Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Should I Sign with a Traditional Publisher, Self Publisher or and Independent Publisher?

Last week I began posting about different types of publishers and what they have to offer an author:
  • Traditional
  • Self
  • Independent

If you missed the Thursday's post click here and catch up!

Today I want to continue by giving you some circumstances that would cause you to choose one type of publishing over another.

Traditional Publishing
This option may seem like the most desirable method of publishing, but that’s not always the case. While it’s true that the author doesn’t have to invest any up-front money in the process, you also won’t get a large cut of the profit.

When to consider it:
  • When your manuscript concept will appeal to a wide audience, but you don’t direct have access to them.
  • When you already have a relationship with the publisher.
  • When your manuscript is fiction. At this point in time, it’s still quite difficult to sell fiction through the self-publishing avenue. This is changing and I believe there will come a time when this will no longer be the case.

When to look at other options:
  • If your manuscript has a limited or niche audience. Most publishers have a specific minimum number of potential readers before they’ll consider a project.
  • If you have access to your customers without publisher distribution (like a large speaking ministry).

Self Publisher
Again, many people have preconceived notions about this path to publication—and it tends to be negative. But I urge you NOT to be too quick to judge. There are many instances when this is the best decision.

When to consider it:
  • When you have easy, direct access to your audience. If you go the self-publishing route, even though you must invest up-front, your profit will be substantially higher.
  • When your audience is limited or a niche audience. For example, a book on caring for aging parents has a wide audience, while a book about caring for quintuplets would have a limited audience.

When to look at other options:
  • When you’re trying to publish fiction. As above, it’s difficult to get wide distribution and audience access with self-publishing. Again, difficult, not impossible.
  • When you don’t have direct access to your audience or readers.
Independent Publishing
This option is becoming more and more popular. Although you may not get the widest possible general distribution, these publishers frequently cater to niche audiences. And they know their audiences VERY well. One of the best at this—Marcher Lord Press—a Christian Speculative fiction publisher.

When to consider:
  • As a first-time author. Frequently, these publishers are more open to untried writers. BUT this does not mean they accept work that is sub-standard. The competition is very stiff and these publishers generally have very high standards.
  • If you do not have an agent. Most traditional publishers won’t even consider a manuscript unless the author has agent representation. This isn't the case with Independent Publishers.

When to look at other options:
Actually, Independent publishers can be a good option to consider in almost any situation

One Last Thing:
The biggest negative to self-publishing has always been the quality of the work. We’ve all seen self-published books that make us want to cringe.
If you do decide to self-publish, I urge you to hold yourself to the highest standard. You will have to overcome some substantial negative opinions and the only way to do that is to offer a superior product.

Now it’s your turn. I know Blogger has had some comment issues lately, but I believe I’ve solved the ones affecting this blog. So even if your comment pertains to last week, feel free to chime in. No one knows all the answers in publishing and if you’ve personal experience with any of these avenues for publishing, I’d love to hear from you!

Don’t forget to the conversation!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Clash of the Titles Champ Lisa T Bergren

*Guest post by Michelle Massaro
Congratulations, Lisa T. Bergren, author of Waterfall! Lisa's winning excerpt was discovered by COTT's new Talent Scout, Katie McCurdy. You can read Katie's review here. This YA title is being highly-praised by adults and is only the second YA title to win at Clash Of The Titles. Visit Lisa's site to learn more about her.
About the book:
Gabriella has never spent a summer in Italy like this one.
Remaining means giving up all she’s known and loved…
and leaving means forfeiting what she’s come to know…and love itself.
Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bentarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscan scholars, among the romantic hills. Stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, dusty archaeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds… until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.
And thus does she come to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcello Falassi, who takes her back to his father’s castle—a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world?
Sounds amazing, doesn't it? No wonder it won! If you're ready to read it, head to Amazon now. You can read Lisa's COTT interview here or check out her excerpt here.
Lisa, welcome to the COTT Hall of Fame. We're very happy to have you join us!
Readers, do you hunger for a well-written convo--one dripping with sarcasm or perhaps laced with unspoken meaning? Maybe you like a quick wit or a character whose comments make you LOL. Wish you could influence the dialogue of the fictional characters you read? This week COTT is hosting a showdown for the Snappiest Dialogue. Hurry on over and let our authors know what you like, and what you long to see, in the spoken interaction between characters. See you there!

* Michelle Massaro is the Assistant Editor for COTT and has a passion for evangelizing through fiction. She writes contemporary inspirational novels with heart-rending themes intended to frame the message of God’s healing love. Michelle has written for Romantic Times, Circle Of Friends, and Pentalk Community, among others. Find her on twitter @MLMassaro, Facebook, or her blog, Adventures in Writing, and join the fun.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekend Worship—Shield of Faith

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:16

I love rainy days. The rest of my family are sun worshippers, but I look forward to those cozy days, hemmed with rain and raveled in jagged strips of lightning. 

