Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Authors: 4 Big Reasons You Need to Blog

Just the other day I was on a loop where an author commented on why they might need a blog. At this point I thought every author had a blog, but maybe not. I think they’re extremely valuable for authors. Here’s why.

You Have a Space You Always Control

I heard a couple authors say they have given up blogging in favor of Facebook. So they post to Facebook alone, get the interaction they crave, and call it good. But not so fast. What happens when Facebook goes away? Starts charging you a monthly fee? Starts using your information differently than you had originally planned? Where will all those Facebook posts go if you can’t use the site anymore?

I like blogging for the simple fact that it gives me a space I can control. I can still post links to Facebook and interact there, but to give up blogging in favor of a platform you can’t control is risky.

To Have a Place Where Readers Get to Know Your Personality

Think like a reader: when you finish a book you love what’s the first thing you do? Probably look to see which books the author has written. This is where the blog is a perfect place for readers to come visit you. You can show them what you’re really like, includes pages of info you’d like them to know, put a prominent spot where all your books are listed… and on and on.

Blogs Are Versatile

Your blog can visually reflect your personality, be a combination of a website and blog (like mine), be a spot where readers can contact you, and a one-stop shop where you list all the places you’ll be in social media and the off-line world.

Blogs today are so versatile you can basically design them yourself. I did that with all of mine and I’m not even a techie person.

Let Your Blog Be the First Thing That Pops Up in a Search

You’d be surprised how many writers allow things like their Amazon page or some random page on a publisher’s website be the place where readers go first to learn more about them. If you don’t have a blog, it won’t come up first in search results and that’s the place where a reader may find you first. So give them a spot that tells them what you want them to know rather than what someone else wants to tell them.

Cherie Burbach has written for, NBC/Universal,, and more. Visit her website,

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Growing Christan Writers/Sharing the Gospel is one of the most beneficial resources in my writing journey. The site claims that it is "The #1 Site for Christian Writers on the Web. FaithWriters is an encouraging COMMUNITY of writers. A great place to learn and grow in a SAFE, CARING environment. I wholeheartedly agree.

     The benefits of membership are huge. I will highlight a few of the features here, but please take a look at the site for the full scope of offerings.

      The Silver membership (free) includes free posting of articles that can be made available to readers from 225 countries, critiques and feedback, two excellent writing courses, and valuable interaction with other Christian writers from across the globe.

     The Gold  membership ($65 per year or $5.41 per month). The top benefit of this membership (and the Platinum) includes the Weekly Writing Challenge. I absolutely love the Writing Challenge. It has been such good practice writing to a theme and with a 750 word count limit. Winners are announced each week and there is money involved in the prizes. Top winners are included in anthologies published by Breath of Fresh Air Press. It has been such a kick for this novice in the business to sign contracts for publication when one of my stories places high. The feedback and critiques of these challenges are so encouraging and beneficial.

     The Platinum membership ($120 per year or $10.00 per month) includes the Writing Challenge, 12 free writing courses, free portfolio builder, free listing of two books in the FaithWriter Store and advertisements, Annual Page Turner Contest, and Best of the Best Contest.

This is one of my favorite things about Jesus

If you take the time to peruse the website, you'll see that I've barely scratched the surface. This resource may be something you want to include in your writing life for 2015. 

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Bells

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
American Poet
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said:
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!" 

About “Christmas Bells” 

“Christmas Bells” is a minor, yet well known, poem written by a very melancholy Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas morning in 1863 during the midst of the Civil War. It is anti-slavery poem as well as a seasonal favorite. 

The poem was written six months after the battle of Gettysburg where 40,000 soldiers lost their life. In addition to despairing over the bloody war, Henry was also mourning the death of his beloved wife Fanny Appleton Longfellow. Fanny died in a tragic fire the same year that the Civil War broke out. In November of 1862, another personal tragedy added to his pain. His son, Union Lieutenant Charles Appleton, was wounded in the Army of the Potomac. 

On Christmas morning in 1863, while sitting at his desk at the Craigie House in Cambridge, MA, Henry was inspired to write a poem as he listened to the church bells pealing. Their constancy and joyous ringing inspired him to write “Christmas Bells.” In spite of his sadness, Longfellow expresses his belief in God and innate optimism that indeed:

God is not dead; nor doth he sleep The Wrong shall fail; The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men!

Sometime after 1872 Longfellow’s poem was adapted into a Christmas Carol. John B. Caulkin (1827-1905) was a famous English composer who set the lyrics to a gentle, melodic tune which is reminiscent of bells ringing. The carol is entitled “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Alternative tunes have been written for the lyrics, but Caulkin’s melody remains predominant. 

I lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1966 - 1967. I was in the seventh and eighth grades. My father was in the United States Air Force at the time. As a student at Portsmouth Junior High School, I took field trips to both Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Longfellow was a Bowdoin College graduate (class of 1825) and was a faculty member before moving to Cambridge to teach at Harvard. 

