Thursday, May 28, 2015


IF YOU ARE TRYING TO REACH ME, my email service is down and may not be back up until early next week. Sorry for the inconvenience.


The importance of personal taste by Terry Burns

Well, it isn't actually about eating.

I often find myself discussing with clients why I like their book so much but seem to be having trouble finding a place for it.

One of the biggest factors is a matter of taste.

For me to take a project on to represent there are a lot of factors involved but one of the largest is I have to really like the book. Well, duh, pretty hard to sell something you don't like. But just because I like a manuscript doesn't mean editors I submit it to are going to have the same taste in books.

Therein lies the rub.

I spend a lot of my time looking at what various acquisition editors are acquiring trying to get a feel for what I think their personal tastes are. Oh, but that still isn't the whole picture. Just because that editor likes a book doesn't mean those who sit on a committee, or those who have a final say on what is acquired have the same taste.

But there's more. More? Indeed there is. These people making acquisition decisions are trying to anticipate and cater to the taste of someone else, the reading public. They are looking to find and produce books their readers will like and will purchase.

So all I have to do is find out what readers want to read and those books are what I should be representing regardless of my personal taste? If it were that easy the answer would probably be yes. But the taste of the reading public changes and at any given time even industry professionals can't agree on what readers want.

So I'm stuck with finding projects I genuinely like and would like to see make it out in the marketplace. Then try to find or convince an editor to agree with me. I'll admit it is easier to try and do that with editors that give me feedback on projects I send them other than "just not a fit." When I know what they do or don't like and the reasons for it, that helps me to find something which MIGHT be a fit for them.

But the bottom line is . . . it's a matter of taste.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Four Ways a Mission Statement Helps a Writer by Diana Flegal

I ask my clients to write a mission statement for each book they plan to write. Whether they are writing fiction or nonfiction, they should know and be able to state exactly what it is they want the reader to get from their novel or nonfiction (the take-away value), and why they are the best one to write this title.

One: Writing a mission statement will help you set the vision and reflect on the how of writing the book. Why is it valuable and why is it important to you to write it.

Example: Since King Steven writes thrillers that make you leave the light on at night and his mission is: to scare the begeebies out of his readers and keep them turning the page; he must write believable characters, and convince the reader of the possibility this scary thing could happen in their small town.

Example: A true event happened to you that you would like to include in your novel. But when it is on the page, it sounds UN- believable. Delete the 'little darling'.

Two: A mission statement helps you answer the question, am I qualified to write this book?.

Example: King Steven has a proven track record of having written very scary stories. I can want to scare the wits out of a reader, but if I have a hard time remembering the plot of a good joke, it is not realistic for me. Just sayin'. Scratch that mission and chew my pencil a little longer.

I would like to teach Haitian women how to take better care of their babies. I had a newborn that turned into a toddler with me when I lived there. But it has been 20 plus years since then. Worthy goal, but it would be better if I referred women to those currently there offering these services.

I want to help writers realize their goals. Idea: Write a blog about the value of a mission statement. I teach about this at writers conferences, and have seen the effectiveness of this with my clients. BINGO. Checkmark.

Three: A mission statement will keep you on task and help you evaluate your progress

Example: You want to write a contemporary romance that takes place in Pittsburgh, Pa. The young hero is the son of a retired steel worker. In researching the mills to portray the setting the young man grew up in, you see this:  Iron and steel were Pittsburgh's main industries for nearly a century and a half. The mills along the rivers churned out their products 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It can be said that steel from Pittsburgh mills practically built America. From the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, steel from Pittsburgh found its way to all corners of the developing nation.

Wow, who knew? You get distracted and begin to make the book all about Pittsburgh's influence in the building of America. Your romance is forgotten UNTIL you go back and read the mission statement: I want to write a romance that showcases two diverse people coming together and realizing that love can supersede prejudice and insecurity. AND you are back on track. By the way: An editor that acquires historical fiction told me research should be the window dressing and the story the window. :-) Keep that in mind and just sprinkle your research in your story to set an authentic placing of your plot, but don't let it overshadow it.

