Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year-End Details by Andy Scheer

Relax. You still have a few hours to care for those remaining details for tax year 2013.

Depending on this year's writing income, you can still decide if you want to register and pay for a writing course or conference now – and take it as a deduction for this year – or postpone the purchase for a new tax year.

The past few days I've been reviewing my list of year-end items. I just took care of my biggest remaining task, buying the small business version of the tax software I use to calculate what I owe the government for my publishing-related income. And I just remembered that I need to include on my income-and-expense spreadsheet the cost for my subscription to a writing magazine.

This year I've had some help in preparing. In my work for the Christian Writers Guild, I moderated three webinars on business aspects of writing presented by tax expert Gary Hensley and freelancers Lin Johnson and Julie-Allyson (see http://www.christianwritersguild.com/store/webinars).

Each provided a few tips to help me keep my records and to take all the available tax deductions. As someone who attended several writers conferences, it's good to be sure what documentation I need to deduct travel expenses.

The rest of today, as I alternate between writing an article due next week and procrastinating, I hope to channel some of that procrastination time to cleaning my office, sorting through files, and preparing to start the new year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Character Development Ever by Linda S. Glaz

     When I first posted this on my blog, I received some interesting emails from folks with excellent comments on character development. Thought I'd share here!    

 When we're doing our best to evolve a character from bad to good...or...better yet, regress him or her from good to bad, it can be daunting.
     This morning, I caught a glimpse of a movie I'd seen years ago, and I have to tell you it is the best example of the development of a character that I've EVER seen. And instead of from bad boy to good, it is from good guy to downright rotten egg!
     Not Without My Daughter, starring Sally Field, shows the breakdown of a relationship and not for one reason, but for many. An American woman who married an Iranian doctor is the US agrees to travel to Iran with her husband, in spite of many misgivings. Before they leave, we catch glimpses of how he's often mistreated in the job force, but the wife never fully understands what he's been going through. However, once in Iran, the "good 'ol boy" bonding plus the pressure from his family to stay in Iran overshadows any feelings he might have for his wife. He soon falls back into the attitude of "master of the house" where his wife is concerned. And he makes it clear eventually through domestic violence that she WILL do whatever he wants her to.
     WHEW! For someone we empathize with early on, he surely changes before our eyes.
     WHY AM I TELLING YOU ALL OF THIS? Because his evolution or regression might be more apt, takes place brilliantly before our eyes.
     And how do we know this change is done realistically? Because this story actually happened.
     If you want a wonderful look at character personality change...see Not Without My Daughter. Seeing the subtle changes that take place until a caring, loving man does a complete one-eighty into a tyrant, this is the movie to see. Soak it up. This is the real deal for seeing a character turnaround quite literally before your eyes!

Blessings to you all for an amazing 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hope you had a great Christmas by Terry Burns

This is one of my favorite Christmas pictures. One of the last we had with mom before she passed on. She was very much on my mind this time of year. We miss her.

Christmas always brings a mixture of memories and feelings for me. A number of years ago some of us were watching a Statler Brothers Christmas program and the question was posed to them as to what the best and worst Christmas was that they had ever experienced.

Someone said that was unrealistic because who would know the answer to that question?

I did know the answer.

My worst Christmas was when I lost my only sibling, my brother Trent at Christmas time only a few months after my father had passed on. I had to fight my way home that year on highways that were closed because of snow. When the highway patrol flagged me down and said I couldn't go I asked if they were making me stop? They said they couldn't do that but I told them there was no way I was going to let mom be alone on her first Christmas without dad. I made it but it was tough, then to get the news about Trent on top of that? Wasn't much Christmas cheer that year.

The best one? Just as easy. I got the chance to sit in a candlelight Christmas Eve service at the First Baptist Church in Orange, Texas, and watch both of my kids get get baptized. I can still smell the pine garlands in the windows heated by the candles and giving off a smell I still associate with Christmas. The congregation was all holding candles as well and the tears in my eyes made pinpoints of all of those delicate lights to give the scene a magical appearance. That was many, many years ago and I can still call it to mind as if it only happened yesterday.

Perhaps everyone has a best and worst, I do know that sometimes it can be a difficult time of year. If you have a 'worst' I really hope you had a faith base where the comforter was there for you to see you through it as mother and I had. And I know you had a 'best' and in all honesty I hope you've had so many that it is hard to decide which one.

