Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Make Every Tweet Count - How NOT to Irritate Your Followers

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!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Clash of the Titles Conqueror

*guest post by Michelle Massaro
(Ms. Davy) was an amazing cheerleader and I lived to make her smile with my stories. Whether I really was or not at that point, she made me believe I was a good writer. 
~ Sr. Editor April Gardner, on who inspired her writing.
Today we get to spend some time with COTT founder April Gardner. April is an amazing author, good friend, and an inspiration to me. She’s a sometime home school mom, a military wife, a talented writer, and a frugal do-it-yourselfer. So I was excited to get to pick her brain! Below are the questions that I always wanted to ask. I’m sure you will find them just as fascinating as I do.
Michelle: April, what was it like growing up with missionary parents?
April: We never lacked for excitement, that's for sure! Some MKs struggle with change, but I never minded it. I was shy and content merely to be with my family; wherever they were, I was happy, no matter the town or country! Growing up in Spain and learning Spanish was one of God's beautiful gifts to me. 
Michelle: That's so cool! Some might be surprised to hear that you are dyslexic. What advice or encouragement would you give to others out there struggling with dyslexia?
April: I'd imagine that most reading this are adults, and by the time dyslexics reach adulthood, they've managed to cope quite well. Having a child with dyslexia, however, was something that took me completely by surprise, surprisingly. LOL From what I hear, it goes through the mother, so odds were pretty good one of my kids would struggle with it. When it comes to dealing with a dyslexic child I've learned three things. 1. Patience is the name of the game! 2. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. 3. There is no shame in being dyslexic or having another learning difficulty.
Michelle: You have now experienced both the public school world and the home school world. What are your observations comparing both? 
April: My most important observation is that God's plan for our children's education is 1. God's plan for us in unique! I cannot compare how others chose to educate their children with our own choices. 2. God's plan for us is not set in stone, never to change. What might be His will one year, might not be the next. We must be flexible and keep our ears tuned to Him. He'll speak most loudly through our kids via their progress, contentment, discipline, and attitude.
Michelle: Great insights! Ok, so what began your fascination with history?
April: Laura Ingells Wilder and her Little House books! They were the first "big" books that held my attention well enough to make reading worth all the effort. I haven't looked back since!
Michelle: I love those books too! You are a military spouse--where have you lived, and which was your favorite place?
April: The military first moved us to Germany. We were 19 years old and newly married. Our tour lasted 7 years. Straight from there, we went to England for four years, and we've currently been in Georgia 2.5 years. Germany holds a very dear place in our hearts for many reasons, but I have felt most content and fulfilled right here in Georgia. God bless the USA!! Boy, it's good to be home. :-)
Michelle: Wow, that sounds so adventurous! And now you're a published author--another adventure! Who first inspired you to pursue publication and writing? Who inspires you today?
April: Several people along the path of my life worked together to inspire me to pick up the pen, but the first was my high school creative writing teacher, Ms. Davy. She was an amazing cheerleader and I lived to make her smile with my stories. Whether I really was or not at that point, she made me believe I was a good writer. Today, it's the drive to reach goals that inspires me. I do love a challenge!!
Michelle: Of the characters you've created, who is your favorite and why?
April: True Seeker, the budding Creek Indian warrior from my latest novel, Warring Spirits, is my favorite character so far. His heart is good and true to his name, he seeks wisdom, honor, and a personal relationship with the Giver and Taker of Breath.
Michelle: I like his character too. But of course, they're all good in my opinion! Besides writing excellent historical romance novels, you also have a lot to share on your blog about managing health issues with diet, frugality, and parenting. Any idea what's coming up in 2012?
April: Great question! LOL My blog is ever changing, but yes, I do tend to focus on those topics. Right now, I'm on an all-natural foods kick, so I'm sure my followers will see more of those tips in the future.
Michelle: Tell us about your recent book releases.
April: Warring Spirits is my latest adult fiction release. It's set in 1816 and is the story of a woman who might be able to hide her African heritage except for her hair, which is a dead give-away. Milly's escape from slavery leads her to the safety of Negro Fort where Major Phillip Bailey, believing her to be white, takes it upon himself to "free" her from the stronghold. At the same time, he's ordered to launch an attack against it. Accomplishing both is a virtual impossibility, especially when the beautiful woman doesn't want to be rescued. Where blood is shed, unexpected love may bloom!
Michelle: I've read it and it's awesome! Head to Amazon you guys,  you won't regret it. April, thanks for answering all my hard-hitting questions today, lol.
Readers, check out COTT this week for some of our favorite Amish Excerpts!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A list of Writing Conferences

