My Novel: Would You Rather Go to College or Boarding School?

Neither, right? Actually, I had to ask my character that question. My current WIP (work in progress) was about a teen’s first year in college. I thought it would fit into the YA market because my character is 18. But when I pitched at the 2011 ACFW conference it didn’t fly. Why? Because teens don’t want to read about college life. And college students don’t have time to read fiction. At least that’s what one agent and one editor said.

What One Editor Suggested

When an editor from Thomas Nelson suggested I switch my setting from college to a boarding school, I cringed. It would make my story more teenage-friendly. But who would rather read about boarding school than college? College seems like more fun. In my mind I associate boarding school with a harsh regime, like a reform school. Who knows. Maybe I could make my boarding school as cool as Hogwart’s.

So I took a step back and did some research. There actually are Christian boarding schools in New York. Only a few, but they cater to hundreds of students. It’s a different twist on the ordinary high school drama. But is it interesting enough to relate to?

Will an Agent Get It?

The agent I spoke with at the ACFW conference agreed with the editor. I was devastated. But she said one thing that stuck with me, “Your writing is strong.” And she handed me her card. I was so disappointed by the news that I needed to change my novel’s setting. I only remembered the bad part for a month or two afterward.

As the Genesis contest approached, I suddenly remembered the agent’s praise. And her card. So I updated my story to the boarding school version and sent it off to Genesis to test out the new version. When it semi-finaled (yay!) I sent an updated query to the agent. Last week she sent me another rejection letter. This time with pointed advice. She had a lot of contemporary YA novels on her plate, and my story didn’t wow her. Back to the drawing board.  I’m still looking for the right agent, one who will get it.

A New Market

In the market where paranormal teen romance is a section in Barnes & Noble bookstores, my contemporary YA romantic comedy needs some extra punch. I’m not quite willing to add a paranormal punch. That wouldn’t be true to my story.

But I could change parts of my story. Maybe a prep school in New York City would be a better setting. Or my heroine could be a country girl who has to adjust to the big city. Time to spice it up. 🙂

Brainstorm With Me

Q4U: Would you rather read about a character in college, boarding school, or prep school? What other plot, character, or setting developments do you think might spice up a ho-hum YA romantic comedy about a girl running away from a heartbreak only to have to face it again? Don’t worry, there’s no bad ideas here.

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Time to Turn That Blog Into a Book? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself First

Lately I’ve been thinking about turning my blog into something publishable, a column, a book, or an ebook. There’s so many options to choose from. And lots of resources out there clamoring for attention. As I formulate my thoughts into some kind of plan, I wondered if other bloggers are in the same predicament. If so, here’s a look at my thought processes before the fateful decision is made:

1. Am I Ready? How much time it will take, and how much of my resources will be needed? Now is a great time for self-publishing, but is it right for me? I’ve always told myself to try the traditional publishing route first. Would a short self-pubbed book ruin my chances? I know it all depends on the publisher, but it’ll take some research to figure that out.

2. Do I Have Enough Content?  I wonder if it makes sense to pour time into one tiny ebook without any other products to back it up. I’d probably have to charge a few bucks to make it work it. I could follow the advice of Joel Friedlander(@JFBookman) in his CopyBlogger post today: 3 Simple Ways to Turn Your Website Archive into Profitable Books and eBooks.

3. What Would the Focus Be? I have a great Writer’s Tips series that I could easily make into an ebook. It would be great for beginning writers who aren’t sure where to start. But beyond that, I’m not sure what else I can offer. Then again, I could turn my new focus of faith and entertainment into a short ebook, too. Or I can start future blog series to turn into books, like Joel suggests.

4. How Can a Book Promote My Blog? A blog in itself reaches a certain niche of people. There’s an audience to reach, if I can learn to target them. Free content, otherwise known as content marketing, would promote my brand further, and in turn promote my blog. It’s all a new process to me. And I wonder if free content would be better than a cheap book. There are examples of how both can work like The Creative Penn.

5. Can I Make it Professional? This is a big deal to me. If I put something out there, I want it to be professional. That means fully edited and promoted. But those things cost money. And time, not only to find a great editor but to go through rounds of edits. Marketing and promotion are tools I’m interested in, but I wonder if I can do it all myself.