Four: A mission statement will provide incentive to actually write the book  

Writing down your goals is a proven way to realize them. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, found that we are 42 percent more likely to achieve our goals just by writing them down.

I had a goal to share four of the strongest reasons I ask writers to write out a mission statement. Hope this is helpful.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Planting My Seeds by Andy Scheer

“I need to buy seeds.” As my wife drove us to church, I remembered the garden. My time at a writers conference, plus a week of rain, had kept me from planting.

If I wanted a crop, I needed to plant something—and that meant seeds.

Last fall I’d composed the garden with a layer of shredded leaves. After the snow melted, I’d twice turned over the soil. With a final raking, it would be ready to plant. If only I had some seeds.

At a garden center, I selected packets of green beans, peas, lettuce and carrots. My wife found sunflower and columbine seeds.

But for the past few days, as rains continued, the seeds have sat in the garage.

That’s a shame. The photos on the packets look good enough to eat. Even the varieties’ names sound enticing: Prizehead, Black-Seeded Simpson, Blue Lake Stringless, Landreth’s Stringless Green Pod, Danvers 126 Half-Long, Burpeeana Early.

I almost want to keep the packages inside. Maybe put them in a shadowbox.

That’s not what seeds are for. I need to tear open those packets, place the seeds in rows, and cover them with soil. I need to relinquish control and bury them.

I think of the writers conference. For four days, people attended classes, listened to panels, and had appointments. Now they have notebooks filled with information, minds filled with ideas.

There’s another package of seeds in my garage. The box of “Wildflower Mix” contains seeds for “17 beautiful varieties,” enough to cover one-hundred square feet.

There’s just one problem. The box says the seeds were packed for 2005. Someday I’ll get around to planting them. Maybe after I revisit that manuscript I started a few years ago.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Not Just Picnics and BBQ

Everyone have a wonderful Memorial Day. 
Remember, it's not just the picnics and the BBQ,
 but it's to remember those who gave all to us so that we might enjoy our freedoms.
Shout outs to the wonderful authors who write compelling
stories of our military folks.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Pack Your Books by Jim Hart

 It’s vacation season and what’s the most important thing to pack? Books, of course! Who needs clean socks? Those people at the shore don’t know you anyway.

Vacation time, whether you plan to travel or stay home, can be a guaranteed opportunity to dig into that book that’s been patiently waiting to be picked up for the past year (or two).

What’s the attraction of a good book on vacation? Getting lost in a book just completes the ultimate vacation goal of getting away from it all. To be immersed in the pages of a novel, in a quiet, scenic location is a true treasure.

Do you plan far ahead on what books you’ll choose as traveling companions? Or do you find a local bookstore and wait to see what treasure is waiting to be found, hidden on some shelf? There are few things that compare to finding a local independent bookstore and leisurely exploring their shelves. It's great to support these small bookstores buy picking up at least one title.

That’s how I got my copy of The Harbinger. I also found Daniel Lanois’ memoir Soul Mining while on vacation. And a really cool graphic novel version of The Martian Chronicles ­– that was a cool surprise. The Harbinger and Soul Mining have long been read. I haven’t dug into the graphic novel yet, I don’t want to bend the pages too much. I’m thinking it won’t take up too much space in my suitcase this year.

A couple of years ago, on my first cruise I took the print version of Homer Hickam’s Crater with me, and a really long 138,000 manuscript on my tablet (Yes, I was reading for work, but the manuscript was so good I couldn’t put it down.)  Finished them both. Oh, and on that trip I finally finished reading The Shack. Not sure about that one. I’m still trying to figure out what all the hubbub was all about.

So here’s what I want to know:

What will you be reading on vacation this year?
What’s your criteria for the perfect vacation read? A Thriller that make your heart pound? Historical Romance that melts your heart?  Or that 120,000 word High Fantasy that completely transports you to another realm? Or is vacation a chance for you to re-visit a classic first read years ago?

Will you take print books or an e-reader? Or both? Or an audio book?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Memorial Day by Terry Burns

Memorial Day is coming up.

