Friday, October 28, 2016

Writing: Author Marji Laine's Journey

Today, I've asked Suspense Sister Marji Laine to tell us about her writing journey.

To tell you the truth, my journey into the field of publishing is not too unlike the game of Candyland. You remember that game where the colors or the pictures would send you forward or back along the trail? That’s been this journey. Quick steps forward, then huge leaps back only to practically start over.

Six years ago, my mom challenged me. “If time and money were no issue, what would you be doing?”

I said, “Writing,” without the slightest hesitation. And it surprised me, because at the time, I’d become fairly successful as a scrapbooking consultant and workshop instructor. I even held five retreats every year for card-making and scrapbooking. I fully believe that God was putting the desire to write in my heart for His purposes, though I didn’t know (and still don’t) the full extent of what He had in mind.

Sweet Hubby supported me, though he cautioned me not to get my heart set on publication. “That would be great, but that might not be what this is all about.”

I spent the next four years learning everything I could about Christian fiction. I attended two critique groups each week, poured through craft books, read numerous blogs and articles, and listened to a multitude of podcasts and recordings from writer meetings and conferences. Speeding ahead, I was able to interest an agent early on and even won a few awards for my novel and short stories.

Despite so many advances, the publishing contract remained elusive. Somewhere along the road, my focus had skewed from following the Lord to pursuing publication. Not that the Lord didn’t want that, but it had become my sole goal. I had to give up that part of my dream to allow Him to be in charge. At that point, I released my sweet agent and started contemplating indie publishing.

Doors opened. Friends stepped in to give assistance and encouragement. Within a year, I’d indie-published four novellas both in print and e-book and had helped another writer with her children’s picture book.

Though quite content with indie publishing, I hesitated when faced with publishing my own novel. I don’t know why, but the impression was strong that I should pitch my first novel with a small press that I’d become involved with through some collaboration work. On my birthday, the editor called and gave me a precious gift of a four-book contract. What a blessing.

My first novel under that contract releases on November 1st. Squee! But that isn’t the end of my story. See, all through these last many years of patience, perseverance, and learning about the practice and environment of the publishing industry, God was equipping me for the next job He had. Sweet Hubby was right, way back when. This journey was only partly about my writing and the publishing of my own books.

A little over a month ago, the editor of the company came to me with another revelation from the Lord. Would I step in and take over the imprints? God is good. He made it clear to me and Sweet Hubby that He was leading in this path. Everything He had been teaching me has become crucial as I support almost two dozen authors and their multitude of books. And while I’m still writing a little, and hope to be able to do more, this new role in which He has placed me (exceeding abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine!) is such a blessing.

I wouldn’t change a thing!

COUNTER POINT, a new novel of romantic suspense, is available as a pre-order for only $2.99 – a 40% discount – until October 30th. Send your Amazon receipt to to receive a collection of Marji’s short and sweet romances, HEART SPARKS.

For an opportunity to win a copy of CounterPoint, leave a comment, including your email address. The winner will be chosen and notified by mid-week.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Guest Posting (And A Giveaway)

Today at the Suspense Sisters blog I talk about writers getting rich and famous...or not.

Leave a comment there (with your email address) for a chance to win a signed copy of Medical Judgment.

See you this Friday.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Please Vote

Kay and I, like many of our fellow Texans, will be voting early. I'm one of the first to admit that I'm not thrilled with either candidate. But given what each says they will do, and what they have demonstrated by past actions and privately uttered words, I believe I've made my choice based on the future of our country. And despite what Michael Moore may say, I'm not a "legal terrorist" because of my vote against the candidate he favors.

Why don't we see more yard signs for candidates this time around? Two reasons, I think. The first is that yard signs have given way to social media posts. The other is fear. Yard signs have always disappeared, but in this election there have been a few instances when they also marked the occupants of houses for retaliation. One candidate's rallies were interrupted by individuals who turned out to be paid by the other side. It's getting rough out there, folks.

