Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #109

Suzanne Hartmann covers Market Analysis and Audience in this article. Note: She has several posts on the overall subject of, "Top 10 Proposal Definitions You Need To Know." With conference time in full swing, I think you'll find this series useful.

Jill Eileen Smith guest posts at The Writers Alley. She discusses the importance of historical accuracy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Author Interview - Sarah Sundin - Part I

Sarah Sundin's first novel, "A Distant Melody," was published in March 2010 by Revell. She lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn't ferrying kids to soccer and karate, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday School and women's Bible studies.

1. Hi Sarah! I've heard you've had some unusual contest experiences. Can you share them with us?

Actually, I've only entered one contest. In 2008, I entered the Genesis, American Christian Fiction Writers' contest for unpublished writers. I had scores all over the place, from, "I can't wait to see this in print," to--and I'm paraphrasing--"Don't quit your day job." I was concerned because I'd already submitted the same chapters at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference to Vicki Crumpton, at Revell. I'm very thankful Revell agreed with the I-can't-wait-to-see-this-in-print judge and offered me a three-book contract.

2. I loved the characters in, "A Distant Melody." Will some of them be showing up in your second book? Can you give us a short blurb?

Walter Novak and Allie Miller, the hero and heroine of, "A Distant Melody," will appear as side characters in, "A Memory Between Us," which focuses on Jack Novak, Walt's brother, and Army nurse, Lt. Ruth Doherty.

"A Memory Between Us" is the second book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.

Major Jack Novak has never failed to meet a challenge--until he meets Army nurse, Lt. Ruth Doherty. When Jack lands in the Army hospital after a plane crash, he makes winning Ruth's heart a top priority mission. But he has his work cut out for him. Not only is Ruth focused on her work in order to support her orphaned siblings back home, she carries a shameful secret that keeps her from giving her heart to any man. Can Jack break down her defenses? Or are they destined to go their separate ways?

3. Plotter or SOTP? How do you flesh out your characters?

Big-time plotter. I'm rather left-brained for a writer, and I need to know most of the details before I start the rough draft. It saves time during editing too. I do encounter surprises when I write the actual story, but never major plot-changing surprises.

My favorite part of writing has to be getting to know my characters. And being a rather left-brained writer, I adore character charts. Long, detailed character charts. My master chart for hero and heroine has questions about appearance, health, family, friends, childhood, education, career, romantic history, home, talents, hobbies, religious history, goals, secrets, etc. Then I give the main characters personality tests. On the back of the pages, I scribble down important incidents in their pasts. It's amazing how a seemingly mundane question on a chart can open up backstory or motivation that makes the character come to life.

Sarah and I will continue our interview next Wednesday. She'll give us the lowdown on her research methods.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Caper or How I Got Crowned - Part II

How come these professional people look younger and younger? This man could be my son. I glanced at the degree on the wall. It belonged to the other dentist. Where was his diploma?

He eyed my pearly whites. "So what do you think about a crown?"

My eyes crossed. "Whoa, Nellie! I've got a little problem here. My last dentist gave me five shots of Novacaine, but they didn't work. I get migraines, so unless pain is severe, it doesn't register. He almost sent me through the ceiling when he began drilling. I haven't been to a dentist in three years."

He reassured me the Novacaine failure was probably a fluke. I chewed my lower lip, wondering if I should believe him. After discussing my options, I agreed to the crown.

I held my breath as he administered the Novacaine, praying it would take this time. Several of my friends, who knew about my unhappy experience with the last dentist, were interceding for me. God answered our prayers, and the visit ended on a positive note.

I'm happy. My tooth is happy. My trust in dentists has been restored.

So, what's the moral to this story? (You KNEW there would be one.) Agents, editors, and authors are people. We all have off days, get tired, and don't always realize how our words affect the person sitting across the table. Let's cut each other a break, chalk the rough experiences up to a misunderstanding or miscommunication, and move on. Most of all, don't let it stop you from improving your craft and pursuing your dream.

Have you ever felt like you wanted to quit submitting your work? Do you have any encouraging words for overcoming past disappointment and moving on to success?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #108

Kathleen Popa, at Novel Matters, urges us to take our characters to lunch.

Laurel, at Laurel's Leaves, talks about overwriting.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On My Nightstand - Stealing Adda by Tamara Leigh

Adda Sinclaire reaches the pinnacle of success as a New York Times Best Selling author. Her historical romances leave readers craving for her next release. While Adda's professional life is the envy of everyone, including her arch enemy, Birgitta Roth, her personal life is beginning to affect her writing.

