Friday, April 29, 2011
This interview re-posted from Booklifenow.com blog by Jeremy L C Jones
Bad Boys by Frank Roderus opens with a man about to tell the woman he loves about his wild and rowdy past. The novel ends… well, it ends where it needs to end. In between, the story ranges, in tone and content, from the romping good times of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to the more mature The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the picaresque tales of highwaymen and outlaws. The prose is fast, tight, and as clear as spring water. Each chapter moves deeply into the life of the central character, Danny Southern, and then moves on with only the faintest hint of sentimentality and a steady maturation.
At the three-quarters mark, dread sets in—not simply because of some impending doom, but because it becomes increasingly hard to deny that the story will soon end. It’s hard to stop reading Bad Boys—hard to put it down while in you’re reading it and hard to accept that it’s over when you finish.
Frank Roderus has been writing novels full-time for more than thirty years. He’s written in a variety of genres—action-adventure, crime, mystery—but the majority of his 300+ books are Westerns. He writes both stand-alone and series Westerns. He’s been contributing steadily to the Longarm series (as by Tabor Evans) since #53 (in 1983).
When I asked Roderus what remained the same in all his novels–what was the constant–I was hoping he’d reveal to me the secret to writing a fresh and unique novel every time out of the gate.
“Oh, I do most earnestly hope there is no constant in them,” said Roderus, “at least not apart from reader involvement with my characters. Through the years I have been privileged to vicariously become a delightful array of people and professions. Cowboys, sure, but also badmen, telegraphers, storekeepers, drifters, snake oil salesmen… the list has gotten pretty long and I have enjoyed experiencing each of them. And hope to find more in the future.”
With Roderus, it all comes back to characters the reader can care about. Below, Roderus and I talk about writing fiction in general and writing the West in particular.
You’ve been writing Western stories since you were five, novels since the late 70s, and writing full-time since 1980… Are you still loving it?
Frank Roderus: I am still very much loving what I do and feel blessed to have had the opportunity for such a wonderfully enjoyable career. Writing has always been a joy for me and I did thoroughly enjoy my years as a newspaper reporter, but journalism is essentially a matter of finding something that is wrong and pointing that out to the readers. With fiction I can also point out that which is good in people. Besides, it is just plain fun to tweak the noses of the bad guys.
Where does a Western novel usually start for you–image, plot, character, historical event, somewhere else altogether? And how do you develop the novel from there?
Frank Roderus: My books nearly always start for me by way of a character. I will find someone in my thoughts and he will tell the story from there. I just sit back and mentally watch the show unfold bit by bit and put that down on paper as it happens. The situations these characters find themselves in can be prompted by a newspaper story or something read in a history book, by almost anything. Much of my pleasure reading is non-fiction and those, especially first person accounts from long ago, will sometimes influence my characters but they become very much their own persons. In fact, some of my best friends have been my own characters.
What does a first chapter need to do and how do you do it?
Frank Roderus: I would hope that my first chapters give the reader something to care about. Good, bad or simply setting a tone, for the reader to care is the important thing. Or so I believe.
Danny Southern, Harlan Breen, Lyle Wilson… What makes for a compelling protagonist in general and a compelling Western protagonist in particular?
Frank Roderus: There again, for the reader to care is most important. Notice that I do not say the reader has to like the character. He can hate the rotten lousy so-and-so, and that is quite all right, just so long as he wants to see the fellow get his comeuppance and sticks around for the ride toward that end. I have come to believe that as long as I care, I can create a character who the reader will also care about. But I must genuinely care in order for this to happen. I don’t think the protagonist in a Western is markedly different from a character in a crime novel, a noir piece or even a romance, though. Any differences are on the surface–does this guy ride a sorrel horse or drive a red Ferrari–the heart and the emotions are constants and those are the basis for storytelling.
And how about an antagonist?
