Thursday, February 27, 2014

Frank Roderus client profile by Terry Burns

My client Frank Roderus just signed contracts with Thorndike Press (imprint of Centgage) to put two of his previously published titles into large print. The first two titles are “Hell Creek Cabin” and “The Keystone Kid.” We anticipate that they are going to do this with a number of his other books as well. We are working with the Five Star imprint of the same company with a brand new title.

Frank wrote his first story, a Western, at age five and says he quite literally has never wanted to do anything else. He is the author of over 300 books and is perhaps best known for his “Carl Heller” series. He has been writing fiction full-time since 1980 and was a newspaper reporter before that. As a journalist, the Colorado Press Association gave him its highest award, the Sweepstakes Award, for the Best News Story of 1980. The Western Writers of America has twice named him recipient of their prestigious Spur Award, for a western writer the equivalent of a movie star winning an Oscar. A lifetime member of the American Quarter Horse Association, he is married and currently resides in Florida. Roderus and his wife Magdalena expect to divide their time between Florida and Palawan Island in the Sulu Sea.

I asked Frank what the greatest hurtle that he had to clear in order to get a writing career off the ground?

The greatest hurdle, I think, was that of doing it wrong often enough to teach myself to do it right. There was no internet then and I belonged to no writing groups so it was solitary. Of course part of that was my own bull-headedness. At the time I went to the public library and read just about every book they had on how to write. Made no sense at all. After I had sold five books I went back to the same library, checked out some of those same books and read them again after which I kept shaking my head and saying yes, of course, how perfectly obvious...the same books that baffled me until I learned the craft.

I also asked what about your writing has brought you the most satisfaction?

The most satisfaction? That is a toss-up. Without question the most joy was when I got that first acceptance. Or was it when I held the first copy of that first book finally in my hand. Or was it years later when I finished writing POTTER'S FIELDS, which became a Spur Award winner, and knew that I finally had gotten my vision for that book down exactly the way I wanted it. Even if it never sold I would have been satisfied; it said what I was trying to say, not always a given.

What one piece of advice would you offer to new writers?

And advice? Oh, that is easy. Persevere. Never give up. When I was trying to break in I sent a ms to a New York agent. And New York agents know everything, right? I certainly believed that. She returned my ms with a note suggesting, more or less politely, that I should forget about writing, that I was not good enough to become a writer. That letter was devastating. I quit trying for the next three years before circumstance sent me back to the typewriter. I sent that same ms out to a small publishing house. They bought it. Paid a whopping $500 for it. That little book, a YA, was a Spur finalist that year and has been in print almost continuously ever since. And that was almost forty years ago. By this time and roughly 300 books later I've decided that that agent was wrong. I'm going to make it after all.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Homophone by Diana Flegal

On a recent visit to a blog there was a discussion re Homophones.

As an agent I have seen them come across my desk in professionally edited proposals and manuscripts.

What is a Homophone? A word that sounds like another word but has a different meaning.

For example: "aye", "eye" and "I".  Or Tach / tack. Knave/ Nave. Nous/ Noose. Heroin/ Heroine .
The writer of this blog had come across a homophone in a published Memoir recently.
These guys are tricky, making it past spell check, experienced veteran proof readers and freelance editors and often through the final stages into a printed- published title.
Something to look out for in your own edits and writing. But do not lay awake at night wondering if that is why your manuscript was rejected. As you see here, it can slip by the best paid professional. It will not cause your manuscript to be passed over if one appears in your story.

Typos happen. I saw the Bumper Sticker.

You have now been given a word that will expand your Scrabble skills and help you out in a game of Trivial Pursuit or Cranium.  (Cranium is one of my favorites; I love the feel and smell of colored dough in my hand. Have at it Freudians).

For a detailed list of Homophones go to
It is a fun place to spend some time. After all, a misread Homophone in a lover’s breakup letter could open a door to a terrific Suspense Fiction plot, murder happens with less provocation. Or how about a divorce settlement… A Doctors diagnosis report… The list goes on and on. I am not a writer, just an appreciator of one, but I see HUGE possibilities here. 

We all best get back to work. I must not dessert my post.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Writers and Stewardship by Andy Scheer

“You have a big responsibility,” I told her at the end of the Writing for the Soul conference.

Through a weekend packed with twelve class hours and six keynotes, she’d learned a lot. Now comes applying what she learned.

She already has a speaking ministry to teens. Her nonfiction sample I evaluated shows great potential.

But she’s behind the curve in presenting her material online — either to publicize her work or to enable access by online readers. She’s more relational than a techie.

Shouldn’t be a problem,” I said. “Find people who are. Concentrate on what you do well, and enlist the help of people with the website and technical skills you lack.”