After fending off the advances of a handsome bookcover model, she meets a man whose good looks and charm break through her defenses. Baggage on both sides of the equation, an endearing daughter, and an attempt to ruin her career make for lots of conflict and fun.

There's a familiar saying in writer circles, "write what you know." Well, Tamara Leigh took that advice and wrote a tale about a novelist. As usual, her characters leap off the page, grab your hand, and drag you into the story with their hilarious antics, quirks, and sometimes heart-wrenching pain.

I won this book in a blog contest, and no fee was paid for this review by the author or publisher. I'm already missing her stories. You've gained a fan, Tamara. I'll be back for more of your entertaining books.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Caper or How I Got Crowned - Part 1

I passed the refrigerator and heard a chocolate chip cookie whisper my name. "Susan, oh, Susan." My mouth watered at the thought of a large cookie dunked in ice cold milk.

With my Snoopy mug and cookie in hand, I sat down at the kitchen table. With no A/C in the house, I keep my cookies in the refrigerator, making the chips almost as hard as pebbles. I bit down and winced. Hmm, probably one of the chips. I finished, put the glass in the dishwasher, and went to my computer.

My tongue sent an alert to my brain. "Sharp tooth, left side, upper." Uh-oh. That chip wasn't chocolate. I swallowed part of my molar.

Faced with the dilemma of going back to my former dentist - Five-Shots-of-Novacaine- that-Still-Didn't-Work-Dr. Pain - I froze. Eureka! The Yellow Pages listed a lot of dentists. Ah, here's one I'd heard about in favorable terms. I made an appointment for a consultation.

I entered the dentist's lair and leaned on the granite countertop. The decor, the staff walking around, talking in hushed tones, all spoke of success - not to mention high fees.

One of the women led me to an examining room, and peered into my mouth. "I'll need an X-Ray, and then the doctor will see you." After ten minutes, the X-Ray was ready, the doctor was ready, and the hygienist was ready - but I wasn't ready. To be continued...

Have you ever had a bad experience with an editor/agent appointment? It makes you nervous and wary of scheduling future meetings. How do you overcome, "Editor Anxiety?"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #107

Lynn, at Connecting Stories, holds a creativity "Boot Camp."

The Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference runs from August 12-14, 2010. Held on the beautiful campus of Philadelphia Biblical University, conferees will enjoy workshops, continuing sessions, and general meetings taught by experienced publishing staff, agents, and authors. Editor/Agent/Author appointments are always a highlight of the event. If you sign up for all three days, you'll get four 15-minute slots to pitch your latest project.

For detailed information, go to the Write His Answer website and click on the Philadelphia Conference link.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On My Nightstand - A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin

Allie Miller is trapped in a relationship with a man she doesn't love. Her parents are convinced he's the perfect match. Always feeling like an ugly duckling next to her stunning mother, her future seems set in stone. After all, who else would want her?

Walter Novak longs for a girlfriend, but freezes whenever an eligible young woman crosses his path. Will he ever find someone, who understands him and can draw him out of his shell?

A friend's wedding changes their lives forever. A war, an engagement, and trust issues conspire against them. Their friendship deepens, but will they both come to their senses or follow the script others have written for them?

Wow! I loved this book. It kept me biting my nails almost to the last page. This is Sarah Sundin's debut novel. I can't wait to read her upcoming titles. Don't miss this historical romance set during World War II.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hook 'Em, Dan-O

I can still hear the old Hawaii Five-O theme song and Jack Lord's famous line, "Book 'em, Dan-O," in my head. It's one of those bits of trivia that stick. Why? They were created to grab the viewer's attention and hold it.

Non-fiction and fiction writers both have precious little time to capture and hold a reader. With the dizzying array of books out there, it's a wonder these brave souls don't run from the store screaming. Instead, authors seek to bring order and make their buying decision easier. We want the seeker to leave with their treasure (preferably our book) and a happy smile on their face.

While a non-fiction writer relies on a startling statistic, a cute story, an analogy, or an odd fact, the fiction writer uses a different set of tools. We want to raise a question in the reader's mind.

Jack walked down the street to Amy's house.

Jack hurried toward Amy's house, fear tightening its noose around his neck.

The first sentence is bland, puts all the facts out there. The reader says, "Why should I care?" That's not the kind of question you want to provoke. The second sentence makes Rosie Reader wonder, "Hmm, why is Jack hurrying? Why is he getting tense? I'd better find out." Bingo. Each sentence pulls Rosie deeper into the story world.