Last week  I talked about the importance of a writers conference and how to pick one. This week I want to highlight some of my favorites.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it should get you started.

As you’re looking at these, I recommend you take note of whether or not they offer critiques (paid or unpaid) and/or contests. Both of these are great avenues to advance your craft and experience.

February 16-19, 2012
Grand Hyatt, Denver, Colorado

February 24-26
The Cove, North Carolina

Florida Christian Writers Conference
March 1-4
Lake Yale Conf. Center (near Leesburg, FL)

March 16-17
North Greenville University, Greenville, South Carolina

March 30-April 3
Mount Hermon, California

April 20-21
First Baptist Spartanburg, Spartanburg, South Carolina

May 16-19
Estes Park, Colorado

Northwest Christian Writers Renewal
May 19-20
Redmond, Washington

May 20-24
Ridgecrest Conference Center, North Carolina

May 30-June 2
Wheaton College, Wheaton Illinois

August 1-4
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

September 20-23
Dallas, Texas

October 31-November 4
Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

And if you’re looking for more of a retreat setting, I highly recommend the events at My Book Therapy. Susan May Warren and her team of book doctors do a fantastic job of teaching and I can’t recommend this group enough.

There are also many other conferences – large and small. Now it’s your time, what are some of your favorites?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Clash of the Titles Conqueror!

**guest post by Michelle Massaro For the last couple weeks, Clash of the Titles has been exploring two books delivering powerful death scenes. That's right, death scenes. The two books were The Vengeance Squad and The Redemption. We met authors Sidney Frost and MaryLu Tyndall and waited with bated breath to find out which title got the most votes. If you missed Friday's announcement, I won't keep you in suspense. Though the competition was stiff, the champion title is...
The Redemption, by MaryLu Tyndall
About the book: Lady Charlisse Bristol sets off on a voyage in search of a father she never knew, only to find herself shipwrecked on a deserted island. After weeks of combating the elements, her salvation comes in the form of a band of pirates and their fiercely handsome leader, Edmund Merrick. Will Charlisse free herself from the seductive lure of this pirate captain and find the father's love she so ardently craves? While battling his attraction to this winsome lady and learning to walk a more godly path, Edmund offers to help Charlisse on her quest--until he discovers her father is none other than Edward the Terror, the cruelest pirate on the Caribbean. Can Edmund win this lady's love while shielding her from his lecherous crew and working to bring her father to justice? Can the supernatural power of God rescue Charlisse and Edmund from the danger and treachery that await them as they ride upon the tumultuous waves of the Caribbean?
A few of the comments from readers:
I loved the Excerpt B.....I look forward to reading the book..it seemed more historical and the genre of books I enjoy reading. I am personally blessed by many of the Christian fiction authors and want to say thank you for all you for your readers. God bless you both!
Someone turning to Christ at the last moment is always a touching scene. It tugs at your heart to know that someone you would never see again, now you will. Very touching!
Keep writing as God leads you. You are bringing God's truth to readers; some who really need those truths in their lives. About the author:
MaryLu Tyndall, a Christy Award finalist, and author of more than ten novels is known for her swashbuckling historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes.  MaryLu dreamt of tall ships and swashbuckling pirates during her childhood years on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Unfortunately, instead of pursuing that dream, she worked as a miserable, landlocked software engineer for fifteen years. Only by the grace and providence of God, did she decide to answer His call to write a Christian Pirate series. Today, while writing her eleventh novel, she manages a home, husband, and six kids while battling three cats who have decided that her keyboard is the best place to sleep!  She believes that without popcorn and chocolate, life would not be worth living, and her sole motivation is to bring others closer to God.
What fun! For a sneak peak at the book, check out the winning excerpt here. You might also enjoy her fascinating interview here. Right now, COTT is in the middle of a brand new clash so be sure to head over there to cast your vote. You just might win a free book!
Happy reading!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weekend Worship - Fruit or Failure

