craft sufficiently, don’t wait for the right moment to approach an agent or editor. And, unfortunately, burn a lot of bridges in the process.

Just like sadness is the only way to understand joy, rejection is the only way to appreciate acceptance. If it were handed to us on the proverbial silver platter, would we be grateful for the gift or merely nurse a feeling of entitlement?

Ahem, I know myself. Had I been published years ago, I would never have honed my craft and been able to help others do the same. Plus, I would have put 400 pages of garbage into a book which would no doubt have eventually found itself on the shelves of some dollar or .99 store.

But you’re convinced your baby is ready to walk. “Mom said it was the best story she’d ever read!” Of course she did. She’s mom. But an agent or editor doesn’t give a flying rat’s patoot what mom, or Aunt Jenny, or Uncle Jebb, or even the crotchety neighbor next door thinks. They KNOW what the public is reading, and what the public expects. They don’t tell you these things to hurt your feelings (okay, I know a couple who might) but rather, to lift you up to a point where you will work harder at your craft to be able to bring it into the public arena one day.

The hardest lesson God has been trying to teach me for 60 years (yes, I said sixty!) is to have patience. I know you don't want to hear this, but God’s timing isn’t always our timing. Even when we’re in panic mode, He’s looking at the Big Picture, not the grain of sand we call life.

Well, I’m preaching to the choir, folks, as I pick out which of the lovely shades of recycled gray, green, or blue to use on the north wall, just behind the computer. After all, that’s the one I’ll be looking at the most often when I sit down to write, rewrite, and rewrite some more.

Good luck, may God’s blessings pour over your work, but ‘til they do, remember, in your patience, you’re learning something wonderful.

And isn’t that what life is all about?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Interesting new development by Terry Burns

Interesting new development indeed

I was at Lifeway Christian Store to get a song to sing Sunday and it was the first time we’ve used Lifeway’s new system to burn accompaniment tracks in house. Several thousand songs that you just look up and if they have it you can listen to it and then burn the track right there. 

Too cool. 

It immediately made me think that it won’t be long until books will be printed that way too. A number of larger stores can already do it. I was talking to the Mardel’s rep at ACFW and they are already putting the POD systems in their stores.

It’s a brave new world. Authors or artists still earn their royalties just like a print book and they can AFFORD TO SHELVE AUTHORS THAT THEY WOULDN’T HAVE ACQUIRED IN PRINT FORM because they didn’t have the name identification to merit the expenditure. I think that’s going to be a win-win. Even new authors can be shelved in stores they formerly did not have available to them. Not only that, but it means they will be able to keep our backlist available for sale.

Author who have backlist titles know how difficult it is, even with a new book out, to have places that will allow us to sell backlist titles while we are having a signing for the new one. Now they can go over and have the book run off and bring it right over to be signed. 

I know this capability is starting to be available but don’t know how quickly we will start seeing it, particularly outside of the major stores in the large cities. But it is interesting to think about, isn’t it?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Would You Read on hosted by Joyce Hart

Welcome to the next installment of First Pages. We welcome your comments.

Professor Grossmayer shook his head at Alex’s senior art project, closing the portfolio with a soft thud. In the professor’s hands was the power to approve or disapprove the hours upon hours of intensive work Alex had put in, the power to approve or disapprove his graduation from art school. Alex found himself holding his breath. He felt Grossmayer’s filing cabinets and messy piles of paper closing in on him.

In the silence of the professor’s small office, he heard the echo of his father’s voice when Alex had showed him his first pen and ink drawing. “Are you even right, Boy?” he’d said with disdain, scowling down at the rendition of the train tracks that ran through their town.

The professor replaced Alex’s art in the leather portfolio. “I had hopes your senior project would bring the art out in you, but it didn’t. I won’t be recommending you for graduation.”

“I, uh,” Alex’s voice croaked and he cleared his throat. “I don’t understand, Professor.”

Grossmayer stood and retrieved some papers from a filing cabinet in the corner. “You remember Martin Rankle’s alumni lecture last month?”

Alex nodded. Rankle had given the annual alumni lecture in Alex’s freshman year, too. He had held them all spellbound, talking about finding inspiration and looking at the world as an artist.

Grossmayer tossed a print of some artwork on the table. “Take a look at this.”

Alex looked. The art was not amazing or anything, but the promise of talent was absolutely there, leaping off the page. He’d always had a sense of these things.

“This is some of Rankle’s work from his freshman year here.” Grossmayer announced. Then he slid another art print across the table. “This is a piece from his senior project.”

Alex looked. This time, instead of the promise of talent leaping off the page, the trees, the river, the light and shadow, the colors themselves leaped off the page.

“Look at what he accomplished when he attended here,” Grossmayer boomed. “Look at the depth, the heart of his work. You have obviously not learned here what Rankle did. Mr. Carmichael, not only do you have no talent, you wouldn’t know art if it bit you on

Special thanks to Anne Schroeder for stepping up and offering us her First Page for critique last week.