Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Welcome to our Wednesday edition of Would You Read On?. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to stop by our blog.

Kindly comment if you would read on or return this book back to the shelf. Last weeks contributing author is revealed below this first page.

Would You Read On?

First Page:

Michael clenched the hilt of his sworda weapon that had known only defeat.

In mounted flight, he dodged a scimitar, then veered to escape the slash of another. A pair of Centaurs flew toward him, cutting him off. Jerking the reins, Michael swerved, barely missing their curved blades.

A foray of Malakim and Centaurs filled the air above the forest of Shamayim. Whether on the ground, or in flight, the Malakim were disadvantaged, for the Centaurs were both larger and stronger, and not impeded by the head and neck of a horse.

Michael’s sword plunged through the chest of the closest Centaur. The creature’s body went rigida temporary happenstance of being skewered by an opponent’s sword.

Before Michael had time to relish his triumph, several more attacked in response to the felling of their comrade.

Perhaps you could you use a hand.”

Michael turned to the voice to see his fellow lieutenant, Mardikel, fighting at his side.

On the contrary, I enjoy lone skirmishes against our scorpion-tailed, winged-equestrian opponents.”

The words no sooner left his lips, than he impaled a Centaur coming to his right. He whirled in response to a deafening clang of steel to his left to realize Mardikel had just parried a blow that would surely have sent him not-so-gracefully flitting to the ground in rigid descent.

Michael barely had time to dip his head in thanks, before defending against the onslaught of several more Centaurs.

If we don’t find the flag,” Mardikel shouted above the angry flapping of wings, “we’ll have to answer to the commander for breaking rank.”

Ah, but imagine if we do,” Michael said, retrieving his imbedded sword from yet another Centaur.

Mardikel rolled his eyes. “As though you need any more accolades from our superior officer.”

Would you read on?

Last weeks contributor was author Jody Day. Stop by Jody's blog and say hello.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Writers Conference Goals by Andy Scheer

I'm not counting on finding a great writer at the conference this week.

Don't get me wrong. I hope to find a great writer. And it won't surprise me if I do. It's happened at each of the conferences I've attended since joining the Hartline team. And that's generally been my experience since I began attending Christian writers conferences back in the late 1980s.

But finding writers is not my main reason to attend.

I'm going primarily because of the people—the unique opportunity at a writers conference to meet not only writers, but writing professionals: veteran writers, acquisitions editors, and agents. These are the people who've taught me much of what I know about writing and publishing.

And after more than thirty years in the publishing world, I still have a lot to learn.

At least I have an excuse: I'm aiming at an amazingly diverse, constantly changing target. And that change is coming faster than ever. If I hope to stay on track, I need all the information and advice I can get. So anytime conferees aren't trying to learn from me, I'll be trying to learn things from the other faculty members—and also from the conferees.

You never know when the person you meet at a conference will just happen to have information you really need. Like the two writers waiting in the lunch line, talking about their works in progress. One was saying she had a problem with her suspense novel, and she really needed a source in the FBI she could ask about a procedure. It turned out she was talking to the wife of an FBI agent.

I remember at my first conference meeting Les Stobbe, who was then with Here's Life Publishers. That was twenty-five years ago. Through various career moves we're still friends, and we continue to keep in touch about what's happening in the world of publishing.

In some ways, it's a small world. If you check the faculty roster of conferences held throughout the year, you'll see many of the same names. So for me, each conference presents an opportunity to renew old friendships, and cultivate new ones.

And if the rapport I develop with an acquisitions editor just happens to pave the way for my clients' proposals, I'm sure those clients won't begrudge me the time. Even if it's a future client I'll be meeting for the first time at that conference

Monday, February 27, 2012


The TV or a DVD is always on while I’m working because I work best in noise. Actually, if truth be told, in chaos. And this was Rocky weekend. The sweating, the repetitious training, the hard work…


Right from the beginning of Rocky’s “rocky” start, he kept at it. Never quitting, never allowing the other guy a chance to see his fear. Confidence, courage, David and Goliath in action. And isn’t that what writing is all about? We start at the bottom, and with the exception of a handful of extraordinarily lucky folks, we sweat, we train, we punch and sock our way to the top. Always, like Rocky, starting with prayer, never imagining defeat as our lot. More than an occasional sneak peek at the TV, the heart of the champion spoke to me this weekend. The heart of one who carried his confidence to his last fight in his sixties.

And what was the message? Perseverance. Never give up, never say die.
You never know when the win, or the publishing contract, is just around the corner.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Publishing Transition Ups the Role of Your Platform by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

History repeats itself.

