Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Potentially Tense Canaries by Andy Scheer

Perhaps their experience with spell-check had made the canaries tense. They flew at me off the page, daring me to discover their sentence’s original meaning, before spell-check and its minion, “suggest word replacement,” had their way.

The sentence taunted me; what could it mean? Nothing in the manuscript I’d been editing hinted at the problems posed by Question 5:
5. What potential tensions canaries from a transition in mower, authority, responsibility and promise as we see with Abraham and Isaac?

I poured over the sentence, my curiosity peaked.* What had spell-check wrought?

I started with the easier word, “mower.” My mind recalled, then rejected the old joke:
Q: What do you get if you run over a canary with a mower?
A: Shredded tweet.

The context suggested the author had meant “power.” But canaries? What potentially could make them tense? I noted the problem in my “questions for author” document and moved on, hoping my subconscious would solve a problem that could only be computer induced.

Spell-check is wonderful. I use it—but I don’t trust it, especially if I’ve not given the document a line-by-line, word-by-word reading. Otherwise you end up with a paragraph like this, from a nonfiction proposal that once came my way:
I remember at the age of twenty-one thinking surly marriage was eminent and my prince charming was right around the corner. With each passing birthday I would try to quite the ache in my heart with the thought “maybe this year.”

Perhaps if she didn’t want a marriage that stood out so much, she wouldn’t be feeling surly. But I decided to quite my objections. Maybe I was the one being surly, condemning a writer for three correctly spelled typos in one short paragraph, not counting the lack of capitalization.

Then I turned the page and saw this:
I was like many eighteen year old girls when I graduated from high school. When I walked down the isle with my diploma in hand, my sights were set on the next exciting chapter of my life, college.

Aisle not be reading further, I thought. It’s no good atoll.

A half-hour later, my subconscious did its job and I returned to the canaries. With my editing knife, I cut them in two, then switched the order of two letters. Canaries = can arise.
5. What potential tensions can arise from a transition in power, authority, responsibility, and promise, as we see with Abraham and Isaac?

The sentence made sense, even if spell-check didn’t care.

* Yes, they’re intentional.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Original post Sept. 28,2010

Wow, great idea for a reality show.
Stephen King steps up, writes a couple paragraphs and then the“guest” writer fills in the rest. When done, the winning“guest” gets a publishing contract with Harper Collins,Simon and Schuster, Zondervans or any other publisher of his/her choice.


Now, that’s the way it should come to us.Wrapped in a bow and filled with all the goodies the literary world has to offer, but . . .

and here we are, plugging away at the keyboard, not with Stephen King, but with the cat,or the dog, or the ferret or (fill in your own helper). Chris Harrison isn’t holding a rose, waiting for us to finish the next great American novel.
“Will you accept this publishing contract?” And he hands us the rose.

Jeff Probst might be closer to reality. After all, to make it in writing, you need to persevere and be . . . A Survivor!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Truth About "Featured" Ads on Facebook

It was expected, and now it has happened. Facebook is displaying "paid" ads in people's News Feeds. If you haven't noticed them yet, Facebook is gradually rolling them out, so you'll soon see them.

In the past, Facebook has always labeled a paid ad as "Sponsored", but these new ads will be labeled as "Featured", which has a level of confusion for many users. At first, Facebook said that they would show only one "Sponsored" story in a person's News Feed per day, but once again that has changed. If you visit your News Feed often throughout the day, you may notice several "Featured" ads.

One of the reasons, Facebook chose to label these ads as “Featured” instead of “Sponsored” is because all of them must be related to friends and/or Pages you've "Liked." Advertisers can't just pay for an ad and have it display in your News Feed unless you have either interacted with them or their page in the past or one of your friends have done so. To make it even more confusing, you're written story can also be "Featured" as an ad, but only shown to people whom you originally shared it.