Great emphasis was placed on a classical education with understanding and appreciation of the arts including poetry when I was in junior high school. We visited the Wadsworth-Longfellow home in Brunswick as well as the home of Joshua Chamberlin. When we visited in 1966, it was newly added to the National Register of Historic Places. I enjoyed seeing his writer's study and desk.

The Chamberlin home has the Longfellow Parlor with a study desk the poet used. Longfellow lived there in 1829 as a newlywed. 

Chamberlin, who graduated from Bowdoin College (class of 1852), also did okay in his career. He was a professor and later president of Bowdoin College. He was a multi-term governor of Maine. He was a Civil War General, recipient of the Medal of Honor, and selected to receive the formal surrender of rebel forces at the end of the US Civil War.

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is in the Public Domain.
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Monday, December 22, 2014

Co-authoring: Blessings and Pitfalls

480 x 720
Brad and I have been sorting through the maze on different sites, trying to get us both recognized as The Simulacrum's authors. I tried to set up a giveaway on Goodreads, and failed because Goodreads doesn't know my name's on the cover. And it took a bit to be able to list the novel among my books on my Amazon page, although it's there now. It was even tricky for me to order books to sell at an up-coming conference. Slowly but surely, though, all the bugs are getting exterminated.
This is something we hadn't even considered when we wrote this together--all the tricks of the trade for presenting a co-authored book to the cyberpublic. If you're with a traditional publisher, this won't be a problem. If you're a couple of newbies at it, you're likely to have to wander the maze too. Right now, Brad is working the magic required to have the book set up for me on Goodreads. I am so glad I don't have to do it. I stink at figuring these things out.
We got other parts of the co-authoring business right. We did remember to do a contract, presenting terms and royalty distribution, so we both know what to expect. We discussed--and didn't necessarily agree on--marketing campaigns and promotions. We discussed (again, without entirely agreeing) our goals for the book. Our definition of success differs, but both are definite measures of success.
What was/is great about working with Brad is that he respects my abilities and listens to my suggestions, as I do his. If you're planning to write with someone, bringing mutual respect into the mix is vital. This is a long-term engagement. Even after you've released the final product, you're still going to be connected through sales and promotional opportunities. And if you decide to expand your product line (large print, audio, etc.), you're going to have to stay in contact. So you're going to have to get along.
We barely knew each other when we started. I saw Brad's ad for a critique partner on the ACFW website and loved the ideas he had. He likes to take on Christian issues and present them in hard-hitting fiction. His writing abilities are . . . interesting, but he's great at outlining what he wants. Y'all know me: Outlining is optional. But for this particular book, it was mandatory, and I knew that. It's fine that I write my novels by the seat of my pants, but something as intricate as a thriller needs to be outlined. My weaknesses are his strengths, and vice-versa, so we make a good team.
Several years after meeting in cyberspace, we're still friends, but I wonder how often people who start as friends end their friendship by taking on such an enterprise. Decker and Lee, Bunn and Oke, and so many others apparently have successful working relationships. I think the key is to do what Katie Weiland often says--slip your ego in your pocket. Successful partnership writing doesn't allow for divas. I like the way it turned out between Brad and me. I'm the strong writer, he's the strong idea-man. We have a symbiotic relationship that doesn't put either as "over" the other.
I'd be interested to know how other teams do it, but I'd be willing to bet the secret to their success is mutual respect.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: Write. Publish. Repeat. By Johnny B. Truant & Sean Platt

Write. Publish. Repeat. 

It seems like an overly simple concept for the publishing landscape. There's more to publishing than that, right? Well, when you get right down to the bare bones of the matter, authors and podcasters Johnny B. Truant & Sean Platt say, no, that's what you need to become a successful self-publisher.

In Write. Publish. Repeat., Johnny & Sean walk you through how they collaborate on their numerous books, their editing processes, how to market, and how to learn to be on the cutting edge of the publishing industry so you can adapt quickly when changes are made. As they say in the book, at least 90% of what they discuss are about strategies--which never change--and 10% on tactics, which can change with the wind.

To be a successful self-publisher, you must be a businessperson as much as -- or maybe more than -- an artist.
Mostly, this book is about being as good a businessman or woman as you are a writer--and learning what works for you. Yes, they talk about what has worked for them, but they warn that what works for them may not work for you.

  Things I love about this book

I've listened to Johnny & Sean's podcast, the Self-Publishing Podcast, for about eighteen months now, and picking up this book was a bit disconcerting because I could hear Johnny particularly in my head as I was reading it. Of course, if you pick up a copy of the audio version, it's read by Simon Whistler, who has a lovely British voice, and is the host of his own self-publishing podcast.

The first 10%ish of the book really gives you a good idea of who this book is for, so if you're not sure, read through the sample on Amazon or your favored book seller. They're very specific about the type of person who would find this book helpful, and I don't think they're wrong. When I read this for the first time shortly after it came out in 2013, it pretty much had me pegged--a writer who had just published her first short story on Amazon KDP Select and was looking to expand as quickly as I was able.

