Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Pile of pumpkins
Today we thought we would offer you a first page submission to a middle reader spooky story.
Let us know in the comments if you would read on. 

Chapter One: A Case I Can Sink My Teeth Into
Death found me on a hot June morning in Walt Disney World’s Tower of Terror.
Minutes before I heard about the vampire in Transylvania, North Carolina, I pulled the seat belt across my waist and showed my hands to the bellhop. Behind me buckles snapped shut; arms shot up. The smiling service attendant in his maroon and gold cap bid us a pleasant stay at the Hollywood Hotel and retreated into the boiler room. Service doors sealed us inside, and the elevator yanked us up.
The young boy seated next to me whispered to his mom, “Why did he make us raise our hands?”
 “So when they snap our picture it looks like we’re having fun.”
“And to prove you’re not holding anything in your hand,” I offered. “See, if you place a penny on your palm, like this, when the car drops the coin will—”
“Don’t you dare try that, Grayson!” said the boy’s mom, glaring at me.
I shoved the penny back in my pocket and muttered, “Wasn’t suggesting he do it. Just saying that’s why they make you put your hands up.”
The car stopped on the thirteenth floor. Doors opened. Our elevator car rumbled down a darkened hallway, and the theme song from the Twilight Zone began playing through headrest speakers. A short ways in front, Rod Serling magically appeared, warning riders: “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension—a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into… (dramatic pause)… the Twilight Zone.”
Instantly a barrage of objects shot past—a wooden door, Einstein’s formula for relativity, an eyeball. Windowpanes shattered and shards of glass morphed into twinkling stars. Through the speakers a little girl began singing, “It’s raining, it’s pouring…”
Buried in my front pocket my smartphone began vibrating. I pulled it out and quickly read the text message. “Phone Me now. RIGHT NOW! got killer of a story for you! – Calvin.”
Right, I thought. Bet it’s just another zombie fest or supposed house haunting.
See, weeks earlier I’d signed on to be a reporter for the Cool Ghoul Gazette—an online website dedicated to exploring ghosts, zombies, werewolves, vampires and all things supernatural and freaky. We have a huge readership in England, the British Ghost sightings are huge over there. Anyway, for months my parents had been after me to get a summer job. Mom thought I needed to start saving for college. Dad kept saying it was time I did something other than sit around and watch TV, even though watching TV is my job.
No kidding. Watching television (online, mostly) is my job. I’m a founding member of TV Crime Watchers, a group of teens that analyzes and catalogs crime, cop, and detective shows. We have a huge database of episodes going back almost thirty years, and we use this information to catch real murderers. At least, when law enforcement officials will let us help. Our little group has an eighty percent close rate. That means in most cases we can correctly identify the killer before the real detectives can. Problem is, TV Crime Watchers doesn’t pay, and making money is apparently a big deal. Especially for my Mom and Dad. Our family is a victim of what Dad calls, “the Great Recession.”
I think what he means is that we’re middle class poor.
Before our trip to Disney, he was complaining about how his pension at the automotive parts company was wiped out in the stock market. Mom thinks we should sell our home, but according to the real estate company Mom works for, our house is worth less now than when we bought it. The only way we could afford the trip to Disney was to drive two days in our ten-year-old Buick and stay in a three-star motel on the outskirts of Orlando. So yeah, right now having a job is tops in our family.
“Can’t pay for the good life without a good job,” Dad keeps reminding me. “And sometimes, you can’t even pay for it, then.”
Dad hoped I’d get a job cutting grass like my cousin Fred. Fred has like a gazillion customers. He made enough last summer to buy his own truck—a used Ford Ranger that has over a hundred thousand miles on it and leaks oil like a Gulf oil well.
But I’m not Fred.
To me the idea of working outside all summer and coming home sweaty and tired is, well… work. Mom was after me to get a job dog sitting, but the last thing I wanted to do was to spend my summer picking up poop in a plastic bag. That’s just gross.
So after our trip to Deadwood Canyon, when I solved the murder of one of the ghost town’s actors, I landed the job at the Cool Ghoul Gazette, and now my editor was texting me with a “killer” assignment that I was pretty sure would be a huge waste of my time because most of the stuff he sends me is.
 The elevator car stopped. Another set of doors opened, this time revealing a bird’s eye view of Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Crowds choked Sunset Boulevard and moved in random directions like energetic ants bent on beating the other ants to the top of the hill. Children lined up near a pretzel stand to get Buzz Lightyear’s autograph. Parents milled about in the designated stroller area.
Our car dropped.
Girls screamed. Kids shrieked. Not me. You couldn’t have blasted the smile off my face with a power washer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Instant Award-Winning Author Status by Andy Scheer

The spam for wanna-be writers just keeps on coming. This morning the subject line proclaimed, “BECOME AN AWARD WINNING AUTHOR!”

