Friday, May 31, 2013

Writing: Money, Money, Money...

When I speak to groups about the writing life, usually at least one person summons the nerve to ask about advances, royalties, and the money to be made writing. The short answer is, "Don't quit your day job." Actually, you can if you're one of a double-handful of authors who are wildly successful, but for the average writer, royalties aren't going to make you independently wealthy.

When I was starting out, I was told to expect a five-figure advance: three figures to the left of the decimal point, two to the right. I've done a bit better than that with my novels, but not a lot--the sums aren't exorbitant. And I have to remind you that these are advances against royalties. That is, it's only after the books sell enough copies to "earn out" the royalties that the author gets another check.

Agent Steve Laube covered this subject quite well in a recent blog post, and you can read it here. To sum up, let me say that most authors (I wish I could say "all") write because they "can't not write," as the saying goes. Those of us who write for the Christian marketplace look upon it as a ministry. If money comes along...well, we won't turn it down. But as I've said before, "Don't quit your day job. At least, not yet."

Any questions about writing? Leave them in the comments and I'll try to address them. And thanks for stopping by.

(picture via

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day, 2013

Today we observe Memorial Day, a time to honor those who have given their lives in the service of our country.

We've had a tumultuous past few weeks: natural disasters, political unrest, a world seemingly turned upside down. I hope that for one day we will pause to remember and thank those who've served to protect our freedom and that of others. That's what Memorial Day is all about. That's what it should be.

I'm proud to have served my country in the United States Air Force. I salute my fellow comrades, and honor those who gave the "last full measure of devotion" in that service. God bless America.

This will take the place of my usual Tuesday post. Please come back Friday for a post on the writing life. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Writing: Which Road To Take

When I first started down this road to writing, there were two paths. You could acquire representation by an agent, get an offer from a publisher, and have your work published, or you could publish it yourself (hard copy)...what was then called "vanity publishing."  Now, as Bob Dylan sang so nasally, "The times they are a-changin'."

There are still a number of advantages to having your book published by a conventional publisher, but the road to self-publication via e-books is tempting to many. After all, why butt your head against that wall when you can do it yourself, get the book out there quickly, and keep most of the profits for yourself?

To furnish what I've heard called "a bite of a reality sandwich," I  want to share a message I just received. "I'm trying to sell a ... novel, but it's certainly been a learning experience so far. I had no idea I'd have to give myself a rigorous crash test on social media marketing to sell just a few copies! There must be a gazillion people out there trying to sell e-books. I thought I was doing something outside the box!"

Nope, e-publishing is no longer a novelty. If you undertake it (and I'm not saying you shouldn't) you're firmly in the midst of a crowd. That's why, before taking that road, you should be certain your work is the best it can be. Then employ a professional editor to make it better. Get an eye-catching cover done. Use someone who knows what he/she is doing to get it ready to publish. And start marketing as though your livelihood depended on it--it will.

As a conventionally published author, I still do all of the above or have it done for me. But I'm working hard at marketing, just as much as the e-published authors in some cases. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Oh, wait. Lots of them are.

Authors, what do you think about conventional vs. e-publishing? Please leave your comments, play nicely with each other, and remember that it's not "us vs. them."

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Civil Or Uncivil Disobedience?

I'm a former resident of Duncanville, Texas. Two of my three children graduated from the high school there. I happen to think they got a good education, although I continue to take issue with the School Board decision to maintain one huge high school rather than two or more smaller ones--a decision many of us felt allowed a larger pool to feed its athletic teams and band. But that has nothing to do with my opinion of what happened there recently.

When I first saw the clip on local news of an 18 year-old sophomore ranting at his teacher after being sent out of class for being disruptive, my thought was, "He may have a point, but this isn't the way to raise it." I was amazed, flabbergasted, and disappointed to see how many people came to his defense. His mother, a teacher, seemed proud of him for expressing his views the way he did, talking back to his teacher while he held the floor. In TV interviews, he said he wouldn't mind if the teacher lost her job over the incident. Now she's been placed on administrative leave while he's back in class.

 It's heartening to see some members of the media who feel the way I do, but it's disheartening to see how many comments are showing up in support of the rant this student generated.

I have no knowledge of the way the teacher taught or any of the other underlying problems (although I do know that what set the young man off was that his class was given two days to complete an assignment rather than the three given other classes). Frankly, I think that's not the point. The point is how one expresses dissatisfaction. Is this civil disobedience (which Martin Luther King demonstrated) or  uncivil disobedience (which I personally think this young man displayed)?  Wouldn't a word to his mother, a discussion among other students and their parents, an appearance at a School Board meeting, have been more appropriate? And I still wonder why there was a friend so  prepared to take a cell phone video and post it on YouTube.

