Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where now?

The last comment on my very old June post spoke of blog burnout. And we've all been there. Somehow, what started out as fun turns into just one more task we have to accomplish on a regular basis. Those of you with jobs, hobbies, a church, children, and insatiable food cravings know what I'm talking about. Yes, I could get everything I need to in 24 hours, but who wants to do that?

I'm going somewhere with this. Really. I think "down time" has been given a bad rap. Kinda like SUVs in California. Sometime around 1984 (I've narrowed it down to September), some guy in a suit made the decision that daydreaming equaled laziness. I beg to differ. Although, by the time we grow up, we refer to it as "meditating."

I've decided (without confering the afformentioned suit) that the average male of my species requires 2.37 hours of "nothing" time daily (no, ladies, THAT doesn't count). It doesn't all have to happen at once. I suggest you pace yourself. Start with a Calvin & Hobbes comic collection. That definately counts. Sitcoms count, too, but they often leave you feeling a bit slimy, so I recommend another source. During the course of this downtime, the brainwaves darn near flatline. The heart should keep beating. If it stops, consult your family physician or have your wife initiate THAT. Either method is fine.

After several weeks, you should be very near the daily recommended allowance of dowtime. Let nothing interfere. Not blogging, not work, maybe THAT. But that's where I have to draw the line.

Ready to get started? Okay, here we go...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The blog duldrums

It happens to all of us. We get all excited about a new blog and we post madly for a few months. Then we get busy busy busy and start posting less and less frequently. Hohum. After all, how much do I have to say?

Maybe narrowing my blog to marketing was a mistake. I still have much to say on the subject, but I'm not having nearly as much fun. So, I'm gonna loosen up.

Here's what I did this weekend: I went fly-fishing on the Manistee River in Northern Michigan (he says reverently). This is the time of year when the Hex Hatch occurs. What's that? Well, let me tell you. All summer long, mayflies hatch in various bodies of water. Most of these are tiny creatures, easily recognized by their forked tails and curved bodies. The Hex fly, however, is huge by mayfly standards. That sucker is a couple inches long. When they run into you, it feels like a sparrow that flew off course. Naturally, the big fish go nuts.

Unfortunately, this hatch occurs right around sunset, almost 10pm this time of year. So you find yourself wading a river in total darkness until the wee hours of the morning, casting toward sounds, losing flies in trees.

But when the BIG ONE hits! Boy howdy! I caught one 16" Brown Trout this time. After that, things died down a bit. Such is fly-fishing. I met a great guy, "Doc" Beemer from New York. He's retired and drags his poor wife all over the country fly-fishing. His blog is at How he gets an Internet connection in a Grayling campground, I have no idea. I can't even get a cell phone signal (as God intended it).

So there's my non-serious post of the day. We'll return to a more serious nature when I darn well feel like it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

ACFW Conference is coming soon!

If you're like me, you don't have the budget to hit every writer's conference you'd like to. However, if you can only make one, I'd highly recommend the ACFW Writer's Conference in Dallas this September. My reason is this: if you can only afford one, make sure it has everything you need in one place. At ACFW you have plenty of workshops to choose from, no matter what your genre, you have agents and editors who-this is key-make themselves available throughout the weekend for you to talk to. If you're a beginner, you can talk to writers of every level. If you're an old codger with 30 published novels, you get to hang out with a lot of fun people.

The cost isn't bad, either, for an event of this magnitude.

Seeya there!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing ORCHARD OF HOPE (Revell March 1, 2007) by Ann Gabhart


Ann H. Gabhart has published a number of adult and young adult novels with several different publishers. The author of The Scent of Lilacs, Ann and her husband live a mile from where she was born in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. She is active in her country church, and her husband sings bass in a southern gospel quartet.


Nothing will be the same after the summer of 1964.

Drought has gripped the quiet Kentucky town of Hollyhill, and the town seems as if it is holding its breath--waiting. Jocie Brooke is nervous about starting high school. Her sister Tabitha is experiencing the weariness of waiting for a new baby. Her father David is feeling the timidity of those first steps toward true love. All of these pivotal steps in life are awaiting the Brooke family.

Into this cloud of tense anticipation, a black family from Chicago, the Hearndons move here to plant an orchard outside of town. Fresh off the Freedom Train, Myra Hearndon is sensitive to what the color of her skin may mean in a Southern town. Her family will have to contend with more than the dry ground and blazing sun as they try to create their ORCHARD OF HOPE.

Jocie finds herself befrending a boy that some townspeople shun. Due to unspoken racial lines in this southern town, the presence of these newcomers sparks a smoldering fire of unrest that will change Hollyhill..and Jocie...forever.

In this close-knit community, everything is about to change.

Let this riveting novel take you along to experience unexpected love, new life, and renewed faith amid life's trials.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tagged again

Okay, Becky wants to play the "tag you're it game." This is what incredibly silly people like us do when we've run out of ideas. I haven't posted in a while because it's spring. It gets a bit nuts around here in spring. Baseball, softball, know, the important stuff.

Let me fill me friends in on my latest venture. After attending a United Methodist conference (I know, not as boring as it sounds) last week, I came away with a desire to get involved in our church's fledgling Emerging Worship program. For those of you who don't know what that is, Google it. It's pretty interesting. I volunteered to be the drama coordinator. Which means I get to write my own skits. Unless I get a block, then I "borrow" one.

So that's what's going on in my life. Now, the eight things you didn't know about me:

1. I have three siblings (one deceased), and we were all born in different states.
2. I started elementary school in Hawaii.
3. My favorite place to live as a Navy brat was Washington state.
4. That's where I learned to snag "shiners" in Puget Sound.
5. I wrote my first story in Junior High. It was about a werewolf.
6. I had every intention of going to school for journalism after the Navy, but chickened out and went into engineering.
7. I am a Shellback, meaning I crossed the equator while in the Navy.
8. One of my favorite things to do is follow my wife around the Ice House in Grayling. It's a quilt shop that actually used to be an ice house. Of course, after that I go fly-fishing.

I don't know 8 people who haven't already been tagged. So this ends here!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducing A BIGGER LIFE, Navpress Publishing Group (January 15, 2007)

by Annette Smith

In 1997, Annette was working as a home health nurse. She traveled the back roads from house to house, caring for ill and injured, homebound people. Because of her unique position in the lives of relative strangers, she often found herself bearing solitary witness to intimate behind-the-scenes situations full of grace and meaning. The desire to honor both a particular patient and a poignant scene involving the woman and her husband prompted Annette to write a fictionalized story, The Anniversary.

That first story appeared as a column in the Houston Chronicle newspaper and as an essay in Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Later it became a chapter in Annette’s first and best-selling book of short stories, The Whispers of Angels, that has sold more than 100,000 copies

Since then, Annette has penned four more books of stories, two volumes on parenting, and the Coming Home to Ruby Prairie trilogy.

Annette and her husband Randy, a High School teacher and coach, make their home on a wooded lot in Quitman, Texas. They are the parents of two young adult children, Russell and Rachel, both out on their own. Wally, a grateful, rescued mutt provides warmth and entertainment and keeps the Smith’s empty nest from feeling too lonely.

In addition to writing, Annette continues to serve part-time as a registered nurse. She finds the people she works with and the patients she cares for provide great inspiration for her fiction.

Joel Carpenter did not plan for his life to turn out like this. He never meant to be a single dad, working at a hair salon in Eden Plain, Texas. But after making a careless choice four years ago, his marriage was permanently shattered. Now at twenty-seven, he finds himself juggling custody of his preschool son with Kari, the ex-wife he still loves, and sharing Sunday dinners with a group of other single dads.

Joel regrets the choices that brought him to this place, but it's not until the worst happens that he learns how much he still has to give. In the midst of deep tragedy, he learns that forgiveness is way more important than freedom. Hopefully it's not too late!