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Galatians 5:22-23

Today I had the opportunity to hear about another author's journey to publication. As she shared her story I noticed many similarities to my own. Hers, like mine wasn't a direct route, but a circuitous trip full of bumps and detours. Frequently a writer's path is littered with broken dreams and shattered expectations.

As I listened, I reflected on those instances in my life that I'd always labeled as failures and shortcomings. Now I saw them as opportunities to grow and learn. Those times of waiting had become patience, the frustration had become discipline, and the rejections became joy. All those difficult circumstances had been used by God to teach me things I lacked, as well as giving me compassion for others on similar journeys.

Somewhere along the way, God used the seeds of failure to grow fruit in my life.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to Become a Better Writer? Learn to Write Better!

It seems like three quarters of the advice we hear as writers has to do with marketing, sales and platform. The reasons for this are myriad, but the biggest is that most of us struggle in this area. It tends to be way outside our comfort zone. But all this focus on social networking can also lead us astray, in time management and priorities.

It’s critical that we recognize the need to grow in our craft…to learn to write better!

So how do we do that? One of the best ways is to attend writers conferences. But with all the choices out there, how do we choose the one that best fits our circumstances? I hope this blog post will help.

I have my favorites, of course! But just because they’re my favorites doesn’t mean they are the best choice for YOU. I’ve tried to break it all down and give you as unbiased an overview as I can.

The first thing you should consider is your experience level. You need to look at where you are with your writing, that will be the biggest factor in your decision. As you look at the categories realize that your experience may overlap.

  • Never submitted anything for publication
  • Hasn’t told many people he writes
  • Has submitted a couple of things, but nothing published
Advanced Beginner
  • Has several rejection letters and a couple of acceptances
  • Is a member of a local or online writing group
  • Regularly reads articles or books about writing
  • Has attended a writers event (either a workshop, conference or online class)
  • Has an idea of where he wants to go with his writing
  • Has been paid for his writing
  • Spends time each day working at the craft of writing and has an income derived from writing
  • Has definite goals and aspirations for his writing
Once you know which group you fall into, it’s easier to evaluate each individual event. There are 2 reasons to attend a writers event.
  1. To learn more about the craft of writing
  2. To network with professionals within the writing world
Here’s a general breakdown of what is usually offered at each kind of event.

These events vary slightly, so the following information is generalized. You should read all brochures and websites carefully to know what to expect.

Large, National Writing Conference
Expect lots of classes for a wide variety of writers - from beginner to advanced.
Continuing Classes – these are classes that last for more than one class period and concentrate on one subject. Even though they are continuing, they rarely provide advanced information on a given subject.
Workshops – these are classes that give an introduction to a concept (like dialogue, plot or setting).
Breakouts or Panels – these are groups of professionals giving instruction on a given subject. The information here is usually very basic.
Appointments with Faculty – most large conferences include a private appointment with a member of the faculty. This is where you would pitch a book or article idea to an editor. It can also be valuable to let a seasoned author look at your writing and give one-on-one feedback.

Regional or Local Writing Conference
These tend to have more classes for the beginner and advanced beginner writer, although there are exceptions. Depending on the length of time, the conference will follow the same basic setup as a national conference.

Workshop or Seminar
Many of these are very specific in what they offer. They aren’t for a large number of writers and generally target the intermediate or advanced writer.

Online Classes
Again, they are very specific in what they offer and vary widely in who they cater to.

It’s never a good idea to write in a vacuum. I have always tried to attend one large conference a year to expose myself to the writing industry, both for networking and education. I also try to attend at least one focused workshop or seminar each year I and I try to keep my eyes open for online writing courses and take at least two a year.