The authors lay out the book very carefully, including a glossary at the front of the book (yeah, the front!) on terms they use that you as the reader need to know. Some are things you've probably heard, but if you don't listen to their podcast, it's possible there's a few things that would be unfamiliar since they have coined some of their own terms. Part Two deals with understanding the self-publishing landscape, Part Three talks about preparing your books, Part Four discusses marketing, and Part Five helps you to learn to think on the cutting edge so you can stay ahead of the wave. At the end, their Self-Publishing Podcast co-host David W. Wright has a series of interviews with several successful independent authors, including Hugh Howey and CJ Lyons.


This book will not be for everyone. As they say themselves, the book is presented in a manner that is like sitting down with your buddy at a bar to discuss publishing over a beer. They tend to present things is a very straight-forward manner, and there is occasional swearing. If you can get past that, the information within the covers is valuable enough to overlook the manner in which it's presented.

If you're looking for a writing how-to book, this may not be the book for you. While there is some of that, especially in Part Three, they quickly state that there are far better books on mechanics than Write. Publish. Repeat. But if you want to get some encouragement if you're considering self-publishing or have just started self-publishing and want to figure out strategies to take things to the next level, this is an invaluable guide.

Write. Publish. Repeat. can be purchased on Amazon and other booksellers. The e-book is $5.99, the paperback $15.99, and the audio book is $1.99 through Audible.


Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking--basically avoiding housework at all costs! A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador.

She blogs periodically at
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014



Good Stories that aren’t experimental have a recognizable beginning, a middle, and an end.

Know what your story is about.

Think in terms of these three elements:
  • A problem (inciting incident)
  • Why the problem can’t be solved (roadblocks, conflicts)
  • What the character is willing to do to overcome the problem (motivation, challenge, victory), which leads to a resolution, if not a happy ending

Break down any book or movie, and it’s good practice, to examine the plot. Some Examples:
Lord of the Rings: One ring to rule them all, one ring to bind them –
Problem: Sauron has the power to take over the known world and that’s a bad thing because he’s not nice and would take away all freedoms and hurt and kill people (BIG HOLE – why him, how did he get this power, and why didn’t anyone else with a ring stop him)
Conflict/problem that can’t be overcome: Frodo, as a small person without any particular gifts, is an unlikely hero with little hope of completing the quest to destroy the ring which is the source of Sauron’s evil power
What he’s willing to do: die trying (he incites such devotion so that everyone else around him helps in whatever way he can)

Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Problem: Dorothy is trapped through a freak force of nature
Conflict: she was forced to accept the silver slippers of the bad witch
What she’s willing to do: face all her fears, and the witch’s sister who wants the slippers, in order to reach the one person she believes can help her get out of the trap – all the subplots along the way and the secondary characters each have their own subplot which all work to help the story along to the conclusion

It works with non-fiction, too, as the books usually discuss an issue, which is problematic as a rule, The Problem; why it’s a problem, what the underlying and overt issues are in solving this issue.
            Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild – well, besides Christopher McCandless was mentally ill, he wanted to experience self-sufficiency in Alaska for a period of time; conflict: he was ill prepared and lost; literary style willingness to solve the issue: he put himself in a position where he couldn’t solve the problem and died
            Jerri Niessen’s Ice Bound – doctor at the south pole who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Problem: diagnosed cancer; conflict: she was in a place where she could not be evacuated for treatment; what she’s willing to do: work with what she had in people and resources to treat herself until help could come—live every moment until it was possible
Why is plotting a book, at least a rudimentary plot, necessary?
  • Character and Setting continuity
  • To avoid character/setting/scene mix-ups
  • To keep the story moving forward
  • To save time on research
  • To give yourself goals/avoid writer’s block
  • To avoid plot holes
  • Avoid time frame issues
  • Keep stakes high and tight
  • Answer the important questions
  • Even flow of information in non-fiction that addresses the initial problem/question
  • to avoid having to rework a timeline
  • So you don’t mess up with a hug plot hole 
  • You really don't want any plot holes

Don’t feed the gremlins after midnight? IT’S ALWAYS AFTER MIDNIGHT SOMEWHERE!

For some genres it’s important, especially mysteries and thrillers, when you need to have clues, plant false clues at specific times, all pointing towards the solution.

Plotting ahead saves some time with research, and
Plotting ahead save major headaches of having events out of order or repeated

With some story lines, writers can certainly get away with sitting in front of a blank page and typing words…it works, but you have to have somewhere to go—even if it’s in your head, waiting to dribble out.

TOOLS of a Plotter

Software, Books – there are so many. I know people who use Scrivener like it. 
I have James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure. I pull it out once in a while.

Do it Yourself - Outline/Synopsis – I like to sit, get up and pace, wave my arms around and talk out my plots, jot notes, get a basic outline of the problem, the people, what has to happen in order to solve the problem, and work from there.

