Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lesson 4: Subsidiary Rights

The book contract gives the publisher the exclusive right to publish your book in hardback, paperback, and maybe (as is increasingly common) as an e-book. But your dreams are bigger than that. In your mind, you have already cast Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon or Emma Watson to play your heroine when the book hits the big screen. And of course it will be picked for Oprah's book club and translated into every language from Spanish to Russian to Japanese.

These are called subsidiary rights because they are not the main reason you entered into the book contract. Common subsidiary rights include:

  • First serialization, or the right to publish all or part of the book as a series in a magazine or newspaper before the book comes out (following in Charles Dickens's footsteps);
  • Second serialization, or the right to publish all or part of the book as a series after the book comes out;
  • Movies, plays, and broadcasts;
  • Audio books;
  • Book club selections;
  • Translations and foreign sales;
  • Abridgments and condensations (think Readers Digest Condensed Books); and
  • Anthologies.
E-book rights may be either primary rights or subsidiary rights, depending on the publisher's expertise and intent in that area.

Returning to our leasing analogy, who gets to find the tenants to rent these secondary rights? And why does it matter?

A building manager who finds tenants gets paid for the service, and so does a publisher. If the book contract includes subsidiary rights, the publisher gets to keep part of the rent. So if you find the tenants or let your agent do it, you'll get a larger cut.

Still, a small cut of something is better than a large cut of nothing. If neither you nor your agent has connections in the movie industry, you may want to let the publisher find a tenant for the movie rights. The same is true for other subsidiary interests.

Your contract should list the subsidiary rights the publisher can exploit and state that any rights not on the list are yours to do with as you wish. You also want a provision that lets you look for a tenant if the publisher hasn't found one within a certain period of time. (The contract may refer to it as "selling" these rights, but we know better.) Whether you can get the publisher to agree to these provisions depends on the publisher and your bargaining strength.

But if you want to see your Great American Novel come alive on the big screen, know your subsidiary rights.

Kathryn Page Camp

Monday, April 25, 2011


When I asked my son what he wanted to be when he grew up, he answered without hesitation: “That’s easy—a professional football player, who’s a secret agent when not playing football.”

Seemed practical to him. The first thought that popped in my mind—he’s been watching too much TV.

Maybe so but, wouldn’t it be great to think like a kid sometimes? No hesitation in your mind about how to pull off a career that only one-in-a-million people get (let alone two careers that require elite qualities). No limitations to story plot lines, because anything is possible. And little cares of writing a sentence without the fear of a critiquer highlighting and leading it to a comment box full of no-no’s.

In a recent copy of Reader’s Digest, an article on problem-solving included a creative tip from Julia Cameron, a novelist and playwright. She said to write three pages, in longhand, first thing every morning about whatever comes to mind, no second-guessing, no editing. She said that it’s a mental dustbuster that sucks up the negativity that might inhibit creativity later.

Try putting yourself in a kid’s pair of gym shoes, or else, try these ideas:

1. Laugh - Think of something that you think is funny. For me, I like to read one-frame comics—like Far Side.

2. Daydream About Your Novel – Imagine the novel you’re working on and act it out in your mind. Try listening to music with the emotion you want in your story.

3. Pretend – Try pretending to be your character. Since I’m an adult, I did a web search on how to pretend (a little ridiculous, right?):

I came across a Wikihow article on “How to Pretend You Came from a Rich Family.” Well, maybe one of your characters comes from a rich family? Here’s a condensed version of the article’s suggestions: Be seen reading a classy book, be nice to servants, never buy anything with huge logos, and to show that you’re really rich—ask your parents to give you money and take your friends out to an expensive restaurant…but don’t discuss money.

Does a character in your book need to fake that they can dance? Here are suggestions from another article on “How to Pretend You Can Dance:” Move to the music, snap your fingers or clap your hands, go to the YMCA, or talk to your partner—not deep conversation, just random chit chat.

Here’s the Challenge: Try to think like a kid and spark that awesome power of creativity in your mind!

