Tuesday, March 29, 2011

That's Deep, Man

3 Tips on Deep POV Part 2
by Michelle Massaro, COTT Assistant Editor

Last week we defined Deep Point Of View, and I shared 3 tips for using it in your writing:

Tip 1: Don't label emotions, describe them.
Tip 2: Pretend it's you (find realistic internal dialogue)
Tip 3: Add physiological responses

Today I'm going to answer a couple related questions and walk you through an example.

Let's get to it!

Q: What about scenes that aren't emotional? How does that work?

A: Every scene is emotional to an extent. That's what Deep POV is all about. Emotions come in many flavors. They aren't all as bold as terror or grief but they are always present.

Example: You character is finishing up in the office and looking forward to a special date with her boyfriend. Your scene intends to move her from her desk, out to the car, arriving at the restaurant. Not much action. You want to get her to the restaurant so you can write the next good scene. Right? So you might say:

Mary finished entering the final receipt into the accounts payable file. She was eager to get to the restaurant where Tom would be waiting. She was sure tonight was the night. She heard a knock on the door. Mr. Jenkins asked her to deliver a stack of envelopes to the mailroom on her way out. It would be a quick stop. Slightly irritated, she smiled at her boss. "Sure thing!" She hoped nothing else would pop up to delay her.

Or you could go deeper and make it more interesting:

Mary hit the enter key and sighed. Finally done! She glanced at the bouquet of roses on her desk, inhaled their sweet scent, and smiled. Just half an hour—twenty-five minutes if she hurried—and she'd be sitting with Tom at Le Cordon Bleu, watching his knee bounce and sweat bead on his forehead as he tried to conceal the velvet box in his pocket. Good thing she'd worn her best dress today. Thanks for the heads-up, Tina. She slipped her feet back into her red heels, reached for her matching Gucci clutch and stood. Her stomach fluttered with a thousand bees and she reigned in the squeal forming behind her grin. A rap sounded at the door, then Mr. Jenkins strode in with a pile of envelopes. Her smile fled. Crud.

"Mary, I need you to drop these off in the mailroom on your way out." He plopped them on the desk. Just great.

"Sure thing!" She forced a fake smile as she snatched up the stack.

She could do this in less than a minute—if she didn't get sucked into a conversation with Larry the mail guy. Her heels clacked down the hall as she power-walked to the elevators. After this, she better not run into any more delays between her and her car. Or her car and the restaurant. If she hit every red light on Buckner drive today she was going to have some serious words with the Man Upstairs.

You'll notice there were few physiological responses here (tip #3), because the emotions aren't as raw. But we are much deeper in her POV than in the first example and you can better imagine what it's like to be Mary, anxiously trying to get to the restaurant where you expect a marriage proposal.

I used tips #1 and #2 .

In the example passage, I showed Mary's eagerness (tip #1) with the line: Just half an hour—twenty-five minutes if she hurried—...

I showed her expectation by picturing Tom bouncing his knee, hiding the ring, etc. and hinted that someone had spilled the beans to her. (tip #1) All of this instead of "she was sure tonight was the night." I answered the question WHY is she sure, and WHAT does "the night" look like? How does this make her feel?

I demonstrated her hope that nothing else would slow her down by using realistic internal dialogue (tip #2) about Larry the mail guy, the red lights, and Who she'd blame (playfully) for them. So I accomplished tip #1 by employing tip #2, which is not uncommon.

I only added one quick physiological detail (tip #3) by describing the excitement like bees buzzing inside.

Q: If a writer must choose between deep POV and using a passive verb, which is better?

Ex: A knock sounded at the door, She heard a knock on the door, or There was a knock on the door.

A: The short answer is "it depends". I am not one to slash every passive verb. Not at all. Writing tips are only useful to the extent that they make the experience smooth and engaging to the reader. The moment a rule-following phrase becomes so odd that it causes the reader to stumble, that rule should be ignored.

Same thing applies with Deep POV. Depth can vary as needed. Think of it like a camera lens with a zoom function. We don't need to be zoomed all the way in for every paragraph of your novel. But don't pan out too far or you'll lose that Deep POV feel. Stay in your character's head, but the reader doesn't always need to read about every synapse that fires. Reserve those meticulous details for the tenser moments.