So what about YOU? Have you seen any of these "Featured" ads and/or stories in your News Feed? Would you pay for a "Featured" ad on Facebook?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The blind leading the blind by Terry Burns

 I used to have the time to be very active in our local writing group, to the point that I was a two time President of the organization. Unfortunately these days I nearly always have a place to be working conferences and events when their meetings occur. But that’s beside the point.

I sat in so many classes and crit groups and talked constantly with other writers and amassed a level of knowledge that I was so confident in that I began to teach in the group. The information that I handed out was eagerly received.

Then came the fateful day that we had a bestselling author there to present. He also sat in on my session for beginners. After it was over he quietly said, “You don’t really believe all that garbage you were handing out, do you?”

Well, yeah . . . I did.

I was stunned. I took him out to eat that evening and we talked for a long time. I came to understand two things, first that I had ceased to learn and started to teach, and second that I was getting all of my input from writers who didn’t know any more about it than I did. We shared opinions with each other until we came to accept it as truth.  I gave up teaching until I could reach the point where I could be sure of my subject matter and have a strong level of confidence that I could believe what I was saying was accurate.

Nobody has a handle on exactly how things work in this business. Every time I tell a group that in my experience something works a certain way, someone is sure to point out that some highly successful person did it just the opposite with phenomenal results. Absolutely, there is always the exception that proves the rule.

I’m not a gambler, but I understand playing the odds. If most of the time certain actions are going to produce certain results, I feel no need to try and buck the trend and do the opposite hoping that I can be successful where others are not.

Everyone has something to teach, and I try to be open minded to it all. But am I more likely to learn from someone who has had significant success, or someone who has studied and possesses a lot of information but has not been able to prove that information with results? That was me, I knew a lot, but much of it turned out to be a collection of opinions rather than someone sharing what had proven successful for them.

I was the blind leading the blind.

I teach again now, with many years of experience under my belt, but I don’t JUST teach, I try to constantly learn. I try to learn because teaching without learning means I am soon passing on stagnant information as fast as this business changes. And I constantly tell people in classes and workshops that while I am confident information I pass on is accurate, there is always another way to do everything.

We have to learn to filter and assign weight to people we are learning from based on how likely they are to know the truth of what they are saying, I know these days I sure try to do that. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

It is time for First Pages, Would You Read On? Let us know what you think of today's courageous writers first page. This is written for the 7 - 11 year old reader, so please keep that market in mind as you read.

Chapter 1

“But why can’t we go, too?” Madeline whined.

Madeline Anastasia Theodora Star, or as she liked to be called Mat, and her younger brother, Danny, wanted to go along on the missionary trip with their parents, however, they both knew they couldn’t go.

“You know we’re going away for three months this time,” Mom said. “Next time, when we go on a shorter trip, you two can tag along.”

“You kids will be going on your own exciting adventure,” chimed in Dad. “You guys are going to Grandma Theodora’s house for the summer.”

Madeline was named after both of her grandmothers: Anastasia and Theodora. They had not seen Grandma Theo since Mat was four and Danny three. Now, Mat was 10 and Danny was 9 and they thought that staying at their Grandmother’s house all summer would be totally lame.

“But Dad, there’s probably nothing to do there and we’ll be bored.” Mat stated.

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, “Staying with someone old all summer is no fun.”

“Danny,” Dad scolded, “She’s your grandmother and we are all a family that loves each other. Besides, Grandma Theo can’t wait to see you guys. She’s been telling all her friends about you.”

Oh great, Mat thought. Pinched cheeks and gray-haired people telling you old-time stories all the time was not her idea of fun. This was sounding worse and worse by the minute.

“We leave in two days, so pack your bags for the beautiful town of Turtle Creek in upstate New York!”

“Ugh!” Mat and Danny both agreed- this was going to be their worst summer ever!