I wore my veterans hat the last day of the conference in Colorado in recognition of it being Armed Forces Day. Some however said "I thought that was next weekend." I responded, "No, that weekend is Memorial Day."

Armed Forces Day is to recognize active serving Military personnel. Veterans Day, which comes in November is to recognize those who have served in the past, and Memorial Day recognizes those who gave all in service of their country. There can be a little confusion about the meaning of the three special days.

The Memorial Day holiday observed on the last Monday in May, originated after the civil war to honor those who died in the war. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was later extended to include all who have served and have passed on. Many use the occasion to mark family graves of all types, but the primary reason is to recognize this service.

The National Cemetery at Arlington places a small American flag at each headstone for the day, exactly one boot length from the stone. It is a very impressive sight.

The first documented observance was in Savannah Georgia in 1862 marking the graves of Confederate soldiers. The following year the cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated and the observance began to be recognized by both sides. With over 600,000 dying in the war the recognition was of major significance as there were few families untouched by the tragedy in some manner.

War is a terrible thing and there is no one who would like to see no more war than the soldier. However, no matter how we might feel about war itself we should never allow that feeling to color or detract from the honor due the brave soldiers who have stepped forward when their country called and who gave their lives in that service.

When family gathers on Memorial Day and we are cooking out or going to the park or however we choose to enjoy the weekend, let's pause for a moment and remember the true meaning of the day. Freedom is not free, and it is only right to pause and remember who paid that price for us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

More Conference Gold Mines by Andy Scheer

Writers conferences offer more than informative classes, inspiring speakers, and one-on-ones with agents and editors. Having just come down from the mountain at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, I received fresh reminders of these other opportunities:

Getting There & Back
Whether carpooling to a nearby conference or sharing a ride from the airport, this time in transit lets you not only talk shop, but also get to know others. One conferee gave a ride to a pastor who just arrived from overseas. I detoured past the airport to pick up an editor from a major publishing house.

Orienting First-Timers
If you’re a veteran, can enjoy the privilege to direct newbies (scan the crowd for those looking puzzled). If you’re new and wondering where to find the registration desk and the classrooms, don’t fear. The person who comes to your rescue may eventually become your critique partner.

Waiting in Line for Meals
The longer the line, the more opportunity to meet those standing near you. In one meal line a few years ago, while discussing their works in progress, one conferee discovered a much-needed expert resource for her novel’s key scene.

Eating with Strangers
It’s tempting to sit with friends ... but more adventurous to join a meal table with those you’ve not yet met. Should I ever need to write about hair-coloring, I now know an expert. And I got to tell some people from eastern Kansas about a great writers group in Kansas City.

Hearing Affirmation
After several years of rejections, this weekend a friend encountered a publishing professional who agreed his project had fabulous potential. He’d been ready to give up.

Receiving Redirection
I’d dreaded my final appointment—for a paid critique with a conferee who had a solid concept but had made some poor decisions in how to introduce the topic. I’m grateful he was open to an approach more likely to engage readers. Some writers get defensive, but this time I got lucky—and so will his future readers.

Where else have you struck gold at a conference?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hairballs, Hiccoughs, and Howdies by Linda S. Glaz

Hairballs and hiccoughs? What does that have to do with my WIP?
Have you ever read a script? It’s bare bones. Basics. Just the facts, ma’am.
There’s very little in a script to let the readers know that life is happening. Oh, certainly, you have the dialogue and enough direction to give you a skeletal idea of what is taking place, but do you have the hairballs that life brings up? With a script, that takes an expert actor and/or director.
The difference between a script and a novel is life: sights, sounds, tastes, and smells. These are all the things that bring your novel to life. If you have a story with a cat playing a part, does the cat gets hairballs? Do you smell her nasty canned cat food at some point? Is there a litter box that smells so bad it makes you gag?
All of the senses should come into play in either a good or bad way at some point in your book. Because that’s life. Do you have a character who always says “Howdy” rather than “Good day” or “Hello”? And is there a specific reason why is does this? Does it add to or take away from your story?
The senses can do both. They can move the story forward, or bring it to a screeching halt. Would you want to share the smell of a litter box in a romantic moment of your novel? Or would it be a wonderful and terrible find for your antagonist as he creeps through the house? And how might that tie in with how he’s discovered before he murders the family? Or perhaps a loud hiccough at an inopportune moment.
You, as the author, have the same responsibility with your novel that an actor and director have with a script. You need to make the story come alive for your reader. He or she can only see, feel, taste, smell, and hear what you allow them to. They are rather at your mercy, and if none of these senses come alive for the reader, you are left with a bland story.
Try throwing in some hairballs, hiccoughs, and howdies and see how your story develops.