A BIGGER LIFE is a story of love in the midst of heartache, and friendship in the midst of real, everyday life.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Obvious Avenues

While I like to drop an occasional bit of wisdom based on my marketing experience, maybe prodding a few of you with ideas you hadn't considered, let's not miss the obvious avenues of marketing that stare you in the face every day.

Take a look around (in a cyber sense). If you're reading my blog, chances are you're reading others like it and see the same links over and over. Have you noticed things like writer's organizations being advertised on these blogs? Those should be your first step if you're a new writer. Most will acknowledge your new book in a newsletter or e-mail loop. Writers are readers, they make good customers.

What about this odd thing I do every Wednesday (unless I forget) with the book reviews. That's the brainstorm of Bonnie Calhoun. Something like one-hundred blogs post the same book review every week. All the writer has to do is ask Bonnie and their book is all over the blogosphere. Free stuff, man. Can't beat it. (Now, if someone in the MWA would catch on to this little game...).

What about the Amazon bookstore? I don't just have that to make a whopping 8% off any book I sell for Amazon. I use that to advertise books I like. Someday, my books will fill those slots.

Marketing doesn't have to involve money. It will eventually, but give yourself a head start.

Now, here's my best advice: GET YE TO A CONFERENCE. The AFCW conference is the place to be for the Christian writer. The MWA has a wide selection. Check out the websites. Being a writer is a solitary life, but it doesn't have to be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing CORAL MOON Zondervan (April 27, 2007) by Brandilyn Collins

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brandilyn Collins is the bestselling author of Violet Dawn, Web Of Lies, Dead of Night, Stain of Guilt, Brink of Death, and Eyes of Elisha just to name a few.Brandilyn and her family divide their time between the California Bay Area and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.She also maintains an informative blog called Forensics and Faith where she daily dispenses wisdom on writing, life, and the Christian book industry.

The figure remained still as stone. Leslie couldn't even detect a breath.Spider fingers teased the back of her neck.Leslie's feet rooted to the pavement. She dropped her gaze to the driveway, seeking...what? Spatters of blood? Footprints? She saw nothing. Honed through her recent coverage of crime scene evidence, the testimony as last month's trial, the reporter in Leslie spewed warnings: Notice everything, touch nothing...

Leslie Brymes hurries out to her car on a typical workday morning...and discovers a dead body inside.Why was the corpse left for her to find? And what is the meaning of the message pinned to its chest?In Coral Moon, the senseless murder of a beloved Kanner Lake citizen spirals the small Idaho town into a terrifying glimpse of spiritual forces beyond our world. What appears true seems impossible.OR IS IT?

Presently this Kanner Lake Series of books has its own character blog called Scenes and Beans. Stop by and visit the folks from Kanner Lake!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Spam Laws

Sorry I've been lacking this week. I'm in Indianapolis doing a trade show. Beautiful town, by the way, definitely pay it a visit if you get the chance.

Sally Bradley asked about spam laws. This is one of those cases where the government has created more problems than they've solved. Shocking, I know, but true.

Essentially, if someone gives you an e-mail address or phone number to request information, you're within the law to e-mail or call them to sell a product. That's general, but for our purposes, it's good enough. If you e-mail or call and they ask you to stop, then stop. No problems.

My company sent out a 30,000 phone taped message a few weeks back. One person complained. One. And no attorneys were heard from. So don't concern yourself with it. Where you might get into trouble is if you buy a mailing list from someone and cold call those people. Chances are, us little old writers won't ever have the money to do that anyway.

Play it smart. Make it clear to your customer that you may call or e-mail them, and you'll have no issue. And the next time some politician offers to fix a problem for you, politely tell them you can handle it yourself.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Your Trade Show

One of the MWA members dropped an interesting post on the mail loop this week. She noticed that there are two types of authors at book signings: those who sit behind the table and wait and those who work the floor.

I hadn’t thought about that until she mentioned, then realized I’ve seen the same thing. Having never held a book signing, I once again have to revert to my experience in the RV industry. My version of a book signing is the trade show. I live by a few rules at the trade show that I believe are relevant to your book signings.

First, stand, do not sit, at the front of your booth (or table). Greet the customers as they pass or approach. Engage in conversation. It doesn’t matter how great your product is, people won’t beat a path to your booth (unless your selling Play Stations).

Second, tell them the benefits of your product before you discuss price. Now, with books, this isn’t so much an issue. The price is set. But you should expect to have a “pitch” ready for anyone approaching your table. In sales, we use a script. The next time you’re at a trade show, watch the guy selling the salsa makers or automatic melon balers. Really, just stand back and listen to him speak to several customers. He’ll give the same speech over and over, not varying by so much as a single word. I promise you, he’s written that sales spiel out and practiced it to perfection. Do you have to do the same? Not exactly, but you should have your initial pitch ready, just as you did when you chased editors into the men’s room at the last writer’s conference. You may need to tweak the pitch a bit as you learn, but give it a try. You may surprise yourself.

Finally, whether you make a sale or not, get the customer information. How? A drawing for a free book is always good. A gift certificate for the store you’re at is even better. Whatever it takes to get a name and e-mail address. These are solid leads to a salesman, because you’ve met the prospect face to face and he or she has expressed interested in your product. They’re golden. Add them to your database (get that started, too), and send them updates and your e-newsletter.

Remember, if you had to justify a book signing by the number of books you sell there, it’s not worth the time or effort. Your goal is to get your name out and gather readership. It takes time. Be patient. And keep smiling.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing RECLAIMING NICK (Tyndale Fiction, 2007)


Award winning author SUSAN MAY WARREN recently returned home to her native Minnesota after serving for eight years with her husband and four children as missionaries with SEND International in Far East Russia. She now writes full time from Minnesota's north woods. Visit her Web site at

ABOUT THE BOOK: RECLAIMING NICK is the first of The Noble Legacy series. Book Two, Taming Rafe, will be available January 2008.

A Modern Day Prodigal Comes Home...
But when his father dies and leaves half of Silver Buckle--the Noble family ranch--to Nick’s former best friend, he must return home to face his mistakes, and guarantee that the Silver Buckle stays in the Noble family.

Award-winning journalist Piper Sullivan believes Nick framed her brother for murder, and she’s determined to find justice. But following Nick to the Silver Buckle and posing as a ranch cook proves more challenging than she thinks. So does resisting his charming smile.

As Nick seeks to overturn his father’s will--and Piper digs for answers--family secrets surface that send Nick’s life into a tailspin. But there’s someone who’s out to take the Silver Buckle from the Noble family, and he’ll stop at nothing--even murder--to make it happen.

“Susan May Warren once again delivers that perfect combination of heart-pumping suspense and heart-warming romance.”--Tracey Bateman, author of the Claire Everett series
If you would like to hear more about Nick, he has his own blog. Also, the first chapter is there...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mark Terry made some very good points in his comment Monday. My observations in this blog will often be high-altititude. Details are up to you, your agent, and your publisher to hash out. Remember the key word in "Marketing Plan": Plan. If you think selling is easy, give me a call. I'll put you on the phone with your first 100 calls to RV owners with a product that is, without argument, the best and safest trailer hitch on the road. On your first day, 100 people will laugh at you, slam down the phone, and tell you to get lost. On the second day, you'll call in sick. It takes years of training and experience before a salesman becomes really good at his job. Why would you think it'd be any different than writing?

My point is, like Mark says, you're often just saying "I exist" to someone who may never be in a position to buy your books. Then, the next time you call, they won't remember who you are, so you'll say "I still exist" and perhaps find out what the weather is like on their end of the line. You've heard this before in the writing business, and I'll tell you again in the sales business, half of your job is building relationships.

Your first call will likely end with you asking to do a book signing. Remember: start locally. Most beginning authors probably can't make a nationwide tour fit in to the budget, but I'd be willing to bet there's plenty of bookstores within range of your home to keep you occupied for a while.