I especially love walking in the rain. There’s just something comforting in huddling beneath a large umbrella, safe and dry, while the world around me is wet.

It occurred to me that this is a perfect picture of what God does with us. As we move about our days, we’re sheltered by Him. Once we put our faith in God, He becomes our shield—our umbrella in a dreary world. We live in this world, but we’re not of this world.

Our faith is a shield—not because it’s always strong—but because the One we believe in is always strong.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Review—What’s an Author to do—How to Make the Best Decision for YOU in the New Frontier of Publishing

Today’s marketplace has turned the publishing world into a new version of the Wild West. In some ways that’s good. But in other ways . . . well, not so good. For those wanting to publish book-length manuscripts things are especially rough. And the main reason is, even if the terms haven’t changed, some of the meanings have.

In this post I’m going to give you an up-to-date review of all your options—from traditional print publishing to online to self publishing. So it’s easier to understand, I’m breaking down the comparisons into several categories:
  • Author Investment
  • Author Advance
  • Royalties
  • Rights (who owns the work in question)

Traditional Publishers, print and eBook This option has always set the standard within the industry. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest is the fact that someone else judges your work to be so good they are willing to back the idea with money.
Important Note It’s never considered a traditional arrangement if the author invests ANY money in the publishing of the book. This means if the publisher requires the author to buy books up front—even at a discount—it is NO LONGER a traditional agreement and has drifted into the murky realm of self or subsidy publishing
Author Investment – None. The publisher pays all the costs of publishing, warehousing and distributing the book. Generally print runs will be around 1500 or more. The books are warehoused in the publisher’s space.
Author AdvanceVaries by publishing house. In addition to paying for the book to be published, the author is given an advance. This can vary in when the author receives it and how big it is. It’s called an advance because the author must earn it back in royalties before they receive additional money from royalties.
Royalties This is the percentage of the purchase price given to the author. It also varies from house to house, but generally ranges between eight and fifteen percent of net for print and twenty-five to fifty percent on eBooks.
Rights In traditional publishing, the publisher owns the rights. Frequently the contract contains a clause that allows for the right to revert back to the author or be purchased by the author when the book is no longer in print.

Independent Publishers, print and eBookThis is a new breed on the publishing frontier and one that I personally believe is long overdue. The changes from traditional have more to do with the size of the house and publishing model or niche.
Author Investment Still none. The publisher pays all the costs of publishing. A lot of independent publishers use a POD (Print-on-Demand) publishing model. This means they print the books as they’re ordered and not warehoused anywhere. Many independent also specialize in publishing eBooks.
Author AdvanceThis varies widely by publisher. When advances are offered, they’re generally much smaller than those offered by traditional publishers.
RoyaltiesThese also vary by publisher, but on print books are generally around fifteen percent and as high as fifty percent or more on eBooks.
RightsThese are generally the same as traditional publishing.

Self Publishers, print and eBookThis category is the most difficult of all to quantify. The publishers using this publishing model call themselves by various names—and seem to come up with new ones almost daily. One derogatory one that some in the industry uses is Vanity Press. But for obvious reasons, I’ve never seen one refer to themselves by that moniker. Here are two of the more common ones you’ll see:
  • Subsidy Publishing
  • Partnership Publishing

Author InvestmentWith this publishing model, authors are expected to contribute to the cost of publishing their book. This can be required in many different ways, from an outright investment cost, to being required to purchase a set number of books in advance. Any time an author is expected to contribute to the publishing of their manuscript it’s some variation of self-publishing.
Author AdvanceNone. See reasons stated above.
RoyaltiesIf the self-publisher retains the rights to the author’s manuscript, the author will be offered royalties and these can vary widely. But my thought is if I’m investing money, I should get the lion’s share of the profit.
RightsThis depends. But this is a very important thing to consider if you choose to self-publish.

This post has gone on long enough. Next week I’ll continue and share my opinion on when each model works best.

It’s important for you to know that I am NOT against self-publishing—quite the contrary. There are many times when it’s the best option for the circumstances. BUT, I do object when self-publishers try to pass themselves off on unsuspecting writers.

What about you? Have you had any experience with any of the above models? What did you like/dislike about your experience?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Characteristics of a Lazy Writer

With this title, many of you might think I’m going to be blogging about time management.

And you’d be wrong.

The kind of laziness I’m referring to has to do with the use of your brain—not your time.

If you’ve followed this blog for long, you know I’m passionate about excellence in writing. And I don’t mind helping those who are willing to work to achieve it. I’ll patiently spend hours helping beginners learn the craft, but I have very little tolerance for those who insist on shortcuts and shoddy work . . . and then whine because they’ve been rejected.

