Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Edie Melson's Reminder List for Writers

Found this on Edie Melson's blog, The Write Conversation.

The Write Conversation

Loved it so much I had to share. It is now my desktop wallpaper, so I will remind myself every time I write. Hope you enjoy these reminders as much as I did!

Connect with Edie through Twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Delia Latham: Embarrassing Mistakes Writers Make


Are you embarrassing yourself in the publishing industry?

No? Hey, that’s awesome!

Hopefully you can look back on this article three, five, or even ten years from now and give the same answer. Chances are, though, you’ll peer back through time and get a bad case of the “boy-was-my-face-red” heebie-jeebies…based on something you’ve done in the past, are doing now, or will do in the future to undermine your credibility in the publishing industry.

None of us do those things on purpose. If we knew we were creating future humiliation for ourselves, we would do whatever it takes to avoid that horrible moment in time.

So let’s think about it now and hopefully avoid a red-faced future—especially when it comes to things we send into an editor’s hands, like query letters, synopses and proposals.

What kinds of things might we be doing that we will regret later?

1.      Not using the spellchecker. Yes, it’s easy to forget. No, it isn’t optional. Use it, even if you have to tie a string around your finger or paint the F7 key bright red (like your face will be if you misspell synopsis).

     And don’t stop there. Spellcheck doesn’t catch everything. Take time to not only spellcheck, but run a search (electronically and/or manually) for often overlooked errors. For instance:

Homophones. Words like their, they’re and there; here and hear; to, too and two. Are you using them in the wrong places?

Apostrophes and their various uses. Know them before you use them. Editors know the difference between it’s and its. You should too. Also, it’s tempting to add an apostrophe with an ending “s” in a surname, but the Dawson family as a group are the Dawsons, not the Dawson’s—unless you’re referring to the Dawsons’ dog/house/yard, etc. That apostrophe turns the name into a possessive.
There are other grammar and punctuation faux pas, but you get the picture. Double-check the details.

The ever-changing rules. Back when I learned to type, everyone used two spaces between sentences. But somewhere along the line, the rules changed. Now we use just one. If you use two, you’re causing your editor extra work, and exposing yourself as an amateur. Know the rules, and abide by them. Passing it off with a lame excuse like, “I’ve done it this way too long, and I just cannot break the habit,” doesn’t get it, my friend. Just break the habit. Yes, you can.
Rules change all the time. It’s important to keep abreast of the industry and informed of the current dos and don’ts.

2.      Unprofessional communication. If you’re going to work in a professional field, be a professional. That includes everything from the way you answer your phone to the way you dress to your e-mail address.

If you have your own domain name, make it something specific to you or the work you do—and be careful of those double entendres. The old KISS rule still applies: Keep It Simple, Sally. (OK, so I paraphrased a bit. I hate the word “stupid,” even when it seems accurate.) If you can use your author name as a domain name, do it. If it’s already taken, use a variation, or add something applicable.

For instance, mine is delialatham.net, since delialatham.com fell prey to a sniper several years ago. If I had been insistent on using a dot.com, I could have come up with other choices: dlatham, dylatham, dlathambooks, etc. I chose to settle for a dot.net so I could use my first and last name, just as it shows up on the covers of my books. What I chose not to do is come up with something oh-so-cutesy, like: deliadoesitwrite.com, dylpickle.com, deliasalwayswrite.com.

The same applies to your e-mail address. If you have a domain name, you probably have a mail option. If so, use it, and keep it professional. Mine is delia@delialatham.net. I also have a Gmail address: dlathambooks@gmail.com. Neither of those email addresses could be misinterpreted as anything offensive or tasteless.

Lose the pet names, nicknames and sexually suggestive monikers. Your editor will appreciate it.

While you’re choosing a mail program, think about how it sounds. One of my former bosses, just learning to get around a computer, asked me to set up an e-mail address for him. He wanted a free mail program, but completely balked at using Hotmail. “Too suggestive,” he said. “Doesn’t sound professional.” That could be considered one man’s opinion, or…? Dare you risk it? 

Play it safe. Do not send an editor a contact e-mail that sounds like an ad for a 900 phone line. She might hesitate to reply to an e-mail addy like: sweetlilthang@...; luvnkitty@...; yourbabybetty@...; puckerupper@... 
I know you hear what I’m sayin’. :)

If you really want to be respected in the publishing industry—or any other professional field—behave in a professional manner. And that includes not only how you present yourself physically, but also any kind of communication with publishers, editors, agents or readers.