Will my reasons of promoting my blog and enhancing my platform outweigh my concerns of self-pubbing? The verdict is still out on that. Right now I’ve got a query out and a contest to worry about. But when those things are decided, this might be a next step to consider. Food for thought anyway. I’ll keep you posted.

Crime Fictionista Nike Chillemi and Her Debut Novel

Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist who killed her employer and mentor? To do so Erica must decide if she can trust Lorne,  the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley, especially when some say he’s the murderer. Burning Hearts is a mixture of arson,murder, action, and romance in equal measure, with a touch of humor by Nike Chillemi from Desert Breeze Publishing.

1. Where did the idea for Burning Hearts come from?

My stories are character driven. With Burning Hearts, I had a feisty young woman in mind as my heroine and a hero who’s a loner, but lives by a code of honor. I worked on their characterization, perhaps a bit like an actor would. I know how they take their coffee, what colors you’d find in their closets.  I could see Erica and Lorne vividly and I had to write their story.

2. Are there any personal touches or anecdotes in the story?

Erica Brogna, my heroine, is a bit like me. She wants to be a dress designer and I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in the bridal industry. She’s independent and stubborn and it gets her into trouble. I’m independent and stubborn but it never got me into any trouble at all. Yeah, right. Something I didn’t realize until the book was in edits is that Erica’s mother is very similar to my Czechoslovakian grandmother. Mrs B. excels in the kitchen and has a great sense of humor. So did my grandmother.  I recall my grandmother swatting my dad with a kitchen towel. He’d laugh and hug her.

3. How did you decide on Desert Breeze as your publisher? Tell us about them.

First of all, Desert Breeze Publishing and Gail Delaney, its editor in chief, are wonderful. There’s no better place to be for a newbie writer. They have a tremendous support system in place and they put tremendous effort into promoting all the Desert Breeze titles. I submitted to them because other Desert Breeze authors I knew recommended them highly. I have not been disappointed.

4. Tell us a bit about your writing journey. How did Burning Hearts find its way to publication?

I’ve always been a reader. As a child, I loved the possibilities beyond my own life I found in novels. My first book, about horses, was written in Crayola. Then, as a teen, I penned requisite poems filled with angst. For years and years there was something niggling at the back of my mind that I’d write fiction. About five years ago, that nudging got more persistent. I began to conceptualize myself as a writer, began to sense a possible calling in that area. That’s when I began writing seriously for publication. Once I got the idea for Burning Hearts and could visualize Erica and Lorne, my main characters, the story grew organically. I’m the leader of an ACFW critique group. Although Burning Hearts didn’t get written in the critique group, it certainly got polished there  into something marketable.

5. What advice do you have for writers seeking publication for their first book?

Burning Hearts wasn’t my first manuscript. And to be honest, I would never tell a newbie writer they’re going to get their first book published. I wrote a really bad first story that will nevermore see the light of day, though I keep it around for laughs. While I was writing that one, I was also taking the Harlequin free online writing course offered at that time. My recommendation to new authors is that they take any free or affordable writing courses or workshops that are available. I’d also enter writing contests. Judges give wonderful feedback, though sometimes the writer needs a thick skin to read judges’ comments and not feel ill. It took a combination of getting rejections for the first story with a few valuable comments and taking that writing course for me to realize there was a huge difference between writing an “A” college paper and writing fiction. I started getting that there was a craft to writing fiction. So, I started on Burning Hearts and spent about two years on it from the first notes about plot until I submitted it to Desert Breeze Publishing.

6. What are your future book plans?

I’m working on GOODBYE NOEL, the second novel in the Sanctuary Point series, set on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY. It’s set at Christmas and is kind of in the Mary Higgins Clark tradition–the body is found under the Christmas tree. Of course, I seek to shake my main characters up as much as possible, putting obstacle after obstacle and threat after threat into their paths. In my research for GOODBYE NOEL, I found it fascinating how in the 1940s Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany were simply part of the warp and woof of American lives. I tried to convey the ease and joy Americans had about these holidays at that time.

Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. BURNING HEARTS is the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, published by Desert Breeze.

Check out Nike Chillemi’s Blog: www.crimefictionandfaith.blogspot.com

Guest Blog and Contest with Delia Latham: I Sure Wish I’d Known

Author Delia Latham is my guest on today’s blog, sharing her publishing wisdom for those of us still on the road to publication. She’s also hosting a two contests for her birthday; full details follow blog entry.

