Monthly Archives: February 2009

Writing for the Soul

Every year at the conference God shows me something different.

This year, as I mentioned in my previous entry, God wants me to concentrate less on writing and more on him.

I’ve run out of steam with regard to the conference, so this will be my last entry about it. I will share some quotes by the speakers that struck me with a short explanation of each.

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As writers seeking publication we’re told time and again how competitive the market is. That fact can either frustrate us to the point of quitting, or spur us to continue to hone our craft.

Dr Dennis Hensley noted in his speech Friday morning Jesus didn’t come to beat (or win against) anything or anyone, but to succeed. He didn’t win against the forces trying to destroy him, but he did succeed in delivering his message. Writers, Christian or otherwise, need to remember we also shouldn’t assume the attitude of beating other writers to achieve publication, but work to succeed.

As one magazine editor noted, "You’re not competing against other writers, you’re competing against the magazine’s guidelines."

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Sammy Tippet: "Allow God to work on our character, and he’ll take care of the ministry."

Too often we want to know and understand all of God’s plan for us. Instead, God wants us to dconcentrate on building our character, learn from our mistakes and successes.

Mr Tippet then described how God impressed on him to wait upon the Lord.

God often tells me to wait. And wait. And wait.

As Mr Tippet spoke I finally understood the meaning of ‘wait’. It’s not to sit around and wait for God’s direction, but to serve such as a waiter in a restaurant.

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Karen Kingsbury described how someone watched a butterfly struggle out of its cocoon. The person felt sorry for the butterfly, and gently cut the opening larger. The butterfly soon dropped down, its body bloated and its wings small and wrinkled.

The butterfly lived only a few minutes. The man then researched into butterflies to determine what he did wrong. Turns out the butterfly needed to struggle through that tiny opening, because it pushed life into the wings.

"Don’t avoid struggle," she said. "for it’s in the struggle we learn how to fly."

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McNair Wilson said in the Saturday evening session (and in every speech I’ve heard of his): "If you don’t do you, you doesn’t get done, and creation is incomplete."

God’s creation didn’t end on the sixth day. He continues to create through each of us. If we don’t accept and embrace who we are, hone the gifts he gave us and follow the dreams he placed on our heart, then we hinder his wondrous plan.

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Lastly, before each meal and a one-hour concert on Saturday the incredibly talented pianist Randall Atcheson played for us.

God gave Mr Atcheson an indescribable talent to play the piano, and you can tell with every note he pounds out (and he does pound), he praises God.

Mr Atcheson not only shows how to praise God, but the meaning of dedication. Yes, the man has a gift, but he worked 10 hours a day most of his life to get as good as he is.

Therefore, I should not begrudge the time and dedication God asks of me to improve my own talents.

We Mustn’t be Lazy – Part II

Friday night I prepared for my last editor appointment on Saturday afternoon with Sherri Langton of Bible Advocate.

I skimmed through a sample magazine left on her table, and discovered none of the articles I brought with me would fit as-is.

I decided to change my tactics to simply ask questions about her magazine.

I questioned her about Bible Advocate’s target readers, and what they expected as far as content (deep Bible studies, or more basic, etc).

As we talked, a few statements made by our speakers whispered in my ear, and the image of a waterbug surfaced.

“I know now I need to look closer into my spiritual journey,” I said to Sherri. “Lately I’ve been walking on the surface of my faith, and God’s been telling me all during the conference I need to dig deeper.”

I realized then God’s task for me right now. It isn’t to write to be published, or read the Bible in search for that one perfect verse for my article or story, but to feed my soul.

God is jealous of the time I spend away from him, and wants me all to himself. In the process perhaps I’ll gain deeper insights readers are searching for.

Other non-spiritual insights I’ve gained from attending the conference:

1.    Research!

Study the current guidelines online. Don’t depend solely on Writer’s Market Guide or Sally Stewart’s (the Christian version). Guidelines change all the time, and are kept more current on the magazine’s websites.

Read up to six months of issues. This can be both time-consuming and economically difficult. Who among us has the money to subscribe to every single magazine we want to write for? I have a few ideas:

Check archives online. Most magazines keep archives sometimes up to twenty years.

Talk to friends or even people at your church to see if they subscribe and ask for their old copies.

Flip through current issues either at your local bookstore (some carry many Christian magazines), and Christian bookstores.

Check out the local library. Some may carry the magazines you want to write for.