Frank Roderus: Same thing. He can have shades of gray in his character but there should be an emotional involvement in one’s feelings toward him. The reader may even like him… but should want to see him fall as a matter of simple justice.
Any advice for writing action scenes?
Frank Roderus: Action scenes are generally easy to write. I watch them play out in my mind and put down what I “see” there. I do have my own emotional involvement though and am completely wiped out by the end of the scene, very much as if I had physically participated in them, just without the blood and the bruises.
The middle of your novels never sag. How do you keep the tension mounting, the plot moving, and the suspense building?
Frank Roderus: Oh, my. You can’t know how pleased I am for you to say that. Maintaining pace is not always a simple thing to do and I can’t always judge how well I have done it. What I try to remember in the middle of a yarn, when all the characters and the main direction of the story have been established, is to throw in some new problems for the protagonist to overcome. Those needn’t be central to the main story but they do need to be true to the character. You can also slip in something playful.
The end game… what does the final chapter need to do? How do you manage the fine balance between too many and too few threads tied up? How do you ensure the reader leaves satisfied and comes back for more when the next one comes out?
Frank Roderus: I probably am guilty of weaving too few threads, not too many. I just try to wrap up what is there so there is some closure for my protagonist, whether good guy or bad. Leaving the reader satisfied is always a goal but since I am not creating series characters there is no compelling reason for the reader to return. He knows he will not find someone familiar in my next book, but I do hope he will feel he can find someone interesting.
Speaking of the next one, what can we expect from Ransom?
Frank Roderus: Ransom is about relationships, man and woman, father and daughter, divorced man and his ex wife’s lover… and of course with a bad guy/kidnapper thrown into the mix.
Any parting words? Words of encouragement or caution for the writers out there?
Frank Roderus: Oh, encouragement, by all means. It has always been difficult to get into print, always will be, but it is worth the struggle. The thing a new writer must do is write something so darn good, so completely compelling, that an editor simply can’t turn it down.
As for caution, I would advise newcomers to avoid the easy route of e-pub until he has sold at least one book to a legitimate print publisher. There are two reasons for this. The first and more obvious is that the e-pub houses generally do not have staff to properly edit, and the writer needs the input of editorial staff in order to have his work fully judged. He really cannot adequately judge it himself. Secondly, and more important, the print houses have established distribution and distribution is the most difficult part of the publishing process. That said, writing is more fun than almost anything. Do it. Revel in it. And keep at it until you do get that miracle of an acceptance letter.
If I may toss in a bit of advice here, the Western Writers of America holds seminars at their annual meetings that can be invaluable to newcomers. While one must be published in order to become a member of WWA, you do not have to belong to the organization to attend the conventions. Check their website for details about those summer meetings. And once you are published, you might want to consider Western Fictioneers as a source of information, encouragement and fellowship also. It too has a website that may be of interest.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Today brought devastating news at first light for so many.
Hartline offers our prayers for those recovering from the tornado's destructive path, and sympathies to those that have lost friends and loved ones.
Sympathies also go out to the Family of David Wilkerson, whose life was lost in a tragic car accident yesterday. We ask you to pray for his wife Gwen who was seriously injured in that accident.
David Wilkerson began Teen Challenge, a Christian outreach for troubled teens that continues strongly today. He authored the world renowned story, The Cross and the Switchblade, the astonishing true story of Wilkerson's outreach to New York teens trapped by drugs and gangs in the 60's. Over 14 million copies in print.
With Heavy Hearts,
Joyce, Tamela, Terry and Diana
Monday, April 25, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Kindle just announced they are making ebooks available through Overdrive in libraries. As for as the impact upon publishers to have library downloads, this has been the subject of intense debate not long ago.
In March of this year, HarperCollins announced that their ebooks had a limited license so that they could be downloaded only 26 times before disappearing. This caused an outcry against HarperCollins that called for a boycott of books by HarperCollins. The libraries were outraged, as, due to budget crunches, they certainly could not afford to re-purchase titles over and over.
