Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Two Platform Lessons

Marketing experts always suggest asking for endorsements, and aim pretty high. What could it hurt? I want my message to reach as many folks as possible. So I took a deep breath and asked some pretty big names for endorsements and reviews. I also asked some  lesser known authors and reviewers. Here's what happened.

The famous, high profile authors responded to me within a few days. The answer was "Sorry, no," but I received warm congratulations and well wishes. (Apparently, when you reach a certain pinnacle of success, your name doesn't belong to you anymore, or at least that was the case for one of the authors.) The emails were from assistants. That didn't bother me at all. They responded, and wished me well. The messages might have even been automated, but it didn't seem that way.

The lesser known folks DID NOT RESPOND. Now I will concede that there could be many reasons for that. This is not a rant or criticism, but it just illustrates a point. Who do you think I'm still a huge fan of, and who do you think not so much? The response I received solidified the message of the authors who responded. The lack of response caused me to lose a little faith in the message of those that completely ignored me.  Let it be noted that everyone with whom I have a relationship, whether multi-published or not, online or in person, said Yes!.

So the lessons I've learned in this journey so far are:

1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

2. Relationship - build relationships with people who need your message and/or who can help get your message out there. 

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Interlinking serials by Dave and Diane Munson

from Lisa Lickel

The concept of interlinking serial stories is a really fun way to write books that interest multiple audiences. Dave and Diane Munson, formerly involved in the US Federal Service as an agent and prosecutor, have created fiction based in part on what they know of how agencies like NCIS work, thereby adding a layer of authenticity to their family friendly fiction. So far they have created two adult series around a female and a male federal agents, both with families, and the Truth Seeker series for Young Adult readers (and those who like to read them!) featuring the kids of the agents.


Paperback, 224 pages
Published 2012 by Micah House Media
ISBN 9780983559023

$4.99 eBook

$9.99 Print

I met Dave and Diane at a conference and bought one of their books--this one. Hard to believe it's been five years. The Munsons have a fun, exciting background which makes them uniquely qualified to write these linked series of stories about federal agents and their families. Night Flight is the first of a young adult series linked to the "family friendly" adult series.

Agent Bo Rider's teenaged children accidentally become involved in a federal case of counterfeit money and go to hide out with their mother's parents in Florida. Naturally they find more adventure with smuggling and a homeless child.

It's been a while since I've had teens around, so I asked my high school teaching husband about the typical teen behavior and learned the Munsons were right on target. Junior high and teen readers up to fifteen or sixteen will like these stories flavored with enough danger and adventure, and the typical teen actions like getting a driver's permit. A retired working dog named Blaze plays a prominent role, so pet people will love reading about him. Faith talk also interweaves the narrative.

The story is told from both kids, Glenna and Gregg's, viewpoints, so the reader travels right along with them as they visit the beach and scary neighbors, airport, and ride in boats. One scene is from the crook's perspective. The book is a nice length, not too short to feel as though you're missing something, but not epic fantasy length for readers who may not have the patience to sit through a longer read.

I also recommend visiting the Munson's website for more background information and a look at the  interlinking series of books.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

You Edited My Book? Guest post by Mike Ehret

Recently, I contributed a novella to “Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection.” Seven of us—including Linda Yezak!—participated and we had a blast! My story, “Big Love,” introduces two people involved in building tiny houses who come together in a surprising way:

Berly Charles remembers the days before her father was a successful business tycoon in Indianapolis, Ind. Growing up a razor’s edge from homelessness planted a tiny desire for home in her heart that she now fills for others by building their tiny home ideals. 
Nathan “Rafe” Rafferty is a writer for a nationally recognized architecture journal who is used to calling his own shots. When he gets assigned to cover a new trend—tiny houses—the idea makes him furious. Could it be because it reminds him of when he and his mother had to live in a lean-to shack under a railroad trestle in Indianapolis? 
Homelessness expanded her world and constricted his. Now she needs his help, but he only remembers the pain. Can they find big love in a tiny house?

So that’s the story I wrote. And it was perfect. I sent it off to Linda for editing, content in knowing that while she might find an occasional typo or missing word, extensive editing was not needed. After all, I am an editor myself. (I’m trying not to break my arm patting myself on the back.)

