Friday, April 28, 2017

Writing: Collections, with Deborah Raney

I recently became aware of a collection of three novellas, written by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh, and published under the title, Right Where We Belong. The idea was interesting, so I decided to ask Deborah Raney about this trend…if, indeed, it is a trend.

Deb, who had the idea to publish these three novellas in one volume?

Courtney and Melissa came up with the idea of a collection of small-town fiction and invited me to play along. I was thrilled with the invitation and had a blast working with these two dynamos!

What do you think about freestanding novellas versus the grouping of several into one volume?

There are three best things about grouping the books into one volume:
1. You introduce each other to each others’ readers! Already, as the tweets and posts have been flying to promote our new book this month, I’ve seen several of each of our readers say that they haven’t read the other authors, but they’ll buy it because they are loyal to one or the other of us. That’s win/win!
2. By grouping our novellas together, we have enough pages to create a print book that, at 400+ pages feels like a full-length novel and can be sold for the price of one. Even though our strongest sales by far are e-book, we each love print and wanted to be sure we had the option to have print copies available for our local bookstores, family, and friends.
Usually when one novella makes it to print, it is as a gift book in hardcover. You don’t too often see a novella standalone in print, at least not in trade size.
3. Writing novellas (as individuals too) is a way to get a story out into the market quicker than you could get a full-length novel published. Because novellas tend to be a bit simpler, with fewer plot threads, every aspect of writing a novella is quicker. That’s not to say it’s easier. I actually find it almost more challenging to create characters and a setting that readers will care about with so few pages to accomplish that!
If you’re a slow writer like I am, it might take a full year to complete a full-length novel. Writing a novella while I wait for edits or in between books is a way to keep my name in front of readers while they wait for the next full-length book.
Another reason I know some authors are writing novellas is because their readers have fallen in love with the characters from a series or novel, and they are begging for more stories from that fictional family or setting. In the case of Right Where We Belong, all three of us used either a setting or characters from a previous series of full-length novels we’d written.
After working with Courtney and Melissa on this project, I’d add a fourth strong reason for doing a collection: it’s just flat-out fun! Not only did we exchange critiques and editing, but we really sparked each others’ creativity just talking about our stories and the themes that tie them together. It was truly iron sharpening iron. And in my case, it was wonderful to have some younger women to make sure my young characters didn’t speak like grandmas. ;)

And what about packaging several novels together as a bundle, the so-called “boxed set”? Is this giving way to more novellas and collections of stories?

I think you’re going to see more and more of these. For one thing, it’s a way to give readers more for their money. A lot of times, the books included in a boxed set are ones that have already had a good publishing run. The author has gotten rights back to the story and is willing to put it out there for a lower price than the original in order for faithful readers to be able to still have access to an out-of-print book. In the case of 99-cent books and free books, an author might gain thousands of new readers by offering a risk-free opportunity for readers to try his or her books.
As an author, I’m kind of reluctant to give my books away, lest that make books seem to have less value. But I can’t deny that every time I’ve done a free promotion, I find sales of my other books rising, new reviews popping up on Amazon, and reviewers noting that “this is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it won’t be the last.” Those are the best words an author could hope for!

Any comments you’d like to leave with readers?

Thanks so much for inviting me into the conversation! As an extrovert, I couldn’t do this gig if I didn’t get to talk shop around the virtual water cooler!

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DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after twenty happy years as a stay-at-home mom. She has since written over 30 books, including novels for imprints of Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Harlequin. Deb is on the board of the 2600-member American Christian Fiction Writers, and teaches at writers conferences around the country. Deb and husband, Ken Raney, traded small-town life in Kansas––the setting of many of Deb's novels––for life in the friendly city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I Forgot...

I forgot! I actually let it sneak up on me that this guest blog post was going to be on today. You may be interested in what I say about "When the words won't come." To read my thoughts and add your own, click here.

See you Friday, when author Deborah Raney visits to talk about the collection of novellas to which she contributed. Is this a preview of coming attractions in publishing?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Behind The Mask

The first time I recall seeing people wearing a Guy Fawkes mask was during the Occupy Wall Street movement. For those who don't know, Guy Fawkes was one of the leaders of the Gunpowder Plot, an effort to blow up the British House of Lords. The mask was popularized in the movie, V for Vendetta.

Over the past few years the stylized mask has evolved into a global symbol of dissent, employed by everyone from shadowy computer hackers to Turkish airline workers. Since the Occupy Wall Street movement fizzled out, I haven't seen much of people actually hiding behind a mask...until I started (against my better judgment) to read some of the comments posted on a few Internet sites and realized that the mask (that is, hiding one's identity) was alive and well.

Is it just because people can hide behind the "mask" of screen names that they feel free to post the vitriol I saw there? Or is that the state of our society now? I'd write more, but I'm afraid I'd descend to the depths of those people who currently cloak their identity with that mask.