Weigh in, folks. Your turn.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Few Announcements

I know, I know...I don't usually blog on Mondays, but there are a few things I want to let my loyal readers know. And, by the way, the guy in the picture isn't me, even though we both wear glasses. (I haven't lost that much hair--yet).

Mark Young is a veteran of over a quarter of a century of police work and a combat veteran of the Viet Nam conflict. His e-books provide suspense and thrills. Mark recently introduced his readers to Stress Test and to me on his blog. I hope you'll stop by and leave a comment, as well as checking out Mark's books.

Fellow author Christa Allan features my post on the life of a published writer, "The Fun Never Stops," on her blog today. Christa's debut book, Walking On Broken Glass, deals with the very real problem of alcoholism, from the perspective of a recovering alcoholic. I'll have to admit the prologue brought me to tears. I hope you'll look into this one, as well.

For those who found this blog through the recent Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt, I'm glad you stopped by. Lisa Bergren, who organized the hunt, is handling the final wrap-up, so please direct any questions to her. But I hope you come back here again.

Tomorrow I'm back to my regular blogging schedule. I'll be posting on... Well, I guess you'll have to click through to see.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013


 (Note: for those of you using Internet Explorer, I've completely redone this post--hope you can see all of it now.)

Welcome to the 2013 Summer Scavenger Hunt! This hunt has 32 stops and runs from May 17 through May 19, 2013 (midnight Mountain Time). You can make the loop, reading unique content from 31 different authors, and if you complete the loop, and fill out the Rafflecopter form at Stop #32, you'll be in the running for an iPad Mini (loaded with all our books), or one of two runner-up prizes---all 31 of our new releases in paperback. In addition, some authors are offering additional prizes, so be sure to read each post thoroughly to be in the running for all that are available. The contest is open internationally.

If you've JUST discovered the hunt, I recommend you begin at the beginning, Stop #1, found here. But you can also begin with this blog, and keep on rolling. Just be aware that you have to have the COMPLETED phrase in order, which you construct gathering the clue at each stop, within 24 hours of email notification from Lisa Bergren that you won. If Lisa doesn't hear back from you with the correct phrase within the time limit, she will move on to the next winner Rafflecopter draws. Ready? Here we go...


I am pleased to host R. J. Larson, author of Christian YA fantasy. R. J.'s books, although they're set in a fantasy world, speak to our own situation, today more than ever. She's the author of...never mind. Let me turn the podium over to RJ and let her tell you a bit about yourself.

R. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals featured in publications such as Women's Devotional Bible and Seasons of a Woman's Heart. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband and their two sons. Prophet marked her debut in the fantasy genre.

Today, R. J. shares with us the steps she goes through to create a book and the world in which it takes place.

When I realized I’d been dragged into writing inspirational fantasy fiction, my first, most complicated task was to imagine an entire fantasy world to frame the Books of the Infinite series. Where did I begin? With a continent. After studying maps of ancient countries, including Israel, Egypt, Rome, and Greece, I sketched out a map of my imaginary continent—shown here in parchment and ink by artist, Katharin Fiscaletti, who created all the drawings in this post. 



With the boundaries in place, I pondered the next step. What sorts of creatures inhabited this new, imaginary world? Legendary beasts, of course. Leviathans. Lindorms. Griffins. And a few creatures unique to this new continent, such as the ferocious, carnivorous Scaln, portrayed here in all its crimson glory. 



The next step? I imagined my characters. People who might have lived during my imaginary world’s Biblical era. What did they eat? What did they drink? What sort of clothes did they wear? Were there variations in language and clothes between each country? I drew upon my knowledge of ancient lands, and my personal library of history books and decided upon the “look” for my characters, as well as their manners and customs. This world, I decided must be primarily Biblical in flavor, with hints of Earth’s own ancient cultures—leading to more research for details I loved and added to my story. Who knew that the exotic saris of modern India were inspired by the ancient tunics and mantles of Greece?


For interest, and because my collection of medieval research books rival any public library’s shelves, the Bethany House team and I agreed to add a bit of medieval flare, which is evident on the cover of King in Akabe’s long tunic sleeves, and his formidable two handed sword, known here on Earth as a claymore.


The final result…a unique Biblical-fantasy world that Bethany House Publishers and I hope you enjoy as you read King!

 R. J. Larson's latest book, King, book three in the Infinite series, is described as "fantasy meets the Old Testament," and carries a powerful message. It is available at bookstores or online at Amazon, BarnesandNoble, Christian Book Distributors and elsewhere.

Write down this clue: AND
Have it written down? Great! Now head on over to the blog of R. J. Larson,  stop #15, for the next clue!

While you're here, if you aren't already a subscriber to my newsletter, I hope you'll go to the column at the right and sign up right now. I promise you won't be bombarded--maybe three or four issues per year--but subscribers get information and sneak peaks at future books.