Let me stress this again: work with your publisher and agent. One or both these people can get you started on the right foot. Show that you are willing to put forth some effort and listen to their advice. They know what they're doing. Really.

Okay, here's another tidbit for today: If you find a published author who's willing to do things like, oh, pop into your blog and give advice, hang on! Make friends with that person. Chances are you'll hit it off anyway. After all, you're both writers. This is also a good reason to join a group like ACFW or MWA. Both of these organizations are full of published writers who enjoy helping out the un-pubbed.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Contact Organization

In the olden days (the 80s), most of us were forced to keep track of our business contacts on anything from 3x5 cards to those little spiral bound address books. The introduction of the Franklin Planner was a major revolution. Now, we have a whole bunch o' neat stuff to choose from.

I mentioned on Friday that part of your marketing plan should include picking up the phone and getting your name out to all those bookstores. Again, coordinate with your publisher on this. First of all, he'll be thrilled that you're willing to take on such a task. Of course, he'll already know it because you included it in your proposal (didn't you?). Second, he'll want to make sure that you understand who you'll be talking to and what you can promise them. Funny thing about sales, often the salesman forgets what a profit is in the excitement of making the sale. Your publisher will not be amused if you do that. That information is between you and the publishing house. I'll leave it at that. Just let them know your intentions.

How many calls can you make? That depends. But an average cold call should last about two minutes. If you get someone willing to chat, by all means, chat. Remember, you're building relationships. It takes time. Be patient. If you spend an hour a day making calls, you should expect to make twenty or thirty per day. That won't even scratch the surface if you want to reach every bookstore in America. Start locally and work your way out. If you're novel is set in another city or region, put that area on your "A" list.

Now, organization. Here's your marketing term for the week: Customer Relationship Management Software or CRM. We use Maximizer where I work. This is how sales companies keep track of you. It's "the list" you always demand to be taken off of. Now you'll be putting people on yours.

I don't expect you to go out and pay thousands of dollars for good CRM software. I'm still looking for a personal version. But for now, Outlook will be fine. You're going to use all those "other" boxes in an Outlook contact. Especially the one titled "Notes." You'll track date and times of your call, what was said, what kind of interest level you received, the booksellers favorite ice cream, his kid's dance recital, anything you can use to grease the conversation the next you call.

You have to THINK LIKE A SALESMAN. I know, it's scary. You'll get people who don't want to talk to you, lie to you and say they're busy, tell you to call back again and again and again, and some who are downright rude. By this point, you've gotten a book contract. I assume you're thick-skinned. Thicken in further.

By the way, those little headsets are great. Get one. Next we'll talk about scripts.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Push and Pull

Marketing in any business is performed via two basic methods: pushing and pulling. What do I mean by that? It's quite simple. When you place an advertisement in a magazine for a product, you're trying to pull customers directly to your product. They see the ad, call you direct or call a retailer, and buy the item.

Pushing is when you try to enlist the retailers to sell your product. It's a subtle difference. When I sell a widget to a customer directly, it's a done deal. When I sell ten widgets to a retailer, my work isn't done yet. Though I'll mark those ten widgets as "sold," they really aren't until they make it into the hands of the final consumer.

Following? Okay, what does this have to do with selling my books?

You probably won't sell books directly to the consumer, but you will market to him or her. We've already discussed how this is done. Blogging, websites, direct mailings, etc. are ways to "pull" the consumer to your product. Now the consumer needs a place to buy it.

"Easy," you say, "Amazon!"

Not quite. The last numbers I saw reported that less than 25% of books are sold online. Those other 75% are picked off the shelf. Someone has to put them on the shelf. In order for that to happen, someone else has to convince that bookstore buyer to put them there.

Don't wait on your publisher. They'll do the usual marketing campaign for a new book. If you're Stephen King, sit back and relax, they'll jump through burning hoops to market your book. For the rest of us, we got calls to make.

Calls? Yes, see that gadget on your desk that you normally use to order pizza because you spent all afternoon looking for the right active verb in the opening of chapter 23? That's your best tool for selling your book. Barbaric, isn't it? In the day of the internet, when you can reach millions of people instantly, why bother with the phone?

Here's a shock for you. And it's like this in my "widget" business as well. Retailers aren't scouring the internet looking for the next great product to put on their shelves. Most likely, the very first time a bookstore buyer hears about Ron Estrada is when I introduce myself over the phone. Today, I will probably call about twenty widget dealers in the hopes they'll carry my product. Maybe one will place an order. The rest are just relationship building. It'll work that way for you, too. A "no" is still contact. You'll be calling again.

Since this is a task I perform daily, I'll pick this up again next week and talk about how to organize your contacts and script your calls. Oh my, it's almost like real selling, isn't it? Don't panic, if I can do it with my widgets, you can do it with those stunning novels.

And remember, make sure your agent or editor knows you're willing to take on this task and, of course, coordinate with your publisher. This is a team effort.

In today's news: James Cameron has announced that he's discovered the lost driver's license of Jesus. In news that will rock the religious world to its core, the birth date on the driver's license is December 26th. While church leaders mourn, retailers rejoice at the added day to the Christmas shopping season. In more news that will rock the religious world to its core, the driver's license is from New Jersey. More on this as it develops.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing THE RELIANCE ( Barbour, January 1, 2007) by Mary Lu Tyndall


M. L. (MARYLU) TYNDALL grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she's only give her heart to Him completely.

A YOUNG BRIDE separated from her husband just as a child has been conceived...

A GRIEVING HUSBAND tempted to take his anger out through the vices of his past...

A MARRIAGE AND A SHIP threatenend to be split apart by villainous Caribbean pirates...

In THE RELIANCE, Edmund Merrick tormented by the apparent demise of his pregnant wife Charlisse, sails away to drown his sorrows. He turns his back on God and reverts to a life of villainy, joining forces with the demented French pirate Collier. When his mind clears from its rum-induced haze, will Edmund find the will to escape?

Seemingly abandoned by her new husband, Charlisse battles her own insecurities as she is thrown into the clutches of the vengeful pirate Kent, who holds her and Lady Isabel captive.

Will she be swept away by the undertow of treachery and despair? Can Edmund and Charlisse battle the tempests that threaten to tear them apart and steer their way to the faith-filled haven they so desperately seek? Or will they ultimately lose their love and lives to the whirlpool of treachery and deceit?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fight for the Cure

I'm going to break protocol here and talk about a topic that's taken up a position near the top of my ministry list.

Ten years ago I don't think I could name one person who had cancer. Within the last two years, it seems I hear, on a weekly basis, another name of a friend or relative who's been diagnosed with one form or another of this disease.

This morning in church, I found that the six year-old son of a church member was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery was performed Saturday to remove most of the tumor from his brain. I know this child. I've seen him play, run in the halls, laugh with other children.


At six your biggest concern should be running out of your favorite breakfast cereal.

Friends, I don't know what to write. I don't know how to even deal with something so tragic. Well, that's not exactly true. I can pray. And I will pray. It's moments like this, when we feel the most hopeless, that God uses us to reveal his nature. If you feel inclined to pray, the little boy's name is Jason. His mother's name is Pam. She'll need your prayers, too.

As fate would have it, I've taken on a project this year for my church's representation at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life even here in Oxford. My project? I wanted a prayer tent, to be manned for the entire 24 hours of the event. Right now, I feel like I could man it myself for the entire 24 hours.

I have a link at the top left of this blog. It will stay there until the Relay for Life is done for the year on May 20th. If you feel the need to give, you can make a donation through that link. You'll see my name on the page, I'm one of the team members. Our goal is $200 each. It seems a paltry sum when $200 won't even pay for the five minutes of chemotherapy. But it adds up.

I know many of you are involved in this event in your own towns. God bless you. Let's use the power of prayer and the compassion of Christ to reach out to the millions who suffer from this disease.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What's your title?