There has always been an uneasy feeling between publishers and libraries. Let's face it, an author is hoping to make money by having copies of their book sold. To have people able to check out a single copy numerous times means that those are fewer royalties...to their way of thinking.
Some publishers specialize in books meant just for libraries, instead looking at it from the point of view that there are thousands of libraries and a copy of a book in every library in the United States is 122,101 books sold.
Keep that number in mind, it's the latest figure.
As a publisher, we considered the library aspect long and hard in how we determined our marketing efforts. Yes we do have books in the library system. And while each of those books counts only as a single sale let's look at the facts.
A book in the library is checked out an average of 54 times before it is retired. This is a print copy, an ebook would be able to go much further than that. But let's just look at the print number right now.
Of those 54 people who checked out that book, you now have created 54 people with an interest in your books.
The average wait for a new title, depending upon popularity of the book can vary from several days to several weeks or even months. How many times have you opted for the bookstore when you've discovered that it's going to be awhile before you can get the book you want to read? I know I have.
Granted there is no wait on an ebook...BUT the people reading that ebook are people who will become potential fans. People who will hunt down your other books, and want to read those too. People who won't chance a new author in the bookstore will always try them at the library.
There are facts and figures to support all that, but suffice it to say, it's been shown that books in library actually stimulate additional sales.
So...profit off of ebooks? I would say it comes from the fan base, it comes from the people who will turn out to see you (keep in mind a good relationship with a library can lead to appearances at the library, and chances to promote your books in that setting).
And let's not forget that great big number.
122,101 libraries in the United States today. Seems to me that if you sold a copy or your book or ebook to even half of those, you'd be doing pretty well.
And besides, 122,101 library books checked out 54 times each means you have 6,598,854 readers.
I don't know about you, but those numbers look pretty good to me.
OK everyone, ready for a little more information?
I called up the head of collection acquisition who happens to be in charge of all book buying for fifteen libraries in this part of Colorado Springs. She happens to do all the buying of fiction and children's books for all of these locations, so she knows her stuff.
The book buying process for a library is fairly straightforward. Now remember this represents how the big libraries to things. I'm sure it's much simpler than this in smaller ones, but let's see what we can do with this information to promote not only our writing, but to place God's word on the shelves and in the hands of people who so sorely need to hear it.
The library budget has not been affected considerably in recent years, something which surprised me, but perhaps that's because they say that library readership is up in the last two years. Speculation to this increase include thoughts that with everyone feeling the financial pinch, the library has become the first place to get a book, over purchasing either online or in bookstores. The percentages certainly show more people checking out books than ever before, which is good news for the library and reason to hold the budget strong.
So what does that mean for us?
The library purchaser looks at three things to determine if a book will be carried by the library or not.
1. She starts her day with reading several journals online. These are:
- Kirkus Review
- Library Journal
- Publishers Weekly
- School Library Journal
- Voice of Youth America
Any books with a good review will be bought immediately. Any book with a moderate review will also likely be purchased. Books that have one good review in one mag and one bad review in another will also be purchased.
Huh. Who knew?
2. The book MUST be carried by Baker & Taylor. She says that with the current time restraints on her job and as much work as she has there is no time to set up accounts with various publishers, even if they offer a better deal on the books. She says "We have more money than time, so it has to be with Baker & Taylor."
3. Amazon rankings help. If your book is NOT reviewed, but has an Amazon ranking of 100,000 or better you'll be purchased. BUT, a book with a ranking up to 500,000 will still be considered.
Now, a few myths to dispel.
- Any literature mailed, flyers, catalogs, or letters about your book will be ignored. They do not have time for them and those kinds of things hit the trash without even being opened.
- A book donated to the library will not wind up in any collection necessarily.