--Marjorie DeVries

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


by Rachael Phillips

The first time I finished a major writing project, I expected my world to light up the minute I sent it off to the publisher. That glorious, long-awaited day, I would rise from my computer for the first time in weeks to replenish the empty fridge and launder 257 pairs of socks. Fresh from the triumph of completing a manuscript, I would even dare enter and clean my bathrooms. I would return to the world of human contact, and my temporary writer's psycho psyche would morph into normalcy.

Why I assumed that, I don't know, as I've never been normal. I did not anticipate the Post-project Crash that accompanied not only my initial publication, but every one since. I include below a few scenarios in hopes other authors will apply 24-hour sleep cures and appropriate megadoses of dark chocolate before serious problems arise. Because no matter how many times we edit our manuscripts, no matter how many former friends we rope into reviewing them, strange things happen upon submission. Once we press that send button, thoughts of possible errors wiggle and niggle into our consciousness like virulent tadpoles, including:

Formatting Errors. Did I space four lines between the title and first paragraph or five? And those scene dividers--what if the judge/agent/editor is allergic to asterisks? Authors debate whether they should re-check the manuscripts they sent to attain peace of mind, or whether they should remain ignorant forever. [Gasp!] What if I left an extra space at the end of the third to the last paragraph?

These may be painful, but can't compare with Comma Panic, a syndrome in which wild-eyed sufferers cling to their Chicago Manuals of Style like cats to a bedspread until they--the writers, not the cats--have documented the reason for each and every comma in their manuscripts. The discovery of even one comma misuse precipitates fresh panic that can only be soothed by starting the review process all over again, reciting comma rules aloud as penance.

Research Terrors also have been known to strike novelists without warning. Historical fiction writers are particularly susceptible, often scaring their spouses into spasms at 2:00 a.m. with screams of literary terror.

Spouse: What?! What is the matter with you?
Writer: [weeping, hiding face in hands] Lord, forgive me. I said Zelda "curled her bangs."
Spouse: Who's Zelda?
Writer: [ignoring spouse] Curled her bangs. No one called them bangs back in 1722. What will I do? What will the publisher do?
Spouse: [pressing six pillows over head] Call the hair police?
Writer: [gnawing knuckles] For something this bad, they might take me straight to the historic hairstyle firing squad. [pauses to mop tears] Ooooh, nooo. Did I call Percy's trousers pants?

Yes, my personal experience has taught me only prayer, time and cleaning bathrooms have effected a cure for these maladies. How about you? Any advice for the author who has just hit the send button?

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's True--Writers Are "Catty"

Maddox the Assassin Cat
You can’t dictate when or where your “muse” will hit. In the dim, early hours one morning as I stumbled in a NyQuil-induced haze back to my bed after tending to a sick 8 year old, I passed our kitten. In the glow from the hallway nightlight, he rolled and dodged batting one of the kids’ “lucky” rabbit’s foot key chains. As I rounded the corner, bracing myself just a little in case his sadistic sights turned toward my bare ankles, the idea for this blog entry plinked into my brain.

I wonder when that cat sleeps. I mean, he’s always doing something—day or night. Kind of like a writer, hee hee.

So, instead of counting sheep, I snuggled under the warm covers and went through the other reasons my cat reminds me of a writer. I believe I got through the first three before sleep settled once again around me. Since then I’ve added a few more. See if you can relate.

1. My cat never sleeps. Well, technically, he does sleep, but never fully, deeply, it seems. Even in those moments I catch him taking a catnap, his ears twitch with curiosity and attention. If something really interesting happens, I see his open just a slit as he gauges whether it is worth his time to investigate. Even tonight as I type this after everyone else has gone to bed, the cat is sitting in the bathroom sink looking at himself in the mirror. No rest for the weary, they say.

2. My cat looks for unusual ways to kill and maim people. We lovingly refer to our 8-month ball of blond fluff, Maddox, as The Assassin Cat for his stealthy attacks upon unsuspecting family members. Just like in some of the best heart-stopping stories, you never turn your back on him or really relax while in the shower. Mystery and suspense writers are always planning or plotting ingenious ways to do away with characters.

