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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Guest Blog by Sharon Elliott and a note from Diana

Some of you have noticed my absence from our Blog and face book conversations. My Dear Daddy, this past Thanksgiving week, had a series of strokes that took his life Dec 10th. I found myself in a Desert Place, like this blog of Sharon Elliot's speaks of. Many of you have prayed for me and your prayers and loving support have been greatly appreciated and HE has been the lifter of my head. I am a true life testimony of God's Goodness and blessings, even in the desert. Books have ministered to me here. Blogs and words of encouragement and the testimony of others that have gone before me, orphans themselves. Oh how good it is to be in community. How wonderful it is to be 'baked in the loaf' that is God's family. May these words from author Sharon Elliot minister Grace to you in your desert place as well as it has to mine.

Love and prayers to all our From the Heart readers,

Diana


God's Care in the Desert

When the children of Israel were on their way to the Promised Land, they had to walk through the desert. Not coincidentally, one of the arid places through which they traveled was called the Desert of Sin (Exodus 17:1). Naturally, it was hot and dry. It didn’t take long before the people were complaining about not having water to drink. When the tumult got so bad that the people were about ready to stone Moses, God told him, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink” Exodus 17:5-6 (NIV).

We can learn several things for ourselves from this small segment of Scripture.

* Sometimes, when we set out to where we know God’s called us, we’ll need to walk through some desert places or situations.

* Sin is ever-present, even as we are following hard after God. We must watch out for it.

* Expect for some hot and dry times. As we journey to where God wants us, heated contentions with others may rise, and we may feel like the anointing has dried up and God is not with us. We must, however, no matter what, stay the course. Until He changes our direction, we can trust the voice we know we heard at the beginning.

* God will always go before us.

* Remember God’s track record. Notice that Moses was specifically directed to use the same “staff with which [he] struck the Nile.” When times get rough, bring back to your remembrance the miracles God’s done before. He hasn’t changed.

* Expect the nourishment you’ll need. God is not a sadist; He does not derive pleasure from inflicting pain on us. He loves to nourish us and is well able to nourish us even when all around us is bleak and dry.

By all natural laws, water does not come from rocks. But we’re not dependent upon natural laws. We’re dealing with the One who created natural laws. Since He created them, He is perfectly free to break them, and He often does so on our account.

Don’t second-guess yourself when you find yourself walking through desert places after you thought you had clearly heard God’s voice and had begun to follow Him. You heard right. God is just carrying you into situations where He can show You just how much He’s able to care for you. He knows that you know: if God can provide water for you in the desert, He can take care of you anywhere else He may lead.

________________________

©2011 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Nefarious e-Book Situation



I just came from the Writing for the Soul Conference in Denver. It’s always an awesome conference although attendance was down a little this year probably because of the rising costs we all face these days. Thanks, Washington.

At the conference several agents and editors sat around and talked about changes in the industry which of course centered on the emergence of the e-book. A lot of things came out of this discussion but the overall consensus was not how to work with the situation as it now exists, but the fact that it is a fluid situation and will continue to change as technology evolves.

What does that mean? The Kindle is king right now, driven by price point and the position that Amazon is commanding in the e-book market. Will that continue? Those in the discussion felt it depends on the evolving technology. There was a feeling that the current e-books are a first generation and the situation is up for grabs as the next generation arrives. The next generation is thought to be more like the i-Pad with expanded capabilities and features. So why isn’t the i-Pad leading the pack now? A majority of e-readers are being given as gifts and the difference between the price point of e-readers and the i-Pad is making that decision. But electronics tend to come down as production increases so that may change, and/or existing e-readers may evolve to close that gap.

More and more writers are deciding to go straight to Kindle with their book. I noticed back when I first started getting submissions from some who had taken that course and (though I felt like I knew the answer) I surveyed over 200 editors to see what their position would be on receiving such a submission. It was as I expected and over 70% said they weren’t interested in a submission on a book that had already been published, including Kindle. Some did say they might look at it if the sales were significant enough, but the Kindle version had to be withdrawn first as they required the e-book rights to be in the contract. So at present those who go straight to Kindle are giving up print possibilities to do so. We may expect to see some changes there as well, but who knows when?

This may be a factor in smaller conference attendance right now as well. Newer writers that don’t see the need to go improve their craft, who don’t see the need to network with agents and editors if they are going to go straight to e-book and spending the money they would have spent going to the conference getting the e-book out. I believe those who may be making this choice will soon realize they are making a strategic mistake. Most will not make the money that way that they would make with both print AND e-book, and with publisher support behind them. However, some are making enough money on just the e-book sales. Ironically, if they are having that kind of sales, some publisher will be interested. In publishing the success of a few that defy the odds and make it big always drive the dreams of those who want to do the same.

