Sunday, March 31, 2013

Five-Star Reviews! By Linda S. Glaz

Here you go; something we all want. Five-star reviews for our books. But what do readers think when they see all fives on a review? Or a review that is amazing and awesome, but so vague, one has to wonder whether or not the reviewer actually read the title.

Readers will probably think Mom and sis did a lot of reviews.

And we want more than that, right? We don’t ask for someone’s opinion so that they can tell us what we want to hear.

I’ve noticed in the inspirational community, we truly encourage each other. A multi-pubbed author might offer to read a work and help a newbie on their way. I have to think that makes our community a very special one. No, I don’t to think it; I know it. I see the acts of kindness every day in many ways. Client A who has been waiting ten years to get a contract will help Client B, who just signed with me, and gets offered a two-book deal at a much-coveted house, to get his or her edits ready in time. Client B might then go on to help Client A clean up her proposal, her last chapters, whatever it takes to get her novel ready.

However, and this is an issue that stands out to me as a negative within the community, when asked for a review, too many of us, and most of us have done it, will give a review that should probably be a 4-star review, five stars. Why? There’s no one answer, but my gut tells me that it’s because we are an encouraging bunch. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

It’s not hurting feelings, it’s being honest. The author learns from constructive criticism, or should. We all should. Just having smoke blown up our tights doesn’t help us to grow as writers. Crit partners start us out, and reviewing readers keep us going.

I did have to laugh over the review of one book I read. The reviewer praised the author up and down, and then gave her a three. Really? How did that happen? The reviewer complained that there was a “religious” thread in the book. IT WAS LOVE INSPIRED! Really, what did she expect? But the fact was, she tried to let her true feelings be known, silly as that comment was. The truth is what teaches us, nurtures us, guides us.

What type of reviews do you do? Have you seen? Have you endured???

Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter from Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Good Friday! I'm deviating from my usual Friday posts to say - I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with promise and time with family, friends and cherished moments of celebrating the birth, death and Resurrection of JESUS CHRIST!

Right now there is a series on the History Channel called The Bible that has stunned critiques, TV stations, and film makers around the world with a whopping 10.9 million people who have been watching this documentary. The series is created by husband and wife team, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. The final episode is this Sunday 8 pm est. However, you can catch parts of it on YouTube or purchase the entire series from the History Channel on DVD.

The first episode of the mini-series was seen by 13.1 million viewers, the largest cable television audience of 2013 to date. The second installment continued "to deliver blockbuster ratings" for the network, attracting 10.8 million viewers. The third installment on March 17, 2013 was once again the #1 show on all of Sunday night television with 10.9 million total viewers. 

The Bible - the greatest TRUE story ever told!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What Are You Reading by Diana Flegal

"A man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."   Mark Twain

What are you reading now?

As an agent, I periodically receive submissions from writers in a genre that they do not read. Hard to understand.

It just makes sense that they would write in a genre they are familiar with. But it does explain why those very submissions are inferior in quality and lack a vital element: Believability. 

I recommend authors practice the Immersion Technique. A technique often used in learning a new language.

Immersion works on the assumption that your brain will pick up, absorb and store what it is subjected to on a routine basis. Our brain then accesses this 'stored knowledge' when needed. As you read good novels, you will begin to internally grade other novels accordingly and become a connoisseur of good writing. Develop an appreciation for it, like one does for fine wine or beautiful art. Of course these things are subjective and relative to individual taste.

If you are desiring to write inspirational romance novels, it would be a very good idea for you to become acquainted with current popular inspirational romances. If you want to write a Sci-FY title, I would like to think you have a pretty good idea how one should read, because you read them routinely.

I read everything. Toothpaste tubes and cereal boxes, but mostly nonfiction self help books. Or nonfiction titles that explain and offer me new information about subjects I am interested in. So, you would be right in thinking those submissions are the ones I can make the easiest and quickest decision on. Contemporary fiction would be my next strength, followed then by romance titles, contemporary first then historical, then fantasy and sci-FY. I am not as familiar with genres I only read occasionally, but do have my favorite authors in them as well. But I can recognize good writing in all genres because I read a lot. Reading serves me well in what I do.

As an author, your writing will vastly improve as you read in your genre.

I just finished reading a contemporary fiction novel and have started a mystery. I also have three nonfiction titles going. Two on business building and another on spiritual growth.

What are you reading now?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bed Spread Sheets by Andy Scheer

What system do you use to organize and track your projects?

No matter the system, I hope you use it because it makes sense to you, not because it's the one experts say you're supposed to use.

Years ago I worked with an editor who personified professionalism. Every pencil and paper in her office was positioned perfectly. She dressed for success and, in the days before tablet computers and smart phones, carried a personal organizer.