METHODS of planners (on paper, notes or detailed charting, on your walls -- hey, William Faulkner wrote the plot for his 1954 book, A Fable, his symbolic novel about the passion week, on his bedroom wall at the office), or use various models: (pyramid, clock, snowflake, skeleton)
Check Chuck Wendig's blog for 25 Ways to Plot

Freytag's Pyramid - 7 elements of story
Angela Hunt's Skeleton method
Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method
Joyce Sweeney and Jamie Morris's Plot Clock

What’s next for me, the author, after I have my characters and action…How do I figure out what to fill into my plot?

Plotters use an Outline of some kind, ranging from very basic or extremely elaborate. I’ve heard of some writers who do twenty-seventy-five page plot outlines. When you get that elaborate, it’s really a matter of filling in some description and you’ve got your novel. Most publishers who request a synopsis ask for one-three pages, and then only skim, if at all, to see if your story is complete and makes some sense, before they read the first paragraph. Depending on the genre; some authors, like me, write a synopsis very early on--a “nutshell” couple of pages of what my story is all about, boiled down to the most simple elements. That’s not written in stone, so to speak; it’s flexible to some extent, but it also helps me stay on track and avoid large problems and keeps them from happening in the first place.

In fiction, I may need to create a physical calendar to help me keep track of what’s going on when, especially if I have a tight timeline during the course of the book; if seasons are important, or I need to coordinate events with events in real time, such as the original US Moon Landing, the March on Washington, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving throughout history, a major weather event, new moon, etc.

For non-fiction proposals, this element of a complete synopsis, and/or a chapter-by-chapter outline is usually a necessary part of your submission packet.

Help with Pacing: Because I’ve gotten used to writing according to word count, I can develop my stories based on a particular word count. A general fiction work averages 75-90,000 words – that’s around 300-325 pp. typed. I divide the scenes and chapters so that it will come out about right. It gives me a platform to build on to, and keeps me from being either too starved or too bloated in any particular area.

One thing to consider when determining the action is book length. My first published book, The Gold Standard, had to be written according to Barbour’s dictums: It’s a romantic mystery and 40% of the plot had to be romance. All the books had to end up at 254 pages—which changed three times (54,000 words to about 63,000 words, I think) before the first book club offerings were printed. Check this article on genre lengths.

Those are things to take into consideration as you develop your book. Why? Because it affects how much time you can spend on elements of the story, how much work you have to do to develop the characters, how many subplots and secondary characters you can have in your story.

So, remember,
A story Starts Somewhere,
And a good Pre-plan of attack will help you move along to a satisfactory Conclusion.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Review: So Over My Head by Jenny B. Jones

So Over My Head (Book 3 in the Charmed Life Series) by Jenny B. Jones

It’s rare that I read YA books since, well, I’m not a YA. I’m a MA (middle aged adult) but still, if the writing is solid and intrigues me I will pick them up. Or three of them, as I did recently with Jenny B. Jones’ “Charmed Life” series. I adore her writing and one thing I like about her YA works are that they are not written down to a young audience.

I know that I’m not the only one that reads her YA stuff, either. At the ACFW conference last year, I embarrassed myself when I saw her on the elevator by getting all “Oh my gosh, you’re Jenny B. Jones? I love your writing!” right in her face but she was gracious and went with it. Later, I told this story to the table of writers I sat with and they all said they loved her work, especially her YA books.

The books are written with an uplifting vibe, lots of humor, and real romance. Too often when I read a romance it’s all about sex, and there isn’t an urgency for the characters to get together in a deeper, more spiritual way. I like books with a light romantic vibe that tell you all about the characters and give you a sense of their personality. The YA series has the romance drawn out. It’s slow and satisfying, and completely appropriate for a young reader or a middle aged fangirl.

The faith aspect in these books is present but not “hit you over the head” boring. Too often I feel that writers are preaching to me instead of entertaining me, and books need to be enjoyable for their story first and foremost. This book has a sweet but flawed character as the heroine and you see her grow and mature as the three book series progresses. By the third book, you want her to have the things she longs for because you’ve spent the series being thoroughly entertained by her thoughts and humor. You see the character grow and want her to have all that she dreams of. 

Here's all the books in the Charmed Life series by Jenny B. Jones:

Cherie Burbach has written for, NBC/Universal,, and more. Visit her website,

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

To Curse or Not to Curse

I found this article, excerpted in the January 2015 issue of Writer's Digest from Jeff Gerke's The Art and Craft of Writing Fiction, very informative and helpful. Just passing along the highlights in case anyone is interested. I've personally decided that profanity has no place in my writing , but the article (Handling Controversial Language in Christian Fiction) has some great insights and tips for fleshing out profane characters.

Understanding the debate on this subject in Christian fiction, Gerke surveyed published Christian novelists on how they deal with the issue. I highlight here a brief synopsis of proposed solutions.

1. USE ALL THE PROFANITY YOU WANT. One problem with this is that your typical Christian fiction publisher will not let you get away with this. (Me: Good luck with that.)

2. USE WATERED DOWN-DOWN PROFANITY. Will the typical daily vocabulary (dang, crap, heck, and geez) really make your depraved character seem evil? More like he'd like to cuss but is afraid of his mom.

