Thursday, January 30, 2014

New book on writing by Terry Burns and Linda Yezak

A new project written by co-author Linda Yezak and I will be out in March from Lighthouse of the Carolinas but is available for pre-order now. And see below for a free giveaway if you do pre-order.

Writing in Obedience came about when Eddie Jones from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas started after me to write some books to support the workshops and programs that I do in conferences around the country. I kept trying to get a handle on doing these companion books but I never made much headway on it. I finally figured out that the workshops just weren't going to make books that would be large enough to work with. I started writing one book that encompassed all of them that could be sold no matter which program I was doing and support it. But it would also be a book that might sell on its own.

That's also how my book "A Writers Survival Guide to Publication" came about. I did a month long online course for ACFW and after it was all over Chia Woychik over at Port Yonder Press gave me the opportunity to pull it together into a book for her to publish. So I did.

When I finished the first draft my editorial assistant, Linda Yezak went over it for me. She had some really strong input and her ideas and her suggestions were so good that I asked her to co-author it with me and the project  took on new life and new scope. She really helped take the project to a new level.

The back cover copy says:

Writing in Obedience is for the new Christian writer or the writer looking to decide how God wants them to incorporate their faith into their writing. How do we know what the Lord wants us to do? Are we being called to write or do we want to write for Him as an offering? What is required of the author using their writing for the Lord and how do they go about it? What do we really want to achieve with our writing, and how do we define success?

Also included in the book is a discussion of Christian Fiction as a genre and a discussion of the different audiences that authors in this genre address along with the best means of reaching that audience. Linda and I both include some very personal stories of our writing journey as illustration. The book is intended to also serve as a companion piece for "A Writers Survival Guide to Publication."

You can win a free copy of the Survival Guide by pre-ordering and registering your purchase over on Linda's blog 777 Peppermint Place at

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pressing On by Andy Scheer

I'm writing this Friday evening after a long, busy week at my 8 to 5 job.

Now isn't my first choice for a writing time, but it's what I have. If I'm going to make any headway on my other projects, I have only weekends and evenings. No wonder work on the side has been called moonlighting.

Tomorrow I need to complete a big article that's coming due. So my little projects need my attention now. It's nearly time for supper, but I have a few low-blood-sugar moments available.

I'm surprised how much I could accomplish in the thirty minutes I squeezed into my day. And I'm thankful for the notes I jotted to myself yesterday when inspiration struck. With those fragments from a fresh moment, I'd equipped myself for this evening's slogging.

I hope you've been able recently to press ahead with your own work-in-progress -- especially when you've felt more pressed than inspired.

Monday, January 27, 2014

He Can Write Suspense! by Linda S. Glaz

I know. I'm late to the party, but I have to say, at least I finally made it! Just finished Don't Leave Me, Blind Justice, and Try Darkness by James Scott Bell. Okay, everyone said the books were awesome, amazing, and so on and so forth. But they were better than the reviews. They were literary CRACK!What made them so amazing? So addictive?
Every single time I thought I saw where Bell was going with story, he fooled me. And that hasn't happened in a suspense novel in a long time. Most of my fave authors have recently left me knowing right away who the big rollers were and why, but Bell kept me trying to figure out
WHODUNIT OR WHY? right to the end...
That's what I love about suspense. Like a frightening roller coaster ride. One that drags you all the way to the top, and then when you think your stomach has settled down for a second, it drags you up again. Up and down, up and down until you nearly lose your lunch.
So after buying my first novel from Bell, I was hooked. I had to buy more. Literary CRACK had me by the throat and was squeezing out every last penny from my pocket!
So how do we get to be better writers like Bell? We take classes, belong to crit groups, but more importantly, we read in the genres that we intend to write. If you want to be a great football player, you don't go to Wimbleton each year. If you intend to be the next A-Rod, scratch that, not a good idea; if you intend to be the next Babe Ruth--Okay? then you want to watch baseball, not hopscotch.
Read in the genre you intend to write, and when you find a James Scott Bell, don't let anyone give you an intervention. Read, read, and read some more. If you become an addict, in this instance, 
that's all right.
Happy reading!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How to Use Goodreads to Promote Your Books by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

#goodreads, #books #reviews

Even though is now owned by Amazon, they have left the structure intact as one of the best social media sites for readers and authors to connect on the web. The site has over 5.6 million visitors each month and over 20 million readers total. And unlike many forums, most are readers, not authors. While there are 100,000 authors now participating in Goodread's author programs, there are still 1,000 readers to every author. That's a pretty good ratio if you are trying to reach readers. 

