Friday, January 31, 2014

Writing in Obedience Release and Pre-order

Writing in Obedience

I can't believe how quickly Eddie Jones at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas got this up on Amazon! Basically, from December to January, since I was working on the project after Thanksgiving. True, the release date isn't until March 18, but it's available for pre-order now!
Terry wrote the back cover copy:
This book is for the new Christian writer or the writer looking to decide how God wants them to incorporate their faith into their writing. How do we know what the Lord wants us to do? Are we being called to write or do we want to write for Him as an offering? What is required of the author using their writing for the Lord and how do they go about it? What do we really want to achieve with our writing, and how do we define success?
Also included in the book is a definition of Christian Fiction as a genre and a discussion of the different audiences authors in this genre address--along with the structure best used to reach their audiences for God.
Terry and I both include personal stories of our writing journeys, and Terry answers some questions I've fielded through some on-line loops and groups pertaining to the query process. He covers the query process in his short book, A Writer's Survival Guide to Getting PublishedWriting in Obedience was initially intended to be a companion piece.
So here's the deal:
I'll give away a copy of A Writer's Survival Guide to Getting Published to three drawing winners. Just pre-order Writing in Obedience and leave evidence of your order here on this post to be entered into the drawing.
Winning names will be drawn Monday, February 3rd!
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cliches- They're a Dime a Dozen

We're taught to avoid cliches- overused phrases that weaken the prose. 'Rita worked like a dog at the counter.' 'Tyler ran like the devil himself was chasing him.' I've stumbled onto them like this; when I write, I hit my stride (I know, that's a cliche) and get caught up in the story, losing track of time and life around me. Later, I read it over, and a cliche raises it's ugly head (another cliche!). I edit it, changing it to a simile or metaphor, or sometimes completely rewrite the section. Of course, the first rule of writing is there are no rules. That's been said so many times that it's a cliche. However, I feel there can be a place for cliches, proverbs, or common sayings.
You can make it your protagonist's mantra, his basic belief that drives him. With the myriad sayings and quotes available to us, anything can work. For example, she could live by the words, 'Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me.' She's not going to take another chance on anything or anyone. Contrarily, she could live by, 'To live is human; to forgive is divine,' and could take too many chances, getting in trouble with her naivete. Whether you inject the actual quote into your story or keep it in mind for your character, it can help keep them on track and stay true to themselves. Now get back to writing. Write like the wind. D'oh!
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Monday, January 27, 2014


Using Beta Readers
 by Lisa Lickel


You’ve heard a rumor that authors use beta readers. Besides a letter of the Greek alphabet, or a type of radiation, what are these? And if there’s a beta, does that mean there’s an Alpha and a Gamma? Aren’t gamma rays bad for you?

Pull up a chair, let’s talk.


Beta Readers are people who read a complete version of your manuscript. While other authors I know choose to use Readers at various stages of completion, or during the writing process to get feedback on certain scenes, these are not technically Beta Readers. And, yes, here’s where the Alpha reader concept comes in: use Alpha readers ad “first” readers who get peeks while you’re working. They’re people you trust, people who know you and how to tell you when something is garbage. Use beta, or second, readers for a more complete version of your manuscript, after it’s been de-trashed.

When you've worked the manuscript through revisions, hopefully with your writing/critique partners, maybe agent, have gone through it with your self-editing techniques, and you feel it’s pretty much ready for submission, you ask a number of people to “test drive” it for you. Believe it or not, larger publishing houses do this even before taking a manuscript to a full pub board. They hire several people to read through a book and give an opinion. Movie makers have test audiences. It’s common practice to run a product through a grinder before you try to sell it to hard core influencers.

The basis, then:

Why have Beta Readers?
Test Drive your book with a public readership
Find the slow and weak spots, as well as to encourage you, the author, that your book is good enough to be read by the general public
Develop a future audience

So, who are Beta Readers?
They should be:
Readers, not writers
People who like your genre
People who are not related to you by (thick) blood – third cousins twice removed are probably fine
People who can get back to you at a specified deadline
People who will be honest; brutal, even, and still say hello behind the bank window or in the grocery check-out line

Where do you find Beta Readers?
Preferably some face-to-face people in your community, such as your librarian or school teachers who have some time in the summer, maybe
Maybe a couple of neighborhood friends
Other service people (my bank loan officer likes to read and was thrilled when I asked her)
People in your service club or social group or church
People in your reading group
People at work? Eh – your call; beware of potential awkwardness if they can’t follow through or don’t care for your work

Can you find Beta Readers online?
Sure, but make sure you know them and know for sure they won’t pass your manuscript around. It’s also easier for them to duck and hide if they don’t like your stuff, or forgot to actually read it, or was just being nice by saying yes and never really had any intention of actually reading it. One time only did I put out an open call for beta readers and was excited about those who answered – people I never would have even thought of asking. You know who actually read the book? Just one of them - a woman who was fighting cancer and busy with other work of her own besides.

