Saturday, June 1, 2019

Well Begun

Since the advent of its Nook e-book reader, Barnes & Noble has allowed visitors to read any e-book in its inventory for an hour at no charge while they’re in the store. In fact, one can come back every day to read the book in hour-long installments.

On my most recent visits to B&N, I paid careful attention to people in the coffee shop to see how they sampled new books on their e-readers. None of them spent a whole hour that way. In fact, most came with 3 or 4 print books under arm as well as their Nooks, then sampled all of them as they sipped a cup of Starbucks and munched their Danish. Cups emptied, they bought 1 or 2 books and left the store.
First impressions are quickly made.
When I served as a book-contest judge several years ago, I promised myself to read the first 50 pages as a courtesy, no matter how I felt about an entry. Even that small amount of reading seemed burdensome with certain books. With others, the self-imposed 50-page quota flew past in no time and I was eager to read more. You can guess which books got my vote!
Typical book browsers spend little time sampling a new novel, so the opening pages are critical. If you want to invest extra time polishing a manuscript for submission, your time will be well spent at the beginning. 

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth and daughter Heather.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Being a Thomas Kinkade Writer: When Beauty and Goodness Are Eschewed by "The Experts"

I belong to a critique group of secular writers. Much of their work belongs to the genres of the dark, urban thrillers or  the chilling paranormal. When I joined several years ago, they admitted they hadn’t read much of sunshine and light like I was submitting.

Recently, a new member offered a simple story of an ancient hunter-gatherer society who actually had the morals to love and remain faithful to one spouse. The cynical realists felt he should include polygamy as part of their lifestyle, but the new guy stood up for his story. He wanted this fictional group to have a higher standard. Good for him!

As writers of fiction, we can create the characters we desire. The late Thomas Kinkade wanted to paint beauty. He held true to his goal in spite of the “experts” who sneered at his works of light. It wasn’t “art” as far as they were concerned. No, Picasso's style of anguished, distorted characters is more to their liking.
provided by
provided by
I went to Kinkade's  website to learn a little more. He “invested his all” in his work. He painted “straight from the heart.” Art was a form of ministry, and he gave credit to God for his talent. His mission: “to bring peace and joy into the lives of all” who viewed his art.

Yet the three critical quotes I read on a Wikipedia site came from “experts,” all of whom were either anti-Christian or appeared non-religious. “A kitchmaster.” “A bunch of garish cottage paintings.” And, from this author's perspective, the wordy, “Maudlin, sickeningly sentimental vision of a world where everything is as soothing as a warm cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold December day.”

So why do millions love his work? Because they're as soothing as hot chocolate with marshmallows! I believe those paintings stir something in the average human soul. The desire for comfort, for home, for life to be savored.  And that's a lofty and appropriate objective for Christian authors.

Are you told your writing isn’t dark enough? Not filled with angst from beginning to end? If your characters are goody-goody with no struggle ever entering the story, then your critics may have a point. But most of us drive our characters—Christians or not—to overcome something. A fatal flaw, a difficult life situation, conflict with another character.

provided by

My favorite piece of Kinkade’s is titled “Perseverance.” It depicts a boat in a rough ocean, struggling in a storm.A golden glow is breaking through the clouds. The message is clear. “Hold on. The storm is almost over.”

Readers want a similar hope. As a writer, I want to inspire joy in our Savior and Creator. I want to offer hope through my stories like Kinkade did through his art. "Hold on to Jesus. Life's battles will end in victory!"

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. 

A wife, mother of three, grandmother to seven, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!
Where Linda can be found on the web: 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Is Religious Book Publishing Dead?

Fake news has been with us for a long time. A century ago, after Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) had been out of the country several months on a speaking tour, an American newspaper published his obituary, asserting that he had died penniless in London. A correspondent for the New York Journal contacted him for comment. The author acknowledged that his cousin James Ross Clemens had been near death in London a couple of weeks earlier, but had recovered. “The report of my illness grew out of his illness,” he said in a laconic note. “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Publishers of religious books find themselves in a similar predicament these days. Hundreds of bookstores have closed, including nationwide chains such as Family Christian Stores and Lifeway Stores. Major Christian trade shows have folded. Christian authors seldom appear on late-night talk shows anymore. With such visible changes, some people assume that Christian book publishing is dying.

If you hear that, take a look at the facts.

January’s statistical report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) showed that religious book sales have increased more than any other category, up 8.1% from a year ago.  Click here to see details.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing, not because people have stopped reading, but because they can find more books online. The largest physical bookstore can display just a tiny fraction of the new books published each year—nearly 305,000 new titles in the United States alone. Click here to see how our publishing output compares to other countries.