Let me know what conferences and events you've attended and how they've helped your writing journey.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Laurel Award-Winning Novel, Fairer Than Morning

*by Sr. Editor, April W Gardner

“I knew that I had just been given an amazing true story that needed to be told.” –Rosslyn Elliott, Clash of the Titles 2011 Laurel Award Winner

Portions of that story—Fairer Than Morning—won the majority of COTT reader votes in June when it took the victory in the “Best Protagonist” ring. In November, it competed against a long list of other COTT champion novels then took home the Laurel. More hearty congratulations go to author Rosslyn Elliott for her win.

Read June’s winning excerpt (excerpt B).
Read the Laurel Award winning excerpt (excerpt A)

The Saddler's Legacy series is inspired by a real family in American history--the Hanby family, who are to this day the most celebrated citizens of Westerville, Ohio.

About Laurel Award-winning novel, Fairer Than Morning:
Ann dreams of a marriage proposal from her poetic suitor, Eli—until Will Hanby shows her that nobility is more than fine words.

On a small farm in 19th century Ohio, young Ann Miller is pursued by the gallant Eli Bowen, son of a prominent family. Eli is the suitor of Ann’s dreams. Like her, he enjoys poetry and beautiful things and soon, he will move to the city to become a doctor.

When Ann travels to Pittsburgh, accompanying her minister father on business, she meets Will Hanby, a saddle-maker’s apprentice. Will has spent years eking out an existence under a cruel master and his spirit is nearly broken. Anne’s compassion lights a long-dark part of his soul.
Through his encounters with Anne’s father, a master saddler, Will discovers new hope and courage even in the midst of tremendous adversity.

When the Millers must return to Ohio and their ministry there, Will resolves to find them, at any cost. If Will can make it back to Ann, will she be waiting?

Learn more about the book as Clash of the Titles staff interviews the author:

Hostess Raqul Byrnes asks, “What led you to use the inspirational Hanby family and how did you first come to know about them?”
Rosslyn: After I finished my doctoral dissertation, I decided to try my hand at writing my first historical novel. I was living in Westerville, Ohio at the time, so I decided to go visit a small local house museum so I could research all the kitchen artifacts and farm tools. Before the tour, a guide took me into an outbuilding and showed me a video about the Hanby family, who had lived in that house. By the time I stood up thirty minutes later, I knew that I had just been given an amazing true story that needed to be told. The Hanbys lived romantic, action-filled lives marked by courage, and most importantly, they served others out of faith and love.

Hostess Lisa Lickel asks,“Rosslyn, what does “nobility” mean to you and to the era of your story and today? What made you choose that character trait?”
Rosslyn: The origin of that word on the back jacket of the book is that when my publisher and I were creating jacket copy, I had to come up with a condensed way to describe what it means to find a man of true value. And both in Ann’s time and today, the words noble man mean a man of great worth and high virtue. It also made a nice contrast with the apparent gentility and breeding of one suitor, who would fit the other meaning of nobleman far more obviously than the ragged Will Hanby!

Assistant Editor Michelle Massaro asks, “What circumstances led up to Will Hanby's down-trodden situation?”
Rosslyn: In the novel, we learn that Will’s parents and his sisters all died of a virulent form of tuberculosis which killed much more quickly than ordinary TB. (The novel never reveals this in such specifics, but the TB was disseminated bovine TB, for those who care, acquired through milk ingested on a visit to a cattle farm, when Will and his brother were not with the others!). Their deaths left only Will and his younger brother, who were forced to indenture themselves to farmers to avoid infection and work in exchange for food and board. The farmers were kind, but Will ends up under a much harsher master when he signs a new indenture with Master Good.  The historical facts behind what happened to the real William Hanby were somewhat different, but the effect was the same: out of dire poverty, he indentured himself in his youth to Master Good, and much of what followed was what also happens in the novel.