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Mind your p’s and q’s. Learn the rules.

And use that handy little spellchecker tool.

(c) July 2014

Disclaimer: If any of the sample e-mail addresses used in this article are real, I don’t know of them, and certainly did not “choose” them off a list. All were plucked out of my head, and I’m happy to leave them there…out of my head. If I inadvertently used your existing e-mail handle, I apologize...if you're not a professional. If you are, you really should consider changing that cyber-name - at least for professional purposes. What you use for your friends and family can be whatever you'd like...I guess. :)


Are you showing your unprofessional side to an editor or agent? Find out how easily it happens on Write Right! with @DeliaLatham.

Is your email address appropriately professional...or have you neglected to mind your p's and q's? On Write Right! with @DeliaLatham.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Angela Ruth Strong: Kid Appeal for Adults

I came to the Christian writing world from the children’s writing world where we had a term that could carry over, but hasn’t. The term is “kid appeal.” Kid appeal defines the kind of writing that is so delightful that it can’t be forgotten.

Now we don’t all write for kids, but I want to suggest that there is such a thing as “kid appeal for adults.” It’s what set authors Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts apart from other Harlequin authors before they were hitting bestseller lists. I remember the first novels I read of theirs. 
Macomber had her heroine crying in the hero’s arms about how she couldn’t bake cookies, and Roberts had her pregnant character always joking about naming her unborn baby “Butch.” I was enchanted. They somehow charmed readers into wanting to read more, like elementary schoolers hooked on Junie B. Jones. Just ask Christian author Tracey Bateman. She learned to write in first person for her Leave it to Claire series by reading Junie B.
There’s a lot we can learn from children’s literature to make our own writing better. Here are the four ways I’ve discovered to create kid appeal in my own writing.

1.)  Playing with point-of-view. Rather than talk about the character’s POV, let’s talk about the reader’s POV. Give the reader a vested interest by showing them something the character doesn’t know or give the character a secret the reader knows they have to find out.  For example, if you have multiple points of view, you can have one character causing trouble the other character doesn’t see coming. Then the reader knows something big is coming. And they care.

  2.)  Dancing dialogue. We’ve all heard the saying, “Show, don’t tell.” Well, dialogue is one of the best ways to do that. What are the things that you want to show through dialogue?

a.   Personality. Don’t tell your readers that the character is arrogant. Show it through arrogant statements.
b.  Relationship dynamics. Do your characters like each other? Do they hate each other? Are they indifferent with each other? Dialogue will reveal this better than anything else.
c.   Motive. Why do they do the things they do? One character might assume they did it for one reason and another character might assume they did it for another reason. Eventually the truth will come out, and different characters could react to it differently through dialogue.
d.  Change. If your characters don’t change, you don’t have a story. How can you show their change through their words? Maybe they don’t come out and say sorry. Maybe they just offer to help the next time around—through dialogue.

  3.)  The pacing race. Pace is how you keep your readers turning pages. They have to keep reading to catch up. First of all, you want to start late and get out early. Don’t show the characters on the way to an event. Start the scene in the middle of the event and before the characters leave. Second, don’t slow the prose with description. Keep description relevant to how the character perceives their world and the choices they make. For example, it doesn’t matter if the carpet is Oriental unless it reminds the character of his/her grandma and makes them feel at home. Last, never let there be a dull moment. Don’t sit your characters down for tea and crumpets to have a heart to heart. Have them doing something active or doing something else that matters to the story that will somehow interrupt the heart to heart.

   4.)  Making memorable moments. Make your story memorable with reoccurring little moments, larger than life moments, moments of self-sacrifice, and moments that tie it all together. This is where the magic happens. These moments need to be unexpected, but when the reader thinks about it, it pulls the whole story together in a way that makes more sense than ever. Like in the movie The Sixth Sense.

To sum it up, I’d say that if you want your readers to have fun with the story, then you as the author need to have fun with it, as well. Let your inner child out to play to create some kid appeal for adults!