3. My cat is a master at creating tension. No sagging middles with this feline teenager around. Whether it is his weekly dodge out the front door just as the school bus squeals to a stop or when he races in and out of the covers as I make the bed in the morning, he keeps things interesting. And just when you relax and settle in thinking the tension is behind you, he ups the ante—like when he recently knocked the plant off the stairway (and on to my cream-colored carpet) at 3:28 in the morning.

4. My cat finds wonder in everyday things. Give him the ring off the milk jug lid and he happily plays all morning long. Leave a laundry basket in a strategic place and he hops in and out, amusing himself. A balled up sock becomes a mouse; a shoelace turns into a snake; a binder clip doubles as a slippery fish. He is not hampered by what is, he simply sees what could be in every situation. Just like writers I know whose eyes light up at the mention of sheep farmers, bomb-making, or Italian immigrants, and their imaginations runs wild.

5. My cat possesses an insatiable curiosity. He runs toward anything that scurries across the floor or past the window. He sticks his nose into every opened closet, cabinet, or drawer. We even had to dig him out from inside the wall when he found where my husband was running wire. Kind of like writers I know who read the dictionary and the encyclopedia for fun, who pick the brains of people in any profession, and who actually care enough to research the name of that doohickey on the shooter’s rifle in Chapter 4.

6. My cat spends a large chuck of his day stalking things. He stalks the dog’s tail, the slipper dangling from my foot, and the birds outside the window. All the writers I know are also stalkers. While “stalking” may be a little heavy to use, it’s still kind of what they do. They “stalk” editors and agents and published writers through websites, Facebook, and Twitter. They “stalk” that next idea. They “stalk” people farther down the publishing road at conferences and book signings. And they “stalk” that elusive book contract or major feature article.

A few times a week Maddox plays the piano by walking across the keys. He’s pretty good, too. And while I haven’t seen him type anything legible yet, I’m not putting that past him either. He is fairly amazing. Okay, your turn: What are your favorite quirks in the cats, or the writers, in your life?

Nikki Studebaker Barcus

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Print Screen Command for Writers

A trick that has been valuable to me as a writer has been the PRINT SCREEN command. Many users aren’t aware this key is on their computer, but usually it is located at the top right of the keypad and has the letters PrtSc on the button. This button does only one job; it takes a picture of your computer screen. It functions like the COPY command, except it copies only the computer screen.

Of course, you have to use the PASTE command to see the new photo. Most often I use this command when I am researching the Internet and the Web site will not allow me to use the normal COPY and PASTE command.

At the Web site, I first press the PRINT SCREEN which takes a photograph of everything on my computer screen. Next I open a blank page in Microsoft Word, then I hold down CONTROL and press V to paste the photo--or I navigate to the EDIT menu and choose PASTE.

The new image should now appear as a photo on your Word document, which will allow you to resize. I have also discovered this tool is valuable when viewing a movie and I need a snapshot of a character, etc.

Once, I even used PRINT SCREEN to copy error messages that kept popping up on my computer screen (the phone tech didn't want to believe me). I then e-mailed the photo to the support site I was working with.

Need the names of cast of a movie as they fly by on the screen? Take a snapshot with PRINT SCREEN and paste it in Word.

Other uses for PRINT SCREEN;
When I’m in Windows Explorer (some of us call it "My Computer") and I need a copy of the names of my files, PRINT SCREEN is quick and easy.

PRINT SCREEN also works great to make a quick copy of the tracks on a music CD or playlist to insert in your CD album cover. No typing involved.

Sometimes I have a large file of photos I need to edit and PRINT SCREEN is an easy way to print a checklist so I can cross off the ones I’ve edited.

You get the idea.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wrestling Alligators (Or, What to Do with Genesis Feedback)

Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.
- Olin Miller
(I'm no relation to Olin.)
Crystal, out wrestling alligators, my easy job

I am an introvert. In fact on the scale of introversion to extroversion, I am negative 5 to the introversion side. (Well, almost. I scored no extroversion points at all.) Lately I've been interacting a lot with people, whom I love, and I do LOVE to be with them, but then I have to recharge. Today I'm exhausted. Forgive me if I'm mumbling.