- Approaching them as a local author might hold some weight, but you might wind up in a special collection and not in general circulation
Here is where it counts. A card holder requesting a book will guarantee a sale of that book almost every time. Unless there is something really wildly wrong with it. They say they will even buy a book they don't think is well done, has bad reviews, is something they would never spend the money on if it is requested by a card holder. Why? Because they figure that someone wants to read it.
1. Look at your website first. My library has a form on their webpage that can be used to requesting books.
2. If they don't have someplace online, go in person and ask at the desk.
3. Be sure to be a card holder to give weight to your request. It never takes long to get one and usually all you need is ID to get one.
4. Usually they require the book be in print, be less than 2 years old, and available on Amazon at the very least (if not on Baker & Taylor)
I also want to note something:
My library buyer told me that she gets requests for Christian fiction all the time, but they are seldom reviewed in any of those library journals. She says she wishes that Baker & Taylor had a library journal just for Christian books because she winds up going to the publishers websites for all the big publishers to find out what's new and orders from that. She says it's awkward and time consuming to do that.
Hope this helps!
Written World Communications
Friday, April 22, 2011
I have returned often to that powerful analogy many times through out the years.
At the Philadelphia Writers conference last year I shared it with a few authors and editors while taking a break midst our 15 min appointments. The message turned into church right there and we were struck once more with the power that Christ provided for our lives by going to the cross on our behalf, suffering as he did to take upon himself our sins and triumphing over the grave to rise and now reign on high.
When they laid Him in the tomb it looked like the enemy had won, but it was Friday...and Sunday was comin'!
The bills are piling up and you have no idea where the money is going to come from, but I would like you to consider it is only Friday, and Sunday is coming...
You just lost your job, and your interviews are not bearing fruit, but it is Friday and Sunday is coming....
You just buried your loved one and you are heart broken, will you ever feel real joy again? I t is Friday, and Sunday is coming...
The rejection letters are piling up, but it is Friday, but Sunday is coming....
I would like to encourage you to look at your present circumstances with this new perspective.
May your life be empowered as you celebrate with family and friends Christs sacrifice and victory this weekend.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
From the CBA Newsletter: The Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) announced the winning titles for the 2011 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award. The Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award honors books produced by small publishers each year for outstanding contribution to Christian life. Book lovers and retailers selling Christian products voted on the nominated titles in each of eight categories.
I’m pleased to announce that Sandi Rog’s book, The Master’s Walk, published by DeWard Publishing won first place in Fiction for the 2011 Award from the CSPA.
Congratulations to Diana Wallis Taylor Her Biblical fiction book, Martha has received a 4.5 starred review from Booklist.
Also, in case you haven’t seen this anywhere, the Hartline Literary blog was honored by being included in the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers.
May God bless you as we remember our resurrected Savior at this special time of year. A happy and blessed Easter to all.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Last night, I was reading about Paul. I just love Paul, and I identify with him greatly. A former bad guy, brought to his knees by the grace of God; a man with an undefined handicap who was anointed by God to use his writing talents to construct a large part of the New Testament, laying down the foundation for gazillions of believers who would come after him. When reading about Paul, it's almost impossible to miss his lower-profile friend, Barnabas. But I often do skim right past him.
As is often the case, after giving some thought to the relationship of Paul and Barnabas just last night, I turned on the television this morning to hear Joel Osteen talking about them on his television program. Joel pointed out what I hadn't really considered before: We might not have Paul's writings if not for the pivotal role played by unassuming Barnabas.
This got me to thinking about the Barnabases I've had in my life. How many times has someone played a key role in moving me forward in my faith walk or my writing career or simply my personal growth?
Fellow author Debby Mayne has been a powerful Barnabas in my life. More than a decade ago, I walked into a writers group meeting, new to Florida, relatively new to writing fiction as well, and this small, energetic woman walked up to me and introduced herself. After our first meeting, Debby took the role of encourager and mentor. She told me about writing opportunities, even introduced me to my first publisher, and I don't think she's ever asked for anything in return. Like Barnabas, Debby knows the secret that, when you do for others what they can't do for themselves, you embody the hand of God in their lives.