I wish we could learn from our past mistakes as a society, but we seem doomed to ignore the hard lessons previous generations have learned and make them our own. It may look a bit different with new technologies, different people, places, and time--but the ultimate deal is still the same.

People are hungry for power. They work hard to build a business empire, rake in as much profit as possible, put competition out of business. They start out with excellent customer service because they have to, but once they're on top and the only game in town, they begin flexing their muscles and setting unfair prices, contracts, and percentage rates with their partners.

Who are we talking about?

First, it was the small publishers who were ousted by the big six publishers in NY.

Now, it's the big six along with book stores, facing the threat of the powerhouse of Amazon.

As usual authors and agents are caught in the middle. We're still producing our stories. Agents are still submitting them, but we're all listening, trying to discern where the winds will lead us.

Here's one thing that won't change: 
  • The old publishing model depended on an author's platform and their ability to promote themselves.
  • The new publishing model will still depend on an author's platform, and more so, especially their online platform. 

Do not be discouraged or deceived. Every new follower you gain on Facebook, Twitter, and to your blog--it matters. Every new subscriber you receive to your email newsletter--it matters. Each new connection you make on Goodreads, Google+ or Pinterest--it matters. It's one more person who has the potential to hear about your books and buy them, and whoever they have the ability to influence. This is limitless. Promotion is hard and sometimes it isn't fun, but it does make a difference.

People can't buy books they've never heard of before. And even if they've heard of your books, you must give them a reason to buy your book out of all the many choices competing for their attention. Sometimes it's by allowing them a chance to get to know YOU through interviews, personal blog posts, book signings and just sharing the blessings God has given YOU to pass onto THEM. People are more willing to buy and support an author they feel like they know than from someone with whom they have no connection.

I want to leave you with a link to a blog post that will make you think.
Amazon--Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts by Kristen Lamb

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Suzanne Woods Fischer’s book – "The Keeper" is #9 on the CBA Fiction Bestseller March book list. Our Congratulations to her.


I'm looking for a Llama by Terry Burns


I just finished working the Writing for the Soul conference put on by Jerry B Jenkins in Denver. Great conference, and I enjoyed it.

Working the agent panel I responded to a question by saying that I get over 300 submissions a month. Obviously I can't take that many, nor can editors publish that many. And don't buy into the idea that it's okay because most of them are not very good anyway. A significant portion of them are good books.

That means a good book is just not good enough. Agents and editors are all looking for exceptional books, books that stand out from the crowd and are unique and compelling. I saw what that looked like on this trip, driving to Denver. Out in a field was the huge flock of sheep, and among them, two llamas. Their tall, graceful necks stood high and proud above the sea of white fleece.

Now sheep are great, Jesus often used them as a comparable to his flock, and to himself as the "Lamb of God." The old cowboy vs sheepherder war is long over. It was the visual that spoke to me, and I said, "That's what I'm looking for, I'm looking for a llama." One girl got it. Apparently it had been talked about around the conference some because came and sat down and when I asked her what we were there to talk about she said "I have a llama for you."

I talked about this good versus exceptional think at the Oklahoma Writers Conference a while back. Afterwards I had a ton of appointments and one girl came in and said, "I'm not here to pitch my book, tell me how to make it exceptional."

Good question, and wonder why nobody else asked it? I told her about a unique story and unique voice but then I added the big one. I told her a movie is shot in scenes where everything that will happen at a certain place is shot at once, no matter where it may fall in the movie. The movie is born when the director goes into the cutting room and assembles these scenes the way he wants.

A writer does a good job of writing a story and then a good job of editing it or having it edited. That's a good book. The exceptional writer takes off the author hat and the editor hat and puts on the director hat to direct their story. When I was having the opportunity to write I tended to wrap all my scenes up nice and neat like a short story. Each and every one of them was a convenient place to put the book down. There should not be such convenient places to put the book down, but I left them for the director to fix.

The director insures the story opens and gets the reader down into the story and committed to read as quickly as possible by forcing them off the first page and having them committed to the storyline by page ten. He or she insures that each scene and each chapter does not tie up with a nice red bow but pushes the reader on to the next scene and next chapter. The director ensures there are no dead spots or places where the story bogs down with exhaustive narrative or complicated sentences where it may be put down. It isn't about story at this point, it is about flow. A compelling story and flow that drives the reader through to me is the mark of the exceptional book.

Yes, that's what I'm looking for, a llama . . . no, actually . . . what I'd really like to have is a giraffe!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Thank you for stopping by for today's installment of Would You Read On?. We look forward to your comments.

Chapter One

He sent the new girl in to fire me. Phoebe Waverly vamped in on those stilts she calls stilettos with a cardboard box in hand.