Talent Scout Katie McCurdy asks, “Which character, not counting Ann or Will, is your favorite? Did you have a certain character that kinda suddenly took a main role that you didn't forsee when you plotted Fairer Than Morning?”
Rosslyn: My favorite supporting character is Ann’s father, Mr. Miller, whom I admire so much that I honestly wonder how I wrote him sometimes. His was the part of the novel that seemed most spirit-led. But the characters who suddenly appeared onstage who weren’t part of the novel at all, in the original sketchy outline, were Mr. and Mrs. Holmes and their daughter Amelia! They showed up on that steamboat and began to take on a life of their own, and before I knew it they were a major subplot.

Listen to Another Interview:
After her Laurel Award win, Author Rosslyn Elliott was also interviewed by Christian Authors Guild board member, Cynthia L. Simmons. This is a podcast you won’t want to miss. You can listen to in our sidebar or find it by visiting this link.

The second in the series, Sweeter Than Birdsong, releases next month and promises to be just as compelling as the first. Below, in two short, yet intriguing excerpts, the author shares a taste of what’s to come.

But first, here’s a brief summary of Sweeter Than Birdsong, book two in the Saddler’s Legacy series.

Music offers Kate sweet refuge from her troubles… But real freedom is sweeter.

In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, Kate Winter’s dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she’ll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance--and use it to mask her flight.

Ben Hanby, Otterbein College’s musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. Then he hears her sing—and the glory of her voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.
A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage—and her voice—if she is to sing a new song for their future.


Chapter One

Westerville, Ohio 1855
Her customary walk across the college quadrangle had become an executioner’s march.
Kate’s heeled shoes clunked over the flagstones. Her full skirt and horsehair crinoline dragged from her waist, too warm even for this mild May morning.
She climbed the stone steps of the whitewashed college building and laid hold of the black iron door handle with a clammy palm. The dim foyer led to the lecture hall. Her breath came faster and her corset squeezed her lungs. It had not felt so tight when the maid laced it an hour ago. Up ahead loomed the dark rectangle of the hall’s oaken door, which stood ajar.
She paused on the threshold. Inside the hall, a baritone voice lifted in clear, well-balanced phrases. The speaker’s persuasive power carried even here. Ben Hanby. He was the best orator in the class. She laid a hand to her midsection to quell the pulsing nausea there. If she did not go in now, she would not go at all.
At her push, the door swung open to reveal rows of masculine shoulders in dark coats, all heads turned toward the speaker. Each gentleman’s neat coattails fell open over his knees, black against the polished wood floor. Each white collar rose to the sweep of hair worn according to the current vogue, longer than a Roman’s but never past the collar.
On the raised platform beyond them, Ben Hanby stood, as natural and poised as if he were alone in the room, his dark hair thick over his brow. His eyes were intent, his face alive with interest in his subject, but his words floated past Kate in a wash of sounds her jumping nerves could not interpret. Of course speaking came easily for him—his father was a minister.
He finished with a question to the audience, and even her disrupted attention caught the subtle humor in the lift of his eyebrow as he delivered his line straight-faced. A chuckle rose from the young men, echoed in the lighter laughter of the small party of young lady scholars seated with their chaperone on the end of the front row.
Ben Hanby descended the stairs, the barest smile appearing as he exchanged glances with his friends.
“Miss Winter.” Professor Hayworth’s bass rumbled across the hall.
Heads turned toward her. Her skin tingled in waves of heat, her heart kicked in an uneven cadence. Could it stop from such fright?—the thought made it worsen, like a stutter in her chest that could not move on to the next beat.
“I am glad you choose to join us today.” Professor Hayworth spoke to her from the dais, beside the podium, full bearded in his formal black robe. “You have arrived just in time to give the first of our ladies’ speeches.”
She avoided their curious stares as her pulse quickened and her mouth dried.
“Please proceed to the podium,” he said.