Friday, May 15, 2015

It’s Writers’ Conference Season, by Jim Hart

If you haven’t noticed, it’s writers’ conference season! If you have never attended a writers’ conference, I hope this inspires you to seek one out to attend.

Here are just a few reasons for attending a writers’ conference:

1) Access to industry professionals
There are numerous opportunities to meet with editors, agents and published authors. The opportunity to network and establish connections and relationships will prove to be of great value. Most writers’ conferences afford you the chance to meet one-on-one with agents and editors to present your proposal and ask questions.

2) Classes and workshops
You will find classes and presentations tailored for just about every phase of your writing life – from the ‘just getting started’ to the ‘seasoned veteran author’. You’ll discover classes and workshops that offer instruction in the many facets of the craft of writing, how to build and strengthen your author platform, current trends in publishing and so much more.

3) Fellowship with like-minded people
Writing can be a solitary endeavor. It’s a good thing to have an opportunity to be in the company of others who share your passion for writing, even if for just a day or two. For those in the Christian writing community the time to fellowship with others is very precious.

4) Energizing!
Or exhausting – or both! You will come away from a good conference with a renewed and refreshed vision for your writing goals.

5) Provide an edge
The knowledge that you come away with from a writers’ conference is invaluable. Today it’s so vital that you know as much as possible about the publishing industry. A growing knowledge of this business helps you to not just be competitive, but to also prioritize, set the right goals and continue taking the strongest steps in your writing life. This knowledge can help you from making poor and un-informed decisions regarding your writing and what is needed for you to be published.

Writers’ conferences come in all sizes, from small one day events to large ones that cover several days. But no matter the size of the conference you attend, you will always find something of value. A couple of years ago I had the chance to attend a small one day conference, in a small town, and the keynote speaker was the publisher of a small publishing house. But the information that he shared on the craft of writing was huge and the few dozen that attended more than got their money’s worth that day.

Here are just two things that will help you prepare for a conference:
1) Do your homework
When considering a writers’ conference look carefully at their curriculum and faculty. Target the classes and appointments that you want to take advantage of.

When deciding on the agents and editors with whom you wish to make an appointment, make sure that what you write matches what they are looking for. If you see that they are not looking at romantic suspense, it’s not a good idea to go ahead and pitch your romantic suspense anyway. Know who is looking for what before you even arrive at the conference.

Let me stress how important it is to be fully prepared for an appointment with an agent or editor. In most cases you will only have 15 minutes, and those minutes go by surprisingly quick. Be ready to ask specific questions.

Also note if an agent or editor prefers to see a paper proposal, or one on a flash drive. Traveling can make it difficult to collect printed proposals to take back to the office. For me, electronic proposals are just easier to deal with. Which leads to the next point:

2) Get your one-sheets, proposals and business cards ready
I can’t over emphasis how important it is to be prepared with a great proposal and one-sheets. If you have not already done this, find resources that will help you prepare your proposal. It will be worth it.

Sometimes an agent or editor is willing to take a one-sheet from a writer who was unable to schedule an appointment with them.

I’ve had writers come to an appointment who did not have a proposal, for various legitimate reasons. But they came prepared with questions! And most of the time they were the right questions and hopefully they left with new information to help them in their writing journey.

If you’ve been able to attend writer’s conferences, what have you found to be of the most value?