“Mr. Graham asked me to inform you that you are terminated, immediately.” Her attempt at a professional voice only made her sound more southern, one word leaning on another like dominoes toppling toward a period. “This box is for your things, Miss Brown. I’ll take that office key if you please.”

The heat rose on my face and I knew it was red. I decided not to acknowledge her, picked up my purse and headed for Darryl’s office. Miss blonde, fancy shmancy, high-heeled, manicured former Miss Texas tried to steal my job, looks like she succeeded.

My hand shook as I reached for the knob, stopped, squared my shoulders, straightened my navy business suit, took a deep breath and pushed open Darryl Graham’s office door.

Coward, he wasn’t there.

Last weeks contributor of a First Page was Clarice G. James. You can learn more about Clarice at the following links. Mug Shots Blog by Clarice James

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How Many Books? by Andy Scheer

The question came innocently. So innocently, the person didn't even ask about books. But I couldn't help making the application.

This weekend I watched on DVD a delightfully quirky BBC mystery program from the late 1980s. Called The Beiderbecke Tapes, the story concerned a a middle-aged schoolteacher—a fan of early jazz—who mistakenly receives a cassette tape (remember those) that instead of 1920s music contained top-secret information.

For various plot reasons, early in the story the jazz fan moves out of his flat and takes up residence with an English teacher from the same school. After he brings in box after box of jazz records, then tapes, she expressed astonishment—and asked how many records he owned.

The question took him aback. He had no idea. Hundreds, he said, maybe a thousand. Perhaps even two thousand.

I looked away from the TV and scanned the walls of my basement. Then I began tallying bookshelves. Counting each horizontal shelf (not each shelving unit) I came up with fifty. Their average length is about two feet. And they're comfortably stuffed.

How many books? I have no idea. Hundreds, maybe a thousand. Perhaps even two thousand.

But why count them? Those are only the books in the basement.

How about you?

Monday, February 20, 2012


Okay, here goes: time for writing marathons, time for judging, time for crazy evaluations, and time for tears. Buckets and buckets of tears. And I’m not even submitting. Believe it or not, that’s the judge’s perspective.

Reading the work of someone else who is brave enough to put the love of their life into a competition. Author—a person who basically strips him or herself bare in order to win or simply get feedback for their work.

How does the judge suffer? That’s easy. No one wants to say no. No one, other than a sadist, looks at an author’s work with anything but compassion and a desire to help that writer improve their work—help them toward the road of publication. Are there judges who race through an entry and do a poor job? Yes, unfortunately all judges are as human as the writers. Fact of life. But do most of them? No. They take the responsibility humbly and with an open heart to do their best.

So, the buckets of tears come from the judges as well as the entrants. Having to turn down a fabulous storyline because it doesn’t fit the genre, grammar’s poor, punctuation needs work, or any other number of things preventing it from going forward.

What can authors do to improve their chances?
One: be sure you’re submitting in the correct genre.
Two: read your entry out loud to yourself to catch all the typos you missed on the computer
Three: run it past a crit partner, anyone but MOM
Four: Does the story hook the reader on the first two pages? Don’t wait for page 15 or 20, depending on the contest, to draw your reader in. If you have the judge by page 1, he or she will look much more favorably on the rest of the entry
Five: do a great synopsis. Let the judge know where you’re going.

This won’t guarantee you a slot at the Oscars—oops, I meant the ACFW or Other banquet, but it might give you a step up when it comes to what a judge is looking for. Good luck, be blessed, and don’t be shy. Even if you don’t make it this year, there’s always next year.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why don't I represent children's books? by Terry Burns

I get asked that a lot. It would seem to be a natural fit for me, we've got five kids, ten grand-kids and our second great grandchild is on the way. It isn't that I don't think it is important, one of my clients, MaryAnn Diorio said this:

I believe our Lord is raising up a generation of children who will do mighty exploits in His Name.  But they must be taught the things of God.  When I browse the children’s section of secular bookstores, I am appalled and deeply grieved at what is being published for children.  One sees mostly satanic material, occultic and violent in nature.  One also sees a lot of new age influence. It all reminds me of Luke 17:2. [It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than he should offend one of these little ones]  So I want to do whatever I can to point our children to Jesus.

I could not agree more. So, if I am naturally attuned to kids, if I strongly agree that there is a great need to put Godly products on the market for children, what's the problem?

First, let me define what a children's book is. A lot of people just have two definitions, and anything that is not for adults is for children. The publishing industry breaks that down further, however, and for them there are children's books, first readers, middle readers, and young adult. Each one is defined by a specific age range. The children's books are picture books and books intended to be read to very young children, First readers are just what the name implies, books to be read by or read to children just beginning to read. In simpliest terms middle readers correspond with middle school and young adult with high school.