Here's the full pitch:


The Crafty Possum (
name changed) Digital Book Awards is now open for early registration. Enter now and save up to 25%.

* Digital e-book formats only
* No publication date requirement
* Five award levels
* 75+ categories
* Free book review with each primary category
* Win prizes valued up to $5,000!

Use the following links for more information:
If the phrase “award-winning author” still carried any value, it just slipped several notches. My sympathy to those authors who got published—and won awards—the old-fashioned way.

Entering an e-book in the so-called contest costs $70, but with that amazing discount, only $50.

Of course, to be eligible, the file needs to have been converted into one of various e-book formats (a service Crafty Possum just happens to offer. (“ePublishing Packages As Low As $299!” “Learn More About Our Project Management Services.”)

The “gold medal winner” in each category receives a passel of stuff connected to Crafty Possum's services:
  • Eligible to win 1 of 3 advanced e-book formatting and distribution packages from Crafty Sloth Media ($1,000 value)
  • Eligible to win 1 of 3 pro video book trailers from Crafty Slothio
  • Eligible to win 1 of 3 express author interviews on the Crafty Sloth Book Podcast on Blog Talk Radio
  • 6 months promotion in our featured book section
  • Online medal award ceremony
  • Gold digital medal for websites and e-book covers
  • Print-on-demand personalized certificate
Check your own spam filters for details about the prizes to be awarded at the silver, bronze, wood, hay, and stubble levels. Meanwhile, I'll delete this email and save 100 percent.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Curious Question by Linda S. Glaz

I had a great question come up at a recent conference and am curious how readers, mostly, would view it.
Does anyone remember the movie from days way gone by, Look Who’s Talking? A romance that included a baby’s POV. The series ended with the third installment, Look Who’s Talking Now. This last offering included the POVs of the two pets.
And herein lies the question. How do readers feel about internal dialogue from a pet? I didn’t have an answer for her other than it didn’t work well for me, but that’s only one opinion. And therefore, far too subjective.
So…I’m curious. How do you feel, as readers, about an animal’s POV being included in a work of fiction?
I'd love to get some dialogue going here.
I thought it was a very interesting question.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

eMail Woes by Terry Burns

I had an email problem back at the first of the year and lost some email. I thought I had put a redundancy in place to keep it from happening again but I was wrong. I just had a re-occurrence and the redundancy did not work correctly and I lost the last 30 days email.

If anyone has sent me email in the last 30 days, particularly a submission following the ACFW conference, and you have not received a response (more than an acknowledgement of receipt) it would be best if you re-sent.

Please accept my apology if this is the case. I am hopeful that I now have a system in place to prevent it from happening again.


Mr. Terry W. Burns, agent
Hartline Literary Agency

Association of Author Representatives (AAR) member

Friday, October 26, 2012

Customized Social Media Icons for Authors by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Are you tired of the same old social media icons that everyone has on their websites and blogs? How about a little variety? Something that goes with your theme or that says you're an author? I thought it would be fun to create a few icon sets that you can use for free and I'm debuting them here on the Hartline Blog. I'll also post them on my company website at If you want something customized for you specifically, feel free to contact me at

To view how my coffee cup social media icons look on my page, swing by my personal website/blog at

Simply right-click on the image and click "Save As" and download it on your computer and use as you choose.

Social Media Book Icons

Social Media E-Book Icons

Social Media Historical Author Icons

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guest blog by Terry's Client Linda Apple

We writers are supposed to avoid cliché's but nothing says it better than this one: TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE.

All writers need friends with the same mental illness. Someone who understands the way we think and process. And it is even better when one writer friend is  further down the road to success. Someone who has survived the writerly condition and can take us by the hand and lead us through the dark times. Velda Brotherton  is that to me. She is multi-published in most genre's  and I'm so thankful God gave me this precious friend. 
When I get stuck I go to my trusted writing friends and we brainstorm. Last week Jan Morrill and I drove to Oklahoma City for an OWFI board meeting. I told her about some problems with my novel rewrites. She started the "what if" game (where she'd suggest a "twist" in a scene). It is like a dam of ideas broke and flooded my mind. Jan brought a freshness that my stagnant brain couldn't stir.