These are avid readers who are addicted to reading. They like to share the news about their favorite books and review them. They create various lists using Listopia and readers' actions are published on a newsfeed to their friends and connections. These readers are social media savvy. They upload book covers and link them to Amazon and have their reviews auto posting to all their other social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.  

Goodreads uses an algorithm similar to Netflix to recommend books to readers who have read and liked certain book genres. In order to get your book into the recommendation list, it will first need to receive a few hundred ratings to get into the recommendation engine. This isn't as hard as it may seem. After your book has been out for a while, offer the ebook version at a discount or for free for a couple of days and those ratings will start rolling in on Goodreads. 

Everyone on Goodreads must first create a basic reader account, which is free. Once you create a reader account, you can then contact Goodreads to be listed as a Goodreads Author. This provides you so much more than a basic reader account. If you are a published author, and you have not done this, I highly recommend it. At Upon the Rock Publicist, we include Goodreads as part of our social media package because we believe it is imperative to authors who are building their platform and trying to sell books. 

Setup an Author Page
Join the Goodreads Author program to get a dedicated author page and link all your books, connect your blog to auto post on your Goodreads Author page, create giveaways, create reader groups, advertise, publicize upcoming events, post videos, post quotes from your books, list a quiz, and get a widget for your personal blog or website to showcase reviews for your books. Goodreads provides a detailed instruction page that will walk you step by step through the setup process. 

List Your Books on Listopia

Search through the Listopia section on Goodreads and find appropriate lists for your book genre. Click the “add books to this list” tab and do a search for your book. You can also add other books to the list. Be sure to vote for your books and ask your friends and readers vote for your books on the lists. Often the difference between 30th and 10th on these lists is only a few votes. 

List Books as Giveaways

List your print books for a giveaway on Goodreads for a limited time. Be aware that ebooks are not allowed. On average, 825 people enter each Goodreads giveaway and over 40,000 enter book giveaways daily. This will expose your book to a huge number of readers that may otherwise not hear about your book and some of them will go ahead and list your book on their "to read" list. 

Provide Book Discussions

Goodreads allows you to host discussions about your book. Readers can ask questions and talk with each other about your book, and authors can be as involved as they choose to be. For the steps on how to start a book discussion, visit Goodread’s Featured Books.

Connect Your Blog to Goodreads

If you choose to connect your blog to the newsfeed on your Goodreads Author page, Goodreads will email your fans once a week of all your new blog posts. This is a great way to reach other readers that may not have subscribed to your regular newsletter and will remind them about your work and keep your name in front of them. This is part of the Goodreads Author Program.

Ask Readers for Reviews

Since Goodreads features books based on the number of reviews, you will want to get as many reviews as possible. While it's natural to want a higher number of positive reviews than bad reviews, even the bad ones increase your overall number of reviews, which is all the algorithm takes into consideration when promoting your book on the Goodreads system. 


Advertising is optional and can be creative around various budgets. You can target people who read in your genre, give high ratings for the kind of books you write and target the fans of other authors who write in your genre. Other strategies would be to target people who have rated your books in the past. This will help ensure they hear about your latest book. Ads cost a minimum of $0.10 per click with a default rate of $0.50 per click. This format is more affordable for people with low to moderate budgets. 

Are you on Goodreads? How have you used to the site to boost your platform and promote your books?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Targeting by Terry Burns

Think William Tell . . .

You know the story. Threatened with death, the only way you and your son could live is if you are able to shoot the apple off the head of your son. You're an expert with the crossbow . . . but it's your son!