One key element for marketing via the internet is this: People who visit a web page are looking for information before they're looking to make a purchase. I know this because it's been a hard lesson at Hensley Mfg., the company where I now work. Hensley makes some high-end products for the RV industry, an industry notorious for being on the super cheap side of things.

We've come to one conclusion at Hensley: we have to give away information before we can expect to sell anything.

And that will need to be your attitude as well.

Let's pick on someone we all know and love: Brandilyn Collins. If you go to her blog, what title to do you see? Brandilyn's Books or the I Love B.C. Blog?

No, you see a very catchy title: Forensics and Faith. Bingo, in three words she's pulled any Christian suspense reader into her little web (pun definitely intended). What has Brandilyn created? Say it with me class:


Oh yes, that again. See how it all fits so nicely. Now I'm going to pick on another (possibly former) friend: Robin (Miller) Caroll.

Robin's well written mysteries are backdropped in the Louisiana Bayou. Maybe we can come up with Robin's empire. She'll surely ignore it and choose her own, but what the heck. Think southern swamp, alligators, cops, gumbo, it's all fair game.

Okay, you can pick on me, too. I don't have a contract yet, but my mysteries are set in Northern Michigan. Think log cabins, diners, trout, rivers.

Get started. I'd play too, but I'm nursing my displaced back.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing THE WATCHERS ( Bethany House, March 1, 2007) by MARK ANDREW OLSEN

MARK ANDREW OLSEN whose novel The Assignment was a Christy Award finalist, also collaborated on bestsellers Hadassah (now the major motion picture: One Night With the King), The Hadassah Covenant, and Rescued. The son of missionaries to France, Mark is a graduate of Baylor University. He and his wife, Connie, live in Colorado Springs with their three children.

Just below the surface among the family of God lives another family tree--one traced in spirit, invisible and ageless, known as the Watchers. For two thousand years they've seen beyond the veil separating this world from the next, passing on their gift through a lineage mostly overlooked. Throughout history they've scouted the borders of the supernatural frontier, but now their survival hangs by a thread. And their fate lies in the hands of a young woman, her would-be killer, and a mystery they must solve....

"Congratulations. You just reached my own little corner of cyberspace.

Who am I? Abby Sherman, that's who.

Who are you? And why are you checking me out?

Drop me a few pixels, and let's find out!"

With that innocent invitation, Abby Sherman unwittingly steps in the crosshairs of history, and thus begins her harrowing tale--taking her from ocean-front Malibu to the streets of London, the jungles in West Africa, the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, and to the very gates of heaven itself!

A sneak preview of eternity becomes her one-way ticket to danger--and discovery….

Two lives collide in a globe-circling adventure involving both peril and discovery: Abby, a young woman whose visions of heaven turn her into a Web-celebrity; and Dylan, a troubled young man sent by an ancient foe to silence her. From California beachfronts to Nigerian rain forests to Jerusalem and back again, THE WATCHERS is high-octane blends of action, mystery, and spiritual battle spanning centuries.

A woman's awe-inspiring vision launches her on a quest through distant lands and ancient history, face-to-face with eternity and into the arms of a family line on the brink of annihilation...

A man who is hired to exterminate her discovers the folly of blind loyalty, then learns how to wage war in a realm he never believed had existed...

An extraordinary saga of the unseen war against evil, the reality of the supernatural, and the transforming power of forgiveness.

Friday, March 02, 2007

More on Budgeting

Author Mark Terry kindly pointed out that my marketing budget was way too low on Monday. I agree. The point I want to get across is that you cannot put too much into a marketing budget. And here's the really fun part: Most of what you spend on marketing will net you zero sales.

At this point you're wondering if I'm suffering a little cabin fever. Let me illustrate my point with a non-publishing product. How about, oh I don't know, trailer brake controllers. Just so happens I manufacture and sell those things. If you're not an RVer and don't know what a brake controller is, that's fine, just think of it as a widget.

Let's say my widget costs $100 to manufacture. So my minimum cost per unit is $100. That's the easy part. Now I have to estimate my first year's sales, just like I asked you to estimate your first year's advance. Let's shoot for 1000 units. Which means my manufacturing costs will be $100,000. Now overhead-salary, office space, electricity, everything that costs money but doesn't go into the product. Let's say that's $200,000 a year. Now my minimum product cost is $300, at least for the first year. Oh, wait, there's that marketing thing. Here's where that big MBA degree is worth it's weight in Christmas tree tinsel.

It's not a science. Obviously, the more you market, the more you sell. But you just can't take out an ad in every magazine available. That'd cost millions. TV? Forget it. Not for my widget. So you set an advertising budget at $100,000 and carefully select where you'll advertise. For my brake controller, that's RV magazines and websites. For you? Well, you have to figure that out, that's why we're here.

But let me use my brake controller again. I spend about $3000 a month for an ad in a national magazine. Do I sell $3000 worth of brake controllers per month off that ad? Probably not. In fact, there's not one source I can justify based on direct sales. However, and here's the tricky part, I know that a combination of magazine ads, RV shows, web site, etc., will convince enough people to buy to cover my ad costs, and hopefully garner a small profit at the end of the year.

Do you see what I'm getting at? Marketing is like fishing. You'll make 100 casts before hooking a fish. But the 99 were necessary for you to find out where the fish are not. Not Randy Ingermanson, Not Terry Whalin, none of the guys I talk about can give you a magic formula for marketing. They can get you closer, just like a good fishing guide can find the hot spots for you, but it still takes a lot of trial and error, and a lot of money, before you figure out what works.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing A Valley Of Betrayal
(Moody Publishers - February 1, 2007) by Tricia Goyer

TRICIA GOYER is the author of five novels, two nonfiction books and one children's book. She also was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Writer of the Year in 2003. In 2005, her novel Night Song, the second title in Tricia’s World War II series, won ACFW's Book of the Year for Best Long Historical Romance. In 2006, her novel Dawn of A Thousand Nights also won book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. Tricia and her husband, John, live with their family in northwestern Montana.

ABOUT THE BOOK : A Valley Of Betrayal
For reasons beyond her control, Sophie finds herself alone in the war-torn Spanish countryside, searching for her beloved Michael. His work as a news photographer has taken him deep into the country wracked by civil war.

What was once a thriving paradise has become a battleground for Nazi-backed Franco fascist soldiers and Spanish patriots. She is caught up in the escalating events when the route to safety is blocked and fighting surrounds her.Secrets abound in the ruined Spain. Michael is loving but elusive, especially about beautiful maria. The American who helped Sophie sneak into Spain turns up in odd places. Michael's friend Jose knows more than he tells. When reports of Michael's dissappearance reach her, Sophie is devastaed. What are her feelings for Philip, an American soldier who comes to her rescue?

Sophie must sift truth from lies as she becomes more embroiled in the war that threatens her life and breaks her heart. On her darkest night, Sophie takes refuge with a brigade of international compatriots. Among these volunteers, she pledges to make the plight of the Spanish people known around the world through the power of art.

Acclaimed author Tricia Goyer creates a riviting cast of characters against the backdrop of pre-WWII spain. Love, loss, pain, and beauty abound in A Valley Of Betrayal, the first book in her new series, Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Budgeting Writer

Yes, the “B” word. It strikes fear into the heart of every Visa Card carrying American. However, for the small business owner, it had better be an integral part of your Business Plan.

“Ron!” you protest, “you’re in the wrong blog! We’re writers, not business owners.”

Wrong. Here’s rule…um…#212: If you’re taking yourself seriously as a writer, you have to convince yourself that this is your business. Otherwise, it’s a hobby. And a business must have a budget. Even if you have no income from your business yet, you must plan. If you’re not taking yourself seriously enough to do that, how do you expect an agent or publisher to do so?