3. USE EUPHEMISMS. This is the most commonly employed solution to the profanity dilemma. Let characters be as foul-mouthed as you want them to be- but don't spell it out.

When Jerry learned of Mary's affair, he let us all know exactly how he felt about her character, her physical attributes and choice aspects of her ancestry. 

This is the literary equivalent to how old movies used to handle sex scenes. The door shut and the screen faded to black. We knew what was going on, but it wasn't demonstrated for us onstage. Gerke uses the term metaprofanity - information about the profanity. We don't see the swearing itself, but we see a description of the swearing. This requires more creativity.


It's something we've heard a million times. SHOWING INSTEAD OF TELLING. The example from his own writing chilled me to the bone without a single curse word:

Little blond Barbie dolls. Cute.
      Dwayne moved through the house with the silence of a roach. He entered the girl's playroom and crept inside. Must be nice to have a playroom and a big room of your own. He bent over the large dollhouse, where a blond plastic bimbo sat askew in her chair having a burger and fries with a redheaded plastic bimbo.
     Moonlight cast soft shadows on the toy cabinets and dress-up bin and pink beanbag chairs in the playroom. Typical. Delicious.
     Dwayne picked up the blond doll and caressed its molded smile with the tip of his hunting knife. The stiff yellow hair fell across the edge of the blade. 
     He snatched the locks in his thumb and fingers, slightly less dexterous because of the rubber gloves. He put his left hand over the doll's face, held the knife to the scalp, and pulled the hair across the blade. The strands came away in his hand reluctantly, like pulling a wing off a bird.
     He rotated the defiled doll before his eyes and felt the excitement rise in his neck. Pretty little thing.
     Dwayne dropped the doll to the carpet and stepped into Camille's bedroom. The kindergartner lay sideways on her Powerpuff Girls sheets, blond hair arrayed over the pillow like a yellow skirt.
     Pretty little thing. 

Yep, totally evil, and not a word spoken.

Gerke challenged readers to reveal the character's foulness through scene, action and thought instead of a direct use of profanity. The same issue of Writer's Digest includes another article of Jeff Gerke's from the same book, Cliches to Avoid in Christian Fiction, and an article by Dinty W. Moore titled Writing the Spiritual Essay. I recommend getting your hands on the 2015 issue of Writer's Digest for the full article highlighted here, and the other two equally informative articles.

What is your opinion on the use of profanity in your writing?

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Monday, December 8, 2014

What I've Learned As A Newbie Author

From user Stacy
One year ago this week, I pressed the “Publish” button for the first time.

I was a scared new author, trying to build some confidence in whatever way I could. And for me, that meant putting up a short story I was fairly pleased with. I’d decided during the year that I was going to try my hand at self-publishing, and while I didn’t necessarily have a specific plan, I knew doing something was better than doing absolutely nothing.

When I pressed the lovely button that sends chills and waves of panic through many authors, I knew I was taking my first step, but the important thing was to make a second and third step. For me, that meant getting the next story out there, not worrying so much if my first was selling or getting good reviews (although I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t check my sales reports rather frequently!).

In March of this year, I found myself in a rather unique position, though not as unique as it used to be. I signed a publishing contract with Splashdown Books, making me a hybrid author. It was an exciting step, something I’d hoped to accomplish for a long time, and it boosted my confidence. Working with an editor for the first time, as well as getting the advice of a good writer friend, both really helped me learn the ropes, to learn more about my weaknesses as a writer, and helped round out my knowledge of how to publish a book.

But I still was a nervous wreck when I pressed “Publish” again in July. On an Amtrak train. Somewhere between Boston, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine.

By the third story, I became a bit of an old hat at this publishing thing. But I still have a lot of learning to do.

Some of the important things I’ve learned in this last year include:

  • Always be doing something, even if it’s not quite the right thing. Learning from experience is sometimes the best (and usually for me, the only way) to truly learn. Publishing a short story on Kindle Direct and doing several free promotions in a haphazard fashion maybe wasn’t the best way to do things, but it did get my short story into people’s Kindles. 

  • Ask advice. I tend to have a bit of a nervous personality (it can come through in my female lead characters). And I’ve also had several major failures in life already, which have led to that extra burst of nerves. While I’m not truly afraid of failure (I’ve been there, done that, and survived to come out the other side stronger), I have a healthy respect for trying to do the right thing the first time. I’m sure many of my writer friends have privately chuckled over some of my questions and the little things I’ve fretted over, but publishing is very nuanced. What works for one person will completely bomb for someone else. But the only way to know for sure is to try it.

  • Be patient. Becoming even a small success takes time. While I haven’t reached what I’d call “successful,” looking at my sales numbers lately is definitely encouraging. I was tickled pink when I realized that my sales in November were more than my sum total of every month prior to it—and it marked my 12th month with stories for sale. 