As for this year? I hope you had a happy and joyous celebration of the birth of our Lord.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from Hartline

He is
the Way
the Truth

the Life
As we gaze into the face of the infant child,
may we find there...
the Way
to bring healing to a hurting world,
the Truth
that Peace is still within our reach,
and the Life
of Divine Love reborn within us.
an Abby Press Christmas Card
Christmas Blessings
Joyce, Terry, Diana, Andy, Linda, and Jim 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Surprises by Andy Scheer

I expect you've made plans for Christmas – and the following days. Perhaps traveling, spending time with family, and enjoying favorite foods. Then if you're fortunate, finding some undisturbed time to write.

I hope your plans – and mine – come together. But if you have your heart set on a traditional Christmas, consider how the tradition got started.

Joseph and Mary had surely made wonderful plans for their future. But God intervened and those plans took a completely unexpected direction.

Then the government intervened. A sweeping tax program imposed by unwanted authorities meant the couple had to travel for days at the worst time of year.

The crowds and inconveniences of Christmastime travel began in the first century. Although facing an emergency, Joseph and Mary couldn't get a room reservation. Sometimes godly people pray that their precarious situation will become stable, only to have it happen literally.

When the crisis had passed and the couple and their newborn had a moment to themselves, unexpected company arrived. In that culture, getting a late night visit from shepherds was nothing to sing about.

Traditions are fine, but be careful what you wish for. Today, I'll keep my eyes on the weather forecast. Key people we're expecting have a long drive that crosses a mountain pass. Others in our family are trying to balance time with in-laws. We expect our home to be filled, including a toddler and a visiting, active dog. I hope everyone stays healthy.

Given all that may happen tomorrow, I'll try to keep the perspective of that first Christmas if I can get to my keyboard the following day.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas 2013! What Does it Mean to You? By Linda S. Glaz

I’ve read a few inspirationals lately that talked about Joseph for a change and what an incredible role he played.
He married a girl he knew to be pure and caring.
She left home to visit relatives and returned pregnant. Joseph had the right to justice. He could have had her stoned…but didn’t. Not only did he not have her stoned, but he stood by her…raised the child as his own…helped changed the direction of the world.
While this is not merely a story, it does give us a glimpse of an incredible man. A man with true character.
I love this part of the Christmas story. I so admire Joseph. What man today would have such a caring, believing heart? He thought his wife had committed adultery and an angel told him otherwise. Can’t you just imagine that happening today? But still…
So what does this wonderful story have to do with our writing? Finding the ability to create a character like Joseph will bring your writing to life. Suspend belief for just a bit then reel the reader in with the everyday. Joseph went from the miracle to raising a son. Bringing him up to be a carpenter. That is how a character with depth comes to life.
Take the opportunity for every situation to bring a character to life in your writing. Even the best situation ever!
Happy writing!
Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

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

I'm a grandpa, they call me 'Po.' Wasn't my choice, I let them call me whatever they wanted and I think they were trying for 'Pa.' Actually I'm a great-grandfather about to welcome my third great-grandchild. What does that to do with the question posed in the title?


I think nearly every children's book I have ever seen is cute and would be something I would read to my grandkids. That means I am not a good judge as to which ones are better than others. If I can't do that, I can't do a good job of selecting ones I want to represent.

I did go to a children's conference to see if I did want to start representing younger projects, specifically children's books, picture books and first readers. By the end of the conference I was sure I had made the right decision in not representing anything younger than middle readers, and I don't handle many of them. At least I am better able to evaluate middle readers. I even have a grandson who has written and published a couple of middle reader short stories. (The editor who acquired it said it got special attention because they had never had an eleven year old author come in agented before.)

But it is about more than the ability to judge a good product. We don't sell books to publishing houses, we sell books to acquiring editors that we know and have a relationship with. Since the conference I just talked about is the only children's book conference I've attended I know very few such editors. That means I don't have the right contacts to represent projects that young effectively.

But mostly, it's because I'm a great-grandpa and love ALL children's books.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our Part In the Story by Jim Hart

There aren’t many stories that are more powerful, more repeated, and more wonderful than the story of Christmas. As a musician, I’m in awe of the number of songs that this single story has generated for centuries. My favorite Christmas carol this year has been “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen”. For a song that had its beginnings in 15th century Europe, it has found new meaning for me. (Yes, I’ve been working on Christmas music since the middle of October.)