Last weeks First Page submission was from published author Eddie Jones. Just one of his WIP's in progress. Congrats go out to Eddie on his recent sale, a 3 book Middle Reader Mystery series sold to Zonderkidz's. If you are the parent or grandparent of a child this age, be sure to check out Eddies books. They offer a fun read to children of all ages. :-)

He appreciates your comments and suggestions, many of which were posted on FB under Diana's post of this page.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cutting Empty Phrases by Andy Scheer

“Vigorous writing is concise,” says William Strunk Jr. in his classic book The Elements of Style.  “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

I've put that principle in practice as I've been editing an 87,000-word nonfiction manuscript the author plans to self-publish. At 120 pages into the 270-page document, I've cut nearly 3,000 words. This puts me on pace to cut 6,900 words from the entire manuscript. That's just under eight percent.

I'm not even doing an aggressive edit. I'm mostly trimming the fat and filler—words that occupy space, but add nothing to the meaning. (Think of how, a few decades back when the price of beef soared, grocery stores added soy to their cheaper grade of hamburger. It added bulk, but did nothing to enhance the flavor.)

As I've edited, I've saved some examples of the fluff I've cut. Here are a few of the empty phrases, in the order they appeared in the manuscript.

Plan of action—What other kind is there? Just say “plan.”

Even though—Do you really need to start a sentence with double introductory prepositions? It's usually enough just to say “though.”

To be a blessing to—Does this “Christianese” phrase mean more than “to bless”?

In order to—Usually out of order. Replace with “to.”

Pose a threat to—Bulky and passive. Replace with “threaten.”

One particular time—Unless you're writing the start of a contemporary academic fairy tale, “once” is enough.

And a few longer examples, before and after:
Before: There are some still, it seems, who take the opposite extreme.
After: Some take the opposite extreme.

Before: But there are other times when
After: Other times,

We all let such phrases creep into our writing. As a novelist, you'll want to use them—if a character is an academic, attorney, or politician. Instant characterization.

Otherwise, who wants verbal textured soy protein?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Partners in Crime by Linda S. Glaz

It is painfully obvious when an agent receives a submission that only the individual’s: wife, mom, sister, brother, dad, best friend, or other has read. There are often so many mistakes that it’s difficult to reply with any encouragement. How do I know this? Because early on, I sent out submissions in much the same condition. And received far kinder words of encouragement than I deserved.

And let’s face it, we all can’t afford to attend a writing school that costs nearly as much as a decent used car. So what can we do to increase our chances of getting a “yes” in return for all of our efforts?

Let’s pretend there aren’t hundreds of absolutely wonderful books out there to help us on our journeys. Or that free classes by the dozens don’t exist on line. Or that Faithwriters, ACFW, and myriad other organizations aren’t available for us to dissect and digest their accumulative brain power. Where does that leave us?


Partners in crime. Partners who will be honest and helpful, who will give you an evaluation that will move you forward, not pat your hand or your ego. When I got serious about writing, only four years ago, and fifteen years after I actually started, and by serious, I mean willing to start to hone my craft and not merely write, write, write. Anyway, at that point, I dug into classes, attended more conferences, and began online relationships with a virtual stranger I’d met through ACFW. We were kind to each other, tried to offer tidbits of helpful knowledge, and then took off the gloves. We gradually added four more to our little BAND OF BROTHERS, sorry ladies, it doesn’t have the same military ring the other way, and decided the only way to truly get better was to dig deep, and toss all the egos. Now, mind you, we did this kindly, but honestly. We offered hope with each need to do better, and we worked at it through the times when life kicked our butts-hope that’s okay-but we prayed each other through, rewrote, re-edited, and re-applied God’s principles until we all knew we were headed in the right direction. Everyone is now published, agented, or all of the above. And those who aren’t pubbed yet are having serious reads by editors.

I could be sitting here saying, “Yessir. I’ve been writing for 20 years! Just no one out there smart enough to pick up this wonderful novel. My cousin said so.” And doing nothing to improve. Convincing myself the agents/editors just don’t like me. Personality problems, God’s timing isn’t right, I’ve written it ten times and that’s enough, right?