  • Be humble. I’ve had some tough pills to swallow this year. One that really stands out was a phone conversation I had with someone about my book cover for the novella I published in July. I could easily have been insulted by what this person had to say, but she has marketing experience and has published books in the past. Instead of getting rude and defensive, I listened. I asked pointed questions. Sure, I was a little bummed, but I still took what she said to heart. And I think it made my book covers better as a result. That would have been impossible had I not had a humble spirit. I’m new at this, and I want to get better. I hope one day to land that New York agent, but I won’t unless I have a reputation for being someone who is cooperative and doesn’t always demand her own way.

  • Your next book is the best advertisement for your last—and vice-versa. Unless you write in completely different genres (which I do not), your books will advertise each other. I learned this one from a couple of my favorite podcasts. And recently, I found out it was completely true. Shortly after I published my second novella, Retaliation, sales of its predecessor, Emergence, started taking off. Granted, they’re not much, but hey, I’m thrilled!

If you’re a newbie author, or hesitating on whether you should push that “publish” button for the first time, I encourage you to make your next step. Hit publish. As soon as it’s properly edited, put that next story up. You may not make any sales in the first week—or month. But it’s still out there. And it’s totally worth it.


Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking--basically avoiding housework at all costs! A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador.

She blogs periodically at
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Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Review The Blessed by Ann Gabhart

By Ann Gabhart

Revell, a division of Baker
c. 2011

ISBN 9780800734541
Historical Romance

The Blessed adds to the author’s collection of novels dealing heavily with a Shaker theme. This is the first novel I’ve read by Gabhart, and the first that features Shaker characters.

I appreciated the author’s brief history of the society before reading the book. The Blessed takes place in the mid nineteenth century in a small rural community at the home of the local Baptist preacher and his ailing wife. As a teenager, Lacey Bishop was sent to be the hired girl for Miss Mona. During this time, a newborn baby is left on the preacher’s doorstep, taken in and raised by Miss Mona and Lacey. When Miss Mona passes on, Lacey is forced into a marriage of convenience on her part, but not the pastor’s, in order to maintain propriety and stay in the preacher’s house and continue to care for the growing child. After a visit from two gentlemen from the nearby Shaker community who come proselytizing, the pastor leaves his church and moves his household to join with the Shakers. Once there, Lacey is oddly attracted to a young man, Brother Isaac. But Isaac is another refugee from the outside world, who has been in mourning and rejected after the death of his wife, a prominent judge’s daughter. Isaac was befriended by a Shaker brother who’d come to town on business, and decided to accompany the brother to his home, where he eventually meets Lacey.

The style of writing is introspective, mournful, dour, yet ribboned with snatches of joy and hope as Lacey attempts to keep memories of her happy childhood alive for her young charge. Brother Amos, the man who befriends Isaac, is a delight. But in all honesty, Isaac’s story of guilt and widowhood was a tough start to the book, and I was confused about the preacher’s household setup. The marriage of convenience took place so early in the book that I wondered what would happen to free Lacey even while she met her true love interest. Life in the Shaker community reminded me a lot of other nonfiction books I’ve read about closed societies. People are people no matter how they worship or how they live, and this early Shaker society held little attraction for me.

Gabhart’s fans will surely enjoy this story as an addition to the collection. The story doesn’t exactly fit in the “romance” category, category, however, so if you expect any sparks to fly or relationship ups and downs between the protagonists throughout the book, you won’t find that with The Blessed.
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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