Don’t know how to make a business plan or budget? Sure you do. A business plan is nothing more than a statement on what you intend to accomplish and the steps you’ll take to get there. So write down those lovely little steps. Need help? Okay, here’s a general outline for a novelist:

Goal: to write and publish 1 novel per year with sales of 5,000 copies the first year and a 10% increase in sales for every year following. (Yes, I realize this is simplistic, but rule #16 said to keep the blog entries short. Expand as necessary.).

Assumption: $3000 advance for the first novel with no royalties (Income).

Budget (Expenditures):
Materials: $300
Books: $200
Training: $1000 (conferences, air-fare, lodging, seminars, etc.)
Marketing: $1500

There! Wasn’t that easy? What’s that? I used up all of your advance? Darn right I did. Remember: you are a small business. I challenge anyone to find a small business owner who actually made a profit his or her first year. In fact, most take a loss. Most of you are currently taking a loss. Notice there is no line item that says “Run out and buy a new laptop.” If you must, it goes under Materials. But unless you’re down to writing with sharpened chunks of coal, I suggest you hold off on that.

I’m going to continue on this topic Friday. Your homework is to come up with a budget for this year and your first year as a published author. I don’t care if you think you’re five years from publication. Get it down on paper. Take my abridged budget and expand. Add topics and put in details for each heading. Break down the materials into paper, envelopes, whatever. Marketing, of course, can be broken down into a long list of sub-categories. Guess at those numbers for now, but, as you can see, you’re biggest expenses will always be marketing and training. Good thing you don’t have to worry about production (unless you go the self-pubbed route).

Get budgeting. I’ll see you Friday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to my empire...

The cool thing about developing your “empire” is this: it forces you to sit down and think, “Do I really want to be writing on this topic for the next five or six years?”

That’s a good question to ask yourself. Many of us newbies flit from genre to genre in search of our “niche.” The thing is, our niche usually ends up being the place we happen to be when we get a sale. Brandilyn Collins talks extensively, in her own special way, about branding. To sum it up, she says don’t hopscotch between genres. Your readers develop expectations as does your publisher, so don’t torque ‘em off (I thought "torque 'em off" was a phrase Brandilyn might use).

Now back to the previous problem. I get the feeling that some us will end up falling into a genre simply because that’s the door that opened up for us. Nothing wrong with that. Somebody wants to pay me real money to write romance, I’ll do it (under a pen name). That will never happen, because I just can’t get excited about romance. Well, you know, the written kind. Please disregard any further insertions of foot in mouth.

But I can get excited about several different genres-mystery, suspense, espionage thrillers, and several others. Now here’s the difference: what am I really passionate about? What gets my mojo running? If I were to look at my web browser history right now, what would most populate the list? Okay, after Dilbert and the Weather Channel. I won’t tell you what that is for me, because I’m still wrestling with it. And, oh yeah, praying about it.

Which brings me back to my empire. Not exactly the same as genre, but there will be some connection. So, I’ve taken a simple concept and confused the heck out of it. But maybe that’s a good thing. Are you settling on an empire because it happens to be what your current WIP is about?

Take a look at that browser history. Where ya been hangin’ out at? Chances are, that’s your empire, the one that will drive you out of a warm bed at 4am to catch up on the latest and, of course, write about.

Remember, this isn’t a race. We’ve been punching these keys for a loooong time. Let’s not rush into something we’ll regret in a few years.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Wedgewood Grey: The Black or White Chronicles: Book Two (Black Or White Chronicles)(Faith Words, February 2007) by John Aubrey Anderson

John was born five miles north of the setting for Abiding Darkness, a cotton country town within a rifle shot of two rivers, a bayou, a double handful of lakes, and endless acres of woods. After graduating from Mississippi State, he flew six years in the Air Force then twenty-nine years for a major airline. And now he gets to write.

He and his wife have been married for forty some-odd years and live in Texas—about twenty miles south of the Red River. He spends the biggest part of his time writing; she’s immersed in leading a comprehensive, women’s Bible study.

They like greasy hamburgers and Dr. Peppers, most species of warm-blooded creatures (the kind that don’t normally bite), and spending July in the mountains.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Wedgewood Grey is the second book in the Black and White Chronicles. The first was Abiding Darkness (August, 2006).Mississippi cotton country . . . in the spring of 1960.
The War At Cat Lake is fifteen years in the fading past . . . but the demonic beings who launched that first battle, are alive and well at Cat Lake. Waiting.

Late on a Friday night, on a muddy little road a mile east of Cat Lake, a ten-year-old black child is forced to watch while a gang of white men beat his mother to death. Aided by Mose Washington, an old black man, the boy exacts a measure of his own revenge. When the sun comes up on Saturday morning, Mose and the boy are fugitives.

Missy Parker Patterson, who as a child stood at the epicenter of the first war, is married and living in Texas. In the aftermath that follows Mose Washington’s disappearance, she goes back to Cat Lake to discover that the demonic beings have been anticipating her return . . . and so begins the second battle of The War At Cat Lake.

In 1962, an old black man and his grandson move into the country near Pilot Hill, Texas. The people in the local area are told that the old gentleman’s name is Mose Mann—his grandson introduces himself as Bill.

However, the lives of the new arrivals are not as peaceful as they seem. The unassuming old black man and his grandson are being pursued by a triad of formidable and unrelenting adversaries . . . a ruthless political leader, an enduring lie, and an invisible army allied beneath the banner of a hatred for God.

Wedgewood Greyis a story about the impact of choices that real people—people like you and me—are sometimes forced to make.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Blogs and the bloggers who blog them

On my first post to the new format, I asked you to read Randy Ingermanson's newsletter and think about your empire. You may or may not have a specific empire in mind by now. Me? I think I do, but I'm still turning it over. That's fine. This isn't a race. Just don't beat to death.

With that in mind, your empire I mean, I want you to look at your blog. No blog? Get one. It's free, easy, and the quickest way to start building your empire. Blogger is fine, but check out a few of the others available, too. The best way to do that is visit the blogs you like, see how they're laid out, and go with the provider of the one you like best.

Most of you have blogs. What do you talk about there? The weather? Your kid's latest discovery under an old sheet of plywood? Britanny's latest hair style?

Stop it.

You heard me. Stop the insanity! Your empire should be focused. And so should your blog. If your empire is Siamese cats, don't blog about anything that has nothing to do with Siamese cats. If your empire is cast iron cooking, don't you dare enter a post that doesn't contain several pounds of iron.

"But Ron!" You cry. "I need a place to tell my friends what's going on in my life!"

Fine. Get another blog, title it "Stuff About Me," and use that to get all your editorial needs out of your system. Didn't I say blogs (most of them) are free? You can have two. Some people have five or six. I'll save them for another post. Your marketing plan should include a blog that reflects the central theme of your writing.

I promise you, if you start a blog that's specific to your empire, you will find a lot more people stopping in. People with similar interests. People who don't want to hear about how cute your kids are (I do, but not on your empire blog). People who read. People who will someday read your novels!

So hop to it. Give me those blogs! And keep 'em focused.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Networking. It's nothing new. You've been told: go to conferences, talk to lots of people, get on the mail loop, etc. All that is still good advice. There's nothing like meeting people face to face if you want to make an impression (hopefully a good one). A human network is vital for any profession, especially writing.

But what about the quality of your network? Occasionally, a new member of ACFW or MWA will ask how he or she should go about finding a critique group. It's easy, I say, the hard part is finding a good critique group. What do I mean by good? I don't mean their writing is on par with John Steinbeck with their first novel. I mean a group of writers who have a goal, like you, and are making daily strides toward that goal, like you. Your critique group is your innermost networking circle. If it consists of men and women who write "when they have time" or have done nothing to improve their skills in five years, guess what? You're going as far as they are.