It’s the line “let nothing you dismay” that really got my attention. Because it’s easy to be dismayed this time of year. The demands on our time to shop, decorate the house, and make it to an endless number of parties; the materialism; and the oft reported ‘war on Christmas’. All of this can overshadow the actual Christmas story, which is, as the song tells us, “for Jesus Christ our Saviour was born upon this day”. The truth of that one line fulfilled dozens of prophecies in God’s greater Story.

So I’ve made it my purpose this year not to let myself become dismayed and distracted from that real story of Christmas. Yup, my head is in the sand until December 26.

The Christmas story is the model for story telling - there’s danger, loneliness, mystery, a intrigue, love, surprises, disappointment, a journey, the birth of a king, and joy. Great joy. I want to focus on the Story of Christmas, not the season of Christmas. Because the deeper, true meaning of the Story is uncovered when we sing “to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray”. And now the Christmas story contains more miracles, more heartache, more treachery, more admonishment to seek the king’s true kingdom, more mercy, more grace, more humility, more joy, more Jesus. And we have been invited to be active participants in this Story.

An even older text, Ephesians 6:12, reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The war on Christmas is not really waged in courtrooms, boardrooms, and newsrooms. The war front is our mind and it’s a battle for the heart.

But a good story, a true story, can stir in our heart, provoke emotions and direct our beliefs like few other forces can. Stories are a direct line to the heart.

This Christmas, don't let the controversies alarm you, and the fast-pace distract you, from the Story. Don't fixate on whether or not your cashier at the grocery store is allowed to say "merry Christmas". It doesn't stop you from saying “merry Christmas”. And don't waste energy fretting about the towns that may or may not be allowed to put baby Jesus on public or government land. Jesus tell us in John 15:18 that “if the word hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”

So now, the loudest part of the song for me comes when singing “to save us all from Satan’s power”. Because I know that somewhere else in the Story (1 John 3:8) it saysThe reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Can I get an ‘amen’?

So what’s your part in telling, and re-telling, this Story? For those of us who continue to wrestle, who have had the Christ child touch, and enter, our heart; who serve the King with all of our heart, mind and strength; and who long to tell His Story – we begin by singing out loud “Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and Joy! Oh tidings of comfort and joy!”

That’s our part in the Story.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Waiting for a Response by Andy Scheer

I'd poured my heart onto the pages. Seven days of devotionals for the week of Christmas – reflecting on extremely familiar Scripture passages.

My confidence should have been boosted by the fact the editor had assigned the project to me. But I was daunted. I procrastinated more than usual. Then came the day I had no choice but to put my seat in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

As I had trusted would happen, the words came. For all but one of the devotions. At the end of a long session the idea finally came. The illustration was deeply personal, but nothing else seemed to fit. So I took the risk and trusted that readers would resonate with my vulnerability.

After some polishing I was ready to send the attachment – a full day ahead of the deadline.

Then came the hard part. On deadline day, I kept checking my email. When an acknowledgment finally came, I'm sure the editor thought he responded promptly. As someone who usually sits in an editor's chair, I knew he had.

But from the writer's chair, time takes a different perspective. Maybe if I'm assigned another week of devotions, the theme for those verses will be patience.

Monday, December 16, 2013

All’s Quiet on the Industry Front! By Linda S. Glaz

How do you keep from being discouraged when it’s all quiet on the industry front?
I remember the first Thanksgiving when my agent was sending out my work. I just knew that if I received a contract at Thanksgiving, I would really have something to be thankful for. What a great way to spend the day. Eating turkey and thinking about my book. No Thanksgiving contract. Then I thought…if only I got a contract for Christmas. I’d be so happy. That would be the greatest gift ever. If only it came on Christmas Eve, then I’d have the best Christmas. A contract to start the New Year! Wow! That would be the best beginning to any new year that I could imagine. Alas, I ate turkey without getting ‘the call’ and I managed to enjoy Christmas without one word on any of my books. What? Really?
Now, my agent had explained that not a lot happens between Thanksgiving and New Years. But my hope is never on sabbatical if truth be told. Once the year ended, I was exhausted. I had gone through the holidays, which I love, and I had spent way too much time…hoping for something to happen, and in the end, only managed to miss out on a wonderful holiday. Now, did I completely ignore Christmas and so on? No, but I had my mind wrapped around all of the wrong things. And I fear I wasn’t alone. On FB this year, I notice a lot of author friends doing the same thing. They don’t seem to be able to enjoy the season because of all the hope they’re pouring into their desire to be recognized as an author. Validated by the much sought after offer.
Being authors does not define who we are.
Getting a contract does not bring about true happiness.
            Our hope at this time of the year should be wrapped around the Child who made the holiday possible, not an agent, editor, or 3-book deal.