Then there’s self-publishing. First-time authors now have new technologies to publish their own books. Amazon says that more than a thousand authors earned over $100,000 each in royalties through Kindle Direct Publishing in 2017. Not all were Christian authors, to be sure, but many were. Click here to see details.  

So if someone tries to discourage you from writing because they think books are dying, give them a benign smile. As Mark Twain would say, that report is an exaggeration.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Writing Toolbox: One App to Rule Them All?

We all have our favorite writing apps, note taking apps, picture apps, and apps that keep track of ideas. In fact, regardless of your technology platform, writers have many choices these days. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might not really apply as strongly as it did before app stores became populated with so many apps for writers.

These days, Microsoft Office is not the only writing app out there. Yes, once it was the staple of the writing industry (well, besides pen, paper, or typewriter), but now it’s just a choice among many.  As Mr. Scott of the starship Enterprise once said, “How many times have I told you? You need the right tool for the right job.” (Star Trek V, for those wondering).

Because I write on the Apple technology platform, I will be suggesting a few apps that I have found useful. By the way, Apple does a great job of categorizing “writing apps” on their respective app stores (Mac App Store vs iOS App Store).

Apple Pages, Keynote, and Numbers are the “Apple versions” of Microsoft Office. These three apps have come along way since they were first introduced as the iWork suite back in 2005. The bonus here is that all three apps are free. When funds are limited, they can give those using Apple technology a ready to use set of applications that are robust in options and not considered entry level software.

Other software useful to writers:
Story Planner
Lists for Writers
MS OneNote
Inkflow Plus
Notepad Pro

The bottom line here is that many apps specialize in different purposes: sketching out visuals, mind mapping, giving you a place to organize your ideas, and to actually construct your story. Everyone has their favorite app, but be sure not to limit yourself. Many apps offer free trials or a limited free version that allows you to test how useful it would be to your needs.

Points of Discussion: What are some of the apps you use for your writing needs?

Write on, Write often, and Write to make a difference!
-Darren Kehrer

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Imposter Syndrome Is a Real Thing, and Yet . . .

When I meet people for the first time, sometimes our conversations turn to career. I tell them I’m a book editor, and then if they’re remotely interested in learning more, we might have to first get past their idea that an editor’s only task is to find and correct typos. 

This is a little like telling someone you’re a fiction writer and they assume you write books, but you write short stories. Or they assume you write for adults, but you write for the YA market. So you tell them what you do. You say, "I write [fill in the blank]." 

But do you say it with full confidence?

Knowing what line editing is, I like what the author of this article said about it as opposed to substantive or copy editing: “Line editing skills are all about our writing—as a whole.” But may I just tell you how intimidating that statement could be to me some days, skills or no? I could easily ask myself, Who am I to give input into anyone’s writing as a whole? Someone might find out I don't really know what I'm doing!

This, my friends, is an example of imposter syndrome, and I have examples from real-life experiences, toonot just as an editor but as a writer. Maybe especially as a writer. Sometimes when I tell someone I’m a writer, the next question is, “So what have you published?” And then my answer is thin because they’re talking about work published under my own name.

Yet this imposter syndrome is by definition unfounded. It's like phantom pain; there, but not from a source that exists. And it doesn’t consider the degrees we might want to assign to it, like beginning writer or unpublished writer. It sucks up the whole of us. Yet even the most gifted, published, successful writer can take a dive into the imposter syndrome waters. We know that because some of them have told us so!

Why is it so easy for writers to say to themselves, Who am I to think I can write anything someone would want to read? I think when we do that, we’re forgetting who we are. So I’m going to be brave enough to tell all of us who I think we writers (writers because we write) are—or in some cases, need to be to fight imposter syndrome:

·       We’re people to whom God gave a desire to communicate with the written word.
·       We’re people with a story or stories to tell.
·       We’re people who will never be perfect at the craft because we always have something to learn.
·       We’re people who are probably better writers than we think we are.
·       We’re people brave enough to put imperfect work out there.
·       We’re people who avoid saying, “I write, but [fill in the blank].”

If you write—for pleasure or for publication—remember who you are, and, if you’re afflicted, kick imposter syndrome to the curb. It might not be easy, and you might have to fight almost constantly, but then again, there’s this: “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence” (Jeremiah 17:7 NLT). Start there.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries (Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with more than thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. She is a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren.