Advice for Aspiring Writers from a Retail Fiction Editor’s Perspective

September 26th, 2011 No comments

An author asked me to write some tips for aspiring authors from my point of view as the fiction editor for Christianbook.com, so here goes:

Write what you know!

Don’t try to write a story based on a setting in a place you’ve only experienced through the internet. Without exception, the A-list authors
either live in, near, or spend time where the story takes place. How can you convey passion or the quirks of a place if you’ve never been there?
One of the A-list authors  never traveled more than 500 miles from her home before her first book was published. Can you guess who this author is? Why is she an A-List author? She writes from her soul about the place she knows best and is passionate about. I cringe when I hear “I looked it up on the internet.”

Write from your heart, soul and what is authentic to you:

It may not be God’s timing for that book now, but God uses everything for His purpose; perhaps it’s a stepping stone to develop your voice (point of view). I had the opportunity to listen to writers pitching stories to publishers. The worst mistake was that a couple of them started with “I have a story about…” That’s fine. The part that’s not fine is …” I have another story in a different genre…and if you don’t like that…. I’ll write Amish.” You are a unique person to God with your own history; your own passions. That’s what’s going to sell in the marketplace, because the characters will take over for you and your fingers won’t be able to keep up with your thoughts and ideas. Why? Because you’re passionate about it, and you’ll remember detail after detail that you’ll never get if you’re trying to write Amish when your passion is somewhere else.

Excellent examples of people writing with passion are Brandilyn Collins, Julie Lessman,  Beth Wiseman to name a few.  Each one lights up like a Christmas tree and shows an energy level for her passion (which, in Julie Lessman’s case, is passion!) You can’t miss it! That’s why they write so well!

Don’t write to Follow trends:

Think about your fourth book in print.  What does that look like? Is it historical because you love history?  Is it contemporary because you have many contemporary issues that are on your heart?  If you wrote one book to follow the market, you may be branded with that label.  If you’re writing that fourth novel and you’re not passionate about the genre, it’s going to be hard work and drudgery instead of the words flying off the page. It takes about 18 months from signing the contract to the actual release date of the book.  Chances are, that trend you tried to follow has come and gone. Obviously, follow what your publisher wants you to do, but that’s after you have your first contract! Who knows, your book may be the one that sets the next trend!

Immerse the reader into the story!

Don’t just tell a story; transport the reader into the story.  Make the reader feel like she/he is hiking in the Colorado foothills, or let them feel the grittiness beneath their nails if they sculpt clay into an art form; let them taste the food on the table, hear the crickets in the background, sense the encroaching fog. That’s the difference between a so-so story and a tightly woven tale that the reader may stay up all night reading, or the reader may listen to the audiobook on a trip and skip to the next rest stop because they’re immersed so deeply in the story that they forget they can turn off the CD and start it up again after their stop. Now that’s the difference between telling and transporting!

Happy Writing!

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River’s Song by Melody Carlson ~ A Hidden Gem!

August 1st, 2011 No comments

 

River's Song, by Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson’s newest book, River’s Song was the perfect read this weekend! Her story brought me back to my childhood, living in Seattle and camping in many of the parks throughout Washington and Oregon. The setting is a beautiful 40 acre spot on an Oregon river where Anna travels back to her childhood home after the death of her mother. She has the opportunity to mend her broken heart and life through cleaning out the attic, discovering the lost treasures of her heart, from her grandmother Pearl’s beautifully woven baskets to journals that her father wrote partly in Swedish; recording the tales of her Siuslaw Indian heritage. River’s Song is rich with treasures, memories of long ago. I highly recommend it! This is Melody Carlson’s best book to date! What are you reading?

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The story behind the ACFW awards.

July 22nd, 2011 No comments

It takes countless hours for many staff members and volunteers to read judge and pick the selections for the final nominees. Volunteers around the country are sent a questionnaire to determine the number of books they can read in a two month period, and their preferred genre, anywhere from 5-25 books. The volunteers’ responsibility is to read every single book sent, even if they’ve read the book before. Then the volunteer is sent their box of books based on the genre and number selected. All boxes are sent on the same day. From the point the boxes are received, the volunteer starts reading, judging that book prior to moving on to another book and then sends the score sheet to the coordinator. The coordinator adds up the scores to make sure they’re right. When the final day of reading arrives two months later, every score sheet is in and tallied, right down to the tenths of a point, and the winners from these tally sheets go on to become the nominees. Then on to the finals…where the winners’ announcement will be made in St. Louis, Missouri at the ACFW Gala Ball on September 25th. If ever there is a conference for aspiring writers to attend, it is this one

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Categories: Contemporary Fiction Tags:

The Wait is Over ~ CBD apps for Android and IPAD!