About The Water Fight


I, Joey Michaels, am the Water Fight Professional. Basically this means that customers pay me to soak other people. But my super-competitive best friend is sucking all the fun out of summer. All because I made a secret bet with him. Winning the bet wouldn't be so hard if I didn't have the following three problems: 1) My dramatic mother who feels the need to schedule every moment of summer 2) A surfer-dude mailman who can't keep deliveries straight 3) The annoying neighbor girl who all my friends have a crush on If I lose ... ugh, I can't even tell you what I'd have to do. I'd rather lick a slug!

About Angela:

Angela Ruth Strong didn’t run businesses as a kid, but in 7th grade she did start her own neighborhood newspaper. This childhood interest led to studying journalism at the University of Oregon and having one of her stories reach over half a million readers. To help other aspiring authors, Angela founded IDAhope Writers in Boise, Idaho, where she currently lives with her husband and three children (who always love a good water fight). Find out more at www.angelaruthstrong.com.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Susan J. Reinhardt: The Leaning Tower of Pisa Effect

Susan J. Reinhardt

My Mom broke her hip several months ago. She required surgery and extensive physical therapy. The muscles on the side she injured were weak, and they gave her exercises to strengthen them.

As she got better, she began getting around without using her walker or cane. Because the muscles were still not
strong, this caused her to lean to the right when walking and created a "Leaning Tower of Pisa" effect.

The therapist explained the necessity of using the cane when not using the walker to help her stand straight. By not using anything, she was training her muscles to continue the unsteady gait. This could lead to another devastating fall.

As writers, we can get into bad habits that will be hard to break. We're often told we must learn the rules before deliberately breaking them for some literary purpose. Why should we listen?

1.  Story instability—Head hopping keeps the reader off balance. They're forced to do a mental shift when the author should be switching those gears for them. I can almost see them tipping their heads to the side and saying, "Who's talking now?"

2.  Story dysfunctionI once read a book where the author introduced at least 20 characters on the first page. They weren't doing anything in particular. I tried to get through the first chapter, but finally gave up. A famous commercial once demanded, "Where's the beef?" In this case, I said, "Where's the story?"

3.  Story demiseWe get one chance to make a good impression on publishing professionals and readers. Blow that one chance, and it will take a lot to persuade them to pick up our work again.

No matter how much natural storytelling ability we have, it's worth the effort to learn the craft. Just like bad habits in life, incorrect techniques can be difficult to remedy once they're ingrained in our minds.

Writers:  Have you picked up any bad writing habits along the way? How did you re-train your brain?

Readers:  If a book doesn't grab your attention on the first page, will you continue reading it?

About Susan:

Susan J. Reinhardt began writing fiction after an experience in Gettysburg. Surrounded by history, she *heard* the voices of the forefathers as fading echoes. Eight months later, Susan and her late husband were discussing that event when he declared, "That's it! That's your book, and it will be written in four months and be called Ghosts of the Past." The first draft was written in four months and underwent a name change to Echoes of the Past. Later, it became The Moses Conspiracy. A stepmom, daughter, and follower of Jesus Christ—and most recently a widow—Susan enjoys reading, couponing, gardening, family time, and searching for small treasures in antique shops. Susan blogs at: http://susanjreinhardt.blogspot.com.

About The Moses Conspiracy:

In 2025, the Christian World is under attack!

Two seemingly unconnected events set in motion a diabolical plan. Ellie and John Zimmerman find themselves embroiled in a life-threatening investigation, fighting a shadowy enemy.

After a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C. in the near future, Ellie plans a trip with her young son, Peter, and they become separated. At the same time back home, John witnesses a buggy accident with unusual circumstances.

Caught between strained family relations and ominous warnings from a faceless enemy, the couple rely on God for wisdom and protection.

The truth of the past tragedy is revealed. While they may expose the culprits, will they survive the heartache it brings?

Purchase links:

Contact links for Susan:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

DiAnn Mills: Learning from the Pro Writers without Stalking Them

DiAnn Mills
You know who you are. It’s time to step up and be counted. You follow the award-winning, best-selling writers whose success make you drool. Their books are read and reread, often with highlights. Their blogs are ingested like candy, and whenever they speak, you’re there. At conferences, you sign-up for one-on-one appointments and sit at their tables at mealtime. Their Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and whatever other social media is used capture our attention while we’re learning the craft.