On top of that, I seem to be in the public eyeball in the last few days, which makes me nervous.I feel totally unworthy and like a nutcase whenever this happens and get gibberishly insecure with thoughts like, "People will really hate me now," to what I think others' are saying behind my back, "What makes her so special? I know her, and she's a drip!" But I'm finally getting enough years on me that my tune is finally changing to,"I've lived long enough to say what I want and suffer the consequences." (I shudder to think of how I will be if I reach the age of my mother-in-law, age 93.)

But I still tend to want to withdraw after being highlighted somewhere, whether a positive or negative experience. Whatever your personality, it does take guts and boldness to put yourself out there. I reveal my weaknesses to make a point. Writers have to do this to be read, but that doesn't mean that sometimes they wonder why they don't do something else--like wrestling alligators or underwater ice fishing. Anything but getting feedback for writing, exposing that writing. (And if you have a reader, you have feedback.)

On Saturday in addition to being with great people who write, and listening to a stellar presentation about navigating in tandem with your writing career the social and internet media by Amanda Luedeke, literary agent with MacGregor Literary Group, we got news that several in our chapter are semi-finalists in the ACFW Genesis contest. Of the Hoosier Genesis Semi-Finalists 3 were at our state meeting, so we were able to congratulate them, and take their photo.
2011 Indiana Chapter Genesis Semi-Finalists: Carole Brown, Melanie Brasher (Joy N. Malik,) Sarah Ladd
ACFW Genesis Semi-Finalists from the Indiana Chapter
(total entries: 48)

Melanie Brasher/ Joy N. Malik (Pen Name)

(total entries: 73)

Sarah Ladd

(total entries: 90)

Carole Brown (Ohio Associate member)
Michelle Weidenbenner

(total entries: 47)
Bob Lyzenga

We're proud of them. No question. However, of these few who made it to the final round, there are some of you awaiting your scores and comment sheets because you didn't final. You're trying to brace yourself, your expectations had been high, but you're sure you can't prepare yourself for what is coming. It's like standing on the beach, waiting for the tsunami. (Or so you think.) Some are going to have scores that just missed, and now you will be able to take those comments and polish off your manuscript. I've seen those who didn't final taking their manuscript to sold a short time later. But others of you will feel as if someone hit you with a Mack truck.

It will hurt. You might feel anger, wanting to argue with the judges. They didn't get it! Stupid judge.

And you harbor a grudge against this person who must hate writers and doesn't recognize genius. Some mealy-mouthed nit-has been, who is bitter and possibly a derelict dared to criticize your prose. (I've heard the ugly names....) I know judges who quit judging because they couldn't take the whining after the scores came back. And while some of it might be valid, it's still whining.

Here are a few things for you as your scores come back to keep you on track and to turn a seeming setback in your writing into a triumph and positive thing. See if any of this helps.

1. Rage against the judge, the contest, your 10th grade English teacher.
Yeah, go ahead. Boo-hoo!Scream into your pillow.

Just don't do it ON ANY PUBLIC social media, blog or loop. Don't Twitter it, don't Facebook it, don't write it on comments on boards or blogs. You can cry, take a minute to hurt, eat some chocolate and tell your best friend, your family, or if it gets serious, your therapist or pastor. But please, please refrain from calling these judges names, (I've heard some bad names on a nonChristian writers' loop,) question their humanity and worse, their judgment. Do they make mistakes? Well, duh, yeah. They are humans. (We suspect.) And they are your fellow Christians. Most of them agonized, prayed over you, and spent way too much time for no pay or any praise to give you feedback on your writing. They cared enough to sacrifice their own writing time, time with family and friends, sleep. They were your readers. They reacted and prayed about it.

2. After your day of chocolate overload, and you sleep off the DeBrand's buzz, look to see if there are any patterns or things you could fix quickly.
Go ahead and deal with the easy stuff first. Oh, brother, you left out a word, you misspelled flagrant, you used seventy -ly words or you used their instead of there twenty-seven times in the first paragraph (that covered two pages). Believe me, even the published authors have their pet trip-ups. Maybe you had a rough opening paragraph. Maybe you even knew something was wrong, but you couldn't put your finger on it and some judge caught it. The light bulb came on. That's why you entered this contest, right? Start with the baby food. Let it process. Absorb the good. The bad will take a natural course!