On my own Facebook site, I see differing opinions, and I'm OK with that--to a point. Some of these people are friends, even relatives, and their civil disagreement with me is reasonable. But if you're using my Facebook page to spew trash, I'm going to "unfriend" you. I've already started...and, frankly, it feels good.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Writing: Rules

We never went as far as the picture shows, but when I was practicing medicine I saw numerous signs to turn off cell phones before entering an area, seeing the doctor, etc. Although sometimes the reason given was they might interfere with electrical equipment in the area, most of the time it was actually so they wouldn't interrupt the activity going on there. The rule might be expressed in different ways, but the reason was there.

When I first started writing, one of the first rules I learned was to choose active verbs, rather than passive ones. The reason, I was told, was to take the action forward at a faster pace, and this made sense. Then I was told to use verbs in a special way in order to keep the reader's attention. I never fully got the reason behind this, but I saw examples like, "Her fingers fisted" and "the artery in her temple pulsed." These, unlike the others, didn't make as much sense to me. I preferred the more conventional, "She made a fist" and "the vessel throbbed."

There are lots of rules in writing--some make sense, others don't (to me, at least). I suppose that's why I like the work of the late Robert B. Parker. He wrote in simple declarative sentences, and I never had to employ a dictionary to translate the words. Nor did I have to stop and think about the writing. It was clear.

Do you ever encounter writing that makes you take a step back and ask yourself why the words were put together that way? What is your opinion of rules? I'd like to hear.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Spring is here. I've never kept up with the differences between meteorological and calendar spring--I leave that to the weather persons. For me, I can tell it's spring when baseball season has started, we can take the freeze-proof covers off our outdoor faucets, the golf courses are more crowded, and kids start itching for school to be out.

What does spring mean to you? Let me know in the comments section.

And come back Friday to read my "writing" post.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Easter Weekend

The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed...Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead'...."
(Matt 28:5-7a, The Message)

In the ancient world, the message was this: "Christos anesti; al├ęthos anesti."

In our modern language, the words are different, the message the same: "Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!"

Have a blessed Easter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Only In Texas

We were playing golf recently and my partner (who has never met a stranger) was talking with a man he met on the first tee. "I was born in Memphis, Texas. That's near Turkey." Because I'd heard this before, I almost missed the man's response. "Yep. Home of Bob Wills." For those of you who aren't acquainted with Texas music, Bob Will and the Texas Playboys pioneered the type of music known as "Western Swing."

My own history goes back to Decatur, Texas--best known through the dice-rolling chant, "Eighter from Decatur." We had the Waggoner Mansion, the Chisolm Trail (which ran through the men's room at the Wise County Courthouse, leading to some jokes I won't repeat here), and several other things for which we were famous, but nothing topped "Eighter from Decatur."

What's your favorite town, and why? It doesn't even have to be in Texas. Leave a comment with your answer. (I'll be away from a computer today, so talk among yourselves--and play nicely).

Friday, April 07, 2017

Writing: Too Much Information?

Writers are encouraged to make use of social media to make a connection with readers. I'll have to admit that when I take off my "writer hat" and assume the role of "reader," I enjoy knowing more about some of the authors whose work I read. But, whether you realize it or not, those of us who use social media--and that number seems to grow exponentially each day--have to walk a fine line between making a connection and giving out too much information.

I notice that authors' social media posts fall into the usual categories: publishing information as these people sign new contracts, public appearances and signings, interspersed with recipes, travel, and snippets about everyday life. But, whether you think of it or not, there are some things about which we're warned, and the same would go (so far as I can see) for anyone, not just those of us who write.

What should we avoid? I've been told not to get too intense in posting about my political beliefs. Why? One reason is that some of my readers may not agree with me, but they still like my novels. In the recent presidential election, I've discovered that a number of my friends and acquaintances in the publishing industry don't share my political views. I still like to read their work, but I have to admit that I now look for their politics bleeding over into the writing. I've made my views known, but not to the extent of some people, who post some pretty combative stuff.

What about trips? We're all happy when we are about to go back home to visit or start a long-anticipated vacation. But, although we're anxious to share this information, realize that it might tip off the unscrupulous that you're not going to be home for a bit. We're careful to put a "hold" on our newspapers and make certain our mail doesn't pile up in the box, but why let the world know that our home is an inviting target for burglars?

There are other things those of us who participate in social media are advised to avoid. Do you think we share too much information? Too little? What do you see as the reason behind communication via social media? Let me hear from you. I'd like to know.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

No Pain, No Gain

We've heard the phrase repeatedly. Athletes especially are encouraged to continue their work-outs, even when the activity hurts, because there's no improvement in strength without some discomfort.

I was having lunch late last week with someone in the publishing business who asked me, "How did you get started writing?" I'd told the story so many times, I thought it was familiar to everyone, but once more I related how Cynthia's death and my journaling afterward led me--slowly and painfully--into the writing and publication of The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, and subsequently into my second career, this one as an author.

That got me to thinking about why so many writers of my acquaintance have deep hurts and difficulties in their personal life. Most of us, because we're not privy to those lives, don't realize this is true, but it shows up in their writing--and it's the better for it. This, too, is a case of "no pain, no gain." As A. W. Tozer said, "Whom God would use greatly, He will hurt deeply." And I believe it.

How about you? Can you think of a situation in your life when you had pain, yet gain ultimately came from it? You may not wish to publicize it, but if you don't mind I think it would help us all to see it.

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