There is value in getting a few, and I mean a few, writing friends together for an evening of brainstorming. Simply taking turns with projects and helping each other tear down the one dimensional, predictable, parts of our stories creates a new excitement about our projects.

Friends J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson found value meeting in the Eagle and Child pub every Thursday. I think they are an excellent example of the results when creative minds spark in a group.

Are you stuck, stagnate, discouraged? Call three writerly friends and invite them over. Fix a few snacks and get to work! You'll be glad you did!  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Welcome to Would You Read On.

Last weeks brave contributor was Molly Huggins. Please stop by Molly's blog (link below) and introduce yourself. And let other service men and women know about it as well.

This column is open for submissions. If you would like to submit a first page for critique, please email Diana at: If your first page is approved, Diana will schedule your post and let you know when that will be.

Thank you for faithfully supporting our blog. Have a terrific day.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Sales the Old-fashioned Way by Andy Scheer

Yesterday at a bookstore coffee shop, I met a man whose book I was editing.

I'd already sent him my edited version of the manuscript, and he'd sent me his comments and suggested revisions. But since he was in town for a convention, he asked if we could meet. He showed me alternative cover designs from the publisher, and we discussed those.

But primarily we just got to know each other. Having worked through 78,000 words about his passion for ministry, I felt I already knew him. But as we sat in the bookstore, we got to know each other better. He spoke of having taken cross-country road trips with his wife and twin sons, who are now thirteen. He said that instead of playing video games in the car, the boys liked to read.

I spoke of having read Tony Hillerman stories, set in Arizona and New Mexico, during a trip through those states. And I casually mentioned that in my minutes in the store before he arrived, I'd enjoyed seeing on the shelves a few books by some author friends.

I pointed to the top shelf of the left-hand section—a book with a bright orange spine that sat third from the right. I said the author was a former Navy man who lived in Fort Collins, Colorado. And I started describing some of the plot elements. Husband-and-wife treasure hunters combed the globe seeking artifacts associated with Napoleon's time in exile. But those artifacts, I said, merely contained clues to a hidden cache from the time of the Greco-Persian wars.

“That sounds like the kind of story my boys would like,” my client said. “They like stories that involve travel and history.”

After our meeting he walked to the checkout counter with a copy of my other friend's book.

Even in an age where most promotional eggs go into the basket of social media, there's still a place for an old-fashioned, word-of-mouth recommendation. (I'm not sure if there's an app for that.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Prologue...Friend or Foe? by Linda S. Glaz

Just read a wonderful blog that emphasized getting to know your main character right away, creating empathy with him/her. A couple years ago I was told I had to lose my prologue on a suspense novel because the reader didn't have enough feeling for the main character soon enough, and the critique was spot on. I dropped the prologue and the story came alive much sooner as we learned enough about the main character to care about her.
          THAT SAID. How do we know when a prologue is necessary to set up a story or when it is simply taking up space because we, as writers, like what we're saying?
            I think immediately of Mary Higgins Clark who often sets up the entire story through a heart-pounding prologue, which may or may not have anything to do with the main character. But she is successful in that the entire story hinges on what happens to someone in the prologue.
             Do you have an outstanding example of how a prologue intrigued you enough to have a read? Is it absolutely necessary to have the main character in the opening chapter of the book? On another note, does it make a difference in the genre you are reading? I can see romance needing the main characters right away, but what about suspense, thrillers, or a blend of suspense and romance--thriller and romance. What do you like to see?
            How about a book that hooked you right away without there being even a mention of the main character in the opening?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Feature Your Book on by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

You've seen other book promotion campaigns where authors are launching their books utilizing contests and giveaways through Facebook parties, Twitter contests, photos of readers showing book covers, Pinterest story boards depicting what the story is about or the story behind a book's creation. Now there is,  a social-drawing app or social-sketchpad. It's a free website and Ipad app that you can download. is creating quite a stir with the backing of Park Street Ventures, including several sports teams who have agreed to use the app, such as The New Jersey Devils. Fans were given the opportunity to doodle a sketch that would be chosen as a t-shirt design. Fox Home Entertainment is using it to promote the DVD release of the movie Chronicle. The show, Cake Boss, held a contest for four weeks allowing fans to draw their favorite cake design. The selected winner received a grand prize and their design would become a real cake that would be featured in his bakery.