3. Put the burrs in your saddle into a separate folder to process or to investigate.
It's possible that the judge did make a mistake. Maybe only one of the three focused on something that blew your entry out of the running. One bad score can ruin your chances. Maybe that judge didn't get it. Maybe your entry is a gem. Good writing has often been criticized and rejected by editors, too. Or maybe you do have many problems. Educate yourself on what the judge or judges pointed out to you. Time to go to school.

Here, make yourself feel better by seeing other writers who had bad days:
1. Carrie by Stephen King – 30 rejections
2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections
3. M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker – 21 rejections
4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – 121 rejections
5. Lorna Doone by Richard Doddridge Blackmore – 18 rejections
6. Dubliners by James Joyce – 22 rejections
7. The Peter Principle by Laurence Peter – 16 rejections
8. Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen – 33 rejections
9. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – 18 rejections
10. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 15 rejections

4. Write a thank you note to your judges, even it's short and sweet, and you just thank them for their time. Let them know you will seriously consider their comments.
(Hey, this may be your best fiction writing.) But do try to mean it. Humble yourself and love the person for being a fellow Christian and for sacrificing to help you on you on your writing journey. For whatever reason, this is where you are at this time. It might be easy to be discouraged and no one blames you for feeling as if someone punched you in the guts. But don't hate the judges' guts and do give each one the benefit of the doubt. That person could end up seeing your manuscript again--only this time it could be while working for a publisher or an agent. How you react and process your scores/comments could affect how they react when seeing it again. Or consider this: if that person has the ear of the editor or an agent and your name comes up--will it be positive?

5. Do not think you cannot write, do not give up. Never give up. Don't let this be where you quit.
"Chesty" Puller, the most decorated U.S. Marine in history, and the only Marine to receive five Navy Crosses said this:
"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us...they can't get away this time."

Have that kind of attitude. I had a writer friend who asked me to pray about her writing. She was going to quit. Discouraged. Really, she had already decided to quit. She just wanted some confirmation, so she could walk away guilt free. I said I would pray. And I did. I prayed God would send her a little encouragement to continue because she is a good writer. She didn't even realize it. But I knew. God knew. (She's getting published this year. Lots will know now.)

We can pray that you receive encouragement soon. You might need it. God hasn't deserted you. Your dream is not dead because of one contest.

Remember this in the big scheme of things: "You whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." ~ Isaiah 46:3-4

That's a promise for your life as a Christian. God knows what your desires are and He knows His will and timing for you. There are people here in this chapter and this zone and this ACFW organization who can help you to keep going, keep the education going. We believe in you.

Write on. They can't get away now.

Crystal Laine Miller

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Don't Waste Your Failure

Recently a friend introduced me to “Don’t Waste Your Cancer,” written by John Piper on the eve of his prostate surgery. Many, but not all of us have battled cancer. None of us have escaped failure.

The trick is not to waste the failure, but gain by it.

1. I will waste my failure if I hide it.

“If we walk in the Light, as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of His Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin”

(1 John 1:7).

2. I will waste my failure if deny it.

“If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

3. I will waste my failure if I attack those who disagree with me.

“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges a brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it” (James 4:11).

4. I will waste my failure if I refuse to discover its root.

“Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind” (Psalm 26:2).

5. I will waste my failure if I vow to try harder rather than believe God.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

6. I will waste my failure if I wallow in self-pity.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

7. I will waste my failure if I allow it to define me.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

8. I will waste my failure if I quit.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

9. I will waste my failure if I do not seek wise counsel.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”

(Proverbs 15:22).

10. I will waste my failure if I do not allow it to drive me to Jesus.

“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10).

11. I will waste my failure if I refuse to glorify Christ through it.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Biblical and Historical Fiction

Lenten Greetings and Blessings!