2.    Take the business card of every editor you speak with. No matter what the results of the appointment, email them a short note thanking them for their time. As one attendee noted, editor’s have long memories. They’ll appreciate your kindness, and remember you positively when you do have something saleable.

3.    Do the same for other attendees. Networking is key to gaining readership, but also the friendships developed can be invaluable. You can encourage one another and provide feedback for your writing.

4.    Be realistic! All writers attend conferences to sell their writing. However, to attend for that reason alone will only discourage you. Less than 10% of attendees sell something at a conference. If you go with equal purpose of making friends, and learning from the classes, speakers, workshops and the editors, your experience will be far more rewarding.

Tomorrow: A More Spiritual Journey.

 

We Mustn’t be Lazy – Part I

The third year I attended the Writing for the Soul conference, I researched none of the editors or their magazines.

I figured God would lead me to the right ones, and if I depended upon him then I wouldn’t fail.

After meeting with the first editor God informed me that I wasn’t depending upon him, but being lazy. Sure, God will set a path before us, and give us strength and wisdom, but he still requires us to walk that path.

Remembering my total failure of the previous conference, I researched the magazines I wanted to pitch to. I read their guidelines, and checked out some of the articles on their website.

I then polished up the pieces I thought would work.

Mere days before the conference, I was ready.

The first magazine editor I met with was Cynthia Schnereger of Light and Life.

After the introductions I said, "I have a few articles, but after attending Lin Johnson’s class, I know I need to restructure them."

I described one to her and she said, "It’s a good idea, but it’s more of a basic that would work better as a devotional for people who are just learning about the Bible. Our readers are more advanced in their journey."

Fine and dandy.

I then presented one of my favorites. Again she said, "It’s a good idea, but it needs to be fleshed out more." 

Her magazine needs articles with five points that describes a specific problem and offers a solution using my own journey of discovery. The article I showed her contained neither.

Cynthia then asked me what my current focus was, and I described my book to her.

Her eyes lit up and she said, "You could write an article about how science fiction fits in the Christian market."

Good idea, but Christianity Today recently wrote a similar article. Although a good article, it still seemed leery of mixing Christianity and science fiction.

I said as much and Cynthia said, "Which is why you should write it after you succeed in the market. You have a different and more positive perspective on it."

Our fifteen minutes ended, and I thanked her profusely for her advice and giving me the idea for the article. No thievery now. The idea is mine, mine, mine! (Kidding. Ideas can’t be copyrighted). I like how she stressed not to write the article now. I need to succeed in the marketplace first with my science fiction novel. Otherwise it might sound like a complaint with no positive outcome.

Wow. This entry ended up longer than I intended. Tomorrow I will describe my other editor appointment. It turned out equally positive, but more on a spiritual level.

He Gasped for Syrup?

Following is Jerry’s critique, but I must explain the symbology I used to show what he eliminated, reworded, etc.

Underline – eliminated words.
(Bold) – Jerry’s comments
(sp) – spelling error with correct word afterward
Italic (except the first paragraph) – reorder the words.
(Bold and italic) – word replacement and/or addition
(on the nose) – A Hollywood term for writing that exactly mirrors real life without adding to the story.

God help me! I’m drowning! (Telling)

The blue water engulfed Larn Wintel, and with what seemed an intelligent (to) purpose(ly) it pulled him down into the dark. The light above wavered and disappeared,(thus the dark) but (sp)the more he struggled the faster he sank. The pressure increased and his body grew stiff and cold (on the nose). He called out once again to God, but perceived no answer (Don’t tell what doesn’t happen). His heart thudded and his lungs burned—

Larn jolted awake, his body (what else?) drenched in sweat. He sat up and gasped for air (what else would he gasp for? Syrup?) as his eyes darted about to determine his surroundings.(comma)

He sighed with relief(ved) to find he was still in his bedroom (had been only dreaming), but his breath caught (again) when he saw the figure standing at the foot of his bed.

Thinking it nothing but a phantom of his nightmare, he studied the person standing within the soft moonlight streaming through the gossamer drapes of his tall windows. Though she wore loose black pants and (a) tunic, she was obviously a woman. With her short stature (,) and (she looked short and) lithe figure he assumed her to be (as) a mere teenager, b(. B)ut her large and dark eyes revealed a hardness of heart of someone much older.

He then felt the pressure in his mind.

The woman (This) was no phantom.