With 25 of the conference’s 70 sessions devoted to promotion and marketing, she’d been given access — either live or through recordings — to what she needs to apply. I hope she does.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Theatre and Fiction Part III Linda S. Glaz

Now, it's your turn. A few of you have let me know how you make your characters come alive, but let's have an interactive lesson.
How do you, the writer, research your character so that he or she is a real person, not merely a
character in a book--or on the stage? Do you create their personalities with lists of emotional baggage or do you allow the character to develop a personality as you write?
How do you keep your characters three dimensional as has been mentioned in the last two post on theatre and fiction?
Take a look at this character and tell me something about her?
Who is she?
Where is she?
What on earth is she doing?
Pick a genre:
How would you describe her personality in your novel?
Come on; let's have some fun with this!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is it ready to submit? by Terry Burns

Sitting here working through incoming submissions I have to shake my head as I wonder why some people thought they were ready to send it in. Competition is steep for the few slots for representation that I have, even steeper for the few publishing slots that acquisition editors have to fill, why would people waste an opportunity with anything less than their absolute best?

But they do.

I've said it many times, chances are an acquisition editor that takes on a book will then have the be the copy editor that works it up for publication. When they take the book they change hats. So if you wonder why it is important to have the formatting and the grammar and the punctuation right, why it isn't just all about the story, that hat change is the reason. If an acquisition editor keeps being pulled out of the story by noticing things they will have to fix and things they will have to change, then we have forced them into copy editor mode. Copy editors don't buy books. It's our job to give them a submission so clean and well edited that they don't get pulled out of the story by such things.

If the story is great either one of my assistants or I will try to work with the author to clean up these type problems. I do formatting and light editing as I read a submission if I have gotten to the point of asking for a full manuscript. But what if my workload is very heavy? I get several hundred submissions a month and I can't put that much work into all of them. One has to really catch my eye for me to do that.

Any author that is counting on someone on the other end to clean up and fix their work is taking a very low percentage shot. It could happen, but most of the time it is very unlikely. The professional writer makes sure it is as good as they can make it from the beginning.

Any person reading a submission is affected by early impressions as well. If they open something to see improper margins and formatting, if punctuation and editing problems start jumping out at them,, then they know they aren't dealing with a pro. They will still read until they reach the point where they know the submission is not right for them, but they do not have very high expectations. The little things DO matter, they matter very much.

We have a nifty page on our website entitled "Is it ready to submit?" that can help a writer take care of all these little details to create the most professional looking submission possible and to keep that editor from popping up in place of the acquisition person that is supposed to be reading it. The direct link to it is and you are welcome to make use of it.

Just remember, a poor submission is burning a bridge that a good submission on the same work might cross successfully. It is very difficult to get people to take a second look at a project that they have already rejected.

It's best to do it right the first time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Beware of the Dangling Modifier!

            As conference season begins for me this weekend, we are often asked to provide a list of writing resources we recommend.

Proofreading Secrets of Bestselling Authors by Kathy Ide is on my list.

Kathy offers us a helpful tip here.

            As a writer, words and punctuation marks are the tools of your trade. Right? Actually … wrong! Grammatically, anyway.

            When you start a sentence with a modifying word or phrase, the subject of the sentence is what has to be modified by that word or phrase. An introductory phrase that doesn’t modify the appropriate word is called a “dangling modifier.”

            The opening phrase in the above sentence is “As a writer.” The subject of the sentence is “Words and punctuation marks.” Since words and punctuation marks are not “a writer,” we’d need to rewrite that to something like “Words and punctuation marks are a writer’s tools of the trade.”

            Now that you’ve been reminded of a rule you probably barely paid attention to in high school, let’s try a tricky example:

Six months after attending Mount Hermon, Kim’s article was accepted by a publisher.

            “Kim’s article” did not attend Mount Hermon. So you’d want to rewrite that too.

            Timing is crucial when it comes to modifiers. Any action in the introductory phrase must be accomplished at the same time as the action in the rest of the sentence. For example:

Hugging the postman, Delilah ripped open the box containing her new novel.

            Delilah cannot simultaneously hug the postman and rip open a box.

            Once you get a handle on these dangling dilly-dallies, you’ll be spotting them everywhere! Maybe even in your own writing.

            For more tips on proofreading for typos, inconsistencies, and errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling, check out Kathy’s new book, Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, which just released on January 31st from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Stop by and visit Kathy's website/blog at

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What Have You Learned Lately? by Andy Scheer

Veteran writer Bob Hostetler showed no surprise this past weekend during the Writing for the Soul conference when I attended his class on nonfiction one-sheets.

Nor did Jerry Jenkins raise an eyebrow when several faculty members themselves professional editors attended our “thick-skinned manuscript clinics.”

One faculty member did say she was startled when another staffer – whod headed a publishing house and taught journalism for decades came to hear her teach. What surprised her was that he sat in the middle of the front row.

If you want to grow in your writing craft, Jerry Jenkins told the conferees, you never stop learning.

In Bob Hostetlers class, I picked up some solid tips on preparing one-sheets. What have you learned lately?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Theatre and Fiction Part II Linda S. Glaz

Rob ArbaughRob Arbaugh is originally from Michigan.
He is an actor, director, teacher, fight choreographer
and designer. Rob is finished his MFA in Acting
at Regent University. He is one of the founders of
Uncovered Theatre Company of Detroit and Chicago.