Still, nothing is as constant as change and this emerging technology is fascinating to watch. For example those in the industry know that women buy a majority of the books and that has strongly influenced acquisitions. But with e-book readers it is proving to be gender-neutral. What? Yes, as many women buying e-books as men. This will of necessity change the mix in what will be published. 
I just saw a study report that had several other interesting facts: that there was no disparity between regions of the country, that urban book buyers bought more than rural ones, and while retirees say they have more time to read, the fully employed buy more e-books. That’s interesting.

The bottom line with the discussion was that we are not seeing the crest of the e-book revolution and change will be the order of the day. Are print books on the way out? No, there are still far too many who like a print book in their hands for that to happen any time soon. But it is a really interesting time to be involved in the publishing industry.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Author Eddie Jones shares with us his "Buy A Boy A Book!" campaign




Eddie Jones

Participate in our "Buy A Boy A Book!" campaign and spur their imagination. Create within them a desire to read and set sail for a life of adventure, wherever that journey may take them. As part of our Buy A Boy A Book! Campaign we are encouraging parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles, Oprah and the President of the United States to buy a book and give it to a boy. That's right. We want you to give a book as a gift.

According to KidSay Market Researchers, teen and tween online video and virtual gaming increased from 65% in 2007 to 91% in 2010. "I'm a writer, not a math whiz," says Eddie, "so I have no idea what those numbers mean but they sound really scary. So part of my goal is to give boys a compelling story they can fall into. I want to create within them a desire to read and set sail for a life of adventure, wherever that journey may take them. Even now I can see Ricky standing on the sugar-white sands of that island just south of Hispaniola. I am that boy. And so are a lot of other men and boys."

Eddie Jones is a full time freelance writer and author of five non-fiction books, one young adult novel, and an adult romantic comedy. He has written over one hundred articles that have appeared in 20 different publications. He serves as Acquisition Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and is a contributing writer forCBN.com, Christian Devotions Ministries, Living Aboard Magazine, The Ocracoke Observer, and Carolina Currents.

Telling Tidal Tales - Eddie Jones

I'm a boat swab at heart. This is why when my boys were little (and by this I mean we could still feed them without maxing-out our credit cards at the grocery store or causing a world-wide food shortage) I’d tell them pirate stories on our sailboat. I no longer have a sailboat. What I have instead are two boys in college. This is way better than a boat because unlike owning a boat, college tuition payments end—if not upon graduation then when the free frat parties stop. Boat alimony, on the other hand, goes on forever. I’m sure in some way, Noah is still paying on the Ark. B.O.A.T., by the way, means: “Break Out Another Thousand.” But if you’ve ever owned a boat you know this.

Anyway, at night, before I’d tuck my small boys into their bunks (a storage locker where we kept the anchor), we’d sit on the bow of our sailboat and I’d make up stuff. Today I do this as a writer but editors have shorter attention spans than my tiny tots. At least that’s what my agent says. So I’d tell these tidal tales and the hero of the story was this guy named Captain Stinky Foot. Captain Stinky Foot was named after my youngest son. If you’ve ever spent any time on a boat in August with a crew of unwashed young males then this needs no further explanation.

Telling pirate stories came naturally to me. I've always been fascinated by the stories of boys snatched away from London and Bristol and forced to serve before the mast. Seems to me life at sea was more fun than peeling potatoes. And more dangerous.

I’d use whatever props I could spy from the bow—a channel marker, boat fender, or crab pot—and I’d work it into the story. A few times every year my boy’s school would invite me in to tell pirate stories. My talks followed a predictable pattern. The teacher would ask everyone to sit quietly and listen, but know how it is with kids. There’s always some smart aleck who insists on cutting up. The teacher would interrupt, scowl and eventually nod for me to continue. Almost immediately, she’d have to stop me again: this time raising her voice. By the third time I knew she meant business. I also knew I’d get sent to the principle's office if I didn’t straighten up.

Now, when I’m asked to describe The Curse of Captain LaFoote, I explain that it’s a pirate tale awash in buried treasure, romance and dead men's bones. The truth is, this book and the ones that follow in the Caribbean Chronicle series are love stories. Ricky Bradshaw, the hero of the book, is on a quest to find his manhood as well as his soul mate.