She wrote a book on time management. I read it—and realized I could no more adopt her system than I could wear her shoes.

While I worked for two decades as a managing editor, I take a less rigid approach to project management. If the best tool for tracking something is a Word document, fine. If a spreadsheet program will better organize the data, that's what I'll use.

Recently I've been taking the term spreadsheet more literally.

In planning a course for the Christian Writers Guild, I collected and evaluated lessons from five distinct sources. I started with 40, pared my list to 24, then decided which 12 of those were essential and which could be supplemental. Then I had to decide their sequence.

A big task, so I went back to basics. I made and stapled 24 printouts and placed them in two stacks.

I arranged in sequence the printouts of the 12 essential lessons—across a bed in the guest room where I make my office. I placed the 12 supplemental readings across the floor in front of the other guest bed.

A few times I decided to change the order. I simply picked up and moved the stapled pages. No need to key in Ctrl + S. With everything in order, it was simple to type in the titles and sequence in a Word document.
Maybe there's a program that would let me accomplish the same thing. But considering the size of my monitor, I doubt it would work as well as spreading the sheets across the bedspread.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Everyone's Asking...Where's Spring by Linda S. Glaz

On all different writers’ loops and with everyone you meet, people are asking the same question: Where’s spring?
It’s funny, when it’s hot, we all want snow, and when we’ve had snow up to our necks, we all want spring, and this year has been quite a challenge for the entire country. Spring simply doesn’t want to come riding over the hill like the cavalry with flowers and birds singing. We’ve even had apologies from Punxsutawney Phil.
We all know how important it is to have sensory details in a story, and even though no one wants to start a story with a dark and stormy night, still, a late spring that ushers in a huge snowstorm resulting in a couple trapped in a car or a cabin would be wonderful. Perhaps a rodent is murdered for his miscalculations. There are any number of situations that might arise with the late arrival of spring.
And, of course, it doesn’t have to be spring, but any of the seasons. It’s so easy in our writing to get caught up in deep pov/character development, and plot structure that the sensory details can be lost in the rush.
The small things, like a late spring, can make all the difference between a story that is average and a story that sings with details of real life, like why spring isn’t here.
The next time someone asks you where spring is, let them know it’s in the middle of your plot!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How do I become an agent? By Terry Burns

I've had people ask me about becoming an agent, and it's true that anybody can hang out a shingle and say they are an agent. There are no licensing requirements, courses one has t take or tests to pass, which is why people have to be leery of unknown agents. But acquisitions people know this and a submission from an agent they don't know can receive even less attention than a slush-pile submission from an unknown author. Personally I would have never jumped off myself without being associated with a known agency like Hartline.

So, how do people start new agencies successfully? Most come out of publishing where they established their name in the industry with a known publisher. I'm one of few that came out of the writing side. The key is having contacts, having people in the industry who know who you are. Either that or they get accepted to intern at a big established agency. Most agencies have such interns patiently working their way up the ladder. Most have college degrees.

The next key is building those contacts. The first few years I worked doing writing conferences at the rate of a couple a month, building my name and building exposure. I was looking to acquire some good clients, but maybe even more importantly I was firming up those contacts with editors. Not a lot of money made during this formative period. Being a little off the beaten path I had the choice of apologizing for living in the Texas Panhandle or coming right at it. I'm not big on apologizing, so I wear the big hat and boots and a flowing mustache and hope it causes people to remember me. I've cut back and this year only doing a dozen conferences and if the economy keeps going the way it is going may cut back a bit more.

At Hartline Joyce was my agent, and still is, but she gave me my start and mentored me. I'm very grateful to her and loyal to her as well. In return I have mentored some people myself. I had a young lady come up to me at a conference and convince me that I needed an assistant and that she would work for free to get the experience. This is known as a remote internship. I helped her get the experience she needed to go on and found her own Indy press. 

Since then there have been others willing to work to get the experience they need and to start forming contacts. One has gone on to become a Hartline agent alongside me, two others have become editors at small presses and one founded her own PR company. I have a couple of others working in that capacity with me now and they put in quite a bit of work as I let them try more and more of the process to learn what is going on.  I worked with a client to form his own literary agency and another client to found another Indy press. Those who have moved on from it did 2-3 years with me until they had enough of a grasp of what was required for me to be able to write them a letter of recommendation to someone.

So what am I saying it takes to become an agent? It takes learning the business somehow, from someone. It requires gaining visibility and contacts either by getting with an established organization or building credibility ourselves. It takes learning about contracts and negotiation and getting comfortable doing both. It takes learning how things work in the industry and how to keep up with the people changes as well as the publishing changes.  It takes some business savvy and sales ability. In short, it takes a whale of a lot more than someone just announcing that suddenly they are an agent.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Binge by Andy Scheer

My name is Andy, and I'm a binge book buyer.