Social media is a great way to get a message across, but some of the posts and most of the comments make me cringe. This is such a contentious race that trolls attacking posts make some of us keep our opinions to ourselves, lest we be called racist, xenophobe, or deplorable. We're left with a difficult choice--let others know what we think or remain silent and let those who yell (both literally and figuratively) have the stage. I have kept my peace until now, but it's time to let you know whose side I'm on.

I have to admit that my vote is more against one candidate than for the other. But the difference is significant, and I hope others will see it as well. I will vote against a candidate whose actions show a disregard for national security, the sanctity of life, and the will of the people to have less government intervention.

My vote goes to the individual who promises, in the first hundred days, to reverse the illegal executive orders that have been handed down, to push for term limits on our legislators, to restore our military and once more put our nation in the position of being respected by the world, to correct many of the current situations the common people find intolerable...and to step down after one term. That's my view, and despite the advice of many in the publishing industry to the contrary, I'm letting readers of this blog know. If it costs me readers, so be it. To remain silent may cost much more.

Ours is one of the few nations in the world where free voting takes place. There are many things about our country I don't like. There will be  more after the election, no matter who wins. But win, lose, or draw I will continue to pray for our nation, and I hope you'll join me. I long for the day when we can once again proudly refer to America as "One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

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NOTE: Your comments are welcome, but I will remove any comments I feel to be disrespectful of others. Civil discourse is just that...civil. Please think twice before you comment.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Writing: Introduction to Indie Publishing

This isn't an endorsement, per se, but I've had a number of you ask about indie-publishing. (What we used to call self-publishing, when that was a mark of shame). I downloaded a booklet to my Kindle some time back. I got around to looking at it again recently (after going through the process of indie-publishing a couple of novellas) and discovered that it was a great introduction to the indie-publishing process. And the author will be startled to find that I've posted this, because it's by no means a paid advertisement. I just thought it might answer some questions.

Heather Day Gilbert divides the work of self publishing into four categories: editing, cover art/book blurb, formatting/uploading, and marketing. Each of these can either be hired out (for prices ranging from a little to a lot) or done by the author. When she started out, she paid to have two of these activities done by professionals, while she learned to do the other two herself. In my case, I had three of the four done for me.

This little booklet is under a dollar when downloaded to Kindle via Amazon. It's by no means a thorough coverage of the self-publishing process, but for the author considering going that route (or the reader who's just curious), it's a great place to start.

Now my question for you. Do you care whether a book is indie-published or released by a traditional house? Have you found problems when you read either type of book? Chime in. I'd like to hear from you.

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Note: Today I'll be speaking to a group of church librarians, so I won't be able to respond quickly to your comments. But I'll get around to them. Have fun with your discussion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Sky Is Falling

One of the stories I read to my kids was about Chicken Little. I still remember Henny Penny repeatedly saying, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling." And with this current presidential race, that same sentiment is echoing across the social media sites of the Internet.

It's not that I disagree that significant things are at stake with this election. It's just that I agree with Max Lucado, who put things in perspective with this post. If you haven't read it, please do. Maybe you'll feel better. I know that I did.

Dr. Steve Farrar, at our men's Bible study, is fond of saying, "There's a place called Heaven, and this isn't it." Matter of fact, the Bible tells us that tough times are coming. But we're to hold onto our faith and plunge ahead. And that's what I plan to do.

I have my own ideas about this coming election, but I've also come to the conclusion--after so many elections and so many years on this earth--that it's rare, if ever, that someone changes their mind after reading a few dozen words from an opposing viewpoint. So I've held my tongue. Kay and I will vote absentee next week (we can do that in Texas), and I may reveal my reasons then. Until that time, let me just say two things. The sky isn't falling, even if your candidate doesn't win. And God's still in control.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Writing: "Plotters" and "Pantsers"

It doesn't take long for the fiction writer to hear the terms "plotter" and "pantser." I soon learned that a "plotter" was someone who plotted out the major points of the story before writing it. On the other hand, "pantsers" crafted their novel, writing by the "seat of their pants."