He tried to shrink away (I’d like to see anyone try to shrink away in a bed) and call for help, but her telepathic hold on him kept him pinned and silent.

His chest felt compressed and h(H)e struggled to breathe(,) once again. He fell (falling) back, his strength and will to fight dissolving. He felt no anger, no despair, only regret for a girl who had been abused and exploited in ways he alone made possible.

His past (I hope they were past) sins had finally caught up to him, and they demanded justice.

Using the last of (With) his (last ounce of) strength, he lifted his head and stared into her now surprised (POV) eyes.

"Take the book," he whispered through pain-filled gasps. "O(o)n my nightstand. Computer, too. Please. Read them. Understand. I’m so terribly sorry."

She blinked, but otherwise her hold on him didn’t waver.

His heart stopped moments later, and Larn Wintel took the last breath of his life. (Got it)

***

Only after Doctor Wintel breathed his last did Kallie Gartew realize she held her own (Her own what? Breath?)

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Whew! I hope that all makes sense. If not, you can read the edited version here: "Traitors

The reason I balked at my spelling error is because an earlier submission contained two and Jerry jumped on them.

“Even in a 500 page book,” he said, “it’s expected to see about a dozen spelling errors. However, for a new writer seeking a publisher or agent, the first five pages have to be perfect. It shows the writer is either lazy or sloppy, and the editor will send out a standard rejection form without reading another page.”

When Jerry finished the first page, he stopped and said, “This isn’t a bad story. Here the man wakes up from a nightmare to find a figure at his bed. This is scary.”

Several people behind me said, “Yeah. I wanted to keep reading.”

I danced on the inside hearing that. However, although my meeting with Zondervan wasn’t negative per se, I wondered if I should shelve my book for a while. I worried that my book wasn’t publish worthy, both in writing and in storyline. Jerry and the other comments affirmed that my story is indeed worthy to be read by others – if not yet ready.

When he finished a lady leaned over and whispered, “I wonder if the man was an abortion doctor.”

I whispered, “Sort of.”

She gasped (for syrup) and said, “That was yours?”

“It is.”

She laughed and said, “You’re only admitting it because he said he liked it.”

“Yep.”

“Is he really an abortion doctor?”

“Actually, he’s a geneticist.” That piqued her interest even more, which was cool.

Jerry’s edits eliminate mostly excess verbiage. Once I rewrite it, I will end up with a more concise and active story. Hopefully I will remember his suggestions throughout the rest of the manuscript.

That’s not to say I agreed with every one. Jerry even said editing is subjective, and we can take or leave them. Mostly the workshop is designed to teach us how to look out for and eliminate wordiness.

Tomorrow I will discuss what I learned from the two magazine editors. Thursday will focus on what I learned in the other classes and workshop, and Friday I will talk about the spiritual component of the conference. That’s the plan anyway. So my entries don’t get too long, I may stretch them out over the weekend.

“You had to choose science fiction.”

After starting my trip in the smallest airport ever built — the size of a medium-sized restaurant — I arrived at the conference half-way through the Thursday night kick-off session. Gary Chapman spoke, and he talked about the five ways a person should apologize.

I didn’t take any notes, because I don’t apologize (kidding).

When he finished, all the attendees stampeded to the tables in the back for appointment sign-up. We could choose up to three. Zondervan was first on my list, and I made second in line for that. The other two I managed to get were near the bottom of my list, but no matter. I could still take a seat at the reserved tables for lunch and dinner, and talk to them then.

The conference scheduled was structured with a continuing education class in the morning, a workshop in the afternoon, publishing panels (Q&A with all the editors) and an evening speaker after supper. The 15 minute appointments took place during the classes and workshops.

Friday morning I attended the Publishing 101 class with magazine editor Lin Johnson. She discussed what most editors looked for, and how to format all submissions. I noticed even at the start I made a few boo-boos with my articles I wanted to show off.

For instance, never begin or end an article with scripture. Oops. Did both.

My first appointment with Andy Meisenheimer of Zondervan started at 9:45, and I was only a little nervous — a few stomach butterflies only.

I sat and pitched my novel.

“What is the sub-genre,” he asked, “Cyberpunk, Space opera, or what?”

Andy received a blank stare as a response. That’s one thing I didn’t include in my research and wish I had. I said at one point, “You’re asking great questions. I wish I thought of them beforehand, so I could answer better.”