There are a lot of other deep and important themes explored in The Curse of Captain LaFoote. Things like: what the poop deck is and why cruise ships no longer use them, the secrets inside Davy Jones' locker, and why you shouldn't walk downwind of a pirate who's just eaten turtle soup.

Seriously, my main goal in writing this book was to spur the imagination of young readers. Boys especially.

Click on The Curse of Captain LaFoote and read a bit about the life of a Pirate and purchase a good tale for a boy you love or care about.


Thank you Eddie Jones for spurring us to action.

Diana

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Guest Blog from Joyce’s client, Lisa Harris.



 Someone asked me recently what a typical day looked like for me. I had to laugh. The word typical doesn’t exactly fit into my vocabulary. Our family lives in a rather isolated place in southern Africa, which means that we home school and most of my days are spent teaching our three kids. I also spend a lot of time cooking as everything has to be made from scratch and there are no fast food restaurants. Supporting my husband’s ministry is also a priority as well as running a new non-profit called The ECHO Project that we recently started in conjunction with our work in order to minister more to people’s physical needs.

I’ve noticed though, after being back in the States on furlough the last few months, that while my life in Africa is very full—especially when I add writing to the mix—the overall pace is still much slower. And while I miss many of the stateside conveniences, the slower pace of life is definitely a benefit of living there.

One of the things I love about living in a different country is that it widens my worldview and gives me a greater understanding into the lives of other people. I also love the chance to share what I have discovered--the people, culture, and setting--through a fictional story.

This February, Zondervan will release book two in my Mission Hope series. While the first book dealt with the very real issue of today’s human trafficking problems, the second is another fast-paced suspense set in a refugee camp.

“Paige Ryan and Nick Gilbert are trapped in an overpopulated African refugee camp where an outbreak of measles erupts and renegade soldiers block their only way out. Desperate for vaccines, they must put their own lives in the hands of God as they fight for the safety of the refugees under their protection.”

Then in March, I have a new historical coming out with Summerside Press/Guidepost about a woman caught between two worlds, the bush of Africa and New York City.

“Lizzie MacTavis is determined to remain with the people with whom God called her to work along the banks of the rugged Zambezi River in southern Africa. 

Andrew Styles, an anthropologist and explorer, has been commissioned to bring Lizzie back to New York City at any cost. With a fortune at stake, Lizzie is caught between two worlds when she is finally forced to return to the United States and discovers her life is in danger. Will Andrew turn out to be Lizzie’s nemesis or hero?” 


LISA HARRIS is an award-winning author who has over twenty novels and novella collections in print. She and her husband, Scott, along with their three children, live near the Indian Ocean in Mozambique as missionaries. As a homeschooling mom, life can get hectic, but she sees her writing as an extension of her ministry which also includes running a non-profit organization. The ECHO Project works in southern Africa promoting Education, Compassion, Health, and Opportunity and is a way for her to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” (Proverbs 31:8)
When she’s not working she loves hanging out with her family, cooking different ethnic dishes, and heading into the African bush on safari.  For more information about her books and life in Africa visit her website at www.lisaharriswrites.com or her blog at http://myblogintheheartofafrica.blogspot.com. For more information about The ECHO Project, please visit www.theECHOproject.org.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Numbers Guy by Terry Burns


No, I’ve never thought of myself as a numbers guy. I had to throw my self on the mercy of the instructor to pass statistics so I could graduate college. But this morning I was noticing I seem to collect a lot of numbers, numbers that tell me things.

I noticed it when I entered my response to a submission into a log. I always put down key information in that log for future reference so I know if someone resubmits without my asking for it or if they are someone who has submitted to me before, or a number of other things. I also put down the word count if they give it. I would guess less than half provide that. It should be part of any query letter or proposal along with the genre, but it often isn’t.

At any rate, when I started the log I set that column to total at the bottom just for grins. I just looked and on this current log I have had over 103 MILLION words submitted to me from over 2700 submissions. I don’t read all of them, of course. Like most if not all agents and editors, I quit reading if I reach the point where I realize it just isn’t a fit for the markets that I’m presently working in. But still, that is an enormous amount of words and the number is probably 30% higher than that. Amazing.

Another number I get asked a lot is the percentage that I’m taking to represent. Out of this 2700 I’ve selected 75 clients (have 62 right now) and at present have 226 proposals out. Most of my clients have more than one project available. This is not the number for the agency, this is just for me and other agents at Hartline have as much or more I’m sure. I’m also sure there are agents who carry a much bigger workload than I do. Still, that means I’ve taken a little better than 8% of what has been sent to me.