Why bring this up? Because I wish someone had pointed out these pitfalls when I was just starting out.

So what are some habits of lazy writers?

First. is the use of clichés.
Dictionary.com defines clichés this way: 
  • A trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, impact by long overuse, such as – older by wiser, or – strong as an ox.
  • A trite or hackneyed plot, character development, use of color, musical expression, etc.
  • Anything that has become trite or commonplace through overuse.
A cliché encourages your reader to skim over what you’ve written. Clichés usually start out as a clever or wise saying. Because of this, many writers are tempted to use them as is. Instead take a few extra moments and consider the idea behind the cliché—and come up with an original and creative way to say the same thing.

Second, the habit of turning something in without proofing it.
I’ve been a member of many critique groups during my time as a writer and I’ve spent more years than I care to name as an editor. I can assure you, no one can write something perfectly the first time—I don’t care who they are or how long they’ve been writing. We all need to take a few extra minutes to check our work and weed out mistakes.

By not proofing your work—even if it’s just going to a critique partner—you are saying your time is too valuable and theirs too worthless to bother. That’s just plain rude.

Third, not staying on top of current trends.
English is a living language—unlike, say Latin. Because of that, it is continuing to grow and change. This is applicable to grammar, as well as to industry trends. The usage of commas, semi-colons and colons have changed, as have popular genres. That’s why we’re on the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. Just ten years ago, one of the easiest genres to sell was the Cozy Mystery, and the hardest was the Personal Memoir. Today the reverse is true.

I completely understand not being happy about the changing rules (I happen to miss the maligned semi-colon), but it’s part of the industry, and not liking it is no excuse for ignoring it.

Finally, fourth is the unwillingness to continue to learn and grow.
This industry is exciting and challenging, and no matter how long you've been a part of it, you still need to continue your education. I teach at a lot of conferences around the country and I’m frequently amused by writers who think they know it all—or at least all they need to know.

That kind of attitude will sound the death knell on your writing career.

I know this post may read like a diatribe on ignorance, but I mean it as a warning. I want each and every one of you to succeed as writers—whatever that looks like to you. And I’ve made so many of the mistakes above.

Yes, I’m still guilty of being a lazy writer at times. But I can assure you I’ll be much less likely to slip into bad habits now that I’ve written this post!

Now I’d like to hear from you. What are some things you wish you’d known sooner?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Clash of the Titles - School girl Crushes and Blushes

Guest post by: Jennifer Slattery

Do you remember those dances held during junior high and high school? How you and your friends would spend hours pre-dance talking about what you'd wear, how you'd do your hair, and...giggle, blush, giggle...who might ask you to dance? Only those dances never quite ended up how we envisioned, at least not in my school. Inevitably, the guys huddled near the far, heavily-shadowed wall while the girls spent their time crying in the bathroom or trying to comfort their near hysterical friend hiding in the stall.

At least in Junior High. High School got a little better and people actually danced, and the bathrooms were far less crowded with splotchy-faced, sniffling girls.

But reading this week's excerpts actually brought me back even further...to sixth grade.

We didn't have dances--instead, our school hosted skating parties. Do you remember those? "Elvirah" blaring from those gigantic speakers while a disco ball lit up the room, making that feather pinned in your hair really stand out. (Those have come back, btw. Seriously.) We'd do the hokey-pokey, skate on one foot, then backward...but what the girls waited for, holding their breath and scanning the glittering room for their short, waif-thin and equally shy hero, was when the DJ announced, "Find a parnter!"

Now here's where it gets really fun, and extremely embarrassing, but remember I was a stupid kid with absolutely no life....

Who knew come skating party time, a boy--maybe even the boy--might hold my hand. Oh, the very thought made my stomach twirl.

In preparation, I slathered lotion on my hands the week leading up the event--and I mean slathered. Then, I'd rub it in and hold my hand out to my mom. "Are my hands soft? Feel them."
She'd laugh and feel my hand. Then I'd slather on more. "Feel them now."

She remained patient for about three or four applications.
What about you? Any stupid, cheek-burning stories to share?
Be sure to come meet our competing authors this week on COTT

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekend Worship—The Breastplate of Righteousness

Stand firm then . . . with the breastplate of righteousness in place. Ephesians 6:13
Many years ago I majored in costume design, and for a short time, worked as a costume designer. I love the theater, and I love being involved with productions—as long as I don’t have to be on stage. 

In college, one of the first productions I designed for was the musical production, Camelot. I’d been a fan of King Author in literature since I was a child, and working to make this production come alive for the audience was a dream come true.
I worked on several of King Author’s elaborate fabric costumes, but the armor came from someone else, someone specialized in that ancient craft. I found myself fascinated with the process of building and designing the armor. It involved a lot more than I expected at first. It had to protect the wearer and provide a full range of mobility. After all, a warrior who can’t fight is pretty much useless.