After bumbling through my pitch a little more, I gave him my pitch sheet.

He looked up with a sigh and said, “You had to choose science fiction.”

Although his bio said he was willing to look at science fiction “or anything weird,” the larger Christian publishers are still not willing to take most speculative fiction. Most science fiction is mass market, and CBA doesn’t know how to mass market their books.

“Plus,” he said, “science fiction doesn’t sell in the CBA market.”

I think he anticipated my next comment, because he said, “Granted they can’t sell what they don’t publish.”

I nodded and said, “It’s a catch-22.”

“Exactly.”

He then recommended I try the smaller presses such as Marcher Lord Press, or even vanity-press.

“I plan on writing my own science fiction novel, and will likely try the small presses first or self-publish. I don’t see that route as a stigma, because it’s the only option for Christian speculative fiction writers at this point.”

In the end Andy further verified what I already knew, so although he didn’t ask to see more, I didn’t waste my time.

The worst part of an appointment isn’t the nervousness before or during, but the mental chastising afterward. I walked away and berated myself for saying one thing, not saying another, did I sit too close or too far, did I breathe my dragon-breath on him . . .

By the time I returned to the class I was grinning. I reminded myself no one thinks about me nearly as much as I do. I bet the moment I left the table, Andy was talking with his next appointment and likely even forgot my name.

I attended the “Thick-skinned Manuscript Clinic” on Friday afternoon. I submitted months ago the first two pages of my novel for critique by Jerry Jenkins (co-author of the "Left Behind" series and owner of the Christian Writers Guild).

Jerry critiqued three fiction submissions, and Andy Sheer (managing editor of the guild and former editor of Moody magazine) critiqued three non-fiction submissions.

Mine was the last of the afternoon. The moment he placed the transparency of my submission on the overhead, my ears started to burn. I was grateful to have long hair, because I could cover up my delicious apple red ears, and no one would know the submission was mine.

A second later I saw it. In the second paragraph I wrote “he” instead of “The.” I thought, “Oh, crap, is he going to pounce on that!” I can’t believe I missed something so glaring even after combing through it at least four times.

Jerry didn’t start there . . .

Sorry, I have to end this entry now, because the critique is quite lengthy. Tomorrow I will go through it point by point. I think you’ll enjoy it, though.

Home at Last

First off, my apologies for not writing an entry every day while at the conference like I promised.

It was a full schedule, for one, and by the time I arrived at my room between 9:30 and 10:00, all I wanted to do was sleep.

Plus the hotel didn’t provide wireless internet in all the rooms. My only options were to drag my laptop down to the lobby, or spend $10/day on ethernet access.

No thanks to both.

But I did keep excellent notes, so in the next week I’ll write what happened and what I learned each day.

I hope you all had a terrific weekend, and will enjoy an even better week. I look forward to catching up with you as well.

Self-Publishing Day at Bookspa

Because I’m too lazy to write my own description, here’s what was sent out to all Bookspa members:

All you ever wanted to know about Self-Publishing, but were afraid to ask!

Join us at The Book Spa to hear from a bevy of successful self-published authors. They’ll give you the no-holds barred low-down on self-publishing, the ins and outs, whys and wherefores, and are primed and ready to answer your questions on this growing sector of the publishing industry.

The place: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thebookspa/
The date: Wednesday 18 February
The time: 3pm Eastern, 12 Pacific, 8 GMT

The guests:

LK Hunsaker manages her writing life around her husband, two teens, two psycho dogs, and her job as network coordinator for a sandplay therapy center. She has three literary/mainstream romance novels indie published and runs a group to assist independent authors with information and networking.
http://www.lkhunsker.com

SG Cardin was born in Manchester, NH and received a BS in Political Science from California Baptist University in 1995. She enjoys exploring European history and the supernatural. She currently lives in California and works for LAPD.
http://sgcardin.tripod.com

Andra Marquardt is a mother of a little boy, wife of sixteen years and still happily counting, and a Profesional Land Surveyor. She self-published a novella, writes in her spare time (usually during baby naps) and seeks an agent for her full-length novel. http://www.almarquardt.com

Don’t miss what’s sure to be a fascinating and enlightening discussion!

Lost, Says I. Lost in the Internet I am.

Yodaspeak aside, when I first started my website and blog, I knew a lot of time was required, both to make it attractive to readers, and keep them returning for more.