July 20th, 2011 No comments

For months, I’ve been trying to decide which “reader” to buy, and have asked many of you on facebook.  Overwhelmingly, the answer comes back to buy an IPad. My one concern was that I want to access pdfs and, of course, the CBD app!  As of today, you can now access our CBD app both on the IPad and Android, in addition to most other “readers” on the market!

We do a great deal of traveling, and as you can imagine, lugging books and galleys becomes cumbersome, especially when I’ve left a book behind that I really want to finish as happened last winter with Lady in the Mist by Laurie Alice Eakes. Deep into the story, I discovered that the galley was left behind and had to wait until the book was published before finishing the story (grr!). What a relief to finally be able to purchase the IPad, as suggested by several author friends, including , B.J. Hoff.  Thank you CBD for making this possible!

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Road trip continued: Misty of Chincoteague Quest

June 14th, 2011 No comments

From the time our kids were little, they insisted we read Misty of Chincoteague, about a wild horse living on Assateague Island over and over.  At 23 yrs old, my daughter still wanted to see the wild ponies; so on our way north we scheduled a day to find these “wild ponies.”  What an adventure!  First we hiked a couple of miles on one of the Virginia side National Park trails.  What we viwed were turtles, birds, a deer and her fawn and huge mosquitoes that seemd to be the size of horse flies, but no horses. We finally decided to ask a park ranger where they were.  On the Virginia side, the horses are managed by the local fire department and are usually corraled in a huge area.  Hoewever, there are also escapees.  We also tried to hike on another trail to find them in the farthest labryinths of the area.  When we were almost back to the car from our fruitless quest, there stood three wild ponies less than twenty feet from us.

After talking to the locals, we discovered that the Maryland side of Assateague Island is where the horses are truly wild, where they manage the park rangers not the other way around.  We didn’t even enter the Maryland side of Assateague National Park before we had 15 wild ponies meandering across the road right in front of us.  We stopped and got out of our car to take pictures only to have the whole herd follow us back to the car.  As we moved just a bit farther, there was a beautiful chestnut pony standing in the middle of the road.  As soon as he saw us, he meandered off, but not before making it clear with his neighing that we were intruding on his territory.  What a stop!  Did you know that it’s been over sixty years since the real Misty of Chincoteague was first released?  They have Misty stuffed in a museum in Chincoteague. Have you visited somewhere special that was inspired by a book you read or read to your children?

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Have you ignored the Love Inspired Steeple Hill titles? ~ Rethink!

June 13th, 2011 No comments

Have you ignored the Love Inspired Steeple Hill titles because you didn’t think they were good enough?  Truth to tell, I have, until recently.  What a surprise I had to discover a couple of
well-written in-depth books that I would highly recommend to my friends.  I just finished reading “Soaring Home” by Christine Johnson which is over 280 pages set in the early 1900′s when aviation was just in the fledgling stages. Based on historical fact, you get a glimpse into the extraoridany courage the pilots took everytime they flew a plane; how amazing that aviation was the one area where women were equal to men at that time; citing Amelia Ehrhart as a good example. The depth of the story indicated that we should definitely be watching for more titles by new author Christine Johnson.

On a side note, my friend has been reading Steeple Hill books for years but always claims they are for her cousin; the Steeple Hill books are actually written by some of your favorite authors who go by different pen names. They’re where many new authors are discovered and developed, including by other authors in the Christian writers community. The only thing that you may need are strong glasses because the print is small. Just try one, you may be in for a real treat!

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Charleston, S.Carolina visit from a fiction itinerary

June 6th, 2011 No comments
My daughter and I took a girls only road trip from Florida to NH and chose a few stops based on the fiction books I’ve read. Charleston, which is quite a remarkable city where the personal gardens  are a work of art, from the beautiful window boxes to the fountains strategically placed in the yards. (Can you tell that I love gardens and gardening?) The strangest part of our tour was to sign up to see  Middleton plantation where the house no longer exists. I was expecting a house similar to Holly Oak from the book Sound Among the Trees by
susan meissner
Isaiah 43:1 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!
Susan Meissner; talk about disappointing!  I think next time the culinary tour sounds like a plan…and there will be a next time! I also bought an intricately designed sweetgrass basket which I read about in
Nicole Seitz
is a South CaroliNicole Seitzna Lowcountry native and freelance writer/illustrator

Favorite Verse: Ephesians 3:21-22; “Now to him
who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the
church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and
ever! Amen.”
Nicole Seitz’s books. Speaking of Nicole Seitz, did you know that most of her book covers were designed by her?
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Which Christy Nominees would you choose?