I Wish I’d Known Then What I Know Now

Probably a cliché statement, but oh-so-true on so many levels. When I think of it in terms of the publishing industry, I can’t help but utter a hearty, “Amen!”

As fledgling writers, we tend to think all we have to do to succeed as a writer is to write. I suppose that’s true, if all one wants to be is a “writer.” But to be a published author, much more is required. Successful writers are also publicists, marketing gurus, media spokespeople, public relations specialists … and the list goes on.

I didn’t know all that when I started submitting books for publication. I didn’t know all that when my first book was accepted for publication. I didn’t know all that until that book was in print, and the harsh reality stared me in the face: Someone has to market this baby!

Most publishing companies take on the lion’s share of marketing. Some I could mention do very little other than print books. Either way, an author who wants more for her book than to die a lonely death in the library burn pile will learn a few marketing, advertising, PR and speaking tricks—pronto! Otherwise she may as well write an obituary for that title right along with the book itself.

Am I exaggerating? Not even a little bit.

Here are some things I wish I’d known before I wrote my first book:

  1. Not all companies who call themselves publishers are legitimate.
    Thinking about submitting to a publisher you’ve never heard of, one who doesn’t have a recognizable, respected name in the industry? Do yourself a favor and research them. A simple web search should turn up enough information to let you know whether they’re legitimate or not. Do they pay an advance? ($1 does not count as an advance…) Do they pay a royalty? Do they help market the book? Are there complaints against them online…or elsewhere? Check with the Better Business Bureau if you can’t information anywhere else. And if you find there is NO information about them, that too is cause for a red flag as is finding tons of complaints and breach of contract accusations.
  2. Speaking skills are a huge bonus to an author. Don’t like to speak in public? Honey, get over it. Find a Toastmasters group or take a public speaking class. Find a topic in which you can be considered something of a pro—your area of expertise—and start developing a speaking platform. Many books are sold at speaking events, and it’s also a tremendous way to build name recognition. Yes, it’s possible to be successful without being a public speaker, but this skill can be a huge tool in selling an enormous number of books.
  3. Marketing skills are necessary. I’m not suggesting you have to get a marketing degree. But do start learning how to promote yourself and your title. Read books on the subject. Research it on the Net. Visit blogs on the subject. Develop a marketing plan, even before you submit your manuscript—many, if not most publishers will ask for it. What do you plan to do to help get the word out about your book? Will you hire a publicist? Hold book signings? Send press releases to your local media? How about a blog tour? So many possibilities…and yes, a tremendous amount of work is involved. Are you willing to do it?
  4. Unless you’re a Nora Roberts—or even Stephenie Meyer—one or two…or even half a dozen published books isn’t likely to make you rich. Chances are good, in fact, that you might sink more money into marketing those first books than you’ll earn in royalties. Look at those debut works as tools. Every book an author writes hones his/her writing skills and increases name recognition within the publishing industry. With each published title, you’ll learn more about writing and about marketing. Just don’t be discouraged if your first book doesn’t make you a celebrity, or start a nationwide craze (. Twilight). It happens…but it’s the exception, not the rule.

These are four things I wish I’d known prior to publication, but didn’t—and they’re only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my lack of knowledge. With several books in print, I still consider myself a fairly new author. I have so much yet to learn about this industry.

But these things I have learned. Maybe my trials by error can help some new author avoid the same snarls and tangles and embarrassing moments I endured. Perhaps, through my own learning experiences, some other writing newbie won’t have to write an article titled, “I Sure Wish I’d Known…”

Delia Latham’s latest book, Kylie’s Kiss released from White Rose publishing in April.

Born and raised in a place called Weedpatch, Delia Latham moved from California to Oklahoma in 2008, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her simple country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. The author enjoys multiple roles as Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. She loves to hear from her readers. You may contact her through her website or send an e-mail to delia AT delialatham DOT net.

Latham’s backlist of published novels includes: Goldeneyes (2008, Vintage Romance Publishing); Yesterday’s Promise (2010, White Rose Publishing); Destiny’s Dream (2010, White Rose Publishing, Solomon’s Gate Series, Book 1); and Mine! (children’s picture book, 2011, Vinspire Imaginations). Kylie’s Kiss (Solomon’s Gate, Book 2) released in April 2011. Book 3 in the Solomon’s Gate Series will also be available in 2011, with release date pending.