That’s not a bad practice. In fact, emulating our favorite writers can establish professional habits, whether it be in

the writing process or in marketing and promotion. Modeling our careers after successful writers is commendable. But stalking a writer through harassment and unwanted attention shoots the follower straight out of the unprofessional canon. What exactly do I mean? Here are nine naughty ways to give you the status of a stalker.

1. Multiple requests for the writer to read your work. Free 
of course.

2. Numerous comments on social media.

3. Pushing a piece of toilet tissue from one stall to another with a note of devotion. (I had this happen during a writer’s conference. I avoided the writer for the remainder of the time.)

4. Repeated emails of your fan status and how you’d do anything for him/her.

5. Sending an abundance of gifts.

6. Shoving a manuscript in his/her face before the first sip of coffee at a writer’s conference. (I had this done. I wanted to bite the writer’s hand.)

7. Planting your rear outside of the writer’s residence. (A good reason for a professional writer to use a post
office box.)

8. Waiting outside the hotel door of a writer at conference.

9. Writing that enlists plagiarism is a crime.

So what can a writer do to increase agent, editor, and professional recognition without being a nuisance? The following are nine ways to model your career after successful writers—the smart way.

1. Approach your writing as a business. To make a business prosper, an investment of time, education,
and money is a necessity.

2. Invest designated hours to learn the craft and write.

3. Invest in how-to books, time to read and reread.

4. Invest in the novels from your genre and read them.

5. Invest in a writer’s conference that provides sound teaching and is well attended by agents, editors, and
respected writers.

6. Involvement in a critique group, via online or face-to-face.

7. Involvement in a writer’s group, via online or face-to-face.

8. Social Media is a must in today’s world of publishing. Learn it. Do it. That means a quality website,
Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, blog regularly and/or guest blog. Practice the philosophy
that social media is not about you but what you can offer to others.

9. Subscribe to blogs and newsletters from those within the industry who have a proven track record: agents,
editors, publicists, marketing and promotion specialists.

10. Understand there is no easy road to publication.

11. Willingness to provide instruction to other serious writers.

12. Wisdom to discern what guideline work for you.

Did you note there are more smart items than naughty ones? A professional writer embarks upon a journey on the road to publication. It may take six months, a year, two years or more to reach your publication goals, but you can do it with the habits of a successful writer and be able to help other aspiring writers too.

About DiAnn Mills:

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2014 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Visit her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

About DiAnn's new release, FIREWALL:

After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Delia Latham: More Than You Can Chew

Matthew 11:28-30—Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

We’ve all done it—literally and figuratively.
That chocolate cake looks so good, and you’re so hungry…so you bite off a chunk big enough for two people. And once it’s in your mouth, you discover there’s no room to chew around it. Getting all that chocolate goodness down without choking becomes a challenge, and you have to make a decision—spit it out and start over, or find a way to swallow it. And somewhere along the way, all the pleasure you’d expected in savoring that cake is gone.
We do that in our lives sometimes too. Call it what you want: too many irons in the fire, overstuffing the turkey, over-filling your schedule.
Biting off more than you can chew...never a pretty sight.
What usually happens when we clog our calendars with more than any two people could comfortably handle is that our stress level soars and our production drops. Drastically. Or we actually do accomplish most of the things on our crowded agendas…but we do so far less capably than we should. Or…we do it all. Perfectly. By giving up sleep, private time, relaxation and even prayer time.
Not good.
My advice? Don’t do it.
And that’s advice born of wisdom acquired the hard way…by falling on my face in all the accumulated stuff I’d overscheduled. I had to learn to say ‘no,’ and let me tell you, that little two-letter word is one of the hardest in the English language to spit out.
It’s also one of the easiest to forget, even when you think you’ve finally learned how to enunciate that one-syllable challenge. I still find myself saying yes all too often, and winding up drowning in my own promises. But I’m getting there, slowly but surely. Learning to turn down the review requests, and the critiques, and a thousand other things that I’d really love to do for everyone who asks. But I’ve finally come to the conclusion that, at some point, saying ‘yes’ might actually be a sin. OK, so I’m exaggerating—a little. But if we make promises we can find no earthly way to keep without having a nervous breakdown…or at the very least, missing a deadline of our own because we promised someone something...isn’t that just wrong?
Yes. It is, because it’s evidence of self-reliance. We’re not meant to rely on ourselves, but on God. When we forget that our strength lies in Him and start trying to do everything on our own, in our own strength, and beyond what God has called us to do…we’ve stepped into deep, dangerous, drowning depths.
(c) Can Stock Photo
I recently read an article by Elizabeth Ruth Skoglund. One simple statement caught my attention and held it: “As Christians we are called to balance, not imbalance, even in the area of our work for God—perhaps especially in our work for Him. God deserves not only enthusiasm and driving effort, but also the quality of a job done with care and balance.”
God’s Word encourages balance in every area of our lives. Yes, He wants us to help others, to encourage them, to give of ourselves in support of our sisters and brothers. But He does not want us to over-extend ourselves to the point of becoming sick, burned out and discouraged. That’s not God’s will for anyone.
Scripture advocates temperance, moderation, wisdom and balance in all areas of life. Those things are within God’s plan. Overextension and burnout are the results of behaviors in exact opposition of those mentioned.
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan had it right all along. “Just say no.” Of course, we all know she was talking about drugs, but many of our well-intentioned behaviors are every bit as damaging.
‘Yes’ is a lovely word, and I encourage its use whenever possible. We should help one another—that’s God’s way. We need each other. But if we’re broken, burned out, discouraged and over-extended, we’re no real help to anyone…and least of all, to ourselves.
When all is said and done, it comes down to doing what we already know is best. Schedule time wisely. Prioritize. Take care of ourselves so we can help others whenever possible.
And say no when it isn’t.