About Agents, Publishing, and Social Media

I promised to write about the Bridge to Publication Conference I attended in Lake Charles, Louisiana, but I didn't realize how much I could learn in a one-day conference and how much I would have to write about. My experience will take all week to share--which suits me fine. I love having good fodder for my blog.
The folks who put this conference together did a fantastic job, and I was honored to be a part of it. So much wonderful information flew through that microphone that I couldn't keep up with it all. The best I can do is give you some of the highlights.
Bridge to Publication Panel 2014
The author panel consisted of myself, Edie MelsonChrista Allan, and Elizabeth Ludwig (I linked each name with their Amazon bio pages so you can check them out). We fielded a variety of questions, but the discussions I remember most--because I needed to hear them as much as the crowd did--pertained to editors and agents. When we as writers have an agent or an in-house editor, we are in a relationship, and it's vital that we have chosen well, particularly when choosing the agent (we don't always get to choose our editor).
LisaAgents do more for us than just broker a deal. Elizabeth Ludwig's agent keeps her focused and prods her a bit to make sure she's working. Under his guidance, her career is off to a wonderful start.
Guidance is one of the things I know I've been missing. Don't get me wrong, my previous agent was wonderful in many ways, but I need someone who can guide me through this business. I'm amazed and dismayed over how much I've done wrong because I've basically muddled through on my own. Although many things have gone well for me, I still wonder what would've happened had I been provided a bit more guidance--or had I at least studied the business side of this business before plunging in head first.
ChristaOf course, whether you need an agent depends entirely upon your goals. If you pursue your career as an indy publisher, you may not ever need one.
Christa Allan is a successful author for Abbingdon Press, but she's finding that the things she wants to write about don't have a home in the Christian houses--or in the mainstream ones. She writes for "the fringe group," as she calls them: those Christians who come from intense backgrounds. These folks rarely have a history of daisies and butterflies, but presenting their stories often offends the sensibilities of other Christians. Yet their stories are distinctly inspirational simply because those whose lives these stories are based upon discovered the healing and forgiving love of Christ--which means the stories will offend the sensibilities of non-believers.
So Christa did some research and discovered how viable the self-publishing route is becoming. She presented the numbers for us during her speech--and don't ask me to quote them, I can't. But she showed what many already know: Indy publishing is becoming one of the most viable businesses around. Along with authors, there are indy cover designers, indy marketers, freelance editors (raising my hand here), indy formatters, indy book reviewers. Anything an author could want is there for the asking--and for a price.
GtLaR Front Cover FinalBut these days, I wonder whether that's really a bad thing. Lynnette Bonner at IndieCoverDesign did my new cover for Give the Lady a Ride and formatted it and uploaded it for a very reasonable price--something around $300, I don't remember--and I earned it all back within that first month.
These days, there is no excuse for bad books--none. Being cheap is not an excuse. Spend the money necessary to produce something fantastic and get it out there. After you've earned your money back, invest the profits in your next book. Be wise about it, of course--don't be sucked in by scams, but do investigate, see who you can afford and go with it. You may discover that someone you've already networked with can be a valuable asset. Do the research, spend the money, get it out there, and let folks know about it.
EdieWhich brings me to the social media game. Edie Melson is one of the queen bees of Social Media. Edie writes for Guidepost, but she's trying her hand at Steampunk--and I totally love her story ideas. Can't wait to get my hands on them! Anyway, as is always true whenever I listen to a marketing guru speak, I learn how much I've been doing wrong and how to make it right.
I am such a flibbertigibbet--I can't wrap my head around the concept of restricting my posts to one thing. That's why this blog has so few followers. I write about me. It's the only thing in this life that I feel like an authority on. This blog is about what I've learned in my walk down the road through the publishing business, but it's also about what I'm going through when I'm sick or when Mom's sick or when the weather shifts from bad to good and back again.
According to Edie, Don't do that! Find something you're passionate about and write about it. It's fine to write about writing, but really--don't you want to reach readers? Write about something they would be interested in. If you're big on cross-stitch, write about it. Write about it everywhere and develop a following among cross-stitchers. Then, you can toss out, "Oh, hey! I have a book coming out in May!" or whatever, and you'll have friends who will be interested and want to support you and read your new novel.
This much I did know, even without Edie telling me: You must treat social media as an opportunity to create friendships. It's not the numbers that matter so much, because on Facebook and other sites, you won't get to chat with everyone you've added to your "friends list." What matters is the quality of followers, the thought that they consider themselves friends and are willing to champion you based on the fact you've developed a relationship with them long before you started pitching your book.
As for me, old habits die hard. This particular blog will always be eclectic. 777 Peppermint Place is my home where I can kick off my shoes and chat with friends about whatever is on my mind. I've noticed that my readership has shifted over a period of time. When I was writing about Mom, I had several followers who were going through the same things with an elderly parent. When I wrote about my illness, I had followers who also had to deal with chronic problems. When I write about writing-- guess who my followers are?
Maybe someday, I'll start a new blog and follow the sage advice of marketing gurus. Even if I do, though, you can always find me here--shoes off, cat on my lap, and coffee by my side.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Authors: Things You Do to Irritate Your Fans

Authors need fans, so we need to do everything possible to show them they are appreciated. But some authors may be irritating fans, even without realizing it. Here are some things authors do to really irk their fans.

Complaining About a Publisher

If someone is a fan of your work, they don’t care about how the book got into their hands. That’s one reason self-publishing is such a great thing. So if you’re spending time on your blog or in social media complaining about your publisher, you’re wasting your reader’s time. They don’t care about the beef you have with your publisher, how you think your publisher doesn’t market you, or even about the amount of royalty you’re getting. They just want to read your work.

One writer I know got approached by a fan on Facebook asking if she was going to ComicCon. She instantly complained that her publisher wasn’t going to send her, and even suggested the reader complain about it to the publisher! Bad move. She probably turned her fan off that day.

Talking About What You’re Making

Your readers only care about what you write, not what you make. They don’t care if you made $1 million or five cents on your last book. They only care that the book is good.

Complaining or bragging publicly about your earnings is sure to turn a fan off.

Secretly Collecting Emails for Your Newsletter

I have a pet peeve about some of the authors that have come to me for interviews at my writing blog. After I give them the interview questions, they add my name and email to their newsletter list! If I want to follow a particular writer, I’ll decide that myself, thank you very much. I don’t need you to add more junk mail to my inbox.

Some writers capture the emails from forums or personal notes from readers and then build their newsletter list that way. They think it’s better to apologize than ask permission ahead of time, but it isn’t. Don’t risk losing a reader for good by sending them email when they don’t want it.

Underestimating the Intelligence of Fans

Readers are a smart bunch. Sloppy writing and editing mistakes will not go unnoticed, and your readers may not appreciate it.