But—and I’m not sure exactly how this happened—when I received my manuscript back from Linda, she had edits. On every page.

No, really. The book was FULL of them.

She called me “dash happy” and even questioned my parentage! Apparently, writing—like—William Shatner talks—is—a little—too much—style. And I guess I prefer the British spellings of certain words to the less colourful American spellings. So kill me.

But then it got worse.

Linda Yezak—bless her heart!—said I wrote a cliché. Or, maybe, several of them. Land o’ Goshen! That woman couldn’t see the forest for the trees. She left no stone unturned trying to ferret out clichés. In a nutshell, at the end of the day, even though she was bold as brass, Linda was right (that hurts) because two wrongs don’t make a right and two (or more) clichés don’t make great sentences. Am I right?

Here is another thing Linda suggested I fix in “Big Love.”

A good editor walks the line between suggesting improvements and making improvements. In this example, Linda suggested that she thought I could do a better job showing Rafe’s evolving feelings for Berly. She was right. Here’s the original:

He opened his file for another review of his research and was gripped again by her eyes in the IBJ portrait piece—as well as the playfulness of the pose. The photographer had shot her as Rosie the Riveter, only she had a hammer in her hands. It was cute. Very cute. 

Linda underlined "was gripped again by" and commented, "I bet you can find a better way to do that."

So, here's the fix from the final manuscript:

He opened his file for another review of his research and saw Timberly’s portrait again. Those eyes. So deep and sparkling with playfulness. The photographer had shot her as Rosie the Riveter, only she had a hammer in her hands. It was cute. And charming.  
In the first—“was gripped again by her eyes”—is narrative telling. The second—“Those eyes. So deep and sparkling with playfulness”—is deeper POV showing. The reader sees Berly’s eyes from Rafe’s point of view, not mine.

Linda, like any fine editor, took my story, in my voice, and showed me ways to improve it—make it stronger. That is the benefit of a great editor. And that is why we all need them. Even me.

Michael Ehret has accepted God's invitation to write with Him and is also a freelance editor at In addition, he's worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal magazine for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), was editor-in-chief of the Christian Writers Guild, and he pays the bills as a marketing communications writer. Michael sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.

He’s been married for 36 years to Deb and they have three children, one dog (a miniature Schnauzer named Baxter), and a granddog. Since he writes fiction by the seat of his pants, who knows what’s next?

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Grin and Bear It

Yesterday my daughter, five-year-old granddaughter, and I hiked a mile in and a mile out yesterday through deep Alaskan woods to the foot of the Byron Glacier. It was a life-changing experience, and nothing makes you feel smaller than a glacier. Believe me on that.

Here's Byron Glacier. Notice you can't
see me? I told you they made you feel
small. (And just forget I'm behind the
camera. That's not important.)
In and around the parking lot and on bulletin boards near the entrance to the hike were prominently posted bear alert notices. It's late spring in Alaska and bears, newly awakened from their winter hibernation and many of them with young cubs, are hungry. Very hungry. And somewhat ornery. So to be on the safe side, the authorities caution hikers to make noises, whistle, shout occasionally, or otherwise make themselves known to bears who might be in the vicinity. Nobody wants to walk up on a bear--a mother bear, in particular--no matter how much you want a picture.

We had no problems in that regard. Molly, my granddaughter, is a great noisemaker. She sang, marched, called out marching orders (if, Heaven forbid, everyone around her wasn't marching), yelled, whistled, chattered incessantly, and occasionally shrieked at the top of her lungs for no apparent reason. She was downright joyous. She wasn't bothering anybody since at a mile long, the path comfortably held several hikers without anyone being on top of anyone else. At one point, I suggested to her mother that we tape her, then sell copies to other hikers so they could avoid making their own noise. No sense letting all that talent go to waste.

What does this have to do with writing? I'm getting to that.