I can imagine looking down that crossbow at that tiny apple so far away but having trouble seeing it. Seeing only the head of your son.

What does this have to do with writing or being an agent?

Sometimes I feel this way targeting opportunities for my clients. At any given time a project may only fit at one place in the whole publishing industry. Within a short period of time that place may be gone but now it only fits at one place and that place is at another house. It is all about getting the right product in just the right hands at just the right time. That sounds to me like as small a target as that apple.

Even finding the right hands is not easy. There may be a number of acquisition people at each house that might be a possibility for the project. All of them have the ability to turn a submission down but maybe only one of them is right for it, who might decide to accept it. If I send to the wrong one I've shot my client instead of the apple.

That's why I spend so much time simply trying to see who is publishing what, what genre's they are interested in. Not only what the publishing house is, but what specific editor was interested in it. That's important because personal tastes enter into it. There are editors that are good friends of mine but who have never acquired anything from me. Our tastes are different. Things I decide to represent are not what they like to read. Other editors have similar tastes and we work very well together.

It helps when I get feedback from submissions other than "not a fit," something that tells me more about what they like and what they don't care for. Otherwise I have to depend on other sources to better understand who is interested in publishing what.

It's all about trying to make the apple bigger.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Choose Love over Hate by Diana Flegal

Monday we celebrated Martin Luther King Day. As I feel strongly we should. I’ve often wondered how we called ourselves a Christian nation and allowed such mistreatment of other human beings to go on unchallenged for as long as it did.

Martin Luther King left us with not only a courageous life example, but as an eloquent speaker, many quotable lines.

This is one that strongly resonates with me.

What would that look like in this day we live in? It might look like this.

A Face Book friend recently posted a video segment of the Ellen DeGeneres show that made me ROTFL. (roll on the floor laughing). As often is on the internet- it was new to me but footage from April 15, 2011. It is the taped phone conversation between 88 year old caller Gladys and Ellen. During the course of the phone call Gladys said, “…I love Jesus, but I drink a little.” Ellen’s response was to laugh her head off, as was mine and then I observed a beautiful thing- a bond of friendship was born between Ellen and Gladys.   Ellen is a practicing lesbian who believes the gay lifestyle is a viable alternative. Gladys is a professing Christian who ‘loves Jesus’ by her own admission. What caused these two women to become fast friends even though they probably stand in different worldview camps on some issues?  The open and honest transparency of Gladys, and the fact that Gladys has lived long enough to know no human is perfect. She has chosen to be refreshingly honest and look for what is good and right in others.

I like Gladys.

When a nonfiction author desires to write for God, I believe the book with the greatest impact is going to be the one that takes a transparent tact. Honest struggle comes along side of the reader who is looking for help.

Jena Morrow in her book, "Hollow: An Unpolished Tale", tracks her battle with anorexia. In it she does not claim to have received the victory she longs for but what she offers the fellow struggler is a transparent look into her dependency on a God she believes walks with her. It is a powerful testimony of hope and God’s keeping Grace.

Brennan Manning is another author who kept it real but showed us a mighty God. His words held my hand down many a rough road. Yet by his own admission, he became an alcoholic after he came to Christ. He openly struggled with the unrealistic expectations laid on him by the organized church.

As a fiction author, realistic characters that struggle through tough times yet lean and rely upon on a God they believe will see them through, can have a powerful impact. They are the books that leave a lasting impression on me. And most likely are the books I recommend to others.

Nancy Rue and Steve Arterburn’s books, Healing Stones, Healing Waters, and Healing Sands are great examples I use often to showcase this. Christa Parrish is another favorite author of mine that writes fiction that illustrates seeking individuals in the midst of their struggles. I’m always on the lookout for her next book to hit the shelves and tell others about them as well.

John 8: 7 challenges us:
But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (NAS)

I am not condoning sin here. Please do not misunderstand me. What I am advocating is choosing to be honest, and loving. I am dropping my stones, and allowing God to examine my heart.