All was quiet and dark. The boat bobbed like a cradle soothing a baby to sleep.
It didn’t calm Kate, who sat immobile in the prow. She laced her hands together in her lap where John Parker could not see them and dug her fingers into the back of her knuckles. She couldn’t stop the faint tremble that had started inside her and traveled to her hands. He mustn’t see her shaking or he would think her unfit for the errand.
The chirp of crickets set a rhythm for little splashes from the oars as John rowed them toward the Kentucky side. They were quite close now.
 She must shake off this dreamlike state. She peered at the riverbank as far as she could see to left and right. At least there was no sign of a lantern.
They bumped up against the reeds. John jumped out, heedless of the mud and several inches of water. He lashed the tow rope of the fishing boat to a birch tree.
She must move now. She clambered over the side and into the dark water.
The unfamiliar feeling of the breeches increased her sense of having traveled to some different life, some strange body. It could not be she, traipsing around the wild in men’s trousers. Someone else entirely had come on this errand—someone braver and stronger who just happened to resemble her on the outside.
A few waterlogged steps brought her to where John stood on the riverbank, like the shadow of a tree in the moonlight.
“This way.” He walked ahead of her, straight towards the thickest tangle of thorny bush.
If you would like to join the COTT Blog Alliance tour for this award-winning novel (Jan 14-18), please email us at contactcott(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Weekend Worship—Evaluating the Consequences

Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:32-34

Today my son shared something that happened in one of his classes this past week. He’s a sophomore in college and has just recently transferred to a Christian college. He was sitting in his American History class and his instructor came in. She set her briefcase down and turned to face the class. “Before we go any further, let’s go to the Father in prayer.”

My son said he sat stunned for a second then glanced around the room, waiting for someone to object. All he saw were bowed heads and it suddenly hit him that he was now in a Christian college.

This story, to me, illustrates how far America has come from our roots. Not just away from our Christian heritage, but from our freedom to worship as we like. I, for one, needed this powerful reminder as I begin evaluating the candidates in this election year. I think we’ve gone far too long without evaluating the consequences of our choices.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

To Blog or Not To Blog? As a Writer Today, Do I Really Have to Do It All?

When I talk to writers this is one of the questions I’m asked most.

And let’s face it, it's a good one. We live in a world where time is at a premium. It’s hard enough to find time to write, to work on the project we love. How do we sustain working on…well...work?

The answer is far from definitive. Everyone has to find their own balance in this social media world. But here are some suggestions. These are the ones I use to manage my own writing career. Take what works for you and toss the rest out the window.

Decide what you want. I know, you want to be a writer. But, what kind of writer? Do you want to write one book? Do you want to write several books a year, books and articles, books and speaking? The combinations are endless. It’s important to choose. Even if you’re uncertain, pick one and try it on for size. Change is fine, but you can’t move forward without a direction.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Once you have your direction set, you have to decide what will get you there the best way. Notice I said best, not fastest. You don’t want to burn out just yards from the finish line.

Here’s an example. I know a writer, we’ll call her Ruby (not her real name). Ruby wants to write novels for women, at least one per year. She also loves Facebook and admits she spends lots of time there. She hates Twitter. Those little 140 character bursts frustrate her and she has resisted moving into that arena. She has also resisted blogging, certain it will take all her writing time.

These are my suggestions for her.
  • First, she needs to track her time.
  • Second, I already know she needs to spend less of it on Facebook. Less, not give it up. Facebook is a great place to grow relationships.
  • Third, she needs to venture into the Twitter universe by connecting with her Facebook friends. I recommend she uses an ancillary program like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to make Twitter more manageable. She should set a goal of tweeting or retweeting 4 times a day. (If you’re totally lost, visit my posts on Twitter here, here and here)
  • Fourth, she does need to set up a blog, at least a practice one. Even novelists need to know how to write tight and on a schedule. Blogging is the perfect way to learn that. It’s almost the direct opposite of writing a novel. This post on blogging will give you the basics.
  • Last, she needs to make her novel writing time a priority. It’s important to figure out when, during a 24-hour day, your creative sweet spot happens. Once you know, guard that time with your life. 

Now you see why we do have to do a lot to succeed in today’s writing life. But NO ONE does it all and does it well.

Photo Courtesy of Mary Denman
Bottom Line: A strong connection with new readers is always good…but it really won’t help if you don’t spend time writing.