Find out more about this author at:

Her website: www.delialatham.net
Blog: www.my-book-bag.blogspot.com
Newsletter: www.bookshelfnewsletter.blogspot.com

Check out my interview with Delia on Examiner.com


CONTEST INFO:

  1. The 1st PRIZE (Oil Bottle Necklace and Oil) will be announced on June 28th. Winner will be drawn from comments left on all the blogs up until midnight on June 27th.
  2. The FOUR BOOK WINNERS will receive their choice of the following books:
        Destiny’s Dream (pdf)
        Kylie’s Kiss (pdf)
        Morning Rendezvous (print) (This is a self-pubbed book of devotions/inspirational musings
    Book winners will be announced the morning of July 1st. They will be drawn from comments left on all the blogs up until midnight on June 30th.

Good luck to all who enter. You have  several chances to win. Just leave a comment on any of these blogs before the deadline:

Donna Basinow: http://donnabsnow.blogspot.com/

Pamela S. Thibodeaux: http://pamswildroseblog.blogspot.com

Lena Nelson Dooley: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com 

Barbara Hartzler: http://barbarahartzler.com/

Linda Wagner: http://onedesertrose.wordpress.com/

Anne K. Albert: http://piedmont-island-trilogy.blogspot.com

Tracy Krauss: www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com

Robin Bayne: http://wwwwritingbetweensundays.blogspot.com

Edwina Cowgill: http://www.musingsofedwina.blogspot.com/

Susan Hollaway: http://susanhollaway.blogspot.com

Patty Wysong  (June 27-28): http://www.barndoorbookloft.net

Elizabeth Johnson: http://www.lizjohnsonbooks.com

Shellie Neumeier: http://shellieneumeier.com/

Liz Tolsma: www.liztolsma.blogspot.com

Teresa Slack: www.writersrest.blogspot.com

Rose McCauley: http://www.rosemccauley.blogspot.com/

Jeannie Campbell: http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com/

Nike Chillemi: http://crimefictionandfaith.blogspot.com/

Jo Huddleston: http://johuddleston.blogspot.com/

Clare Revell: http://telscha.blogspot.com/ 

Andrea Strong: http://andreastake.blogspot.com

Phyllis Wheeler: http://www.phylliswheeler.com/blog/

Elaine Cantrell: http://www.elainepcantrell.blogspot.com

Cheryl St. John: http://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/

For the full and complete list of blogs and contest info visit Delia’s blog:

http://www.delialatham.net/blogblitzjune27th.htm

Ebook Review and Giveaway: Surrendered Hearts by Carrie Turansky

A contemporary inspirational romance, Surrendered Hearts is Carrie Turansky’s first ebook. I haven’t broken down and bought an e-reader yet, so I downloaded the Kindle for PC app.  It works just as well. I love reading them on my laptop. And the prices are usually cheaper. Gotta love that!

Surrendered Hearts is the stand alone sequel to Carrie’s first novel Along Came Love published by Love Inspired. My absolute favorite thing about this book was the gorgeous scenery. Carrie made you feel like you were in Tipton, Vermont in many of the scenes. Her beautiful setting details interwoven into the story reminded me of Colleen Coble’s imagery in Alaska Twilight.  It set the tone for the book perfectly.

I also really enjoyed the story of Jenn. Her struggle to reunite with God and overcome a recent fire that left her scarred is very poignant. And the hero plays a key role in showing Jenn what God’s love really is, instead of just telling her. Yet the hero came off as an ordinary Christian and very relatable. The characters could use more depth. Some of their emotions were simply told to the reader, rather than show.  However,  I enjoyed watching their story unfold in a natural way with just the right amount of drama to feel real.

The story has a subtle takeaway value. An underlying message of redemption and healing. It’s nothing harsh. You may not even recognize it. But it will leave you feeling like you learned something. Like your time was well spent. And that’s a key ingredient in my enjoyment of any book.

Surrendered Hearts was a nice, relaxing read. I highly recommend it for rainy days, a lazy weekend, or a day at the beach (or pool if you’re landlocked like I am). I think you’ll enjoy the vivid setting and a story whose message softly whispers through the pages.