The righteousness of God is like that as well. His righteousness gives us strength beyond measure, but doesn’t hamper us or weigh us down. So many of the world’s religions are burdened with cumbersome rules and regulations, but our God has stood in our place and cuts directly to the need. And it’s that provision that gives us the strength and stamina to stand firm when the enemy attacks. 

What gives you the strength to stand firm when the tough times come?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Taking Twitter to the Next Level

More and more folks these days are discovering Twitter
That’s a good thing because it’s easier to connect with more people.

It’s also bad, because the population explosion makes it harder to stand out.

So it's time to take it to the next level. 
Here are my tips to make every tweet count! 
  • Let someone else benefit from what you've found helpful.
  • Share about someone else’s success.
  • Pass along opportunities.
Tweeting, retweeting are perfect ways to do this. 

When you compose an announcement for Twitter, keep your audience in mind and use these ideas to whet their curiosity. 
  • Use open ended questions.
  • Bring up an intriguing point.
  • Hit on a subject that everyone struggles with AND show that you have an answer.
  • And don't forget to tweet regularly. Need some suggestion how - here's my personal schedule.

Don’t make these mistakes. 
  • Don''t hog the Twitter feed - space out your tweets.
  • Don’t give away the ending.
  • Don’t sum up your post.
  • Don’t give them a reason to not visit your site.
And the most important Twitter Tip:

Remember, it’s a conversation—not a platform for self advertising!

Now it’s your turn. What suggestions do you have for making every tweet count? also be sure to include your Twitter name and we can follow each other!

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Clash of the Titles Champion: A Familiar Evil by Anne Patrick

 *guest post by Jennifer Slattery

The next Clash of the Titles literary champion is Anne Patrick! Her her novel A Familiar Evil won the vote for Author’s Choice.
Here’s a blip of her COTT winning excerpt (excerpt B):
“Excuse me. I’m looking for Chief Russell.”

Jordan’s stomach did a nosedive at the familiar voice of her soon-to-be-ex-husband.
“You found her,” Frank answered.
Jordan looked up just as Sam smiled. “Indeed I have.” He started toward her desk.
Colleen barged through the opened door. “Chief, there’s an Agent Russell here to see…oh, I guess you found her.”
“Agent Russell,” Frank repeated. He turned back to Jordan, “Isn’t Russell your married name?” He then shifted his gaze back to Sam, “That must mean you’re her husband.”
“Not for much longer.” Jordan hurried around her desk and ushered Frank out the door. “You’ll be hearing from me.” She closed the door and looked at Sam. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here at your request.”
Read the full excerpt here.
A few reader comments: 
  • I'm hooked! Loved the tension between Jordan and Sam.
  • Both were really good! I Liked Excerpt B because of the rather humorous exchange between husband and wife. :-) Definitely a book I'd want to get and read!
  • Love tension in Excerpt B. And there's promise of lots more!! 
After reading Anne’s tension-filled excerpt, we wanted to know how she came up with such great stories. Her answer? She writes on the fly.
“I’m a Pantser,” Anne said. “I never plan anything. As a matter of fact I didn’t know who the killer was in A Familiar Evil until toward the end of the book when he sprang out at me and said, ‘I’m your man.’ Of course I had suspected he was the one but I wasn’t for sure. There are several possibilities.”
Her plot ideas come to her just as unexpectedly. “Often times when I'm researching one book, ideas for another start to sprout,” Anne said. “Reading the paper is another good source for me. Life is truly stranger than fiction.
Read the full interview here.
What Anne had to say about her time on Clash:
"Thanks for having me here at COTT. You ladies are awesome!"
Want to join the fun? Hop on over to Clash of the Titles now to vote for our next literary champion and be entered into our drawing for a free book! And don’t forget to stop by Clash of the Titles Book Club to join our cyber-chat. We’re devouring Delia Latham’s Destiny’s Dream.
*Jennifer Slattery is the marketing manager for Clash of the Titles. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse, and Samie Sisters. She’s also written for numerous other publications and websites including the Breakthrough Intercessor, Bloom!, Afictionado, the Christian Fiction Online Magazine, and Granola Bar Devotions. She has a short piece in Bethany House’s Love is a Flame (under a pen name) forwarded by Gary Chapman, another piece in Cathy Messecar’s A Still and Quiet Soul, and a third piece scheduled to appear in Majesty House’s Popcorn Miracles. You can find out more about her and her writing at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud and you can catch some great writing tips at her writing blog, Words That Keep.

Weekend Worship—Meditations from Ethiopia #8—Mission Trip, Why Bother?

“Why spend all that money and go half-way around the world when folks here need help?”