Thanks in large part to Molly's efforts to warn bears to our presence, we didn't encounter any. They'd have had to be blind, deaf, and downright crazy to approach us anyway. They probably covered their ears and hightailed deeper into the woods the minute we got within a mile or two of them. We hiked back to our car and drove to the small town of Girdwood to get some ice cream and took a drive around the little village before heading back toward Anchorage. In passing one side road (to the water and sewer plant, no less), my daughter noticed something white and out-of-place. She turned around and as soon as we turned down the road we saw a huge bald eagle take off (it's wing span had to top four feet). I was busy being agog at the bird, but Darice noticed something else down the road. It was a bear--a baby cub--climbing its way up the telephone pole. I think that's what the eagle was after. I don't know if they eat bears, or just attack them for the fun of it, but heck, what do I know? Anyway, by the time we got to the pole, the baby was gone and in its place was Mad Mama. I got a few shots of her running into the woods at top speed (word of Molly had evidently spread quickly).

My point to this is that while in the location where we should have encountered a bear, we didn't. And then in the most unlikely of places, a water and sewer treatment plant, we not only found a bear, but its mother, and a predatory eagle. We were surprised and amused as you can well imagine.

How does this apply to writing? Well, I think that's the way we should approach our writing, particularly in scenes that can become predictable. Dangle the obvious in front of the reader, then pull it away, and then when they least expect it, toss it back at them. This would work with a variety of genres--tense horror moments, humorous scenes, even romantic ones. Readers are readers because that's what they do. Read. And because they read a lot, they can almost predict what writers are going to do if we're not one step ahead of them. This technique is nothing new. Authors have been using it for ages, but played well, the reader won't realize that's what you're doing until it's done. And that's the beauty of it. It's one of those things we have to use carefully and with restraint, or else the reader will overcome us and get one step ahead. We don't want that.

Always keep them a step behind. And always, always leave them wanting more.
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Friday, June 16, 2017

Are You Missing the Target?

Do you know what your target readers want? Is it laughter or tears, mystery or intrigue, history or current events, entertainment or enlightenment, education or escape? No matter in what genre you write, you should know what your target readers are interested in finding in your book, novella, short story, article, poem, or non-fiction work--and then give it to them.

I think it's safe to say that most readers are, at the very least, looking for an escape of some sort from the everyday events that gobble up their time. There will always be something else to do, some other chore or email or text or phone call, not to mention television show, movie, social media, magazine, or ... gasp!... another book to keep them away from your work. And that's why we target them specifically.

Short of polling them individually over the phone ("Hello, I'm the author of a book you're going to pick up someday, and I want to know what I can do to make you finish it, love it, and recommend it to your friends. This call may be monitored for quality control or training purposes."), we have to get inside our future readers' minds and figure out what will make them choose your book over a zillion other things they could be doing. If you write mystery, make sure it's as mysterious (duh), cunning, full of twists, and heart-stopping as you can. If you write romance (keep it clean, folks--that's just my personal preference), make the hearts of your women readers pitter-patter dangerously fast, and the hearts of your men readers swell with the hope they have that effect on their wives and girlfriends. Speak to them. Get inside their brains. Figure out what they want and give it to them.

Here I am after I found out one of my
readers was having a fling with another
author. Wait, that's not me. That's an angry-
looking shark. Well, at least that part's right. 
If you write in the inspirational genre, give them something new and different to be inspired by. Look at things a bit differently and slant your work in such a way that your readers haven't read it a hundred other times. Believe me, as much as we don't want to think about this, our readers have read other books by other authors in the same genre. Yes, I know it hurts to think they would cheat on us like that, but hey, they're readers. They can do that. They have no binding contract that says they will read only our work; no oath that promises they'll be faithful forever and ever. Amen. They should, but they don't. Sigh.

A long time ago, I decided my target readers wanted to laugh, and that's what I hope I give them. Good, long belly laughs, snickers, smiles, guffaws. Of course, I have to combine those laughs with mystery or else I'd be writing a joke book, and I promise you that wouldn't be a good thing. But if I decided to write in a different genre, I'd have to change my target audience to those readers who wanted mystery/romance/paranormal/inspiration/whatever. Readers can't be lumped into one huge pool of potential lovers of your work. We have to take the time to figure out what we're writing and just who's looking for what we write. Then we write it and make sure those you're targeting know about your work. That's another topic for another time.