May 13th, 2011 No comments

There’s nothing more fun than “choosing” the winners and then finding out you’re right.  So which books would you choose among the Christy nominees.   My personal choices are:

Contemporary / Romance:

Sworn to Protect, Call of Duty Series #2, by DiAnn Mills

 

Contemporary Series; Sequels:

The Waiting, Lancaster County Secrets Series #2, by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Contemporary Stand-Alone:

Lady in Waiting, by Susan Meissner

First Novel:

Crossing Oceans, by Gina Holmes

Historical Romance: (tie)

Within My Heart, Timber Ridge Reflections Series #3, by Tamera Alexander
The Girl in the Gatehouse, by Julie Klassen

Historical:

For Time & Eternity, by Allison Pittman

Suspense:

The Bishop, Patrick Bowers Series #4, by Steven James

Visionary:

The Last Christian, by David Gregory

Young Adult:

Motorcycles, Sushi & One Strange Book, by Nancy Rue

Now it’s your turn!

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2011 Christy Award Nominations

May 12th, 2011 No comments

On May 5th The Christy Award nominees were announced; one of the most coveted accolades among the Christian fiction authors and deservedly so.  These nominations are a high honor and have been selected based on hundreds of titles and countless hours spent reading and poring over the fine details of the book using the criteria that is most important; how these books reflect God’s word and influence in the characterization and depth of the novels. They are not necessarily the most popular novels but they are indeed the best of the best. I have had the privilege of reading many of these books and would be hard pressed to choose the winners in each category.

And here they are:

Contemporary / Romance:

Sworn to Protect, Call of Duty Series #2, by DiAnn Mills
Blood Ransom, Mission Hope Series #1, by Lisa Harris
Indivisible, by Kristen Heitzmann

Contemporary Series; Sequels:

The Waiting, Lancaster County Secrets Series #2, by Suzanne Woods Fisher
The Thorn, Rose Trilogy Series #1, by Beverly Lewis
The Reluctant Prophet, by Nancy Rue

Contemporary Stand-Alone:

Lady in Waiting, by Susan Meissner
A Season of Miracles, by Rusty Whitener
Almost Heaven, by Chris Fabry

First Novel:

Crossing Oceans, by Gina Holmes
A Season of Miracles, by Rusty Whitener
Heartless, Tales of Goldstone Woods Series #1, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Historical Romance:

Within My Heart, Timber Ridge Reflections Series #3, by Tamera Alexander
The Girl in the Gatehouse, by Julie Klassen
She Walks in Beauty, by Siri Mitchell

Historical:

While We’re Far Apart, by Lynn Austin
Chosen, Lost Loves of the Bible Series #1, by Ginger Garrett
For Time & Eternity, by Allison Pittman

Suspense:

The Bishop, Patrick Bowers Series #4, by Steven James
Predator, by Terri Blackstock
The Bride Collector, by Ted Dekker

Visionary:

Konig’s Fire, Marc Schooley
To Darkness Fled, Blood of Kings Series #2, by Jill Williamson
The Last Christian, by David Gregory

Young Adult:

Motorcycles, Sushi & One Strange Book, by Nancy Rue
The Charlatan’s Boy, by Jonathan Rogers
The Healer’s Apprentice, by Melanie Dickerson

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Check out Deb Raney and Janelle Mallory!

April 8th, 2011 No comments

Most of the time I am looking at galley prior to the release date of the book, but I made not one, but two exceptions recently by reading two already released titles; Janelle Mowery’s When All My Dreams Come True, Colorado Runaway Series #1, an historical love story and Deb Raney’s Almost Forever, a contemporary that explores the concept, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Wow! Am I glad I had the chance to read both! Janelle Mowery is a debut author with loads of potential and Deborah Raney’s Almost Forever, Hanover Falls Series #1 brings a new level to her already outstanding writing! It will make you question what you would do in her shoes. Talk about a page-turner!

I could not put either one of these books down until the very end and then wanted all the details for their next books in both the Hanover Falls Series and the Colorado Runaway Series. If you haven’t tried either of these authors, I assure you that you won’t be disappointed!

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