Your creative juices may already be flowing in how you can use this new app for your upcoming book launch. For fiction, readers may draw their favorite characters or settings and win goodies you give away. For nonfiction, readers may draw other themed images associated with your book's content. You can gather support and momentum for campaigns by announcing it on Twitter and Facebook where you already have a following.

If you're looking for something new and different from the traditional book reviews and interviews where readers merely leave a comment and a random winner is drawn, this is an idea to think about before it too becomes an old idea.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet you at the conference? by Terry Burns

Soon it will be time to head over to Marshall Texas to East Texas Baptist University for the East Texas Christian Writer's Conference. I've gone to this conference for a number of years and I love it.

Set on the shady, peaceful campus of ETBU it is an economical conference packed with lots of content and excellent presenters. The dates are October 26th and 27th, starting right after lunch on Friday and ending up about 5 pm on Saturday. The keynote speaker Friday evening will be James Watkins speaking on "I have a dream!"

I'm going to be talking about the difference in writing to reach the nonbeliever. Christian readers and nonbelievers look for different things in a book, Christians want a lot of faith content and they want it right from the get-go. But the very thing that they are looking for will cause a non-believer to put the book down. Many who say they are writing a 'crossover book' are actually writing a book that will not have enough faith content to satisfy the Christian publishers but with too much such content for the secular publishers. They end up in the 'no man's land' in between where neither want the book. A true crossover book is written for one market or the other but written in such a way that it manages to cross over to the other.

I'm also going to talk about how to develop a writer's persona. Many people are simply too shy to meet with editors and agents to pitch, or to do promotion or interviews, or the other activities a writer must do to be successful. There is a way to develop a writer's persona and pretty much hide behind it to do what we need to do. Others are about as shy as a chain saw but they are uncomfortable in such writing situations because they don't know how to present themselves as a writer. These are the totally opposite ends of the spectrum, but for both as well as all of the degrees in between, the answer is learning how to determine how we need to present ourselves as a writer and to project ourselves that way.

Finally, my third session will be a "look behind the curtain." I'll be talking about editor and agent pet peeves. Participants will hear a lot of things from a survey that Hartline agent Linda Glaz and I conducted, things that turn an agent or editor off. But there are also peeves that authors have about agents and editors as well, that sword cuts both ways. Those in the class will have the opportunity to unburden themselves with some of the things that bother them as well.

The conference is a short but content-packed event that people are sure to enjoy and sure to feel they really got their money's worth. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Thank you for joining us again for this weeks edition of Would You Read On?
Today we are asking you to comment on the opening prologue of a narrative nonfiction title.

"We’ve said goodbye in so many places, and in so many ways. A cavernous Air Force hangar built to hold beasts of planes, used to herd my husband off to war. In countless civilian airports. After the first few times, passionate embraces in full view of those poor ticket agents just cease to be embarrassing. Or, you forgo the kissing and give him a quick peck and do the casual goodbye because it almost feels routine, never mind that after you drop him off you will flee homeward and hide away, rewriting the narrative of the next year. Two weeks. Two weeks is what it takes for me to assimilate to my new normal. To emerge, to coexist with the undercurrent of worry and the well-meaning but horribly misguided friends and strangers who think what you really need to hear right then, is their opinion on the war. Really, thank you but no. 

Said goodbye in more aircraft hangars. A lot of aircraft hangars. Said goodbye when we had six months to prepare, or two months, or two weeks, or a full year. Said goodbye to my husband praying it was only temporary. Said goodbye to my best friend at her funeral. Said goodbye to unborn babies I wanted so badly to live. Said goodbye to my sweet firstborn girl for a year, pleading with God even as I left that I wouldn’t have to go.  

I say goodbye to my husband every day in a community where mistakes mean machines fail and people die. Complicated flying machines that depend on a meticulous symphony of man and metal. To be fair, it’s a joyful, freewheeling job, the flying. Even now, when I close my eyes I am soaring upward, so elated, so free. But the haunt of loss is ever present. The joy tinged a pale gray around the edges."

Please let us know if you would read on by leaving your comment below.

We appreciate last weeks contributing author: Becky Doughty. Please stop by and visit Becky at the following sites.!/beckydwriter