My first blog I started in 2005 on writing.com. At first I signed up to post my work for critique, and about six months later started my blog. I didn’t expect any readers at first, but once I did I was hooked. I learned that in order to keep and gain more readers, I needed to visit theirs.

About a year later, I needed to cut down on my time spent there. I realized I was spending more time on my computer than with my husband or when I should have been working (one of the downfalls of an internet connection at a place of business).

It was easier to cut back than I expected, and I managed to cut down my time from two to three hours a day to about three to four hours a week.

I’m near falling into the same trap — under the guise of marketing. There is so much available online to expose my name and my book, it’s overwhelming. First there’s the reading other people’s blogs, and other exposure sites such as twitter, facebook and myspace.

How does one keep all that updated and keep in touch with friends without other parts of my life suffering?

Good thing I love my sleep, otherwise I’d set that aside.

My little 13-month-old boy keeps me grounded. He’s at the intensely curious age where I can’t ignore him for any length of time (even if I wanted to, which I don’t. A child grows up so fast, I don’t want to lose a minute of it).

I don’t manage my time well, but I do make sure I spend no more than one hour online a day.

At home that is. At work, I admit to stealing time away from doing actual work. Stealing it is, too, because they don’t pay me to play on the internet. I’m a bad girl.

If you don’t see me around either on your site or mine, you’ll know it’s because I’m meeting my obligations, something I should be doing anyway. Marketing can wait until my given hour at night, or during weekends while my toddler’s napping or playing with Daddy.

Come this Thursday I’ll try to write one entry a day to let you know how the conference is going. I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time it’ll be a long four days. I’ve never left my son for more than five hours at a time, so not being with him for so long is going to be rough.

I almost forgot! Wednesday, February 18th, fellow author LK Hunsaker and I will be participating in a Q&A session about self-publishing beginning at 2pm CST in the Bookspa group. If you’re not a member, you might consider signing up. It’s a group dedicated to reading, writing, and discussing books of all genres except erotica. Click HERE for more information.

Book Review: Hero, Second Class

When Marcher Lord Press opened for business in October, 2008, I was excited. One publisher finally decided Christian Speculative Fiction was a viable market.

One of MLP’s first releases was "Hero, Second Class," by Mitchell Bonds.

The back-cover copy of this 600-page tome says:

Have at You!

Cyrus Solburg is a young man who dreams of becoming a Hero in a fantasy world in which Heroes owe monthly dues and Villains are allowed only one eclipse per fiscal quarter.

Cyrus becomes the apprentice to Sir Reginald Ogleby, also known as the Crimson Slash, a towering swordsman with a titanic sword and a penchant for self-narrating his own battles. It’s up to Reginald to train Cyrus in the essentials of Heroism so that one day, at the conclusion of his first Quest, Cyrus may become a Hero, Second Class.

More is afoot than the routine of training in the arts of Heroic Derring-Do, however. A bona fide Arch-Villain is on the loose. And this Villain is particularly interested in Cyrus, not least because of how Cyrus seems to have magic coming to him in spite of himself, resulting in tremendous disruption of the magical planes.

Entering into the fray come a wise-cracking Dragon, a petulant gargoyle, the Heroes’ Guild, the Army of Darkness(TM), and a horde of cursed invisible Centaurs. Cyrus will have to call on his friends, a beautiful young cat girl, and all the power of the Capital Letters and Arbitrary Numbers if he is to live to become a full-fledged Hero.

"Hero, Second Class" can be best described as a satirical fantasy with many, and more serious, spiritual elements.

What is a Christian fantasy satire anyway?

The Christian portion comes in when the main characters debate whether a Creator exists, and if so, why does he allow bad things to happen. Neither the author nor the characters answer this question. What’s important is that they ask and seek the answer with an open mind.

The fantasy is obvious. The book swims in memorable and colorful characters (with names such as Crimson Slash, Blue Shock and Purple Paladin for the Heroes), unpredictable magic, and a world most fantasy readers will discover as both familiar and strange.

Mitchell Bonds adroitly satires the fantasy elements, the world we currently live in — especially when it comes to dealing with bureaucracy — and the existing rules of traditional publishing by violating said rules at multiple turns.

One would think these intrusions would jar the reader, but Mitchell made it work. I laughed myself silly more than once.

If you enjoy an action-packed story with memorable characters, and a book willing to make fun of itself, you need to read "Hero, Second Class."

Next up: Lost, Says I. I’m lost on the Internet . . .