When you read this, I'll be on my way home from a week's vacation in Paris and London, a trip sponsored by my husband's company. And Dave and I will have "done" the Chunnel for our first time, plus much more. Will you see some of our trip in my WIP? Of course. . .

We'll have "done" the Louvre for our second time. This time, I'll have focused on the Louvre's Last Supper paintings, which may be titled something else (according to my research). Why those paintings? For a decade now, I've been writing the memoir-like stories of men, women and children disciples who were likely at Jesus' last Passover Seder family meal, likely held in the hall of a wealthy home that could hold more than 200 people.

I've been interested in Jesus' followers, especially the "girls"/women and children, ever since I was a young girl myself growing up in China with my missionary parents and grandparents. You can read more about that in my book, Women of the Last Supper: We Were There Too.

The stories of Jesus' disciples that I've written have been portrayed nearly every year for a decade in "my" church. (See the photo above for this year's disciples, missing several.) First I wrote the twelve men's stories, then twelve women's stories, and now I'm writing six children's stories. This year my new story is "Anne," Jesus' younger sister who is mentioned in the Gospels, although not named like their four brothers are (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3).

I share "Anne's" story with you today, and trust it will help prepare your heart for the glory of Easter. Are my viewpoints controversial? You bet! But they are extensively researched, both Biblically and historically. And I feel called by God to share this perspective whenever possible.


I am Jesus’ younger sister, “Anne.”I was named for our maternal grandmother, whose name is known from Christian tradition. My sister and I and our four other brothers, James, Joses, Judas and Simon, are mentioned several times in the New Testament, but most people don’t know much about us.

As you might guess, my siblings and I dearly loved our wonderful oldest brother, Jesus. Although my brothers waited until after Jesus’ ascension to heaven to become his disciples, my sister and I eagerly became two of his first followers, along with our beloved Mother Mary. So, of course, we were there for Jesus’ last Passover, that special meal that would become known as the Last Supper and commemorated for two thousand years by Christians, like you.

My Mother Mary and her sister Salome, my aunt, were blessed sisters because of how they were related to Jesus. But I, too, was a blessed sister, because I was one of Jesus’ younger sisters.

It was so awesome to grow up with him as my older brother. Perhaps you have heard that some Biblical scholars think my siblings and I were really Jesus’ cousins or Joseph’s children by another wife. But if that were so, why didn’t the Gospels call us his cousins, or tell about Joseph’s other wife? And why were my brothers repeatedly named in the New Testament and called Jesus’ brothers, even by the townspeople of Nazareth? Thankfully, many theologians affirm we were his siblings, Mary's other children. And I’m eager to share with you just a bit what it was like to be Jesus’ sister.

Do you have a brother who can fix anything? My brother Jesus could. He could even fix things and animals and people that nobody else could. How do you suppose our Mother Mary knew he could turn water into wine for that wedding feast in Cana? We, his family, had already experienced many times his special powers from Yahweh. He could perform miracles like the prophets in our Torah. But he always told us not to tell anyone.

When I was little, in the evenings Jesus used to lift me to his lap and tell me stories about how much Yahweh loved me. Of course, other children and teenagers gathered around us as we sat on the stone bench in the cool shade of the olive trees behind our home. Sometimes he carved little toys for us from scraps of wood from our family’s shop.

I’m sure you know we Jews loved to sing and dance, and my brother Jesus was no exception. He had a beautiful voice, and a special way of clapping his hands and tapping his feet. He and our other brothers often sang Psalms together in harmony. My other brothers sometimes forgot the words, but Jesus never did. He was the one who led the singing during our Passover Seder celebrations each year. Our relatives and friends used to say Jesus had the most melodious voice they’d ever heard. They said he sang like an angel. They were right! When I close my eyes, I can still hear him singing my favorite song, Psalm 23.

I was one of those who watched Jesus ascend to heaven a short while after his cruel crucifixion and resurrection. Watching him disappear into the clouds was a glorious and exciting ending to his time here on earth.

Yes, I was an ordinary sister transformed by my extraordinary brother. You, too, can experience this transformation, and live or die for the glory of God.