If you’re the hamster running the wheel, jump off! Find a crit group with writers at all levels, each has something wonderful to offer, and start to take your talent to another level. Be thankful for mom and her assessment, but let other writers steer you to success. Maybe God’s timing isn’t your timing because He’s doing your part and you aren’t.

CRITIQUE PARTNERS in crime. Invaluable!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Author "Back Lists" Are Fading to an "Also Available List" by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I'm sure agents often feel that new writers expect them to make an award winning deal with a major publisher with all the bells and whistles as soon as they sign a contract to represent them. While that may happen on occasion, the truth is, often it's a standard contract with a publisher that includes a boiler-plate publicity plan--the same one they use for all their new and midlist authors.

I believe the same expectation holds true for publicists. New authors often hope a publicist's efforts will skyrocket their book to all the major bestseller lists and all kinds of bookings on radio, TV and podcasts shows will start pouring in along with major speaking engagements. The truth is, this can happen, but isn't likely. You will receive more publicity than you might through your own efforts. A publicist will raise awareness about your book, sales may increase while your campaign is being launched, but as soon as the campaign is over and excitement about the book fades, so will the sales.

I'm not writing this to depress you, but to educate you on realistic expectations, and to equip you with how best to deal with this reality. Most of us, don't have the funds lying around to keep a permanent publicity campaign going. We would go bankrupt. Yet, for as long as our books are available, they need to sell--and thanks to the changes e-publishing has brought, our digital books will never go out of print. This means your efforts in building your platform will bring even more impact in long-term sales.

My point is this, continue to plan book launch campaigns when you have a new book releasing. These efforts will be crucial in getting your book started just like early preschool education does in a child's success in school and later in life through college and on the job. Early education builds the frame work in how a child learns, changing that becomes much harder later in life once those learning habits have been developed. It's the same way with our book launches as we prepare the frame work for future book sales after the launch.

Major reviews have already been established and uploaded on sites like Amazon, B&N, ChristianBooks, LifeWay and Cokesbury. Previous interviews, blog posts, and guests posts will be available on the web for future readers to browse when they are trying to learn more about you. Your presentation has already been established, and therefore, so will the perception of readers when they find your info.

Think beyond the book launch and how you can build on this established platform as you incorporate it into your overall platform with new books. Authors no longer have a back list, they now have an also available list. This is the angle you need to be thinking when writing a marketing plan or planning your publicity promotions.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


It's after two am and Bonnie and I just finished getting the new face put on to our website and our blog. I worked on the text and the content and Bonnie applied the magic to make it all happen. She's amazing, and this old cowboy takes his hat off to her. (If you don't remember the picture, I had the pleasure of being with her when she received the Mentor of the Year award at ACFW)

One thing you will note is the fact that you shift seamlessly back and forth between the blog and the website with the same navigation bar. Pretty nifty.

We think you will find it bright and crisp, and hopefully the content is much more concise and easier to understand. If you have been to our site recently you may need to refresh your browser if a page doesn't display right, but once you have done that once it should be fine after that.

You will find a full client list, but on each agent page is a list of the clients each one of us represents. And yes, each agent has their own page now so you don't have to scroll through the whole thing looking for what you want to see.

All of the pages offered are easy to see in the pull down menus and we encourage you to prowl around and check the place out. We'd love to hear your comments on it. Take your shoes off, and make yourself at home.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Suzanne Woods Fisher’s book A Lancaster County Christmas is #19 on the CBA Bestseller list.  This is the 3rd month it’s been on the list.  It is also #44 on the ECPA top 50 Bestselling books.

A Log Cabin Christmas Collection published by Barbour and in which Jane Kirkpatrick has a story is #4 on the ECPA Fiction Bestsellers and #23 on the ECPA top 50 Bestselling books.

Suzanne’s book The Keeper, Jane’s book The Daughter’s Walk and Amanda Cabot’s book Summer of Promise are all featured in the Family Book Store catalog this month