When you keep it real, you succeed in touching others lives and provoking them to seek God out. And that is a beautiful mission and a terrific legacy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Local Flavor by Andy Scheer

A breakfast burrito at a delicatessen? Why is a place called the East Coast Restaurant & Delicatessen — especially one that touts its pastrami, corned beef, and bagels — offering burritos?

Perhaps it’s no more unusual than a supposed New York-style deli existing at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Across Colorado, burritos appear on nearly every menu. 
I still remember my first encounter with one — in the late 1960s. My parents drove the family to a camp on Lookout Mountain, west of Golden, Colorado. There we discovered something not found in the northwest corner of Ohio: a Tex-Mex restaurant.

My parents convinced me to try something exotic: a burrito. And with it a soda pop not sold in the Midwest — something tasting vaguely of carbonated prune juice called Dr. Pepper.

These days, restaurants seem homogenized. It takes work to find authentic regional cuisines — the distinctive touches a writer can use to insert local flavor into a piece of fiction.

Breakfast at RJ's
Were I writing from a visitors perspective about Kansas City, Id find a reason to risk polarizing readers by include a scene at Gates Bar-B-Q rather than Arthur Bryants. Or I might take them for a breakfast of burnt end hash at RJs Bob-Be-Que in Mission.

Writing about Floridas Space Coast, Id let readers sample the corn fritters and rock shrimp at Dixie Crossroads — with a special mention of the aquatic-themed murals. Love those manatees!

A "slopper" at Gray's in Pueblo, Colorado
And if I wanted to evoke the old steel town of Pueblo, Colorado, Id take readers to Grays for a “slopper”— an open-face cheeseburger served in a soup bowl and drenched with freshly made green chile sauce. Nothing quite like it.

If you were writing a scene in a restaurant nearby, what menu specialty would give your readers a true local flavor?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Taking My Medicine/Without the Sugar by Linda S. Glaz

Yes, at 63 years old...okay, almost 64,
it's still possible to learn lessons.
It's funny how complacent we can become when we trust in something. In 22 years, I have never lost any of my writing, well, by mistake, but not by computer. So I've not worried about leaving my computer on and open with my material set to save every ten minutes. Know what the problem with that is? It doesn't always save. But I didn't know that.
I guess I could play stupid, but I've had plenty of folks tell me I should back up with more than the recovery program through Word, but not having had issues, I figured I was good to go.
I remember when we allowed our daughter to take some of the money from her college fund to buy a car. After all, she was going to school full time on the nursing program and working full time. So we figured she was pretty doggone responsible. She found a cute little Subaru Sports car for only $2000 (worth around 5) and she bought it from a Subaru mechanic. Primo condition. Unfortunately, because it was a sports car, the insurance was going to be astronomical, but she was a great driver, so we felt comfy with her only having PLPD. (for those of you not in a no fault state, that meant she'd only get a few hundred dollars with an accident even if it wasn't her fault. Soooooo....she did great. Drove carefully, did everything she was supposed to...until winter came along. We told her not to take the shortcut home because the road was really icy in the winter. But, being 20 years old, she figured she knew what she could handle and took the shortcut. Hit the ice, hit a hydrant, and totaled her car. A car she only got $400 for.
So, I guess it runs in the family. We have people tell us what we should do, but we figure it's never happened before, so why worry now? That complacency cost me two months work this weekend. I came in from church, and voila! Computer had shut down. Did not save my Word doc. Now, I've had this happen so many times before, but the program has always autosaved my work. Not this time, and believe it or not, I'd had the doc open on my computer for two months. Yes, it's set to save every ten minutes. It didn't. And I didn't realize it.
We all know what we SHOULD do, but we don't always go along.
So listen to this piece of advice for what it's worth:
Don't drive on icy shortcuts and don't trust the backup on your computer!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The other network by Terry Burns

In writing groups, online groups, at conferences and other places writer's gather we talk a lot about the importance of networking. It is important to build relationships with editors and agents and other writers and maybe even more important building a base of readers who will follow our work.