I do handle middle readers and young adult but nothing younger. It isn't that I don't think they are important, but I don't do it for three very important reasons:

1. Working in any market requires a knowledge of that market and I don't have that knowledge of the children's book market. There are a number of other markets I don't know well enough either, such as sci-fi and fantasy. You can just be an expert on a limited number of things.
2. We don't sell books to publishers, we sell them to editors that we have a relationship with, know what they are looking for, and have good points of contact. I don't know these editors that are acquiring in the children's market.

3. To do well in a market you have to be able to judge all of the projects that are being presented to you and pick the ones that stand out from the crowd, projects that will really appeal to the editors it will be presented to. I'm a grandfather, they all look cute to me, and I could see myself reading all of them to the kids. Obviously I am not good at judging the merit of some projects over other projects when it comes to children's books.  

I am about to attend my first conference for children's writers specifically for this purpose, to see if I can learn some things that might cause the situation to change.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Welcome to our Wednesday edition of Would You Read On?. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to stop by our blog.
Kindly comment if you would read on or return this book back to the shelf. Last weeks contributing author is revealed below this first page.

Would You Read On?

My husband was dead and I wasn’t and I hated eating alone.

Yet here I stood, a party of one, at the door to the Ebb Tide Diner. With Exxon pumps out front and the motto “Eat Here and Get Gas” you didn’t expect fancy; it was the home-style cooking that kept this Cape Cod place packed.

After a move from the Boston area to the Upper Cape town of Sandwich, my husband Nate and I had eaten here often when our kids were young. But it didn’t become our Friday date-night standby until they were grown and gone. I hadn’t been back since Nate died, over 18 months ago. It was the beginning of a new year; I needed to deal with some things; and coming back here, alone, was one of those things.

Silly as it sounds, I had my hair done for the occasion, covering the gray dulling my natural nutmeg color and adding some golden highlights. I even wore the green sweater set and dangly silver earrings Nate had given me. I guess I did it for the same reason I spent time looking out over the ocean instead of the cemetery: I knew Nate would like it.

The word “pathetic” chided my resolve. I recovered fast and scolded myself: “Keep moving, McGee; self-pity is not on the menu.”

The place was crazy-busy as usual. The smell of pot roast and fried clams awakened tasty memories. A fast-walking waitress, plates running up her arms, slowed down long enough to tip her chin in the direction of the last vacant table—the one Nate and I had called “our table.” Sitting there wouldn’t make my first trip back any easier.

Leaning on my elbows, I clasped my hands under my chin and stared across the table at the empty chair. Summoning the image of Nate and me in times gone by brought a smile instead of tears, comfort not sadness. Grief was turning, I could feel it.

Now this isn’t so bad, I thought.

Last weeks entry was offered by Sharon Kopf.
You can find Sharyn on Facebook, or by visiting her website, (geared toward her freelance article writing) and her blog, (which focuses on her single-over-40 nonfiction work).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Binge Weekend by Andy Scheer

By the end of the day Friday, I was beat. I'd just finished editing a 70,000-word nonfiction manuscript that had taken me on an emotional roller coaster. I needed to unwind.

Fortunately, the weather had turned cold, with light snow forecast all day Saturday. So I was off the hook for any outdoor projects. Inside, I had only a few chores, which I could complete quickly. With the football season ended and baseball still months away, there was nothing on television.

A near-perfect combination for a weekend of reading.

Colorado was cold and snowy, and I'd spent the week working on computers. So I escaped to the Caribbean . . . on the deck of a British Navy frigate . . . in the year 1799.

Friday evening as I sat by my fireplace, I could almost smell the gunpowder as the Juno's broadside of twelve-pounders raked the French frigate approaching Martinique. Or maybe it was just that our fireplace doesn't always draw well.

I'd rejoined the story late that afternoon at about the two-thirds point. The pages of the best part of the story flew by.

Finished already? It's not all that late . . . I'll treat myself to book eight in the series. This author almost always picks up right where the previous book left off.

But he also tends to start each story slowly--in this case refitting the ship for the next voyage. So I resisted temptation and turned out the lights before it set sail.

But Saturday, glorious Saturday. By the time Car Talk ended on NPR, I'd finished my chores and could rejoin the crew of the frigate. Good thing I didn't start any later; it took me until a half-hour past my bedtime to finish the tale.

Sunday my wife and I didn't get home from church until noon. A little snow-shoveling, then into book nine. It gets mighty hot and dry around the Dutch island of Curacao, but I and Captain Ramage's crew persevered . . . all day long through 316 danger-filled trade paperback pages. By the end of the day the daunting mission, and the book, were complete.

And I had recharged myself to face a new week of editing and evaluating manuscripts.