We need to take this time to relax, not worry about the what ifs that could happen in our lives, but the truths that make life worth living. Make some fudge, have a snowball fight with our children, pop some corn and watch a Christmas movie. Don’t attach our hopes to what might happen, but rather to what we can make happen at this wonderful time of the year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Big Storm, help or hurt? by Terry Burns

Most of the country has been impacted at one time or another by the major cold front that has blanketed the US over the past few days. It could have impacted writers in a variety of ways. My top ten list for how it could have affected writers either in a good or a bad way:

1. It could have given writers unexpected writing time as they hunkered down to wait it out particularly if they could not get in to work

2. Conversely, it could have destroyed any chance of writing that was planned by trapping a writer home with kids, kids unable to get outside and burn off pent up energy.

3. Unexpected time at home could have caused an editor to take a look at your submission if they had access to it there. That could be good or bad depending on whether they rejected it or not.

4. If it wasn't rejected, the chances of getting a positive response (already made difficult by the ability to get decision people together during the holiday season) was made even more difficult. But at least you're out of the inbox and marked for consideration.

5. It may have kept a writer from getting to a critique group meeting when they needed the input on their WIP.

6. The power going off may have forced a writer to fall back on a Big Chief tablet and number two pencil - or may have turned off all video games and TV leaving kids unplugged  (see item 2)

7. Could writers have had more writing time if they hadn't gotten so caught up in the coverage of the storm on TV and social media?

8. Then there is the client who thought it was a negative that she didn't get the snow because she loves it! Who knew getting missed by the storm could be a bad thing?

9. Writers lured away from writing by outdoor ice activity and movies on the tube with family. Not to mention added storm related chores.

10. The weather can seep in and give you the blahs making it difficult to string 2-3 sentences together, but sometimes a fire in the fireplace or even a scented candle can chase away the blahs and set the mood for some writing time.

What am I missing? Do you have something to add where you were impacted, for better or for worse?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Failure to Launch...your book by Diana Flegal

I spoke with a publisher the other day about the disappointing sales of a few titles recently released. He used an analogy as an example of what went wrong and gave me permission to share it with our readers here.

At the starting line of the Boston Marathon, everyone is fully committed to running the race with the hopes of finishing, but eventually only a fraction remain and one wins. Their intentions were good yet for one reason or another, they didn't finish. The serious runner builds his or her endurance by running smaller courses throughout the year, works out in the gym and eats a special diet. That days race began months or years before.
So many authors picture their book launch as a 'sprint' when instead it is a marathon. They celebrate their books sale by telling their family and friends and set to work on their editing process.They piddle around with social media, start and stop blogging, open a Goodreads account but fail to add friends. They mean to begin the preparation for their books launch, but keep putting it off until later.

Later never arrives and when their book is released, it makes a tiny splash, then sinks.

Their book failed to launch.

And down the drain goes all their hopes and dreams.

What happened? Wishing your book were a New York times bestseller will not make it one. Hoping alone doesn't produce results. It takes a focused plan and lots of hard work and then you have to do it all over again and again, month after month. 

Launching a book begins 6 months to a year before your book hits the virtual shelf. And the best way to do that is to make genuine connections with readers of your genre through social media outlets. FB, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads are key. Blog once a week and write articles for magazines.

Maintaining a steady and consistent online presence is vital but be genuine about it.
Do not SPAM your followers.

Condition yourself and soon you will find social media can be done effectively with minimal time and the bonus of making real life long friends.

Let this be the nudge or kick in the pants you needed. Get started and ready, set, LAUNCH!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Seed of a Story by Andy Scheer

This past weekend I found another reference book for my work-in-progress. For nearly a year I've been deliberately adding to my collection of historical resources. But I didn't suspect how long I'd been collecting.

In my latest acquisition – a book about U.S. Army Aviation during the First World War – a photo of one aircraft reminded me how long this story has been percolating.

In September 1970, my father took me to the Bryan, Ohio, airport to see a De Havilland DH4 that was re-enacting the fiftieth anniversary of transcontinental airmail service. The next day the Bryan Times was filled with accounts of the town's place in aviation history. In a shoebox of old photos, I'm sure I still have black-and-white snapshots of that biplane.