But that's not the only networking we should be doing.

Maybe the most important such network is family. From a writing standpoint some authors are lucky to have family that understands their need to write and what they are really accomplishing with it. Some don't, and I've found if that is the case that the understanding we seek there will come when the time is right. That's why we network in the first group I mentioned, to have interaction with people who really know and understand. No, the support from this group is much more important to us than just understanding our writing, they are our base, our anchor. My wife Saundra is the center of this network and the center of my life. From there it moves out to five kids, ten grandkids and three great grands then on to our extended family. We should all be working very hard on the relationships in this network.

For me the most important networking of all is constant contact with the Lord through daily prayer and Bible reading. And strongly related to that network is my church family. I am lucky to have a church family that wants to celebrate with me when there are glad tidings, but who are also there for me when there is illness or when I am facing other problems. And Saundra and I are there for them as well.

My client group is an important network. I require them to be in an online group where I can contact them all at once but they have a choice as to whether they are full access on the group or only receive priority messages from me. Most are in the full access group where they can talk to one another and where I can see what they are talking about and respond to them when appropriate. They have a very close bond, rejoice in each others success, and have become a tremendous group of prayer warriors when prayer is needed. They support each other and are very strong support for me.

I have a large number of acquaintances,  particularly counting the number of 'friends' on facebook, twitter and other social media. I tend to accept friends from family members and from the writing community. Others who send me friend requests I don't accept which automatically makes them a follower. We need followers too, and hopefully that will keep me from going over whatever that number is that we can't exceed on friends there.

But there is a huge difference between acquaintances and real friends. I have had few real friends in my life and they are very precious to me. There are a lot of people who will come running for a party or celebration, who love to celebrate and rejoice with us, but the real friends are the ones that come running when we need help. And we have to be there for them as well.

We talk a lot about our writing networking and I think most of us work at improving those connections. Are we putting as much effort into these other networks?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is There Gas In the Car? by Jim Hart

My wife and I would love to drive to Alaska. Anchorage is only about 4,000 miles from Pittsburgh. I looked it up on Google maps. It will take 57 steps to complete the trip. Wow.  The first step is traveling only 121 feet. The final step in the journey is just 177 feet. The longest leg of the journey is 968 miles. That’s step number 49. The first step is really easy.  Just pull out of my driveway and drive 121 feet to Garden Hill Dr. One step down, 56 more to go.  

For us, the journey is also the point, as well as the destination. We like to go through places we’ve never been to, or even thought about going to. We won’t be able to get to Alaska without traveling down an unfamiliar stretch of road. But, since I printed out all of the directions, we’ll know which road to travel, and for how long, if I faithfully follow those pre-determined steps.

For some reason writing down goals makes them more likely to be reached. Goals are like a map. You look at where you are now, and then where you want to be. And then you start plotting all the steps it takes to get there. All the stops, left turns, dinner breaks, re-fueling, stopping to see the largest ball of string, etc.

The goal of getting your book published is a long trip. A really long trip. And you’re going to go to, and through, places you’ve never really wanted. What does creating a Twitter account have to do with writing a book, anyway? But I follow a map because the person who created it knows how to get there, and they can tell me how to reach my destination.

Goals are destinations.  And you have to pull out of the driveway to get there. Here’s a tangible exercise in goal writing. Write out your goal. If you’re not already familiar with the term SMART goal, let me introduce you.  SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Tangible (or Time-bound)  I won’t go into detail about each of these – you can Google ‘smart goal’ and gain some more insight into the subject. But the point is - write down your goal. And then write down every step that you need to take to reach that goal. Some steps will be brief:  ‘write synopsis’.  Some will be agonizing: ‘find literary agent’.  Remember to organize your goal steps so that you’re building momentum and moving closer to your objective.

I imagine that the single largest goal for those reading this post may be ‘get my book published’, and I hope you reach that goal. But consider other life goals as well. One of our goals at home is to ‘clean out our basement’. According to my wife, the first step should be: get a dumpster. There’s something empowering about reaching a goal. It provides a sense of accomplishment that tells you that you can accomplish even more.