Easter Joys and Blessings, Millie Samuelson :-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Recently, I decided the time had come. Although I have often asked friends to proof my manuscripts in order to find errors and suggest improvements, I decided to pay a pro for a thorough critique of my suspense manuscript. Why? Because, even though my writing often sells, I want to improve. How better to improve than to hire an objective professional to scrutinize a story and to point out my blind spots?
Let me mention up front that I wouldn’t hire a book doctor who was unknown to me. Rather, I chose a respected author and mentor who frequently speaks at conferences and “knows his stuff,” as they say. I told him not to pull any punches, that I wasn’t merely interested in selling my current manuscript. I asked him to point out mistakes, but especially flaws that I tend to repeat. He certainly did! In case you can benefit from my lessons, here are a few things I hadn’t realized about my writing:

My characters chuckle too much. When you write a novel in 30-minute spurts here and there, it’s easy to forget what you’ve written. As a result, too often my characters chuckled without my even noticing how frequently it was happening. (I used Word’s search function to track them down and changed some.)
● I occasionally repeated the exact same phrase twice on a page. For example: In my current story I have a truck that “braked to a halt” at the gate of a facility, then moments later, drives forward and this time “ground to a halt” inside it. How could I miss my own boring repetition? Somehow, I did.
● A few times I forgot to check my facts. Maybe you’ve been there: in the white-heat of creativity you type something, and you’re not quite sure it’s factual or not. “I’ll look it up later,” you think, and you continue writing. In my case, one such instance portrays a character flicking off the safety of a semi-automatic pistol—on a type of weapon that doesn’t even have a safety. (Groan. I shot myself in the foot by forgetting to check my facts.)
● Occasionally I still include wasteful words. For instance, “Dr. Kossler pulled out the chair and sat down.” In that sentence, “down” is unnecessary fluff. Although it’s possible to sit up, that conveys a different meaning. My German doctor should have simply walked to the desk and sat. That is only one of multiple words I wasted.
● From time to time, certain characters tend to say things that don’t quite ring true as normal conversation. Why? Because I, the author, wanted to tell readers some information, so I sneaked unnatural-sounding dialogue into my characters’ mouths. It doesn’t work. (Enough said on that subject; I’m zipping my lips.)
● More often than I realized, I begin sentences with the word “but.” This was a gigantic blind spot for me. Sure, contradictions arise, and “but” is a perfectly fine word; however, I got lazy and leaned on it too often. My revision is making greater use of “however,” “on the other hand,” “yet,” “although,” or simply reworded sentences.
● Without intending to, I occasionally allow alliteration into my sentences, which can result in a tongue-twister that draws attention away from the story. Here’s my worst offender: “The clouds resembled colossal clumps of cauliflower solid enough for a boy to clamber up.” (Huh? I wrote that? Sigh. Guilty, your honor. I won’t let it happen again.)

Although there’s no guarantee that my current manuscript will be published after I finish revising it, I’m glad that I made this investment at least once. By hiring a pro writer/editor to spotlight my errors and weaknesses, I’ve discovered ways to increase the quality of everything that Ill write in the future.
Did it hurt to subject my literary offspring to a book doctor’s poking, prodding, and criticism? No way! In return for my money, I received the equivalent of a treasure map. This marked-up manuscript provides a guide to upgrading my writing. The competition out there is fierce. I want my work to be as good as it can be, and there is no time for wounded pride. After all, what you don’t know about your writing really can hurt you—or at least your chances of getting published.
Okay, your turn: what kinds of repeated mistakes have you discovered in your manuscripts? By sharing lessons you’ve learned, you can help fellow writers who might still be committing them.
Rick Barry

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Staying Motivated During Spring Fever

By Mary Allen

As buds bursts forth, spring fever can play havoc with the motivation to write. Days of rain can leave you tapping revelry with your fingertips trying to awaken inspiration while warm, sunny days cause you to gaze absentmindedly longing to be “out there”. Whether spring fever, winter blahs, back-to-school blues, or writer’s block, here are some ideas I’ve used successfully to freshen creativity and re-stoke motivation.