One writer I love decided to self-publish a collection of short stories she had written about a character that her publisher never wanted to publish. Fans loved this, except for the fact that she didn’t have it edited. Tons of mistakes popped up throughout the stories and readers commented on it in the reviews.

Trashing Other Writers

A writer I used to know had crippling jealousy. She’d see that green monster each time a book deal or good review from another writer was announced, and she talked a lot about it on her blog and social media. In particular, she focused on one particular writer who had hit it “big” in a genre she wrote in, and she began writing blog posts about how late to the party this other writer was and how much better her own stuff was.

Within months, she received nasty comments and her readership began to dwindle. Coincidence? I don’t know for sure, but it certainly is bad form to call out writers you don’t like (or are jealous of) as a way to let fans know you’re “better” than they are. She probably shared some fans with this other writer, and her badmouthing had a lasting effect. Her book deals with one publisher dried up after her negativity and she became known as being difficult.

I think this “bashing” attitude spills over into other areas of our lives when we behave this way. What’s more, it puts the focus on the other person rather than on you. A better strategy is to do the opposite. Tell readers about the people you love to read. Promote other writers. Your readers want to find great stuff to read as much as you do, so help them out.

Thinking Fans Will Buy Anything

The word fan might be short for fanatic, but that doesn’t mean your readers are going to buy every single thing you put out. This is important to remember when self-publishing. Some authors have novellas or short intro’s to their popular books that their publisher didn’t want to put out, so they do it themselves as a money-making venture and end up ticking off readers in the process.

One author I know published a short story for $3.99, and received such bad reviews on the price alone he eventually pulled it. Rather than look for ways to make money, look for value. Offer things like short stories or prequels free as a bonus to loyal readers, rather than a way to make money off of them.

Cherie Burbach has written for, NBC/Universal,, and more. Visit her website,

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Review: How to Write & Publish Your Inspirational Short Story by Kristen Clark and Lawrence J. Clark

short story Kristen Clark and Lawrence J. Clark's book "How to Write & Publish Your Inspirational Short Story" is a must read for not only writers of inspirational short stories, but for short story writers of any genre. It delivers on the promise of the book's title. It shows you how to do it.

I liked the way the book begins telling their story of how they got started. The authors share their experiences and lessons learned when writing and getting their work published. They are writing from the practitioner point of view. The content of the chapters matches the chapter titles. Chapters titles like The Art of Getting Started, A Powerful Opening, The Compelling Ending as well as Writing Tips and Editing will guide the want to be writer through the process and serve as sharpen the skills of the established short story author.

Bravo on a job well done. This is a much-needed work addressing the short story from the inspirational point of view with principles and ideas that work in any genre. Five stars with a strong recommendation. It would make a great resource for writing groups or college English writing classes.
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Monday, November 24, 2014

A Mentor's Story

Sherwood Anderson
One way a novelist can become successful is by having a more established writer as a mentor. Writing groups can also serve the role of a mentor. Let me share an illustration of the impact a mentor. 

In 1919, a youthful veteran returned from World War I. He relocated to Chicago moving into a particular neighborhood with the hope of being near to the author Sherwood Anderson.

The green writer was impressed by the critical acclaim for Anderson and his novel Winesburg, Ohio. He had heard that Sherwood Anderson was willing to help aspiring writers. He worked to meet Anderson. The two men became close friends. They met almost every day to read newspapers, magazines, and novels. They dissected the writings they read.

The aspiring writer brought his works for critique having Anderson help him improve his craft. Anderson went as far as introducing the want-to-be writer to his network of publishing connections. The striving author did okay with his first book "The Sun Also Rises." The new writer was Ernest Hemingway.

Sherwood Anderson didn’t stop there. He moved to New Orleans where he met another aspiring writer. He took the young man through the same steps and paces of the craft. He shared an apartment with this young man. He even invested $300 in getting this writer’s first book "Soldier’s Pay" published. This young author was William Faulkner.

Anderson would later move to California and repeat the process with John Steinbeck. Sherwood Anderson also mentored Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell. Ray Bradbury says Winesburg, Ohio was on his mind when he wrote The Martin Chronicles. He rewrote Winesburg, Ohio placing it on the planet Mars.

Only Mark Twain has had a greater influence in molding modern American writing than Sherwood Anderson. Anderson didn’t do too badly, did he? William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck each won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and there are multiple Pulitzer Prizes between them.

If you are serious about writing I encourage you to find a mentor or join a writing group. The support of my writer’s group and critique group keep me motivated. If you are an established writer, why not invest in the life of a new or aspiring writer?

Photo Credit: Public Domain
Photographer: Carl Van Vechten
English: Photo of author Sherwood Anderson.
Date: 29 November 1933

Source: This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a42796. As the restrictions on this collection expired in 1986, the Library of Congress believes this image is in the public domain. However, the Carl Van Vechten estate has asked that use of Van Vechten's photographs "preserve the integrity" of his work, i.e, that photographs not be colorized or cropped, and that proper credit is given to the photographer.
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