And if you haven't read my latest novel of medical suspense, Stress Test, you can read a sample here. 

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll come back often. And good luck.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Likes And Dislikes

Have you ever wondered how the impression you give may affect decisions of others? Let me give you an example. Recently, Kay and I were shopping in a local grocery when she called my attention to a product that we'd seen on the TV Show, Shark Tank. I  remembered the product and its name because the entrepeneur who appeared on the show seeking an investment was so totally unlikeable. He was brash, condescending, and pretty much gave the impression he was doing the multimillionaires to whom he was pitching the product a huge favor by offering them a tiny piece of his business. When we saw the episode, Kay and I looked at each other and shook our heads.

He didn't get an investor, but now, lo and behold, he'd convinced this 150-store chain to stock his product, probably as a trial. Although I wouldn't have minded trying it, there was something inside me that kept me from reaching for it. He'd made a bad impression on me, and that carried over to his product. So we walked on by, one less item in our shopping cart.

Have you ever failed to buy something, to do something, to engage in something, just because a person associated with it made a bad impression on you? I'd love to hear about it.

NOTE: My next post will (as usual) be about writing, but in a different way. On Friday, I'll be part of a Christian fiction scavenger hunt involving 31 authors, all of them offering one of their books as a prize. I'll be hosting a very interesting blog post about how a fantasy book comes together. And on another blog, I'll be talking about the "tyranny of the shoulds." Hope you'll come back for that one. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Writing: Changes

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. I guess there are two reasons that Jimmy Buffet song is running through my head right now. He was in concert in our town recently, and the Christian publishing community is still buzzing about the changes announced by publisher Broadman and Holman recently.

These changes, coupled with the ready availability of e-publishing and the move of some authors to self-publishing or the hybrid model (conventional publishing plus self-publishing), have most of us who write in the area of Christian fiction scratching our heads and wondering where we go from here.

Readers, were you even aware of these changes? Writers, what does this mean to you? As Yul Brynner said, in The King and I, "'tis a puzzlement."

NOTE: If you're a writer and live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, you're invited to the meeting of the DFW Ready Writers tomorrow at 10:30 AM at the Bedford Public Library, where I'll be speaking on "Six Things I Wish I'd Known At My First Conference." Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Your Body Language Is Showing

I've had a book sitting on my desk for almost two months. I bought it because I needed to add to the list of gestures used by characters in my novels, gestures that portrayed emotions and feelings. Now that I've finally gotten around to reading the book, I've become more aware of my own body language and what it conveys.

The book is What Every Body Is Saying, written by former FBI agent Joe Navarro. And before you ask, I paid good money for it and haven't been asked to review it. But although some of the things were intuitive and sort of simple, others were quite subtle. For instance, I discovered that during a conversation someone who is anxious to leave will unconsciously point one foot away toward their planned exit. And when two people are seated facing each other, the direction one crosses a leg indicates whether you're comfortable or uncomfortable with the individual. (Hint, in one situation you're raising a barrier).

I did pick up a few additional "tells" for my characters to display, but more than that, I became aware of my own tendency to betray my feelings via body language. I'm going to have to watch that.

Do you have unconscious "tells" that can indicate to others how you feel without ever saying a word? Are you sure?

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Friday, May 03, 2013

Writing: Is Perseverance Enough?

One of my granddaughter's favorite places to go for lunch or dinner is a place that serves wonderful hamburgers and hot dogs. But it's not the food that gets her attention--it's the machine in the corner, the one with the claw that dangles over the tempting array of prizes. Actually, Cassie likes two different restaurants. The one in her home town in Nevada and one here in our home town. The major difference is that ours has a simple rule--you keep playing until you win something. So for my 50 cents she always walks out with some little trinket (worth about 3 cents, but who counts pennies when you're a grandparent).

When I first began writing, I heard it over and over: BIC. The conventional wisdom was that if you applied your rear end to the chair and wrote long enough, eventually you'd get so good at it that an agent or editor would recognize your genius, and you'd be off on your own road to publication. I hoped that was true, but I didn't just hope BIC would get me published. I studied the craft, reading books and attending writer's conferences. I not only wrote, I let people who knew writing read my work and critique it. When it stopped hurting, I went back and revised what I'd wrote. I discovered every mistake you can make, learning them by making and then correcting them.

So, what's your opinion? Is putting in the time enough? Does the time need to be productive, and if so, in what way? Published writers, feel free to weigh in with your experience. Writers who are unpublished (the new term is pre-published, I guess), what do you think? Is persistence enough? And readers, can you tell which writers have polished their craft and which ones are still learning? I'd love to hear from you.

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PROGRAMMING NOTE: I'm a guest on Suspense Radio tomorrow starting at 1:00 PM Central Time. Hope you'll tune in.