I know this sounds harsh. But this is the reality. I've been through more critique groups than I care to admit. Know what most have in common? All the members have given up. Maybe it took them a while. I don't know. I didn't stick around long enough to find out. Because I have a goal, and am taking the steps each and every day to achieve that goal, and they weren't. I don't have time to encourage someone who isn't giving it their all. Neither do you. I've now been in my current group for two years. That's a record for me. What's different about these ladies? They're as committed to reaching their writing goal as I am. Their writing improves noticeably over time (hopefully, they say the same for me), and things are happening. Robin's first book is out in October. And four people, not one, are rejoicing.

Yes, this sounds a bit heartless. We're Christians. We're supposed to lift each other up. But if you read the New Testament, you'll find that Jesus didn't spend a whole lot of time getting His disciples out of bed in the morning. You are called. You follow. Or you don't. His time was short. Our time is a bit longer, but in high demand. Jobs, kids, church--most of us aren't blessed with eight hours of uninterrupted writing time every day. Every minute you invest in your writing is precious. If you're spending time pointing out the same mistakes your crit partners have been making for years, it's like investing in a dotcom. You're getting nothing in return.

If your inner circle isn't helping your writing career, find another circle. Make your current group your friends, by all means, but as far as your writing goes, you need to be surrounded by focused, driven, chew-your-draft-to-pieces, professionals like you.

I spent a lot of space here just talking about your inner networking circle. I'll re-visit this topic again and talk about those larger circles. Your homework this weekend: evaluate your critique group or inner circle. Are they helping you reach your goal? Are you helping them? Be honest. You may have to make some tough decisions come Monday. Come to think of it, I may just find myself voted off the island. Better get to those critiques...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing
Christian Writers' Market Guide 2007: The Essential Reference Tool for the Christian Writer
by Sally Stuart. WaterBrook Press; Pap/CDR edition (January 16, 2007)

Sally E. Stuart is the author of thirty-four books and has sold more than one thousand articles and columns. Her long-term involvement with the Christian Writers' Market Guide as well as her marketing columns for the Christian Communicator, Oregon Christian Writers, and The Advanced Christian Writer, make her a sought-after speaker and a leading authority on Christian markets and the business of writing. Stuart is the mother of three and grandmother of eight.

The Christian Writers' Market Guide has offered indispensable help to Christian writers. This year, for the first time, this valuable resource comes with a CD-ROM of the full text, so you can search with ease for topics, publishers, and other specific names.The 2007 edition also includes up-to-date listings of more than 1,200 markets for books, articles, stories, poetry, and greeting cards, including information on forty new book publishers, eighty-three new periodicals, and thirty-four new literary agents. Perfect for writers in every phase, this is the resource to get noticed–and get published.

It contains listings for: 695 periodicals, 228 poetry markets, 355 book publishers, 133 online publications, 29 print-on-demand publishers, 1185 markets for the written word, 321 photography markets, 31 e-book publishers, 122 foriegn markets, 112 literary agents,and 59 newspapers.It also gives you comprehensive lists of contests, writers groups and conferences, search engines, pay rates and submission guidelines, editorial services and websitesThe Christian Writers' Market Guide is a must have for any serious Christian writer that is looking to get published and is a crucial element in your marketing strategy.

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Empire

Welcome back.

Okay, I’ve read Randy’s e-zine and have a good grasp of Strategic (long term) and Tactical (short term) marketing. Why tactical marketing? Well, as most of you have discovered, writing doesn’t pay well, or at all, during the learning stages. But we have expenses: books, conferences, websites, postage, laptops…it all adds up. Wouldn’t it be nice if all that were paid for by someone else? Take a look down the left side of my blog. I’ve got advertisements from Amazon, Randy Ingermanson, Terry Whalin, and Google. All these are affiliate programs. No, I won’t make a ton of money by advertising these products, but maybe I’ll cover some of my expenses. Check out my book store. This was almost no work on my part. Not only do I keep a list of recommended reading, I get little profit anytime one of you buys one of those books.

You can do it, too! That’s the point of all this. If you’re promoting another website, product, or book on your blog, get something for it. It’s not money grubbing, it makes sense. Everyone benefits. Why not you? By the way, I won’t promote anything I haven’t checked out myself (with the exception of the Google ad, which selects random advertisers based on content).

The Strategic portion of our marketing plan is where we’ll concentrate most of our time. On Friday I told you that Randy wants us to determine our “empire.” That’s not his term, by the way, but, being a mad genius, he borrowed it. That’s a good point to get across now: Don’t re-invent the waffle! If someone is already doing it right, adopt it as your own. We’re writers, not marketing professionals.

So what’s my empire? Well, I’ve got a few choices. I love Jesus, writing, fly-fishing, camping, men’s ministry, mystery/suspense/thriller writing. I can’t group all that into one empire, it would be way too narrow. I can have several empires, but I need to focus on one for now. Let’s see…my novels always involve a man on a faith journey. My current series has a heavy dose of fly-fishing.

How about this: Men’s ministry and fly-fishing. I could come up with a website with a catchy title. Something like “Reel Men…thoughts on fly-fishing and being God’s Man.” That may be too narrow as well. Maybe just “Real Men–being God’s Man in the 21st century.” That keeps my focus on Christ, which is important to me. But will it tie into my fiction? I think so. I could use my current series and the fictional town of Trout, Michigan as my empire. Maybe it will involve elements of mystery, fly-fishing, and faith. I like that. The men's ministry ties in with a desire I've had for several years to write a series of non-fiction books. There's no reason I can't develop this marketing plan to focus on both my fiction and non-fiction ventures. Remember, this plan can cover years, even decades. Look ahead. Think big.

I’ll leave it there for now. I’ve got plenty of time to develop this. How about you? What’s your empire? Space travel? Cats? Scrapbooking? Think about it. I’d like to hear your ideas.

I’ll leave Randy alone for a while and take a look at some other ways to develop my marketing plan. On Friday, I’d like to talk a bit about networking. Put on your thick skin (if you’re a writer, it’s always handy). Some of the things I say on this subject may ruffle a few feathers. But stick with me. Nothing I say will step outside of Christian boundaries, but we have to remain tough and focused to reach our goals and fulfill His will.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Fiction Marketing Journey: Step 1

Welcome to my Fiction Writers Marketing Journey. To kick things off this week, I asked you to visit Randy Ingermanson’s website and determine where you fall in your writing career. Me? I think I fall into the “Junior” category. My writing is looking pretty good, but I’ve still got some things to learn. I’m not going to go any deeper into the finer points of writing, but I would recommend Randy’s Fiction 101 & 201 course. The rest is up to you.

Now, why am I doing this? This project is not meant to be long term. My little scheme is to use this blog as the staging area for my marketing plan. Why? Because I can lay it out, step by step, as I go. AND I can include you in the process. You see, like Randy, Terry, and a host of other writers, I don’t buy into the deception that a successful writing career is luck of the draw. I’m not talking about writing a best seller and retiring to Jamaica, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that our hard work pay off at least enough to lead a comfortable existence. But most importantly: if I’m truly called to this ministry, why should I settle for less than my maximum potential? There’s a parable Jesus told about some servants who were given money (talent) to invest. Those who took the biggest risk and got the greatest return were rewarded even more. I’m already investing a lot of time and work, why not go the distance and make sure the fruit of my labor doesn’t die on the vine?

My point? It’s not enough that you have talent. It’s not enough that you were called. You must do whatever you can to ensure all that talent doesn’t go to waste. That’s where marketing comes in. It’s an investment in your writing. The greater the return on that investment, the more you can give back to Him. I’m not just talking dollars, I’m talking souls reached for the Kingdom.

Now, let’s continue. The next thing I did on my journey was to subscribe to an e-zine. That’s right, why kill myself learning this stuff when someone else already knows it? I hate to keep picking on Randy, but he’s the “Mad Genius” that got me started on this path in the first place. The first edition of his marketing e-zine told me to find my “empire.” What’s that? Well, it’s what I’m passionate about, or good at, or want to be good at. I’m going to think about that over the weekend. How about you do the same? Go and subscribe to Randy’s e-zine, The Mad Genius Writer, and read up. Oh, by the way, when you do, you’ll notice that I’ve already taken some short term steps. I’ll let you figure it out after you read Randy’s e-zine.