What if they don’t get back to me?
Yeah, pardner, had that happen once or twice. Follow up with one or two messages, e-mail, call, visit if that’s your connection, but don’t pester. If you gave a hard copy, simply ask for it back and assure the reader it’s okay if he just didn’t have time, but you’re on a deadline. Don’t burn any bridges, and always stay positive. Let her know if she didn’t know what she was getting into, it’s all right; if he wants to try again sometime when life is less hectic, why you’ll keep him on your list. Don’t hound the person – it’s not worth it in the short run, but if you have any issues at all with potential piracy, you’ll need to keep a little pressure on until you’re assured otherwise. And then put that potential reader on a different list.

Do you pay Beta Readers?
That’s up to you; I prefer not with money, because then responses might get skewed and it even could be considered as work-for-hire in your business accounts. For my face-to-face Beta Readers, I will take him or her out to lunch or give a small gift to say thanks, and often a copy of the book when it comes out. This generally keeps them happy and gets them talking to others—and we all know the best marketing strategy, right? WORD OF MOUTH!

Any other questions or thoughts?

So, have any of you used Beta Readers? Share your experiences, if you’d like.
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Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Book Review: Survival Chronicles Books 1 &2

If you like Dystopia or Post-Apocalyptic novels these should be right up your alley. They are by Erica Stevens and the titles are Survival Chronicles: The Upheaval and The Divide. Ms Stevens is writing the third in the series now and posting chapters on her website and facebook pages each Monday. I'm reading them every week.

The Upheaval starts on a normal July day in Massachusetts. Then all hell breaks loose with massive earthquakes. Think about 12 on the Richter scale. Buildings collapse, broken power lines, gas lines, fires, tsunamis. You know the drill. The novels follow several characters as they try to get to a safe place. One chapter from each point of view. The core group eventually comes together as they journey inland.

Something has been unleashed by the deep fissures in the earth which is causing people to get sick then to become, not zombies but close. I'm not a zombie reader but by the time they appeared I was too interested to stop reading. It's obvious that the illness will eventually kill the people but in the meantime they are ravenously hungry and don't care where they get the meat they crave from. Needless to say the group must keep from being eaten.

The struggles of life are well laid out. Finding food, water, running vehicles, gas, supplies, weapons and ammunition are basics of each day as the group moves further inland. Keeping away from the masses who have the disease and dealing with the loss of family, friends and the world as they knew it take an emotional toll on each member. 

Book one ends with the group getting split apart by another earthquake which is deep enough to allow magma to rise in the fissure. The Divide is the two small groups trying to get back together at the home of Xander's grandmother. 

Coping with the new reality stretches each person as they deal with things they never thought could happen and the things they have to do to survive and keep those with them alive and well too.

I loved the premise, natural disaster so massive society collapses and the struggle to stay alive. The zombie thing, well, I think it's pretty easy to have herds of people becoming zombies and trying to kill the healthy people. My question is why don't they eat each other?

I became involved with the lives of the characters. The events don't all revolve around the zombie people. They aren't called zombies in the books. In fact the term is discussed by the characters and rejected. These people were ill, but in the choice between killing or being killed no mercy was given. Understandable.

I posted reviews for both books on Amazon giving each 5 stars because they held me in their grip. I'm reading Book 3 as it's posted on her website. It is a series which must be read in order.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Punctuating to Dramatize Action


Donn Taylor

In matters of writing, punctuation is not the most exciting subject. Neither is the matter of compound predicates. However, there is a technique of punctuating compound predicates that can serve the fiction writer well.

The literary critic Stanley Fish wrote several decades ago that a sentence means everything that happens to the reader as he progresses through it. This gives the writer another way to dramatize the actions described in his sentences, and it can easily be applied to compound predicates. Here is a sentence that can be written and punctuated two ways:

              The man hesitated and then spoke.

              The man hesitated, then spoke.


            The comma forces a pause, dramatizing the man’s hesitation. But that dramatization is lost if the sentence is written with the “and,” rushing the reader through to the second action. Here is another example:

The rifle held steady, then wavered.

The rifle held steady and then wavered.

The first example dramatizes the action of holding steady and the pause before wavering; the second de-emphasizes the steadiness and rushes the reader through to the action of wavering.
            The principle is this: Use the “and” to rush the reader through the sentence to suggest continuous action, but substitute the comma for “and” to make the reader pause, suggesting a time lapse or at least separation of the predicate’s two actions. Here are several examples from my novel Deadly Additive, written both ways here for comparison of effect:

Kristin and Jocelyn exchanged a questioning glance, then stared again at the door.

Kristin and Jocelyn exchanged a questioning glance and then stared again at the door.

She shivered once, then steeled herself to endure a long, cold night.

She shivered once and then steeled herself to endure a long, cold night.

After jogging half a mile he paused to catch his breath, then proceeded at a walk.

After jogging half a mile he paused to catch his breath and then proceeded at a walk.

He took a sip of his drink, then started in alarm.

He took a sip of his drink and then started in alarm.

Deliberately, he touched his forefinger to his lips, then gently pressed it to hers.
Deliberately, he touched his forefinger to his lips and then gently pressed it to hers.

             Both forms are acceptable, but the effect is different—a matter for the writer to choose which is more appropriate for each situation. Speed readers will not notice the difference, of course, but then speed readers miss much that the text of a novel contains.

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