Who has God placed in your life to encourage, support and/or guide you on your journey? I'm about to send the link to this blog post to Debby so that she is reminded once again how valuable her friendship has been to me, how pivotal her Barnabas role in my life has actually been. I want her to know that I'm praying for her hundredfold reward, that I'm humbled by and grateful for her friendship, and that she has changed me.
Is there someone you need to remind and thank? Someone unassuming and yet completely valuable to your life? I encourage you to do it right away.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Sharon's blog can be read daily at email@example.com
All authors have one ultimate goal in mind – to be published. After all, that’s why we are writing. We actually think other people want to know, and indeed need to hear, what we have to say. We attend writers’ retreats to get tuned in to God’s voice, and we pack ourselves off to writers’ conferences with proposals in hand, seeking the appropriate publisher (or at least a willing one) for our words. We’re concerned about things like capturing our voice on the page, writing tight, weaving humor into serious subjects, and showing not telling. Then once we release our work to the world, we turn our attention to marketing and getting the word out there about our books so people can get the message in their hands and hearts. We pray they understand the takeaway – the main point we are trying to convey.
As an author Himself, God is concerned about these very same things. He was the Ghostwriter for the best-seller of all times, but the published works He continues to produce – those with His personal name on the cover – tend to need more of His hands-on marketing efforts. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (NKJ). That word “workmanship” is poiema in Greek and it literally means “a product, fabric, and thing that is made.” It’s the word from which we get our English word “poem.” In other words, we are literally God’s poem which He is trying to publish and market.
When God reads back over His poem that is you today, has He captured His voice on the page? Can He see that He’s written a tight, easy-to-comprehend message? Does His joy burst through even in these serious times? Has He accomplished the show-don’t-tell goal in you because you are living what He has penned in your heart?
As the personally authored work of His hands, what’s the takeaway people remember when they read you?
Thank you Sharon for once more offering our readers a timely, life changing word.
Reader, please stop by Sharon's blog for daily inspiration for your writers journey.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
With authors seeking more ways to network and share information, diverse creative sites pop up. I would like to share one that is relatively new, created by author Linda Rondeau titled, Pentalk.
Linda , Thank you for being with us today. Can you share with our readers today just what Pentalk is and where you came up with the idea for it.
I noticed that there are myriad writing groups for various genres, beliefs, and age groups. The Lord seemed to ask me if I would start a writing group that would encompass all genres, ages, and belief systems, an arena where Christians could exemplify Christ as they worked together with other writers who may not be believers.
How has it's Growth been and the response on FB to it.
From an initial small group page, Pentalk now consists of a Facebook Community Page of over 200 members, a Facebook networking page of 121, a Yahoo group page for non-Facebook members and a blog, currently with 84 followers, some through Google and others through Facebook. We have a steering committee of four individuals in addition to myself. Carol McClain and Dale Langlois manage the author interviews, Carol Moncado is the editor-in-chief for the blog. Dan Waltz manages our book cover album in addition to art consultation.
Have you had to make any changes to it since you first began?
The group evolved through the needs of its members. Some wanted more than simply a "chat" forum. The community page offers a more professional setting and can be joined by simply "liking" the page. We soon learned that members wanted information and education so we formed the blog. We also wanted to have a communication avenue for non-facebook users. Pentalk is for and about writing by writers. We are committed to helping one another as writers. This includes sharing our blogs, giving encouragement, and posting our celebrations.
Pentalk Community Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/
Pentalk Group (facebook) http://www.facebook.com/home.
Pentalk Community Blog: http://pentalkcommunity.
Pentalk Community (Yahoo Groups): http://groups.yahoo.com/group/
Thank you Linda for sharing with us today.
Please stop by and avail yourself of the terrific resources and advice on Pentalk.