See ya Monday!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A New Screwtape Letter

If you haven't been on Terry Whalin's blog today, get there. He's posted a "Screwtape Letter" written by Greg Stielstra, author of Pyromarketing. If you're called to write for our Lord and have found yourself tempted to tone down your gospel message to reach the unsaved, this letter is for you. I won't re-post it here. Go check it out on Terry's blog.
This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducting The Longing Season (Bethany House July, 2006) by Christine Schaub.


Christine Schaub is the author of the MUSIC OF THE HEART series, including Finding Anna, the “rest of the story” behind the writing of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” (October 2005) and The Longing Season, the story behind “Amazing Grace” (July 2006) with Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Books.

In 2003, Christine won the “On the Page” screenwriting contest at Screenwriting Expo 2 in Los Angeles. Her one-page story, written on-site in 24 hours for Jacqueline Bisset, was selected by the actress as the best Oscar Wilde-type comedy for her persona.

While working in freelance corporate communications, Christine completed three feature-length screenplays, including a drama/comedy, romantic comedy, and sci-fi action/drama; developed four biopic teleplays for the stories behind the hymns; and published an online column for the MethodX website (Upper Room Ministries).

Christine honed her writing skills after more than 15 years in corporate communications for healthcare, pharmaceutical, and entertainment companies. She has also been a featured conference speaker on working with at-risk youth and changed lives in the classrooms with her creative presentation style.

Christine's love for the arts and creativity have taken her from church platforms to civic and professional stages, performing classics and dramas from her own pen.

Christine graduated from Anderson University with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. She has served on numerous boards and committees, usually as Communications Chair, and has received both regional and national awards in writing and design.

All of the books in the MUSIC OF THE HEART series are based on a hymns and their histories. The Longing Season is about one of the greatest redemption stories of all time: John Newton and his song, Amazing Grace.

Nature conspires against him, tossing the ship like a toy. Directionless--just like his life.
It seems his odyssey will end here, in the cold Atlantic.
Grief and terror grip his heart, but he will not surrender...not yet.
She reads the sentence again and again.
The first day I saw you I began to love you.
He'd written the words, sealed and posted them, then vanished.

She has a choice--turn toward the future, or wait, wating and hoping.

And so begins her season of longing.

Christine's website link is:

Monday, February 05, 2007


Whenever the subject of marketing comes up in writer circles, the question of timing invariably surfaces as well.

When do I start thinking about marketing?

“Now” would be my answer. No, I don’t mean spend $800 on a website design and call the local bookstores to schedule your signing tour. Unless, of course, you’re ready for that. What I mean is this: Before you create your character, develop your plot, stroke the first key, ask yourself “What about my novel makes me different from the thousands of novels that will hit the bookstores this year?” Is it a protagonist with a unique occupation, like writing crossword puzzles? An interesting setting like post-Soviet Russia? A different time like Chicago in the 1890s?

I can’t help you with this part of your marketing plan. This is entirely up to you. I assume you have a hint of creativity living somewhere in your cranium. Stretch it now. Put yourself in the chair of an acquisitions editor. Manuscripts fly across your desk like spitballs past a substitute teacher. What do you want to see? What would stand out?

Okay, that’s as far as I, or anyone, can take you on that topic.

To answer the “When” question beyond that point, you first must decide where you are in your writing career. Randy Ingermanson uses a simple approach to this. You’re either a Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, or Senior. And no, that doesn’t mean you’ll be a published author in four years from the first moment you decide to pick up a pen.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to go to Randy’s website and figure out where you are. Be honest. There’s no shame in being a Freshman for three years. We all learn and grow at our own pace. That’s a statement you’ll here me use a lot, by the way: learn & grow. That will be the one consistent piece of your journey.

Now, do your homework. We’ll pick this up on Friday.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Best Reader Comment of the Week

As Lawrence Block pointed out once, Charles Dickens either invented the book tour... our St. Paul did. - Posted by Mark Terry

Friday, February 02, 2007

Marketing You Betcha

As I near the day when I find myself signing a book contract, my mind is already steering toward the question: What next?

If you've been reading guys like Terry Whalin and Randy Ingermanson, you have a good idea what's next. You've busted your keys for a year or more on a novel. Before, that, you've likely shed a few tears over novels that were pronounced DOA. And before that, you've spent years 'n years learning and perfecting your craft. We like to call it a craft. It makes us feel artsy. The fact is, my fellow artists, if you don't have a little Trump in your soul, or are at least willing to get a little Trump in your soul, your art won't get into too many hands, and your publisher may one day invite you to find a new publisher.

It's harsh, yes. That's me. I turned 40 last month, so I think that gives me just enough years to tell it like it is. Just barely.

So, I'm going to be writing a lot more on this subject. I hope a few of you will join me. I won't try to re-invent the ice-cream cone, but I will be picking up some clues from guys like Terry, Randy, Chip MacGregor, and Bob Bly (more on him later, but do check out his website).

Here's your first rule: keep your blog postings short. I'm probably pushing the limit already today. If you want to join the new revolution of the Marketing Writer, stick around. Oh, by the way, if you're not sure aggressive marketing fits in with the Christian World View, I'll have to disagree. Going out into the world to spread the Good News is marketing. Paul wore out his sandals doing it. We will wear out our keyboards.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Germ by Robert Liparulo is one of those books that makes me sorry I every read things like The Hot Zone. Good fiction is usually based partially in fact. And, the fact is, biological warfare and terrorism is a very real possibility in the near future.

The book opens like a Hollywood action film, with the flash of the sun on the windshield of an FBI agent's car as he flees two men on what should have been a quiet Saturday at home. His partner, Julia Matheson, is somewhere behind him, feeling helpless. Two chapters later, Julia has lost her partner and mentor and finds herself in a conspiracy so deep she doesn't even trust her own supervisor back in her Atlanta headquarters. Eventually, Julia teams up with a surgeon and his bear-like brother to form an unlikely trio, all of who are hunted by a ruthless hit-man as they search for answers.

Their search eventually leads them to a madman who has created the ultimate assassin, a designer Ebola virus that can pinpoint a single man, woman, or child anywhere on the planet. Or millions of men, women, and children. With the potential release of this monstrous weapon at the door, our trio of heroes soon realize that their own lives are all that stand between the planet and disaster of apocalyptic proportions.

Besides great characters and a spine-tingling plot, Liparulo does an excellent job of setting up the story. He weaves the back story, going back to the end of World War II, into the plot so well you hardly notice a beat.

I recommend Germ to any thriller lover. Just be careful. If you breathe, it will find you.

Bethany House Survey

This is fun. Jim Hart, the Internet Marketing Manager over at Bethany House is conducting a survey for a new novel by Ann Tatlock, Things We Once Held Dear. Among a few other questions, he's got three possible book covers posted. You'll choose your favorite.

Ever looked at a book cover and say, "Why in the world did they use THAT?"

Now here's your chance to get a say in the design. Here's the link:

Susan May Warren

I don't like it when I mess up, but it happens. I was suppose to interview Susan May Warren on my blog. I agreed to January 22nd. Then realized, too late, that I'd be off at the Tampa RV show the week prior, giving me no time to prepare. Hopefully, Susan will show up on my blog another time.

In the meantime, I suggest you visit her website at I've read three of Susan's books. For those of you who like a good romantic suspense with a big helping of faith, Susan can fill that order nicely. I must admit that I'm not big on the romance part of it, but she doesn't overdo it. In fact, she blends it so nicely as part of the plot that you hardly realize it's there. To me, that's a good thing. Every story should have a touch of romance, but it needs to be interwoven with the plot.