What other numbers jump out at me? I’ve gotten a little better than half of my clients published, about 90 books, and I’m usually up in the top ten of agents getting debut authors started on the list over at Publishers Marketplace. That number means I need to get more clients who are not just getting started, but it also reflects my desire to help new writers get started. I’ve been an agent for about four years, but the first couple of years were pretty much learning experiences and getting things in progress that would take a while to come to fruition.

More numbers? There are numbers at the bottom of my web page with the counter registering over three million hits with more than 465 thousand unique visitors. The visitors have come from 115 different countries. If a few years ago you had told me some old cowboy over in West Texas would have people from this many countries dropping by to look at my stuff I would have thought you were nuts.

Maybe the numbers that are most critical are the ones at my bank and they could stand to be better, but between my writing and my activity as an agent I get to do this full time, and make a living at it. And I’m getting to do what I love.

The numbers that mean the most to me are one beautiful wife, five kids, ten grand-kids and one great-grandson on the way. And most important, my faith number would be the number three representing the Trinity. My faith is very important to me and it is part and parcel of everything I do in every aspect of my life.

Hmm, for somebody that is not a numbers guy I seem to collect and pay a lot of attention to them. Maybe I should have worked harder in that stats class.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Guest blog from Terry's client Roger Bruner

If I Had it to Do All Over Again

Now that Found in Translation has come out and Lost in Dreams is set to release [from Barbour] in July or August, this year is fast becoming one of the most exciting times in my life. I never expected my 65th year to be so special, and only God knows how much better it can get.

So why think about “if I had it to do all over again” while I’m on such a wonderful high? To borrow one of the sayings President John F. Kennedy was famous for, let me say this about that.

I’ve been a writer all of my life: poetry, songs, dramatic monologs, short plays, articles, user documentation, and technical articles. When I unexpectedly ended up in an hourly, part-time job after three full-time, years-long, professional careers, I decided to take advantage of the extra free time and pursue my post-retirement dream—writing and publishing a novel—a few years earlier than I’d originally anticipated.

The story I had in mind seemed good; romantic, amusing, and full of conflict, it ended with an impromptu parade to celebrate the engagement of two protagonists who’d had the hardest time admitting they loved one another. Basing my characters (very loosely!) on my wife and me was good fun.

The only writing books I owned at the time I wrote I Started a Joke were a dictionary and The Elements of Style, left over from my college English days. Although I loved reading, I’d failed to notice how drastically novels had changed since college. No longer were the wordy James Micheners of the world—I probably have one of the most complete libraries of Michener books in existence—in the forefront of fiction.

But I knew that getting a book published by a royalty publisher could take a lifetime—or at least a number of decades—and I was impatient to get my work out there for the world to see and enjoy. I rationalized that I was too old for that kind of wait. So I self-published with a reputable, online Print on Demand (POD) outfit. Like Frank Sinatra, I was proud to have done it my way—and thrilled with the finished product. I Started a Joke listed on Amazon and several other online bookseller sites, and I thought I had it made.

Wrong.

Although several local bookstores carried copies on consignment—I don’t think my books were responsible for those places going out of business—and invited me to do signings, few of my books sold. And I was too interested in writing the next novel to “waste” time on marketing.

I started going to Christian writers conferences. Learned some things I hadn’t known. Hmm. Bought some writing books—a lot of ‘em, judging by the size of the bookcase beside the computer hutch. Oh? I should do a, b, and c and avoid doing x, y, and z. Gee! Showed sample pages to published authors. Ugh! Everything I’d done in that POD-published book was wrong. No wonder it wasn’t selling.

I probably wouldn’t have bought it, either. Not at the publisher-assigned price, which I understand is a typical problem with Print on Demand.

I eventually concluded I didn’t want that book out there representing me as a novelist. It was an embarrassment. I could do SO much better once I learned how. So I made I Started a Joke unavailable and pretended some other Roger Bruner had written it. I tell the few people who have copies—I gave away most of the 130 or so in existence for promotional purposes—that those books ought to be worth at least a quarter at yard sales if I ever “make it big.” Or perhaps donate them to writing instructors to use as examples of how not to write a novel.

Then I did what I should have done first; I settled down to learn more about the craft of writing fiction. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I learned all about not starting with backstory. Hooking the reader in the first sentence. Deleting unnecessary words. Using beats instead of attributions. Making dialog simulate rather than duplicate real speech. Showing and not telling. More things than I could ever try to, uh, show you here.