So if you are zoomed way in on a character during an intense moment, the first choice (A knock sounded at the door) is probably better. But if the moment isn't quite so personal, the third choice (there was a knock on the door) might work just fine. Or you might choose an in-between feel (She heard a knock at the door). Once you've assessed the depth needed for the scene, it's your call. As long as you understand the techniques you are using and why.

Deep POV is only one tool in a writer's box. It's not a strict rule like punctuation. As the author, you choose when and how often to embrace this style. But you must understand the techniques you are using and why. I hope these tips help you the way they've helped me. If you have a question, feel free to comment or send me an email. I'd love to hear from you!

Michelle Massaro is a homeschooling mom and aspiring novelist. She is Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles and writes for their Blog Alliance. Michelle also serves on the worship team and teaches origins science to the youth at her church. She and her husband of 15 years live in sunny So Cal with their four children. Connect with her on twitter @MLMassaro, facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MichelleMassaroBooks), and her blog Adventures in Writing (www.michellemassarobooks.com)

Monday, March 28, 2011

What is a ONE SHEET Anyway?

For those of you getting ready for a big writers conference you may have heard about the need for a One Sheet. This tool is also known as a Pitch Sheet. It’s a one page presentation of the project you’re pitching to an editor or agent. Today I’ll be explaining how to put one together.

Click here to see an example of a fiction one sheet. Click here to see an example of a nonfiction one sheet.  Both of these  led to multiple requests for proposal and full manuscripts. To answer your question, no, it’s not been published. I sent it out too soon and killed my chances—but that’s fodder for a future post!

There are three basic components of a one sheet—the project blurb, specifics about the project and the author’s bio—including a picture and contact info. We’ll take each component individually and explain what’s included.

The Project Blurb
For this section think back cover copy. This is NOT the place for a synopsis. You want this section to read like the blurb on the back cover of a book.

Project Specifics
This is where you give some of the details and they’re slightly different for fiction and non-fiction.
  • Genre – like Romance or Suspense.
  • Manuscript Length – this doesn't have to be an exact word count, just an approximation.
  • Target Audience – every book should be written with an audience in mind. I know, we all think our book will appeal to a wide range of readers—and that may be true. But this tells the potential editor or agent how to market the book. It will help sell a publishing house on your manuscript by defining the reader you’re writing for.

*there isn’t a section here for completion date because it’s understood that a manuscript must be complete before it’s submitted. It’s okay to pitch an uncompleted manuscript with a one sheet, but it’s rare for anyone to look at it as a submission until it’s complete.

  • Projected Completion Date – the reason you don’t have a non-fiction manuscript completed is because publishers like to have a say in the overall concept.
  • Manuscript Length – since it’s not completed, this is just an estimate.
  • Target Audience – just like in fiction, you need to focus in on who specifically you’re targeting with this manuscript.

Author Info
This is where you need to include a personal bio, recent picture and contact information. A lot of writers hate composing a bio so later this week I’ll be posting a short How-to on writing bios. But the basics to consider are these:
A bio must be
  • Relevant
It must give you
  • Personality
  • Credibility
All of these individual components will give you an effective one sheet. Be sure to post any questions or comments you have.

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

That’s Deep, Man—3 Tips on Deep POV Part 1

by Michelle Massaro

A lot of people are talking about Deep Point Of View these days. Seems every writer wants to go deeper, but many aren't clear on what that means or how to do it. Where did this trend come from? Think about it. Our culture is immersed in experiential pastimes. We can hop a plane and visit exotic locations around the globe within hours. Surround-sound, HD, and Digital 3D bring everything to life. The Wii allows us to "experience" bowling or tennis. With increased sensory-engaging technology, it takes more to help us escape than it did in generations past. In fiction this translates to Deep POV.

The reader wants to "try on" someone else's life. To climb into a character's skin—tasting, feeling, hearing, smelling what they do. Using a great metaphor or simile won’t suffice. Deep POV isn't simply active voice or showing rather than telling either.

So how do you employ Deep POV? Let me provide some tips and examples. Snack-size morsels you can chew on and digest at your own speed.

Tip #1: Don't use labels.
 Don't label the emotions of your character, describe them.