Applying this technique to a non-fiction piece--perhaps a devotional--would not only get Rosie to read on, but also put her in the thick of the action. By the time the writer gives the spiritual application, it goes straight to the heart. Let's give an example:

You might want to use an illustration of a time when someone lied about you, and the process of forgiveness. Instead of telling your reader:

When I was 15, my best friend, Shelley, told several people lies about me, you would show her the action:

"Shelley lied, and it hurt." The reader wants to know what kind of lies Shelley told, why, and who did she hurt?

Have you ever written a non-fiction piece using the Show/Don't Tell method? We're hooking that reader, so they'll get to the spiritual application or the point of the article. What are your thoughts?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Announcing The Winner...

Sound the trumpet! We have a winner. Congratulations to JEANETTE LEVELLIE! You've won Kim Vogel Sawyer's book, "Where Willows Grow."

Mom and I were running late this morning, so we didn't get a chance to finish this drawing. When we got home, we put all the entries into a grocery bag, and she drew a slip of paper out. I apologize for the delay.

Thanks to all who entered. Watch for more giveaways in the future.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #106

Writing Opportunity! Alisa Hope, at Sanctified Together, is looking for How-To articles, devotionals, personal faith stories, poetry, and prayers for her publication.

The next issue is slated for the first week of October and is entitled, "Peace." The deadline is September 10, 2010. Check out the following links:

Click here for Writers Guidelines.

She is also taking devotionals for her publication, Granola Bar Devotional. Click here for the Writers Guidelines.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Author Interview & Giveaway - Kim Vogel Sawyer - Part II

Welcome to Part II of our interview with Kim Vogel Sawyer.

3. Plotter or SOTP? Please give us a peek at your writing process.

SOTP all the way. LOL, I never know what's going to happen until I sit down and see it play out on the computer screen, which makes writing a true adventure. However, I do acquaint myself thoroughly with my characters before I begin a story. I know what the character wants, why he or she wants it, and what stands in the way. I strive to include an internal battle, an external battle, and a spiritual battle. This gives me well-rounded characters and a lot of conflict to drive the story.

4. What advice would you give a writer, who is ready to approach an agent or publisher at a conference?

Be prepared, positive, passionate, and professional. That might sound simplistic, but I do believe those four attributes will help you present yourself well. Being well-prepared and professional are important from a business sense; being positive and passionate about your story are important from a personal sense. The four together assure you'll make a good impression.

5. Finally, what new books are you ready to launch? Do many men read your novels?

In September of this year, a Bethany House historical, In Every Heartbeat (the sequel to My Heart Remembers) will be available as well as Katy's Homecoming, Book Three in the Katy Lambright Series from Zondervan. In December, another historical, Courting Miss Amsel, will release from Bethany House. It's a busy year for me! And yes, although I write to an adult female audience, I often hear from younger readers as well as men who enjoy the historical stories for the accurate settings and historical tidbits scattered through the stories.

Thanks for sharing your journey and great tips, Kim. We look forward to your new releases.

Don't forget the giveaway folks! Leave a comment here with your email address, and get one entry. If you haven't already left a comment on the 6/30/10 post, be sure to hop over there for a second entry. Let me know you're a Follower or become a Follower for a third entry.

Deadline: Saturday, July 10, 2010, at midnight. Winners will be notified via email and announced on the blog on Sunday, July 11, 2010.

U.S. residents only. Void where prohibited. No fees are required to participate. Neither the author or her publisher paid for this interview/giveaway.

QUESTION FOR YOU: Kim told us how she gets to know her characters before the writing begins. What drives your stories - character, plot, or a combination of both?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Informational or Invitational? - Creative Non-Fiction - Part 1

One of the first workshops I took at a writers' conference involved using fiction techniques for non-fiction writing. By implementing these principles, I increased my acceptance rate.

Now, why do you suppose that happened? Think back to all the times you read something that merely stated facts. Yawn. In today's media-soaked environment, hooking and keeping a reader engaged requires what I call, "the human touch." The reader wants the writer to care about them, not to bombard them with words like so much buckshot.

When writing a devotional, article or book, the use of a personal story, dialogue, questions, and show/don't tell heighten the impact and call the reader to take some action. Taking a non-fiction subject and drawing the reader into the story enables them to relate on both an emotional and spiritual level.

Now that we understand why fiction techniques are beneficial in our non-fiction writing, we'll be looking at how to merge the two to create a piece that's not only informational, but also invitational.

Even if you're a fiction writer, you'll need to produce promotional materials, letters to fans, and blog posts that will communicate your care and concern for the reader. Have you ever used show/don't tell, strong verbs, dialogue, etc. in your non-fiction writing?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #105

Kathryn Lang, At Successful Freelance Writer, advises us on real or fake freelance writing jobs.

Angela Ackerman guest posts at the Guide to Literary Agents blog about the Breakout Blog.