I recommend the Mission: Russia books and the Team Hope trilogy. Actually, I'm disappointed she didn't write more books set in Russia. I like reading about different places, and post-Soviet Russia is definitely an interesting place. Susan spent some time there as a missionary. I bet she's got more stories tucked away in her head.

Okay, hopefully my repentance will be accepted. Get over to Susan's website and blog and tell her Ron sent you. Perhaps then I won't have to grovel so much at the conference.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Continuing Saga

No, it's not another episode of "Pigs in Space." I'm well into the agent search now. I think I put as much sweat into the proposals as I did the actual book. It's a good feeling of accomplishment, though. It's only one more step in a long journey, but it beats watching from the sidelines.

Which brings up a subject that's been nagging at me since Saturday morning. My daughter likes to tape and watch American Idol. For the most part, it's a clean show, though I keep a close watch when it's on. At this stage of the contest, they're going through the initial try outs. I have to tell you, there's a lot of people out there who are living a fantasy, one involving talent they don't have. That's all fine. More power to 'em. My problem is the grieving that goes on for those who don't make it past this stage. Yes, I understand they feel their dream has been shattered (Though, I have to believe some of these people are network plants for entertainment purposes. I mean the bad ones). And it's okay to shed a few tears over disappointment. But the problem I have is that few of these people will actually continue their quest. Which is a shame, because some are actually good, they just need work. And that's the problem, very few want to go through the usual route to stardom. They're looking for an easy way.

Really, do you think Paula Abdul has any sympathy for the 19 year old who claims her life is over because she didn't get picked to go to Hollywood. I don't know a thing about Paula, but I'm willing to bet she paid her dues. The judges, even the rude one, will tell these people to keep trying, try out for Broadway, but the contestants don't want to hear that. I'm generalizing, yes, but as a writer I've watched a lot of other would-be novelists drop out of the race. I'm sure it's the same with singers, actors, and other artists.

The good news is that this presented a great life lesson for my daughter, which I seized. I told her that she can dream as big as she wants, and that's great, but prepare yourself to struggle for it and work hard. There's no easy ticket. And, if you'll notice, the people who do make it on American Idol have been at this for many years, paying their dues.

So now to practice what I lecture. Murder on the Side has begun its long journey toward publication. I've started the next book in the River Bend Mysteries series, which has a working title of Harvest of the Fall. Okay, not original, it's a working title. The plot, however, will rock your socks. I'm getting bold in my old age. Hey, if we don't get a little cocky, we'll end up crying on the sidelines.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Celebrity Products we’d like to see…

10. The Hillary Clinton lamp collection. Aerodynamically designed for distance and impact.

9. The O.J. “Non-Acquittal” line of gloves. Tight spot? Tight fit!

8. Nancy Pelosi cookware. Lightweight for easy travel to high places.

7. Al Gore global warming casuals. Simply peel off the layers as the temps climb.

6. Mahmoud Admadinejad’s history books. The pages are all blank so you can write your own!

5. The Bill Ford, Jr. piggy bank. For every penny you put in, two disappear.

4. The Tom Cruise wedding planner. Only one page because, really, nobody cares.

Okay, I'm lazy today. I want help! I'll let you guys fill in the top 3! Just leave 'em in the comments.




Wednesday, January 24, 2007

This month we are reviewing not one, but two books by Marilynn Griffith! This prolific writer has TWO books coming out this month! This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is posting about If the Shoe Fits (Steeple Hill Cafe', 2007) by Marilynn Griffith (fellow CFBA member, blogger, writer, and mother of seven)

Marilynn Griffith is wife to a deacon, mom to a tribe and proof that God gives second chances. Her novels include Made of Honor (Steeple Hill, Jan. 2006), Pink (Revell, Feb. 2006), Jade (Revell, June 2006), and Tangerine (Revell, January 2007). Her other credits include Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul, Cup of Comfort Devotionals and her Shades of Style series (Revell, 2006). She lives in Florida with her husband and children. To book speaking engagements or just say hello, email:

Have Glass Slipper, Need Prince...
If the Shoe Fits is the second book in the Sassy Sistahood Novels. The first in the series was Made of Honor (Steeple Hill, Jan. 2006).

In all my thirty-five years, I, shoe designer Rochelle Gardner, have never had so many men interested in me! My teen son's dad is back in my life after suffering from amnesia (yes, really). The church deacon has had his eye on me for years (and never said a word). And the young waiter (from the restaurant I've visited for singles' events) is trying to steal my heart. I've been struggling with my faith, trying to figure out which man God has chosen for me and wondering if I have the courage to step forward, on my not-so-pretty feet, to accept love. It's almost too much for the Sassy Sistahood to handle, but my girlfriends always have my back!

The book link:
Marilynn's website link:

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Back to Winter

I'm back! For those who missed me terribly, I was in Tampa all last week for the RV Supershow. What a great time. I love the RV community and I really loved the weather in Tampa. I could have done without the traffic and the crummy service at my hotel's restaurant, but those are the breaks.

On the plane trip home I read 90 Minutes in Heaven. It's been out for a couple years and I finally broke down and bought a copy in the Tampa Airport gift shop. What a great read to get you through a travel day. The funny thing is, the trip to heaven only lasted a few chapters. It was the author's recovery from his car wreck that inspired faith and revealed the power of prayer. I highly recommend it. I'm too lazy to get the link. Go to Amazon and get it.

So now on to greater things. I'm still polishing my proposal for Murder on the Side and have sent out one agent query. More to come. I try to stagger them a bit. I'm excited about the marketing plans I have for this book and the series. More on that later.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This weeks blog tour is A Pagan's Nightmare by Ray Blackston. For a full review, click here!

The book is available at:

Ray's website is at:

Monday, January 08, 2007

Finding an Agent!

Now that Murder on the Side is el-completo, it's time to find an agent! Yes, I know this can be a long, grueling process, something akin to swimming Lake Michigan while the Coast Guard uses you for target practice (if'n you ain't up on Michigan current events, this means nothing to you).

But it's exciting to have my work, or at least my finely tuned query letters, out in Publishing World. I've done it before, but this is the first novel that I've written that's made me feel like a real writer. Why is that? My first was obviously the attempt of a newbie who hadn't bothered to read a single book on plot, characterization, or dialogue. The second was written as a series in cahoots with my crit partners. I think it's publishable, but I had help. This time, I've got at least a sophomore level understanding of the basics of novel writing. Maybe even a junior level. The publishing business doesn't mystify me anymore (stymie, yes, but not mystify).

I understand now that an editor at Harper Collins hasn't been awaiting my arrival for his or her entire career. The work has only just begun. And I'm pumped! I realized the other day that, after my 8 hours in the office, I put in 3 or 4 more hours a day on my writing, whether it be the actual tapping of keys or reading a "how to" book or research. While normal people are watching brain-flogging sitcoms, I'm working. But it feels wonderful.

My friend Mark Terry was telling me how he keeps lining up new novel projects while he's got more than enough paying gigs to keep him going for years. My reply was that he's moving toward what he loves most. Paying the bills is a good thing. But eventually you'll need to answer your calling to find contentment. Even if you don't make a dime off it for the first ten years.

Okay, off to my agent search. Let the games (and the wait) begin!

Friday, January 05, 2007

100 Hours of Silence

Out of respenct for Miss Nancy and the new regime, I, as a card-carrying Republican, will remain silent for 100 hours. There will be no Top 10 or any opinions whatsoever expressed on this blog.

Thank you Miss Nancy for showing me the error of my ways.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

'07 Already?

Hmm...seemed to have missed my New Year's post. Okay, Happy New Year!

Here's my New Year's reservations:

Complete 2 (count 'em) 2 manuscripts.

Umm...submit 'em.

Stop volunteering for things that get in the way of my writing.

Free-write in the notebook every day (I've already missed Jan. 1st and 2nd)

That's enough.