But how did it all fit together? Especially when writing authorities couldn’t agree on the rules, effectively converting them into strong suggestions and even stronger opinions. I admired the writing book authors who admitted they were just talking about what worked for them.

The most important lesson I’ve learned over the last five or six years? Learning to write well is a lifelong process. I’ll never stop learning or wanting to write better. I’ll never be satisfied. But I can and should make every new book better than its predecessor. If not, I’m cheating—myself, my readers, God. I especially recommend not cheating Him; He gave me whatever talent I have.

After writing a second novel and not even thinking about self-publishing, I wrote a third, Found in Translation. The short story version had already placed tenth in a competition, and in 2006 the novel version won the first place novel competition at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. An editor from a company that didn’t publish novels loved it; he really hoped his company would start publishing novels. Surely an offer would soon come from somewhere.

Wrong again.

At a subsequent conference, I showed the first page to writing expert James Scott Bell. “You didn’t start with a scene.” I hadn’t learned as much as I’d thought. But after I cut the first fifty pages and wrote a new beginning, another acquisitions editor who couldn’t use Found in Translation fell in love with my writing and helped me get Terry Burns as an agent. A year later, I had contracts for two novels with the possibility of more. (Good work, Terry, and thanks!)

So what is this “if I had it to do it all over again”? Just a few musings I’m offering at far beneath retail price. But be wary. YMMV. Your mileage may vary.

Self publishing is fine if you have a platform for selling. Don’t go in debt to do it, though. Be ready to market every one of your published books—even if you don’t want to. Don’t be in too much of a rush to have your manuscript published; you can always improve something you think you’ve finished. Develop a thick skin as you ask the experts for help. But remember they won’t always agree, and story trumps all of the rules. And sometimes you just have to go with your own instincts.

But don’t let being yourself—developing your own voice—serve as an excuse to write less than your best. Always strive to do better next time.

I’ll race you to the bookstore! First one there buys.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT by Joyce Hart


In celebration of the wrap up of the bestselling 'Lancaster County Secrets' series with "The Search" (book #3),  I'm hosting the 'Everything is Coming Up Roses' Facebook Party. (Did you know "The Search" takes place on a rose farm?) 

On Thursday, February 3rd, (8pm EST), we're giving away an iPad! The winner will be announced during the party and I'll also be giving away signed books, gift certificates to Amazon.com, Starbucks, and iTunes.

But...wait! There's even more! One lucky party goer will win ROSES delivered to their door for 3 months AND for a friend of their choosing! 

And you're invited! Go to  my Author Page on Facebook (Suzanne Woods Fisher) http://www.facebook.com/SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor?v=app_2344061033&ref=ts#!/SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor?v=wall
to join in!  

Publishing Update

Borders Won't Make January Payments, Either, And They Aren't Paying Rent
Borders officially announced Sunday night that it will not be sending vendors payments due at the end of January either. And they indicate that publishers are not the only ones being stiffed, saying they are also "delaying additional payments to landlords and other parties." Not paying rent is more drastic than holding off vendors, and indicates the company's liquidity crisis continues to worsen.
They say the non-payment (which they call a "delay" in the press release, but that's what you call it when you intend to pay someone in full a little while later, which is not what is proposed) "is intended to help the company maintain liquidity while it seeks to complete a refinancing or restructuring of its existing credit facilities and other obligations." The statement also adds, "Borders emphasized that it understands the impact of its decision on the affected parties, but that the company is committed to working with its vendors and other business partners to achieve an outcome that is in the best interest of Borders and these parties for the long-term."
From a practical perspective, anyone who was continuing to ship goods to Borders has likely learned their lesson, and it increases the likelihood of a bankruptcy filing--whether forced or voluntary--if the bookseller does not meet the many conditions of its new financing arrangement shortly.
The impact of not paying rent in particular may impose a timetable on how much longer Borders has to plead for concessions before seeking court protection. While we have no direct knowledge of their lease conditions and potential grace periods for payment of rent, and laws do vary from state to state, commercial landlords are generally able to petition for eviction within about two weeks after provided for non-payment deadlines.
According to a memo on an employee web site, Borders workers were told by management to expect inquiries from unpaid landlords and vendors as well as media and customers and asked to "politely but firmly state that all questions are being handled by the corporate office and refuse to offer any other comments." They were instructed to keep the media from photographing or interviewing within company stores, but the company also noted: "Do not suggest this, but it is acceptable for media to photograph/film the exterior of the store if they do so on public property, such as your parking lot."

Day traders are finally getting the message, too. This morning's share price plunge has taken the stock below 75 cents a share, its lowest point since early 2009.