Delia Latham
(c) July 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mary Manners: Stay True to Your Writing Path

Many authors struggle with the fact that marketing tends to devour writing time. Deadlines loom, but at the same time there are books that require promotion. Often the worlds of Facebook and Twitter closely resemble black holes that suck writers in and refuse to release them. The question soon arises: How does one maintain a fine balance between marketing and writing? Here are a few easy solutions that I have found to be highly effective:

Rock Around the Block:
Schedule daily ‘clean-up’ marketing in short blocks of time. By clean-up marketing, I refer to staying connected with readers who have commented on posts, sent messages, etc. These require a fairly quick response and should not be neglected. An example of blocking technique might be to use three 15 minute session: one first thing in the morning, one mid-day, and a third in the evening, when the day’s writing is complete. Set a timer and limit yourself to fifteen minutes per block. Whatever is not completed during that time should be put off until the next block.

Goal for it:
When the black holes beckon, setting a writing goal and sticking to it works well. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. My goal is usually five for five: I must write 500 words before I break for a five-minute trek through the virtual world to see what’s going on. I set a timer and strictly limit myself to five minutes. This technique works very well to help me tackle and tie up my writing projects as deadlines loom; the promise of a trek through a black hole motivates me to get those words down on paper.

Chunk it Out:
When dealing with the bulk of marketing, consider chunking the work into a half-day once a month to schedule tweets and posts. I use Hootesuite to work this in. Hootsuite is a free service and allows Twitter and Facebook scheduling several months in advance. I have found that a half-day provides plenty of time to plan and schedule a month’s worth of information for both of these venues. Additional blocking times throughout the course of a month may be used to work in last-minute posts as well as to retweet and/or respond to the posts of others. As an aside, it is quite beneficial to have all tweets/posts saved in a document with links already shrunk, which allows for quick cutting and pasting.

Take a Deep Breath and WRITE:

The next time the virtual world threatens to snatch away writing time, step back, take a deep breath, and then dive back in to WRITE. Remember these simple tips to help stay focused and enjoy the journey. Happy Writing!

About Mary:
Mary Manners is an award-winning romance writer who lives in the beautiful foothills of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and the cherished cats they've rescued from local animal shelters...Lucky and Gus.

Mary’s debut novel, Mended Heart, was nominated Best Inspirational Romance 2010, and was finalist for the Bookseller’s Best Award and her follow-up, Tender Mercies, was awarded an outstanding 4 ½ star rating from The Romantic Times Book Reviews and was also a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Buried Treasures, her third novel, was named Book of the Year by The Wordsmith Journal. Light the Fire, her fourth novel, took top honors for the 2012 Inspirational Readers Choice Award while her fifth, Wisdom Tree, continues to garner top ratings. Mary was named Author of the Year by Book and Trailer Showcase. She writes romances of all lengths, from short stories to novels—something for everyone.

Learn more about Mary Manners at her website: www.MaryMannersRomance.com and at her author pages at www.PelicanBookGroup.com and www.Amazon.com.