I've had a lot of people ask me why I went on a mission trip.

The answer is both simple and complicated—and it started with God. First and foremost, I felt like God wanted me to go. I felt drawn to people in other countries.  It wasn’t as simple as hearing an audible voice. It was much more like a yearning, deep inside.

The second reason is totally selfish. I felt totally ineffective in my own spiritual life. I was insulated in our culture—sacred and secular. The time had come for me to experience the way the rest of the world lived.

As much as I looked forward to my trip, I was totally unprepared for the results . . . in me . . . my family . . . my community.

I experienced a personal revival. My entire way of looking at life changed and I was deeply moved by how easy and blessed my life was. I experienced—for the first time ever—how truly wealthy we are in America.

I had the unprecedented opportunity to reach out to loved ones in my family and share the love of Jesus in a different way. This resulted in not only a strengthening of my faith, but theirs as well.

Finally I’ve had opportunities to reach out and impact my community.

So was it worth it? Absolutely.

How about you? Have you had the opportunity to experience something similar? How has it affected your life?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time is Running Out to Sign up for the NCompass Writing Retreat!

This year's dates:
Thursday, September 29 through 
Sunday, October 2 
$350 total package cost

Every year, since 2001, Vonda Skelton and I have held this writing retreat. And this year's no different. Although many of the classes have changed—the atmosphere has not. It’s still a time where we get an extended opportunity to mentor and encourage a small group of writers.

This year we’ll be at a beautiful home on the shore of Lake Keowee in the upstate of South Carolina. As always there will be food and fun galore—all included in one low price.

We’ve added the option of spending quiet time writing or taking additional classes in all aspects of Social Networking—including, Facebook, Twitter and Blogging.

There will be plenty of give-a-ways and time for critiques.

So whether you’re a seasoned veteran of writing or someone just considering writing, this retreat is for you.

Visit the NCompass website to register.

If you’ve been to one of our retreats I’d love to hear what you liked best.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Followers . . . Friends . . . What’s all the Fuss About?

Twitter and Facebook are just part of the new digital paradigm—and they’re here to stay. But deciding how to integrate them into your writing life can be tough. Today I’m going to give you a few pointers that should help.

I’ve been watching the threads on several email groups I follow and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion about how to get friends and followers and whether or not there’s any value to them.

Does anybody really care how many friends and followers I have?
Absolutely. One of the first thing a publisher wants to know when consider a book proposal (fiction or non-fiction) is what kind of platform the author has. And simply put, a platform is the number of people who are interested enough in you to possibly buy your book.

The number of friends you have on Facebook and the number of followers you have on Twitter are today’s equivalent of a mailing list.

I know people who have thousands of followers and friends—how can they possibly see any information of value in all that noise?
This question’s a little harder to answer. Yes, it can get to the point where the number of followers and friends seems unwieldy, but it’s all in the way you manage your online presence.

Well then how do I manage my online presence?
Two words—stay relevant. Make certain that what you have to say online adds value to your follower’s digital day.

So how do I get all these followers and friends?
  • Remember the old saying, “To have a friend, you first have to be one.” This little truism works in the Internet universe as well as in real life.
  • Follow people who interest you, who have valuable things to teach you. Chances are—if they’re not too famous—they’ll follow you back (just remember . . . stay relevant).
  • Use hastags when you tweet. Don’t know what these are? Here’s a link to a post I wrote telling you just how and why to use them.
  • Bragg on someone else. Nobody likes a conversation that’s all about me, me, me. Tweet about someone’s success. Pass on an interesting blog post. Suggest a new friend.

Special Note: I’m not advocating you blindly follow everyone who follows you. Follow the people who make sense to you, but do reciprocate in a timely fashion and when appropriate. I check my followers for new folks to follow at least three times a week.

I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion I’ve been seeing. Let me know any other questions you have and share some of the advantages online networking has given you.

Clash of the Titles - If You had the Choice . . .

Ever wonder what a writer thinks about other genres, authors, and books? Let's find out! I put together some fun questions for our Clash of the Titles authors, as well as our current anonymous Clashing authors. Some of their answer surprised me. Others made me chuckle, or made me think about my own motives.
Here they are!
If you had to choose... 