Example: (sadness)
She felt sad


Her throat clamped and her chin quivered. She blinked away the tears threatening to escape.

This is also true when describing the character's thoughts.

Example: (hate)
She thought how much she hated her ex-boyfriend


She closed her eyes and saw him—felt his fist striking her jaw, smelled his cologne when he hissed in her ear. Bile rose in the back of her throat at the memory. He would pay.

Tip #2: Pretend it's you.
What would you say to yourself if you were the character? Figure it out, then replace the pronouns with "s/he" (unless you're writing in first person, of course.)

Someone very close to you died suddenly. You don't say to yourself "I feel sad" or even "I feel depressed and confused." No, more likely you think:
"How can he be dead?!" or perhaps "Matt, how can you be gone?"

There's an intruder in your house brandishing a knife. You don't say in your own head "I'm terrified!" You'd think:
"He's going to kill me!" You can turn this to third person in one of two ways: He's going to kill her! or Was he going to kill her?

Tip #3: Physiological Responses.

Once you figure out what the character would say to themselves and how to describe (show) an emotion without labels, follow up with physiological responses. Depending on the situation, these might be knees buckling, chest tightening, throat clamping, an adrenaline rush, goose bumps, stomach cramps, tears, nausea, dizziness, heart pounding in ears, sweating, etc. Describe those. This will really pull the reader deep into the story, particularly in those high-intensity moments.

All right love, off you go!

Remember, Deep POV is a skill that must be learned just like anything else. (And we're always learning.) But remembering these tips as you write is a great place to start. Next week in Part 2, I'll apply these tips to a non-pivotal scene and turn it from an invisible transition into an engaging passage. I hope you'll join me. Don't forget to stop by Clash of the Titles this week to meet our three COTT finalists!

Now let's hear from you: What do you like/dislike about Deep POV? Do you have any tips to share? Leave your questions and tips in the comments!

Michelle Massaro is a homeschooling mom and aspiring novelist. She is Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles and writes for COTT's Blog Alliance. Michelle also serves on the worship team and teaches origins science to the youth at her church.  She and her husband of 15 years live in sunny So Cal with their four children. Connect with her on twitter @MLMassaro, facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MichelleMassaroBooks), and her blog Adventures in Writing (www.michellemassarobooks.com

Monday, March 21, 2011

Honing Your Conference Pitch

Attending a writers conference can be a stressful undertaking—even for a seasoned writer. A lot of writers have gravitated toward our profession because we’re not comfortable with crowds, especially crowds of strangers.

That’s why I’m posting this series on writing conferences. It’s not to add to your stress—but to alleviate it. For me, when I know what to expect and am prepared, I’m less anxious. No one likes to feel like they're under the gun. I assume I’m not alone in this feeling.

So the first subject we’re going to tackle is the one that makes most writer’s stress levels spike off scale—pitching.

Over the years I’ve had people tell me they’re not worried about pitching—they’re just going to learn. Nice thought, but not based in reality. I hate to break it to you, but if you’re standing in line or sitting beside someone and they ask you what you’re writing, if you answer them, you’ve just delivered a pitch. I could post pages of stories from writers who wished they’d been prepared for this unassuming little scenario.

The idea behind a pitch is to get the person you’re talking with to ask for more.

Simple concept, harder to execute. So here are some of the do’s and don’ts of pitching.

  • Set up an intriguing scenario.
  • Introduce your main character.
  • Give a hint about their situation and goal.
  • Tie in the disaster or obstacle to that goal.

  • Go over 2 sentences—try to keep it to one sentence.
  • Answer all the questions the listener might have.
  • Substitute cleverness for specifics.
  • Give away the ending.

Now, here are some real life hooks or tag lines from popular movies. I’d love to read some of your favorites as well. 
  • "She brought a small town to its feet and a huge corporation to its knees." —Erin Brokovich
  • "To enter the mind of a killer she must challenge the mind of a madman." —Silence of the Lambs
  • "What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?" —Sleepless in Seattle 1993
  • “A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend” —Pretty Woman
  •  “When you can live forever, what do you live for?” —Twilight
  •  “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” —Jaws 2
  •  “In space, no one can hear you scream.” —Alien 

Now it's your turn to chime in. Do you have any questions or is anyone brave enough to try their pitch out here?