Rob, you once told me how a director has to look at the stage and “see” a picture. As writers, we have to help the reader “see” the picture in his/her mind’s eye. How do you do it on stage?

First, as I’m directing, I’ll see in my head what I think
a scene should look like. The whole play picture,
they become stills, each individual picture and then
I let that go and let the actor do whatever. Meld my
overall picture with their individual pictures to see
what I have to get. But then you have to let the actors
flow to be able to create themselves.
As a director, I let the world of the actor play into the story.

That’s interesting because as writers, our characters often take off, so to speak, and turn
into personalities we never expected.
It’s the same with an actor’s character, seeing what the actor will
bring to the table. It’s a collaborative process.

Sort of like the writer and character working together to create a “real” person.
Our characters often seem to have minds of their own, like your actors.

After this first step, I watch everything I’m creating and make sure every moment and every thing
is grounded in reality. In other words, don’t create a picture just for the sake of the picture on the stage.

It’s easy for a writer to get caught up in that and put in an action just for the sake of the character doing something during dialogue. When a crit partner tells us, we need some
action here, it’s easy to want tojust fill in. And sometimes that doesn’t move the story along at all.
Well, I had a professor once say, if you start with the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be cool to…” then it’s probably not too brilliant an idea because you’re doing something just to be cool. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to do this.” Whether it fits or not.

So there has to be a reason for every action/reaction on stage just like in a book?

Why did you choose the expression “a picture”?

Because a picture is used to reflect life back to people. So they can see life in a mirror. And take the message to instill it in their own lives. The picture grounds them in reality. A springboard for self-reflection.

I guess that’s similar to readers seeing themselves on the pages of the book. We can have reality
reflected back or the suspension of reality for a while, but still,we want to see ourselves in the characters. Okay, I realize scripts aren't filled with description,but what piece of advice would you offer from the director’s point of view to help us make our readers see what we want them to see?
I think from the directing side of things that you have to present real people, not characters. “Characters” are a misconception in theatre or any aspect of the arts. One of the biggest mistakes is that you play a mood or character stereotype. When you do, what you have becomes a two-dimensional object instead of being real. As a director and actor, you have to become a child of psychology, a student of human nature. I can imagine that would help the writer as well. As a director, my job is to bring a script from page to stage. I have actors to help me. For the writer, it should be the same thing. When I read a character in a book going through situations, I tend to cast the roles in my head.
How does your faith impact what you do?

I am faith-filled so everything I do is Christian. But truthfully it all comes down to speaking truth. God is truth, and whether the truth comes from a believer or a non-believer, truth still comes from God. Sometimes in the strangest places.

Rob, thanks so much for taking time from your schedule.
Do you mind if I shamelessly let you promote your site for Uncovered Theatre Company?
Not at all. Just want to say as artists, our whole goal in our company is to create art that helps people
self examine. I can send that same charge to writers; stories shouldn’t be in vain, just like shows on the stage. Be passionate about what you’re writing.
Visit us at:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The List by Terry Burns

How would we exist without a list?

We have to make a list to go buy groceries. Then there is the famous ‘Honey-do list’ of jobs around the house that need to be done. When the new year starts some make New Year’s resolutions while others just set goals they want to pursue in the new year. Either way the chances are whichever we choose they end up being items on our list. 

A great deal of what I have to do is represented by the emails in my inbox, sitting there until I do something with them and they are handled or filed. That means that inbox is a sort of list too.

I had a friend who was the ultimate list-maker, she even had a list of what lists she had. She spent all of her time making sure nothing was overlooked and ensuring that everything she needed to do was safely on a list somewhere. She was successful, I don’t think anything was overlooked. The only problem was, she spent all of her time planning to do things and little if any time doing them.

A list is only good if we spend time working items off that list. A good day is when we take more off the list than we add to it. You see, our list is immortal, it will never go away. Not only that, but when we pass on our list survives us to be added to someone else’s list, along with the task of our final arrangements. I find it interesting to think that our list may actually be the same list that has passed down for generations and even though all of the old items have long since been resolved, the list has lived on.

But used correctly a list can be invaluable. It can help us prioritize and focus our activities. That use to be very hard, necessitating constant re-writing of lists. No more. With word processing simple cut and paste functions can re-arrange priorities on a list in seconds.

I keep my to-do list in an email which I send when changes are made to myself and to my wife. That keeps it up at the top on my inbox (my other list) and insures that it will always be right in front of me as I have to work that inbox constantly. I work that inbox from both ends, from the top to knock items off that require little to keep the number of items in there down, then I go to the bottom to concentrate on items that have been in there a while.

Some things stay on my list for a long time until finally I decide “I’m just not going to do that.” That in itself is a resolution and the item can come off the list. There’s more than one way to do anything.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Power of the Right Word Delivered at the Right Time by Diana Flegal

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pitchers of silver". Proverbs 25:11