Then we corner them whenever possible to sign that "I swear I'll never read another author in your genre again" contract. Believe me, it's not as easy as it sounds.
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Monday, June 12, 2017

Method Writing

Method Writing 

While mentoring in a writing clinic at Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp some time ago, I was describing how to make character point of view work. I’d been working with the author for some time, and all it once, it clicked. I could see it in his eyes, his posture, his expression. He put on the face of his character. He even began to speak with his character’s voice, and when the author looked around the room, I saw the way he tilted his head at the way the chairs were arranged and at the pictures on the walls. It was as if he was seeing those things for the first time.

Yes! This author finally figured it out—see only what your character sees. Hear only what he or she can sense, know only what’s inside that one person’s head, and react based on—okay, ouch, backstory. Verily, my friends, this is why you—the creator—need to know your backstory, which, seriously, your reader does not.

It occurred to me as I watched this author transform and begin to scribble fresh that what we were doing was very close to method acting. The author internalized the character and could only then begin to understand how to make the story dance and sing without holding the strings or arranging the set.

Image result for method actingWhat is method acting, you ask? The quick story is all that avant garde stuff coming out at the turn of the century, the predecessor to the flapper era and Vaudeville, of Realism from one’s own perspective in painting, decorating, dress, speech, travel…hep cats…started with the Theatrical Realist Movement, through acting coach Constantin Stanislavski in the early twentieth century. Stanislavski taught his actors to consider the characters they were portraying, dredge their own psyches for emotional ballast, and meld that to a physical interpretation of the character for the stage. A couple of decades later, Stanislavski’s colleague Lee Strasberg (above) advanced the “System” into today’s Method Acting. He taught a full immersion into the character. The actor becomes the character in order to portray. You can read about the extremes some of today’s actors go to here.

I turned to the New York Film Academy for advice and found the four guidelines of method acting very applicable to authors. Please note that this will not apply very well if you consider yourself a seat of the pants (SOTP) writer because some planning is involved. Note I didn’t use the other P word—plotting, but planning. It will take some discipline to set up your character so you can bond.

1  Analyze your story. What are your character’s goals, objectives? What are they willing to do, to risk, to achieve those goals? What is his or her desperation level? What would knock her out of her comfort zone? Does he even have a comfort zone? What needs to fall in place in order for her to reach for the prize?

2  Build a Back Story. I can hear all the rejoicing! Yes! But think of this almost as journaling. Most of this will never make it into the book. “To know a character, you must know about their past.” What in the character’s history will help you figure out what he or she is capable of? How can you grow your character’s psyche from how he was raised? What things happened to her at school or home?

3  Connect. If you were physically being this character, what would it feel like? What could you alone see, hear, touch, feel, know, only as that character? This is, in a nutshell, point of view.

4  Practice and Apply. This is your opportunity to work out scenarios. Ask a lot of “what ifs.” Hurt your people and see what they do. Don’t be afraid to write a scene several different ways. Is this person the type to pray only when hanging by fingernails? Will she follow strict orders to stay put? Is he afraid of dogs, when the dog has the answer?

Related image

I appreciated the way the article ended, with a question and answer, which we apply to writing—what is method writing? It’s letting your characters act out your story.

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Friday, June 2, 2017

New Christian Releases!

June 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Engaged by Julie Arduini -- Trish Maxwell returns to Speculator Falls with egg on her face and apologies to make as she tries to determine what's next, especially when around paramedic Wayne Peterson. (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter -- When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down. But when Josephine drives out to Noah's North Georgia cottage to deliver the corrected papers, they are trapped there during a snowstorm. Things couldn't get worse…until they are forced out into the storm and must rely on one another to survive. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Zondervan])

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac -- Would you give up everything for a life you hate with the person you love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

An Encore for Estelle by Kimberly Rose Johnson -- A former A-list actress seeks to redeem herself in the most unlikely of places—a children's theater. The writer/director didn't anticipate a famous actress would ever show interest in his musical much less him. Will their pasts pull them apart or join them together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Cowboy's Baby Blessing by Deb Kastner -- When Ex-soldier Seth Howell suddenly becomes guardian of a two-year-old, he needs Rachel Perez's help. Though she is gun-shy about relationships, this handsome cowboy and his adorable son break through. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Finding Love by Toni Shiloh -- Delaney Jones is putting her life back together after widowhood when in walks Army soldier, Luke Robinson. Luke had a part in the death of Delaney's husband--will his secrets widen the gulf in their relationship or will he finally find absolution? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)