And . . . Don't forget to join the conversation!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clash of the Titles Conquerors!

Elaine Marie Cooper
by Jennifer Slattery
Last week we met Elaine Marie Cooper, author of The Road To Deer Run.  As the publishing industry, technology and our economy continue to change, more and more authors are opting for self-publishing. For some, self-publishing is akin to swimming endlessly against the current. For others, it has enabled them to launch their dreams. Today, Elaine shares her experiences with self-publishing.
The downward spiraling economy, and a personal tragedy, motivated her to try a non-traditional approach to publishing. “When my manuscript was complete in 2009, the publishing industry was in the throes of distress,” Elaine says. “I had spent over two years of my life researching, writing, submitting my work to editors and readers, and getting enthused about a project that was near and dear to my heart. But when I inquired of a friend who was an executive at a large Christian publisher about suggested avenues to pursue, he was bluntly honest: For an unknown author to be published at this time was pretty much akin to parting the Red Sea (my words not his). Since then, numerous of his colleagues have been laid off–confirmation of his astute observations.”
The death of her daughter also had a huge impact on her decision“Seeing my own daughter pass away from cancer at the age of 24 [made me realize that] life was far too short and uncertain to put off dreams indefinitely,” she says.” So I chose to publish independently without ever sending out a query or submitting my manuscript to a traditional publisher.”
However, this has not always been the easiest route to take. “One of the biggest challenges is getting word of my book out to the public,” Elaine says. “With a traditional publisher, you (sometimes) have a great backing of publicity as well as an “in” with Christian bookstores. While my local bookstore has been very supportive, I have to supply my own copies of books for their shelves. They are limited in the publishers that they can order from directly.
“The other challenge has been the attitude of many towards independently published books. Many assume that anything that is published by an author without the blessing of an agent or traditional publishing house is not worthy of the time of day. While I know that there are self-pubb’ed books that have not been through good editing, I have seen bad editing from regular publishers as well. It would be beneficial for all readers (and other authors) to judge a book by the pages in between the cover, and not by the logo of the publisher.”
Clash of the Titles has determined to do just that. Recently we have expanded our submission guidelines to include self-published books. At first, we were leery to do this for fear of inappropriate content we know CBA editors weed out, but Senior Editor, April Gardner, found a way to alleviate this concern. (This is explained in our on our site.) By removing that barrier, we have allowed the reader to determine which stories they prefer, based on the content and not shelf placement, cover design or amount of money spent on advertising. Elaine’s novel was the first self-published book to compete under our new guidelines. At the end of her clash, our readers crowned her the next Clash of the Titles’ conqueror.
Elaine offers a few words of advice for those of you who would like to follow in her footsteps.” I would first encourage any aspiring author to pray,” Elaine says. “Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance. Then find a writer’s group in your area to give you feedback on your ideas. Attend regional writer’s 
conferences. If your words are well received and you feel encouraged, complete your manuscript. Get in touch with an editor... If you see a company that looks interesting, try to obtain an actual example of one of their publications.”
Learn your options, stay in community with other writers, and seek God’s guidance. Who knows, maybe God will lead you to follow in Elaine’s footsteps.
Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, columnist and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of fifteen years and their thirteen year old daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Samie Sisters, the Christian Pulse and Reflections in Hindsight and is the marketing representative for the literary website, Clash of the Titles. Visit http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com to find out more about her and her writing, visit http://www.clashofthetitles.com to find out more about this fun literary website where authors compete and readers judge and visithttp://www.deerrunbooks.com to find out more about Elaine and her COTT winning novel. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Prepare for a Writers Conference

Last Monday I posted a tongue in cheek Top Ten List of Reason's to Attend a Writers Conference. Then Thursday I gave you a rundown of how to Choose a Writers Conference. Today I'm going to get a little bit serious and share some of the things you may want to prepare before you go. I've written about reasons to attend a conference on this blog previously and I'll address what you'll need for two of those.

Networking is the easiest to prepare for. If you're just going to meet other writers and professionals the main thing you need is a good business card. Please take note, I said, good, NOT expensive.