So now it’s time for you to chime in. What parts of social networking work for you? What parts don’t?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Clash of The Titles Rings In The New Year


*by COTT Sr. Editor, April W Gardner
January is in full swing, starting 2012 off with a bang. At Clash of the Titles, you can take that quite literally! For the next two weeks, we’re featuring Death. That’s right. Death.

Death has the power to intrigue and terrify, and it’s that power that a good book taps into, often leaving a permanent mark on the reader’s memory. Visit Clash of the Titles today, to read two Death excerpts and vote for the one that impacts you the most. 

Remember that every book you send to the Champions Ring will have a shot at our Laurel Award, handed out at the end of our Tournament of Champions. Coming October 2012!

Between now and our October Tournament, we'll have a slew of exciting clashes—some, old reliables; others, brand new. 

Here’s  what's on the COTT calendar:
Almost Kiss-- 
Unpublished Hooks-- 

Here's a glimpse at clashes you might see in the future:
Good Guy
Bad Guy
Leading Lady
Back Cover Summary
Comparable Covers
Mayhem and Mishaps
Creepy Covers
Author’s Choice
Reader’s Choice
Tantalizing Titles
Young Adult

Is there a specific book that comes to mind that you would like to see compete on Clash of the Titles in one of these clashes? We want to know!! Please enter the book title in the survey box below.

Also new in 2012, once a quarter, a specially selected COTT Champ will be featured in a podcast interview with Christian Authors Guild board member, Cynthia L. Simmons. You can hear our current podcast HERE.

Clash of the Titles thanks each of our readers and voters for making COTT such a fun hang-out during 2011. We look forward to another year of introducing you to amazing new books and giving you the opportunity to win them!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Weekend Worship—Angels on Guard

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:9-11

I will never hear the rumble of a motorcycle again without remembering today.

Today was the funeral service of Army Medic, Private First Class, Justin Whitmire. He was killed by an IED on December 27, 2011. He was barely 20 years old and graduated high school in 2010 with my middle son.

While none of us was looking forward to the service today, our anxiety was increased by advance knowledge of the protesters who announced they would be present. The mindset of people who think they are doing anything productive by harassing families struck by tragedy is beyond me. I know, no matter whom they claim to represent, they are nothing more than ignorant hate-mongers. But my heart ached at the thought of this brave family enduring anything additional on this day.

Then we found out the Patriot Guard would be on duty.

This amazing organization has banded together to stand, as a wall of avenging angels, between the family and those who seek to harm them. I could try to explain their mission, but it’s most aptly stated in the mission statement found on their website

The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security. If you share this respect, please join us.

We don’t care what you ride or if you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a hawk or a dove. It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you’re from or what your income is; you don’t even have to ride. The only prerequisite is Respect.

Our main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives:

  1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
  2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protester or group of protesters.

We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means.

To those of you who are currently serving and fighting for the freedoms of others, at home and abroad, please know that we are backing you.  We honor and support you with every mission we carry out, and we are praying for a safe return home for all.

Outside the church, they surrounded the mourners, standing at attention and shielding them from all uninvited interlopers. Their respectful silence said it all. These men and women travel hundreds of miles to show the respect of a grateful nation...and the provision of God.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday Review—The Only Post on New Year's Resolutions You’ll Need!

Prayer for the New Year
by Lynn Blackburn

At the risk of sending you diving into that stash of dark chocolate you hid on January first, let me ask a question.

How did your plans for 2011 pan out?
Did you finish your novel? Land an agent? Sign a three-book deal?
If the answer is, “YES!” then allow me to offer my congratulations!
But for many the answer is, “Well, you see, there was this thing, and then that thing, and everybody knows how tough publishing is . . .”

Indeed. It's enough to make a writer wonder if it's time to try basket weaving for fun and profit. Or maybe to start thinking, “I coulda been a contender . . . ”

Oh please.

Are you done wallowing? No? You've got three more seconds.
Okay. You're done.

My dad had a friend who put it this way, “I'd rather shoot for the stars and hit a stump than shoot for a stump and blow my big toe off.”