1. Go ahead and get “out there”. Walking, gardening, visiting with friends, family, or grandkids, whatever you do, do it OUTSIDE. I learned in England that it’s okay to walk in the rain on a regular basis. (Don’t tell my mother.)

Research shows that twenty minutes outside causes a physiological change that stimulates the brain to creativity. It's nice to have my personal beliefs backed up by scientific research. The activity and fresh air also improve sleep at night, a known mood enhancer and creativity-builder.

2. Watch a favorite movie, the sappy, intriguing, or feel-good kind that stimulates energy. You know which ones you walk away from thinking, “I just love that movie!” (On rare occasions I have to watch two back-to-back to pamper myself out of a mood.)

3. Read a favorite novel. New novels can be inspiring, but old favorites can be left when the writing mood is stirred without feeling the book is unfinished.

4. Choose a chore, craft, or game that you can complete quickly. Completion can be a big morale booster. Take an area of total chaos and create order - wash dishes or clear one counter. A hug from the kids or hubby for devoting a half hour exclusively to them to play a game or eat a meal can crank the creative juices into overdrive.

5. Drink lots of water. The brain doesn't function well when dehydrated. Coffee and colas, consumed to keep going, dehydrate the body, so lighten up on them.

Often we tell ourselves we don't have the time to do these things. However, they are the very things that keep us balanced, healthy, and creative. How can we afford not to do them?

I'd like to know, are you struck with spring fever? Do you get a kick out of walking in the rain? Do you have a trick to self-motivate? Can you change your mood or stir up creativity in 15-30 minutes?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things: Writing Books

Today, I'm going to share a couple of my favorite writing books with you.

Plot v. Character is a new writing book, releasing in the fall of 2010. Jeff Gerke, the author, has developed software (which I love) that walks writers through the creation of stories through two means. Starting with 1) the plot or 2) the character. Most writers have a style that they prefer -- I tend to be strange (shocking I know!) and will start some stories with a plot idea and others with a character. I'd used the software when I'd get stuck in a book or to help flesh out a germ of an idea.

What I love about the book is that it takes the gems from the software and puts it in a very easy to read and apply format. The book has lots of practical applications and covers just about everything a novel writer needs. It's not genre specific, so really is a tool that any novelists can use with success.

First, the book deals with creating likable characters. It addresses everything from physical attributes to the major events and inciting incidents that character must deal with. Then it turns to marvelous plots. The author relies on the three act structure to form the bones of the plot.  I would still use the software to help me implement all he talks about, but the book alone is gold.

Another book that I love and recommend to most aspiring writers is James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure. (His Revision and Self-Editing is equally good.) Plot & Structure's strength is the very easy way that Jim explains how to formulate a novel. When I get stuck in a plot, I'll pull it out and read a few pages for inspiration. I always come away with practical tools I can immediately apply to the novel I'm writing. And this book is loaded with excellent exercises that you can apply immediately after reading. I highly recommend it!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ten Surefire Ways to Destroy Your Writing Career

          1.  Never rewrite a first draft. You’re a genius. Rewrites are for amateurs.

2.       2.  Don’t worry about grammar and spelling. That’s what editors are for.

3.       3.  Don’t bother mastering plot and character arc. Who cares about those pesky little things as long    as your heroes blow up a lot of stuff and the main characters fall in love?

4.       4. Write only what’s trendy and hot.

5.       5.  Post all your emotional baggage and lose your temper on Facebook. You’re most certain to get read that way. And you’ll be remembered.

6.       6.  Be a diva. Act eccentric and neurotic—especially when pitching a story to an agent.

7.       7.  Slam other writers and agents in your blog. And if you get a bad review, lay into the reviewer on their blog in the comments section.

8.       8.  Ignore your editor. If they were really smart they’d be writers.  (Those who can, write; those who can’t, edit. We all know that.)

       9.  Use lots and lots of adverbs continuously, incessantly, and passionately.

          10.  Write only when you’re in the mood and the “muse” inspires you.

Do these ten things and you’re sure to destroy your writing career.

I guarantee it.