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a free download of Carrie’s ebook!

Carrie Turansky is the award-winning author of eight inspirational romance novels and novellas. She has been a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, The ACFW Genesis, and ACFW Carol Award and winner of the WRW Crystal Globe Award. She has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2000.Her latest releases are Christmas Mail-Order Brides, Seeking His Love, and Surrendered Hearts. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband, Scott, who is a pastor, author, speaker and counselor. They have five young adult children. Carrie and her family spent a year in Kenya as missionaries, giving them a passion for what God is doing around the world. Carrie leads women’s ministry at her church, and when she is not writing she enjoys gardening, reading, flower arranging, and cooking for friends and Family. You may contact her through her website: www.carrieturansky.com

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author for review. This ebook giveaway is sponsored by the author, Carrie Turansky.

Deadline for Giveaway: This giveaway ended on Monday, June 13. Congratulations to the winner, Lisa Ledford! 🙂

Insights Into Writing and Publishing with Author Tom Blubaugh

YA author Tom Blubaugh shares the story behind his first novel, and how he got it published. Night of the Cossack follows teenager Nathan Hertzfield’s life-or-death adventures through Russia and Europe during the early 1900’s.

Q:  How did you come up with the idea for your YA historical novel?

A: Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. The older I grew the more I noticed their absence. I tried to find out about them, but there was very little information. One day I found that my maternal grandfather was a Russian Cossack soldier. I took this fact and started creating my grandfather for myself.

Q: Why did you decide to go with Bound by Faith Publishers? Tell us a bit about them.

A: Actually, they came to me. I knew the owners, Dennis & Polly Vance, from church. I had helped Dennis with a website and he came to me for help with his publishing site. I showed him my website, which contains the first chapter of the manuscript I was working on, just to give him some ideas. He and Polly read that chapter and wanted to read the rest. They asked me if they could publish it. Not your usual publishing story.

Q: You’ve used three different publishing methods–a bigger house, an up-and-coming house, and self publishing. Can you tell us about your experiences with each and how they differ?

A: The self publishing was in regard to a ministry I had at the time—a seminar of developing a bus ministry back in the mid-seventies. I used it as a tool of my ministry and didn’t mass produce for marketing. I didn’t even keep a copy of it for myself, but my publisher found it on Amazon.com a couple of months ago and I grabbed it. That title was Behind the Scenes of the Bus Ministry.

I am a member of some online writing groups. One day I received an email telling me Barbour Publishing was looking for male writers to write devotions based on nature and the outdoors. I sent them a sample devotional and they contracted me, flat rate, to write twenty for their publication The Great Adventure. I believe there were fourteen other writers. This did not involve anything other than writing.

The Night of the Cossack is my first foray into fiction writing. This experience is totally different and I am learning a lot. It’s interesting knowing the publishers personally because we talk over everything, brainstorm, and work together. Dennis supports me by attending speaking engagements and book signings. Recently we participated in a Career Day at a local elementary school. He presented the publishing side and I presented insights into an author’s world.

The downside is there’s no distributor, so it is a lot like being self published. It’s hard work getting my books in stores. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. It has given me great insight into what is involved in publishing. Dennis has almost as hard a time getting the book into stores as writers do getting an editor to read a manuscript. We trust the Lord to open the doors.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Work hard at building a marketing platform from the beginning. Don’t wait until your manuscript is done. Get active on Facebook, Twitter and get your name out there. Don’t think, “If I get published.” Instead think, “When I get published.”

Tom Blubaugh is a freelance writer. He has written nonfiction most of his adult life.  He is also a member of the Missouri Writer’s Guild and speakers bureau. He resides with his wife Barbara in Southwest Missouri where he is currently writing fiction. Tom and Barbara have six children and fourteen grandchildren. In addition to writing, Tom loves macro photography. He was president of Jericho Commission, Inc and still serves as a board member. Tom believes that retirement is about continuing to fulfill God’s purpose. And yes, he is currently working on a sequel to Night of the Cossack.

Tom’s website: www.tomblubaugh.com

Tom’s Blogs:  Tom’s Blog and check out Tom at Blogspot.

For the print version of Night of the Cossack  go to Bound by Faith Publishers. For the ebook version, visit Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com