It's time to shoot for the stars! I know the economy is lousy, publishing is uncertain, and there are 1,738 things that have to happen for your dream to come true.
But the alternative is unacceptable. I'll grant you that big toes aren't required for writing, but why risk it? Aim high!

Do you long to write a book or devotional? Learn how to do it. Go to a conference. Put yourself in a position for amazing things to happen.

Do you have parts of several novels on your hard drive? Finish one! It may stink, but you'll learn a lot and join the ranks of writers who didn't get their first, second, or third book published. But they didn't quit. They kept shooting for the stars. Sure, they annihilated a few stumps along the way, but they can still wear open-toed shoes!

For 2012, I'm choosing to rest in God's sovereign will for my writing career and I'm praying, “Lord, this is what I desire. Please do it or something better.”

His “better” may look like a stump to me, and that's okay. He’s God and last time I checked, He’s in charge of stars and stumps. He also has a habit of turning what looks like an earthly stump into a star-studded galaxy to brighten His kingdom.

So I’m putting it out there and saying, “Lord, I'd like to have a novel published in the next five years. In 2012, I want to finish a novella, another novel, and attend a conference. Please do it or something better.”

So let's hear it. What’s your big dream and your specific prayer for 2012? 
Don't be shy. Shoot for the stars and don’t forget to join the conversation!”

(BTW – My prayer came from a Bible study called One in a Million by Priscilla Shirer. An excellent study and one I found particularly applicable as I walk the twisty road to publication.)


Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. She blogs about faith, family, and her writing journey on her blog Out of the Boat. Lynn is a member of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and the Upstate Fellowship of Christian Writers. She lives in South Carolina where she hangs out with three lively children, one fabulous man, and a cast of imaginary characters who find their way onto the pages of her still unpublished novels. She drinks a lot of coffee.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Feedburner Basics for Your Blog - Keep Up With Your Subscribers

One thing that's important to stay on top of with your blog is the stats regarding your subscribers. Notice I said SUBSCRIBERS, not followers. There is a distinction and the difference is big...really big.

A follower, at least in Blogger, means they click on a follow button and their picture appears on your blog. Anyone can be a follower and never look at a blog again. A lot of folks do it and forget about it. It's a nice thing to do and once your numbers of followers increase it looks impressive - at least to those who don't know any better.

A SUBSCRIBER, is someone who signs up to get your blog updates in their inbox or through an rss feed. This is a person who is willing to make a commitment. They may not always read your blog, but they do like to keep hearing about it in their inbox. These numbers may or may not show up visibly on your blog site, but these are the numbers publishers and others are interested in.

To add a Follow by Email or Follow through rss in blogger, you just add a gadget in your design window. It's almost as simple on a WordPress or TypePad blog as well, but that's a whole 'nother post, and one I've already covered. The most common app that handles email subscriptions is FEEDBURNER, and that's what I'll talk about today.

Adjusting your FEEDBURNER settings is easy - once you know where they're located. In Blogger, get out of your DASHBOARD and visit the front, or visitor side of your site. Look for the email subscription pane and click on the words, FEEDBURNER. This will take you to the feedburner settings area.

*Special Note: Some blogs no longer have the Feedburner link in this place. If you don't see it on your blog, You can go directly to this link: http://feedburner.google.com/ and sign in. Your blog should automatically pop up because Feedburner is owned by Google and everything Google is connected.

Once there, click on the blog (if you have more than one) you want to adjust the settings on. Across the top of this window are tabs that will lead you to where you want to go:
TROUBLESHOOT (U guess they couldn't fine anything to end in ize for this one)

Under publicize you'll find the way to manage your subscriptions and find out who's subscribed to your blog. You'll also find options that will help you post your blog to other social networking sites.

I've had a lot of questions about how to schedule the exact time your blog is emailed to subscribers. For that, click EMAIL SUBSCRIPTIONS and then DELIVERY OPTIONS.

I recommend you spend some time getting familiar with your specific subscriber management system and feel free to post further questions in the comment section of this blog.

Don't forget to join the conversation!