...to do only one of these for the rest of your life, which would it be? Read or write?
Amanda Flower-- Read- I write because I was reader first.
Lisa Lickel-- I’ve written twenty-five novels so far, published five of them and hope that’s not it, and it’s not like I feel I’ve written everything I wanted to...but between Kindle and my p-tbr-pile, there’s well over a hundred books just calling to be read.
Jennifer Slattery- Write, definitely, because that's when I feel God's presence strongest. I also process through my writing, whether penning articles, devos, blog posts or novels. So I imagine if I quit writing, I'd have horrendous therapy bills!
Gail Pallotta--  It would be extremely hard not to read, but I'd write because I feel that God can use my writing, even if it's in a small way.
Michelle Massaro-- mmm, read. That's why I write and it's also a whole lot easier! Lol
...only one genre to read for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Amanda Flower-- Mystery- I'm a huge mystery fan.
Lisa Lickel-- Ouch! Hit a girl where it hurts. Fantasy.
Author of Excerpt A-- History. I love science fiction, but I have a passion for history.
Jennifer Slattery-- Women's fiction. I love reading about characters ultra dependent on God's grace
Gail Pallotta--  I would read classic books that get at some truth about humanity.
Author of Excerpt B—Romantic Suspense

...only one author to read for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Amanda Flower-- Nevada Barr- Her description of the nationals parks is amazing.
Lisa Lickel-- Hmmm...besides you, of course...um...Mary Stewart.
Author of Excerpt A-- Jack London. He wrote a lot of man vs. nature kind of stories, which I enjoy a lot.
Jennifer Slattery-- Hm...I'll give three. I love CJ Darlington and the real-life issues she writes about, but I also loved Diana Prusik's debut novel, Delivery. Then there's Athol Dickson. Wow, that fella can write
Michelle Massaro-- C.S. Lewis. He has such a variety of books to read and they all contain such spiritual truths. Screwtape Letters, Chronicals of Narnia, Space Trilogy, Mere Christianity, I'd be all set.
Author of Excerpt B--  Tough one!  I'll go with Mary Higgins Clark
....only one book (in addition to the Bible) to read for the rest of your life, which would it be? 
Gail Pallotta--  Other than the Bible, I rarely read a book more than once, but My all-time favorite book is An American Tragedy.
Author of Excerpt A-- Drat, you took away my answer. Since I can't pick the Bible, I would say Homer's, The Illiad.
Michelle Massaro-- Could I choose the whole set of Narnia books? If not, I'd have to go with Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. (hehe, is this answer a cheat?)
Author of Excerpt B-- The one that comes to mind first is Danger in the Shadows by Dee Henderson.
What about your COTT reader? What would your answers be to these same questions?

At the Clash of the Title Book Club this month, we're discussing COTT champ Delia Latham's novel, Destiny's Dream. Head over there and see what all the hype is about!
~ April Gardner is the Sr. Editor of COTT, and best-selling author of Wounded Spirits

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekend Worship—Meditations from Ethiopia #7—A Simple Faith

Now faith is the assurance of thing hoped for, the conviction of things not see. Hebrews 11:1

Our trip to Ethiopia was filled with amazing highs and devastating lows—and many times it was hard to tell which was which. As I read back through my journal, I’m struck by how everything God showed me had to do with light.

Today I want to share one of my experiences.

Early in the trip we visited a mountain outside Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia. We were going to visit those who’ve been exiled because they suffer from the Aids virus. As we traveled through the city we saw painted walls and women in bright colors, all against bleak patches of poverty, outlined in dark grays and browns of despair.

It was cloudy on the mountain and a storm threatened, but that didn’t deter the children that gathered, hopeful and curious, always begging. We were invited into a young mother’s small home. The home was neatly kept, but barely the size of two double beds. Sarah’s son was asleep when we arrived, but he soon roused, watching us with beautiful dark eyes.

Through an interpreter Sarah (not her real name) shared her story with us.

"When I found I had the virus, I came to the mountain. There’s a spring here, blessed by the church, and said to have the power to heal. I visited the spring daily, but I didn’t expect healing. I came here to die, and instead I found life.

"It was going to and from this spring that I met my Jesus. He has given me hope and peace. And now I know that in Him, I will live forever. He has provided for my every need and I know that I am a woman blessed."

The simple dignity of her faith touched me deeply, as she put everything about life into perfect perspective. I hope her message touches you as well.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thursday Review—MoGo 7000

Lost Your Mojo? Try MoGo!
a Review by Lynn Huggins Blackburn

Have you ever had this conversation?

Interested, supportive friend or family member: “So, how’s your book coming?”

Shame-faced, sad-eyed you: “Um, well, you know, I’m really busy and. . . uh. . . ”

That’s how it’s been since the beginning of 2011. Somehow, after sailing through NaNoWriMo, I lost my fiction mojo. It was just . . . gone.

I’m still a new writer and this has been a learning experience. Your mileage may vary, but if I quit writing, no matter how valid the reason, even for a month or two, the passion wanes. After four months, I couldn’t drum up any enthusiasm for my novel. By the six month mark I had to admit I was 52,000 words into a novel I couldn’t figure out how—and didn’t want—to finish.

Much of the conventional writing wisdom says to write 1,000 words a day, or 5,000 words a week. I’ve done it before. But right now, 5,000 words a week is as unattainable as me squeezing my post-pregnancy body into a Size 4, 6, oh just forget it, ANY bathing suit.