The "seat of the pants" term came from flying, and started back in the days before instruments and electronics were capable of handling the entire flight of an aircraft. Early pilots knew whether they were going up or down, drifting right or left, by a feeling---in the seat of their pants. Now, it means doing something by instinct or being guided by the situation as it unfolds.

I prefer the term the late Donald Westlake used: "push fiction." Westlake wrote delightful crime novels featuring John Dortmunder, the bumbling thief, as well as many other books, some more serious than others. Although Westlake had his major characters defined, he didn't craft an outline, preferring to see where the plot took him. I've used that method, and found the major drawback to be that sometimes you paint yourself into a corner with no apparent exit. But, as Westlake said, "If I don't know what's coming next, how can the reader?" That's one advantage to being a "pantser."

I suppose I'm really a hybrid of "plotter" and "pantser," since I sketch out my main characters, define the overarching premise of the novel, and figure out one or two changes along the way that will keep the reader turning pages. And, having learned early on from James Scott Bell's book, Plot and Structure, I always have a "knockout ending" in mind. But for the majority of the book, I confess: I'm a pantser.

Do you prefer one method over the other? Can you even tell, when you're reading a novel, whether the author is working from a predetermined plan? I'd like to know.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Some Holidays Are "More Equal Than Others"

I read the book, 1984, many years ago, and one phrase has stuck with me. In the society about which George Orwell writes, all citizens are equal--but, as one character puts it, some are "more equal than others."

I thought of this when I looked to see if the Columbus Day holiday had affected our trash pickup schedule. It hadn't--our garbage collection is pushed forward a day because of some holidays, but not this one. I also discovered that one granddaughter had Columbus Day off from school, the other attended a school that day like any other. The banks, post offices, and federal offices were closed for Columbus Day. The big box stores were open, and held sales.

The conclusion I drew from my cursory investigation was that some holidays are "more equal than others." How about you? Do you think that all holidays should be treated the same? Are there some that should be universally observed? I have my own opinion, but how about you?

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Friday, October 07, 2016

Writing: The Fame We Get

When my first book was published, I sort of expected to be recognized--in the grocery store, in the dry cleaners, at church. But it didn't happen. I've written about this before. Writers often think that what they're getting the first time around is what the Muppet Movie calls the "standard rich and famous contract." Wrong on both counts, unless your name is Lee Child or J. K. Rowling.

I played in a golf tournament earlier this week, one that gave me the opportunity to see some folks I hadn't seen in a couple of years. It was nice, but one man brought me up short when he asked if I was still practicing medicine. No, I retired about 14 years ago, and for the the last ten or more have been writing novels--how nice of you to notice. (But I didn't say that...I just wished I could).

With a few exceptions, writers aren't famous. Want to prove it? Below are three writers off the New York Times bestseller list and three writers of Christian fiction. Can you tell which are which? The next list has three novels off that same NYT bestseller list and three inspirational novels. Again, can you tell which ones are which?

Harlan Coben, Colleen Coble, Colson Whitehead, Ann Patchett, Rick Acker, Jody Hedlund

Killing The Rising Sun, The Girl With The Lower Back, Hillbilly Elegy, Medical Judgment, Deadly Encounter, Nightshade

Those of us who write in the Christian genre, sometimes called "inspirational fiction," do it to reach others. Fame and (to a much less degree) fortune may or may not come. But then again, that isn't the reason we do it?

Let me know how you did on the quiz.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Fall's Here

According to the calendar, fall has arrived. Of course, here in North Texas it's still shorts and flip-flop weather, and our first freeze is at least six weeks away. But officially, the next season has arrived.

For me, fall means football starts, baseball winds down, the grandchildren are back in school, and I have to think about changing the shirts in my bedroom closet from short sleeves to long.

One local sign of fall is the State Fair of Texas. It's been years since I've gone, and since they now have Corny Dogs available in the frozen food case of our grocer, I don't miss the trip so much. But lots of people still go.

What's your favorite fall activity? I'd love to hear about it.

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