That event was far from my conscious memory when I began crafting my novel. Somehow it just seemed right for my hero to be a pilot in the Upper Midwest, who in 1925 was flying a DH4 powered by a V-12 Liberty engine.

Maybe it's true what they say about writing what you know – even if at first you don't remember it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hope for Christmas from Linda S. Glaz

 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the land,
Writers were stirring with hope in their hands;
The keyboards were clacking, the fingers with care,
In hopes that a contract soon would be there;
The similes and metaphors were snug on the lines,
While writers created plots that were fine,
And characters danced across pages like crazy,
Some happy, some silly, and some downright lazy.
When suddenly the author changed directions and then,
The ending turned round and started over again.
Away to the next scene, the characters flew,
A boy and a girl, for a romance needs two.
The killers they lurked from page to page,
Some young, some old, and showing their age.
When, what to the wonderment, a mystery appears,
Filling the reader with tension and fear.
Then appeared an old man, so lively and quick,
Everyone knew in a moment he really had wit.
More rapid than eagles, his ninja skills grew,
Until he had helpers to find who had killed who.
"Now! Sherlock, now! Columbo, now! Poirot, and Kojak,
"On! Clouseau, on! Marple, on! Fletcher and Spade;
"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now catch the crooks, catch the crooks, catch the crooks all!
As weapons before the wild killers fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the antagonists run,
With bags full of stolen items each one:
And then in a twinkling, they dashed to the roof
Where detectives were waiting to shackle each hoof.
Then the writer his story was turning around,
The seat of his pants changing gears with a bound:
The guy that he’d dress'd all in fur, to his foot,
He suddenly didn’t know where he would put;
Would he bundle the man with a weight on his back,
Oh, how his fingers continued to clack.
A love story soon become the right thing,
So the characters laughed, and they danced and could sing.
Yes this was the story the writer should tell,
Of a handsome young prince, and his lovely girl, Belle.
The arms of Belle’s love were held tight about her,
And the kiss, well it caused her stomach to flutter.
He had a fine face, and eyes that were dashing
That took her all in till their hearts were both crashing:
Yes, this was the story the author should tell,
And she knew it would be the one that would sell;
A spark in her eye and a shake of his head
Cleared all the writer’s block, she had nothing to dread.
She spoke not a word, but went straight to her work,
And finished the chapters; then turn'd with a jerk,
And opening her email, she attached a query,
Then sent it out without being wary,
She opened it daily, her hopes way on high,
And waited to hear “Yes, yes. We will buy!:
Then she heard them exclaim, as they gave her the call-
Happy writing career, to one and to all!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Jane Friedman's Article - 4 Ways to Find Readers

I thought this post was truthful, appropriate, practical and a MUST read for all authors. Since I couldn't have written or said it any better myself, here is the link on Jane Friedman's 4 Ways to Find Readers Who Love Your Work.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How much faith content? by Terry Burns

Interesting question, and one that I proposed to my clients. I wanted each of them to rate the amount of faith content in each individual work on a scale from one to ten.

One told me their book was overtly Christian but she was unsure what that meant in a ranking on such a scale. To me the words overtly Christian puts a book in the upper half. The way I look at the scale, a ranking of “one” is little or no faith. A “five” means moderate faith content, and a “ten” means really in-your-face faith content. Those points are more-or-less black and white. For most of us we are deciding where we fall in between one and five, more toward one or toward the other or between five and ten, more toward one or the other. I believe taking the time to actually evaluate this is an important understanding for a Christian author to come to.

It is also helpful me in knowing how to represent their work. It’s no secret that Christian publishers are interested in faith content. Many mainstream publishers don’t want such content at all. Then there are publishers who fall at various points along the scale.

It is possible to have enough faith content that we rule out a number of the mainstream publishers but not enough content to interest the Christian publishers. That’s sort of a “no man’s land” in between. It doesn’t mean there is no place for a particular project, but it does mean that we have reduced the number of possibilities to a large degree.

I am looking at submissions constantly, have a large number of projects that I represent, and when you add in my senior memory it means every time I start to work on a project I have to spend a little time reminding myself what it is so I don’t confuse it with anything else. I don’t have to read the whole thing to accomplish that, just enough to be sure I’m thinking of the right manuscript. But if I have to decide how much faith content a particular work contains, that takes a lot of reading. I can save myself a huge amount of work by establishing that rating at some point and marking the work with it.

My clients seem to be learning a lot about themselves and about each other as they are going through this process and going through it on my client online group.