I hadn't meant to binge this past Wednesday. It had been a rough few days, and my wife suggested we visit the Goodwill thrift store. Since it was Wednesday, I'd get a fifteen percent senior discount. Besides, the book department offers free freshly brewed coffee.

I'd made it through the hardcovers—more than half the book section—when my eyes caught a rarity among the spine-out trade paperbacks: a novel by Douglas Reeman!

Who? Perhaps you're not deep into the subgenre of British Naval fiction. You're in good company. I don't know anyone else who is, especially as far inland as Colorado Springs.

Many people are aware of C.S. Forester, author of the Horatio Hornblower series, set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. He was followed by Patrick O'Brian with a twenty-book series tracking Captain Jack Aubrey and surgeon Patrick Maturin during the same era. Thanks to the film Master and Commander, some people are aware of O'Brian's books, which were published in the U.S. in hardcover and trade paper editions by Norton.

But that's where most people's awareness of British Naval fiction stops. I've yet to encounter anyone who admits owning or reading stories by Philip McCutchan, Dewey Lambdin, Alexander Kent, or Douglas Reeman.

You get double credit if you've read Kent or Reeman. They're the same person, the same way gothic writer Barbara Michaels is the same as detective story writer Elizabeth Peters. Writing about the Navy in the age of sail, he was Alexander Kent. Writing about the Navy in the age of steam, primarily during the Second World War, he used his own name of Douglas Reeman.

Though he had some three dozen novels under his own name, the books aren't quite as common in used bookstores as ones by Stephen King or Nora Roberts. I can't remember the last time I found one. As often as not (which isn't very often), they're editions printed in the U.K. I owned only two or three of them.

Until this past Wednesday. I spotted one—then another, then another. Someone's book collection must have just been donated. I smiled—and kept smiling. With my senior discount, they'd be eight-five cents each, for all twenty-one of them.

Springtime is coming. I'll put up the hammock, take a Douglas Reeman paperback, and for a few hours see if I can catch a hint of salt in the air.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Let’s Get the Dialogue Commas Right for Crying out Loud! by Linda S. Glaz

Yes, I’m crabby and yes, I do make the same mistake from time to time, just ask my editor, but please, try and be consistent even if you’re going to do it wrong.
Okay, let’s not do the Oxford or CMOS version; let’s just do a common sense rundown on dialogue and commas.
For starters, if through the conversation you don’t need a dialogue tag to begin with, then get rid of it. All it does it interrupt the point of view. But if you feel you need it? Here you go:

First: Basic comma with dialogue tag.
Sarah was frightened. “Do you think we’ll get out of this mess?” she asked.
Keeping  your tags as simple as possible are best. They don’t interrupt the pov as much as whining, growling, barking, etc., but if you do use others, use them correctly. Side note, I prefer to read: he said, she asked, he whispered, murmured or an occasional, she shouted, but I’m not a big fan of barking, snarling and other tags that could otherwise be deleted and simply strengthen the writing itself for us to feel the growling and barking, or heaven help us, purring! I can’t wait to meet the female who purrs because I’m going to toss her a catnip mouse and sit back and laugh.
Second: Dialogue tags need commas, exclamation points (sparingly) or question marks, not periods.
Wrong: “We’re almost safe.” She whispered. “We’re almost safe.” she whispered.
Correct: “We’re almost safe,” she whispered.
She is speaking here, so this is a dialogue tag and needs a comma, not a period.
Third: With physical tags instead of dialogue tags.
“I’m afraid.” She shivered with fright. “I want to go home.”
Now you need a period. This sentence doesn’t indicate a dialogue tag, but rather action between the two sentences. You need a period (no comma) and to capitalize She.
Fourth: You can interrupt a sentence of dialogue with action if the action interrupts a whole sentence. “I think,” she swatted at the fly, “we have found a bloated body.”
Now  we have a complete sentence, “I think we have found a bloated body.” that we have interrupted with an action related to the dialogue. So…we need commas after the first break AND after the action.
There are wonderful free sites available that can direct you to correct usage of commas with quotations…with dialogue tags.
Check out Suzanne Hartmann’s Write This Way:  Slide down the right side and you’ll come to labels for different posts. There are ten on commas. Read through them; she explains much better than I do.
Commas are the bane of my existence. I have so much trouble with them myself, but lately, I’ve noticed just how abused they are with quotations.
So PLEASE get those commas right in dialogue. At the very least, be consistent so your editor or readers can make more sense of them.
Happy writing!