My friend Lori Roeleveld challenged me to write 10 minutes a day. Every day. I committed, but I wondered…just how much fiction could I write in 10 minutes a day?

And then I remembered MoGo7000. MoGo7000 is the brainchild of Vonda Skelton. She noted that if you set a monthly goal of 7,000 words, by the end of the year, you’d have an 84,000 word work of fiction or non-fiction on your hands. And that’s nothing to hang your head in shame over.

And she made it easy. If you want to participate, all you do is write 7,000 new words for your book (blogs, devotions and articles don’t count). Then tell Vonda about it on her blog, and get yourself entered into a drawing for $100 cash.

So in July, I decided to give it a shot. The first few days were painful. The words didn’t flow and those brief ten minutes felt like torture. But I kept at it and after a week or so, I was churning out several hundred words in my ten minute sessions. Even with that, I’ll admit that it came down to the wire. I was writing at 9PM on July 31st but I finished the month with 7,524 words. (In honor of my achievement, I treated myself to some celebratory chocolate & I highly recommend you do the same!)

MoGo7000 taught me several lessons…
  • Writing ten minutes a day will keep me motivated. Give it a shot—you’ll be amazed.
  •  I’m apparently willing to try just about anything if you dangle $100 in front of me.
  • A monthly word goal is ideal for me right now. Instead of feeling like a failure for not meeting a daily quota, I feel energized by my success. 

The most important thing I learned in July is this . . . If I lose my mojo, there’s a simple solution. Start writing and keep writing until I get it back.

So how about you? How’s your book coming?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. On her blog Out of the Boat she writes about faith and family while her blog Perpetual Motion documents the joys and challenges of loving and rearing a child with special needs. A graduate of Clemson University, Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, knits, takes care of three amazing children, one fabulous man and one spoiled rotten Boston Terrier.
Follow Lynn on Twitter @lynnhblackburn

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So You Want to Be a Writer

A guest post by Jennifer Slattery

First of all, run now, while you still have a chance. Just kidding. But seriously, writing is not for the thin-skinned. And it isn’t nearly as glamorous as it might seem. In fact, most days you’ll be glued to your computer, still in PJ’s at two in the afternoon, ball cap by your side in case one of your normal, presentable neighbors happen by. Although truth be told, you probably won’t answer the door anyway. Or the phone. Until the tips of your fingers throb from pounding your keyboard and your eyes cross from hours upon hours of edits.

Then you’ll stand up to force blood into your numbed legs and glance out the window as you try to reconnect with reality. You’d love to have someone to chat with, only all your neighbors are at work. You call a friend and leave a message. You hop on Facebook and make a few random posts. You pace the room and argue with yourself (only because your dog won’t join the debate). Then you toss all thoughts of socialization aside and bunker down. But hey, you’ve always got the heroine in your latest novel. She’s your friend, right?

Actually, I totally love what I do. I can’t envision myself doing anything else. (And believe me, I’ve tried. When I’ve noticed a fatal plot error requiring a total re-write or my computer crashes halfway through a 90,000 word document.) But I’m still here, plugging away, day after day, word after word. Only now, I’ve learned to do things differently.  
  • I find ways to stay connected. When I first started writing, I did it alone. It wasn’t long before I fell into a pattern of discouragement. We all experience that once in awhile, when our negative self-talk runs amuck and those fears, insecurities and frustrations bite away at our resolve. Now I’m a part of three writer’s groups and I cherish the support they offer. I’ve also taken the time to nurture deeper relationships with a few ladies I’ve met along the way. Yeah, they’re largely internet and phone relationships, but they work. My greatest resource has been the American Christian Fiction Writers network. They have an amazing online loop, numerous mature Christian authors who love pouring into the lives of newbies, and a phenomenal critique group.
  • I choose my close friends wisely. The other day I listened to a writer friend talk about how someone had totally slammed on both her and her work. Not in your normal, “I think this would be stronger if…” This was all-out brutality. As she talked, I was reminded of the story of Joseph and how his brothers and father responded when he shared his God-given dream with them. They scoffed. They were so focused on who Joseph was–a runt–they overlooked the power standing behind him.
  • Writing is tough. You’re going to face rejection. A lot. You’re going to have to make tough decisions and you’re going to have to overcome a lot of inner demons that threaten to keep you stagnant. You certainly don’t need naysayers dragging you down. To the contrary. You need strong Christian friends who will encourage you to keep on keeping on, with your eyes focused on the goal with unwavering determination.
  • I learned to abide. (John 15:1-4) If you want to write more than mindless drivel, you’re gonna need to learn to rest. To trust. To listen. To fight the urge to do things in your own strength and wisdom as you continually lay yourself on the alter. This is a toughy, especially when you’ve got deadlines coming your way or writer’s block dragging you down. Our first tendency is to try harder and in doing so, we fail to connect with our true source of wisdom and power. 
The other day I had the task of turning nine Bible chapters into an eight hundred word leaflet. Not an easy thing to do, especially for a word lover like me. And I really didn’t have the time to fret over it. Fretting is the biggest time sapper there is! So instead of forcing a bunch of drivel onto the screen, I closed my computer, walked into the bedroom and turned on some praise music. Basically, I passed the buck. I knew God had brought me this assignment. I knew He had a plan for it. I just needed to wait for Him to share His plan with me.