As you write down your goal, and all the steps needed to reach it, remember that it’s ok to leave room in the schedule for those unplanned events – like seeing the world’s largest pistachio. (Which is in New Mexico, by the way.)

But If I want to make it to Alaska, I can’t do it without enduring that 968 mile stretch of pavement. Eventually I’ve got to tackle that long and tedious portion of the journey. But because I’ve endured (and even enjoyed) the 48 previous steps, I know that I will eventually reach my destination.

One of my favorite rock song lyrics is from the 1976 Steely Dan tune “Kid Charlemagne”.  The part of the song that involves running from the law finds the character asking the poignant question:  “Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the car.”

So what’s your biggest destination for 2014? And....
is there gas in the car?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Late-Night Writing by Andy Scheer

I hadn't planned to work on my novel's opening chapter between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m.

But I woke up, my mind filled with questions about the story's maguffin – the item my characters would pursue.

I'd thought everything was in place. But yesterday evening I began re-reading one of my favorite mysteries: Curses! by Edgar Award-winning novelist Aaron Elkins. Early in the story Elkins makes sure readers grasp the rarity of a pre-conquest Mayan codex.

No lights flashed as I read that chapter, but my subconscious mind took note. At 3:30 I woke up and began considering what my Professor Hastings had packed into his Gladstone bag. For readers to understand why two criminal syndicates were after the bag, I had some to do some explaining.

And that means further research into two obscure subjects. Then I'll simply have to figure out a way to convey that information without intruding into the story.

Maybe that will come at 3:30 next Saturday morning.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Is a client's next book automatically represented? by Terry Burns

I do a contract now and then for a single project, but for the most part Hartline contracts are for all book length work. We aren't really that interested in just getting a book published, we're looking to help them develop their writing career.

For that reason a client has a reasonable expectation that I am going to represent any book length work they write. And that is true, but with one caveat, it has to be something I would normally accept to represent. If the book I sign them for is good in my opinion, but the second offering is not where it needs to be, I'm not going to try to pitch it just because they are a client. We are going to try to work with them to get it to where it needs to be, but until it is it doesn't do either one of us any good to pitch a project that I don't believe is ready to publish.

Sometimes I stretch a little as a professional courtesy for a client and pitch a genre I don't usually handle. I don't know these markets or the editors in them as well and depend on the client to help me target the submissions in such a case. I depend on clients to help me in that manner anyway. I don't have time to read books that would be comparables for all my clients so I expect them to continue to do that and to pass on potential editors and publishing houses that they find in such reading. It is, after all, OUR job to get them published, not just MY job.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cliches and Overused Phrases by Diana Flegal

In preparation of a workshop on self editing for the 2014 conference season, I got to thinking of the cliché.

Webster defines a cliché as:


noun \klē-ˈshā, ˈklē-ˌ, kli-ˈ\
: a phrase or expression that has been used so often that it is no longer original or interesting
: something that is so commonly used in books, stories, etc., that it is no longer effective
When we see multiple cliché's in a submission, it tells me either the writer is a novice or being a lazy writer. Even a well published author slips an occasional cliché into their story, thinking it works, but I suggest cliché's are to be avoided at all costs.
It was a dark and stormy night, he was weak as a new born kitten, high as a kite, straight as an arrow, fat as a cow.
When writing your first draft- allow the cliché and write on. When you come back for your rewrite, take the time to find a more creative way to express what your trying to say.
One of my favorite lines from The Help; is how the author, Kathryn Stockett, describes Mae Mobley's mothers thin legs. "they looked like she done growed 'em last week". How much better is that than saying she had string-bean thin legs.
Authors might want to consider these cliché's as well:
  • a speech filled with clichés about finding your way and keeping the faith
  • The macho cop of Hollywood movies has become a cliché.
What are a few cliché's you recall? Have you run across any cliché's recently in a blog or book you have recently read that caused you to moan? Please share them with us if you can without hurting or exposing the source.