Happy Spring to all,
Monday, April 11, 2011
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. Proverbs 22:3
The collision bounced the young man off the hood of the car, over the roof, and into a field. Unfazed by the horror of blood on his windshield, the driver of the Buick continued, crushing the boy’s bicycle before ramming into the father, killing him.
Perhaps the driver reached for an open can of beer. Maybe his fingers fumbled for more of the cocaine resting in his lap. Regardless, he drove another thirty yards before witnesses waved him down and forced him to turn around. By then it was too late—one dead, another soon to be. The prudent see danger and take refuge, the simple keep going.
Months before my friend killed the two cyclists he had, in descending order, left his live-in girlfriend, divorced his wife, had an affair, lost several jobs, moved away from his friends, and stopped attending church.
I’d tried to stay in touch after his youngest son died but it was hard. Saw him for a few minutes before his mom’s funeral. Tried to find him after the service, but he was gone. Maybe if I’d visited more often I could have helped. Or perhaps he was beyond help. The last time we talked I asked, “Do you still think about him?”
“Every day, Eddie. Every hour.”
The loss of his boy left him gutted. The smile was there but the eyes were dead. I never asked and he didn’t say but I sensed he blamed God for his son’s death. Now, on a fine spring morning some ten years later, my friend had done some killing himself. Perhaps not intentionally, but two were dead and the grieving would roil the lives of their families and friends for years to come.
What starts the spiral? What turns us away from God and toward destruction? Is it the pain? If so, I should have shouldered more of my friend’s. Maybe if I had, he wouldn’t be in jail and that father and son would be resting their tired bodies on fresh cut grass instead of lying beneath it.
Twenty-five years ago he was the godfather of my first son. Twenty-five years ago we served as youth counselors, sailed together, laughed together, and worshiped in church together. Now he sits in jail charged with two counts of felony death by motor vehicle. The prudent see danger and take refuge, the simple keep going.
The danger isn’t in the storms. The danger is in refusing to read the clouds and heed the rumble of thunder as trouble gathers around us. The prudent take cover. The fool sails on taking those with him to the depths of despair.
What storms gather in your life? Turn around and take cover in God’s embrace before it’s too late.
I love my pond. A gift from my boys, it’s brought me hours of rest. The pond started as one small 80-gallon divot but as the years passed we added a long creek filled with beautiful rocks and waterfalls. We added fish one by one; the kids named every finned friend that called our pond home and before long we had a mixture of coy and goldfish swimming in our lily-covered waters. The boys named the tiniest fish Bob.
Bob was hard to find in the pond. He kept out of sight by hiding in the water iris, peeking through the floating roots and algae. We’d go weeks and never see Bob, wondering why he avoided the open waters of the pond.
One afternoon I pulled open the plastic container of fish food and spread a handful of colored feeding sticks across the water. Nothing. That’s odd, I thought. Generally a handful of food meant a feeding frenzy. I knelt by the pond and peered in. No fish. Well, there was one. Bob was nestled among the lilies, hard to see and very still.
There were no little fish bodies around the pond—no sign of life anywhere. We joked and wondered if a fish rapture came and the others had been “raptured away,” leaving Bob behind.
The writer of Proverbs warns, The prudent see danger and take refuge. Swimming into dangerous currents can be exhilarating. Waterfalls rocket us along, providing a momentary thrill, pushing us through narrow crevices and into swirling whirlpools that leave us dizzy. The sun warms our tidal pool, we relax and drift along, admiring the reflection of our silver scales on the mirrored bottom. Then GULP! Life lunges, taking us down into the depths of darkness.
A few days after Bob’s schoolmates went missing, I solved the mystery. We caught a raccoon fishing in the pond. Bob’s prudence served him well. Last week we added new fish to the pond. They’re small and spend their time hiding in the tangled Iris roots too. Perhaps Bob passed along his wisdom. For my sake, I hope so. I can’t afford to keep stocking that pond.
Don’t venture out when danger lurks. Instead, seek shelter and wait in the safety of God’s pond.