After spending a few moments in prayer and quiet, I returned to my computer with clarity and finished the leaflet in a relatively short period of time. 
  • Take time to get away. Those momentary refreshers are great, but they’re not enough. At least not for me. I can only rely on shout-out prayers for so long before my creativity begins to shrivel. Every once in a while I need to create my own little spiritual retreat. Normally I don’t go far. Maybe I’ll visit a hiking trail nearby or spend a few hours in a nearby park with my Pandora radio (on my iPhone), a Bible and a notebook. Sometimes the getting there is hard, especially when my tasks are mounting, but I’ve learned those are the times when I most need to get away. And once I do, once I spend those cherished moments connecting with God, I come back twice as productive as before.
  • Let it go. God’s already got the whole journey figured out. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Try not to look at the day-to-day. Learn as you go, walking forward with an eyes-wide-open approach as God guides you towards the finish line.
  • Take your thoughts captive. Negativity breeds negativity. And quite frankly, it’s a waste of time–time you don’t have. Make a decision, right now, not to allow discouragement to linger in your brain. If God’s got it covered, what is there to be discouraged about? So you’ve got a 60,000 word rewrite, or realized your eighth edit wasn’t enough. And? I’m not joining your pity party here. I’m waiting at the finish line with my camera ready to catch your victorious smile when you break through the tape.

Jennifer Slattery
Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, publicist, and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of sixteen years and their thirteen year old daughter. She works for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, as an assistant publicist and is the marketing manager for the literary website Clash of the Titles. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse, and Samie Sisters and has written for numerous other publications and websites. In 2009 she placed first in the Heart of American Christian Writers’ contest and in 2010 she was an Operation First Novel finalist, placed second in the Dixie Kane and fourth in the Golden Pen. You can find out more about her and her writing at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com

If you’d like to know more about her affordable marketing and ghost writing services, contact her at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Clash of the Titles Conquerors!

guest post by April W Gardner

Clash of the Titles is proud to announce that author Marianne Evans with her novel, Hearts Crossing, is our newest champion!

About the book: 
Collin Edwards, a former parishioner at Woodland Church, has renounced God without apology, his faith drained away in the face of a tragic loss.

Daveny Montgomery cares deeply about her relationship with God, and the community of Woodland. Lately though, she's been in a rut, longing for something to reignite her spiritual enthusiasm.

A beautification project at Woodland seems the answer for them both. Daveny spearheads the effort and Collin assists, but only with the renovations, and only because he wants to know Daveny better. Despite his deepening feelings for her, even stepping into the common areas of the church stirs tension and anger.

Can Daveny trust in Collin’s fledgling return to faith? And can Collin ever accept the fact that while he turned his back on God, God never turned his back on him?

Marianne competed with the 
Adam and Andrea Graham, and their YA book Tales of the Dim Knight.

What readers said:
  • I'm amazed--can't wait to read more!
  • These books have very different plots and backgrounds, but both sound as though they are great books. Congratulations to the writers.
  • Both were so well done and packed with emotion. This just keeps getting harder and harder!
A glimpse at Marianne's winning excerpt:
Officer Lance Edwards banged hard on the front door of the home. A cacophony of sound increased. “Saint Clair Shores PD. Open up.” Seated in the squad car, Collin Edwards watched his brother cast a quick glance back at the squad car then up and down the street.
Lance trotted back to the vehicle, opening the door. “I'm calling for back up.” He was laser focused. “Stay where you are, and keep alert.”
“Yeah. Got it.” Collin frowned as Lance barked into the car radio and activated the roof top light bars. He left the car to return to the front door.
This time the door was yanked open. A hulking, angry man filled the entrance.
“Step outside, sir.” Lance rested a hand against the butt of his gun.

About her Clash Marianne said:

It has been an honor to "clash" with such a worthy opponent! :-) I love Clash of the Titles.

Next week, April Gardner hosts a special "Author's Choice" Clash. Anything goes with this one--authors chose their favorite excerpts from their own works to submit, and we narrowed it down to the top two for readers to vote on. Spread the word!

-April W Gardner is the Sr. Editor at Clash of the Titles 
and author of Wounded Spirits.