Cozy Mystery:

The Copper Box by Suzanne Bratcher -- When antiques expert Marty Greenlaw comes to Jerome, Arizona to search for a copper box she believes will unlock the secrets of her past, deadly accidents begin to happen: someone else wants the copper box, someone willing to kill for it. (Cozy Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)

General Contemporary:

Coming Home – A Tiny House Collection by Yvonne Anderson, Michael Ehret, Kimberli S. McKay, Pamela S. Meyers, Ane Mulligan, Chandra Lynn Smith, Linda W. Yezak -- Tiny houses are all the rage these days, but what can you do with something so small? Here are seven stories about people chasing their dreams, making fresh starts, finding love, stumbling upon forgiveness, and embarking upon new adventures in tiny houses. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)

Katie's Quest by Lee Carver -- Katie Dennis hopes for fulfillment as a single missionary nurse after the death of her fiancé. She trusts God for a new direction, but she'll never fall for a pilot again. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

A Sweetwater River Romance by Misty M. Beller -- Rocky Ridge Stage Stop Manager Ezra Reid is put in a difficult situation when two ladies show up on his remote doorstep seeking refuge, one of them being Tori Boyd, the mysterious correspondence partner writing him letters for over a year now. Tori refuses the most proper solution to their circumstance—marriage. But when danger follows, it will take a lot more than luck to ensure Ezra's heart is the sole casualty. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin -- In German-occupied Brussels, a WWI nurse struggles to keep two life-threatening secrets. She's in league with the British Secret Service, and she's harboring a wounded British pilot. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection by Susan Page Davis, Susanne Dietze, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Gina Welborn -- Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas', finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn't return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere -- When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage. A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he's glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can't wait to leave behind. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson -- Set in WWII, an Irish woman must choose between her heart and her freedom when she finds a downed combatant pilot. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press)

Mail Order Sweetheart by Christine Johnson -- Singer Fiona O'Keefe must make a wealthy match to support her orphaned niece. Musically talented Sawyer Evans is a self-made, but not wealthy, sawmill-manager. Unwilling to live off his father's railroad fortune, can Sawyer prove to Fiona he's the man she needs when she's already determined to mail-order a rich husband? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Freedom's Price by Christine Johnson -- On a quest to find her mother's family in Louisiana, Englishwoman Catherine Haynes enlists a dashing Key West man seeking revenge for his own family. When an incredible secret comes to light, she and Tom will face a choice. Can they relinquish their dreams to step forward in faith? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Sutter's Landing by Betty Thomason Owens -- Still reeling from tragic losses, Connie and Annabelle Cross face life with their signature humor and grace, until fresh hope arrives on their doorstep. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Romantic Suspense:

Hidden Legacy by Lynn Huggins Blackburn -- When someone threatens the baby she's adopting, Caroline Harrison must rely on Detective Jason Drake, the man who once broke her heart, to figure out why. If Jason wants a chance at a future with with Caroline and her son, he'll first have to help them outrun a hit man. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Weaver's Needle by Robin Caroll -- Pitted against each other to recover a map to the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, two recovery specialists follow the trail to Arizona. But someone doesn't want them to find the map. . .or the mine. They must work together despite their mistrust and growing attraction, to save themselves. (Romantic Suspense from Barbour Publishing)


The Revisionary by Kristen Hogrefe -- Revisionary or Rogue? To rescue her brother, Portia might have to break every rule in the book she set out to rewrite. (Speculative from Write Integrity Press)

Women's Contemporary:

Redemption's Whisper by Kathleen Friesen -- Desperate to escape her past, a suicidal young woman flies from Toronto to a Saskatoon pastor's home, the only people who may be able to help her. If only someone could love her, in spite of all she's done. On the flight, she meets a young man torn between seeking affirmation in the big city and helping his parents in Saskatoon. Can these two troubled souls gain the peace they need—and in the process, find love? (Women's Contemporary from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Young Adult:

All Things Now Living by Rondi Bauer Olson -- Her whole life Amy has been taught the people of New Lithisle deserve to die, but when she falls for Daniel, she determines to save him. (Young Adult from Written World Communications)
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