These are the things a good writers business card includes:
  • Your picture - I know, I hate to have my picture taken and I always hate how it looks. But, in this business you need to be remembered and recognized and your picture is the best and easiest way to do that. If someone has a card with your picture on it, they'll remember who you are months longer than if it's just got your name. Also, it's harder to throw away a card with a picture on it than a card with just text on it.
  • The name you use when you write - if you use a psuedonym, be sure it's on the card. Here's an example (I just made up the names - they're not representative of a real person): Susie Stone, writing as Catherine Milo.
  • Your email address - this is going to be the main way others will contact you.
  • Your website or blog address - never pass up the opportunity to encourage new visitors to your sites. Also, many people will follow up on what you've told them and this will be a way for them to get to know you better.
  • Cell phone number - this isn't absolutely necessary, but it helps if your email goes down and someone has a hot lead for you.
Please take note of what is NOT included on a business card now. You do not need your physical address on the card. Actually, it's a liability. It can be dangerous to give out your home address, so if you feel you must include an address, invest in a PO Box.

It is possible to make your own business cards, using Avery brand sheets that go through your ink jet printer. The trick to successfully printing your own cards is to keep them simple! Another inexpensive way to go is by using VistaPrint. This online company is very reputable and I personally know a lot of writers who get their cards through them.

Bring some writing samples:
These are good to have simply because you'll probably find yourself in a group, or at a table, where everyone is sharing something they've written. It might not happen, but chances are, if you don't have anything to show, you'll be disappointed.

This is when you attend a conference because you have something you want to sell to a publisher or if you want to get an agent. The things below that you'll need are specifically for those wishing to sell a fiction or non-fiction book.

It's important to keep in mind that everything you prepare for the conference to pitch a project is incremental in nature.
  • Your tag line or hook should make the editor or agent ask to hear more about your project (this is the time for the elevator pitch).
  • The elevator pitch should lead them to ask for your one sheet.
  • Your one sheet or pitch sheet should lead them to ask you to send them a proposal when you get home.
  • Your proposal should lead them to ask you to send them your entire manuscript.
  • Your entire manuscript should lead them to offer you a contract.
These are the generic steps in publishing. God can step in at any time in the process and something completely different can, and often does, happen. But, until that happens, I try to take it one step at a time.

Now Let's look at what's involved in each one of these components.
  • tag line or hook - this is one sentence, preferably 15 words or less. It should NOT be a synopsis of your book, but rather it's to intrigue the editor/agent and make them want to know more.
  • elevator pitch - this should be short, around 45 seconds. It will sound a lot like back cover copy or what is on your one sheet. Again, it's to make the editor/agent ask to see more.
  • one sheet or pitch sheet - this gives the blurb about your book, information about yourself (bio) and general info, like genre and audience for your project. If it's fiction, it states that the project is finished. If it's non-fiction it gives a completion date if the project is unfinished
You won't need a full proposal or manuscript for the conference. If an editor or agent is interested they'll ask you to email or snail mail them one when you get home.

Again, as with networking, you'll need to bring some samples of your writing.

This is just a general overview of what is needed. If you have specific questions, feel free to use the contact form at the bottom of the blog and send me your question. You can also post your question in the comments section. In the next few weeks I'll address each of these components individually or in groups and give you some examples to see exactly what others have used successfully.

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday Review—Choose a Writers Conference

I don’t know about you, but my inbox is stuffed to overflowing with announcements regarding upcoming writing events. There are national conferences, regional conferences, local workshops and online courses. How is a writer to choose which ones will be most helpful and appropriate?

Monday I posted a tongue-in-cheek top ten of why to attend a conference. Today we'll get serious and I’ll give some good guidelines to help with your decision.

The first thing you should consider is your experience level. You need to look at where you are with your writing, that will be the biggest factor in your decision. As you look at the categories realize that your experience may overlap.

  • Never submitted anything for publication
  • Hasn’t told many people he writes
  • Has submitted a couple of things, but nothing published
Advanced Beginner
  • Has several rejection letters and a couple of acceptances
  • Is a member of a local or online writing group
  • Regularly reads articles or books about writing
  • Has attended a writers event (either a workshop, conference or online class)
  • Has an idea of where he wants to go with his writing
  • Has been paid for his writing
  • Spends time each day working at the craft of writing and has an income derived from writing
  • Has definite goals and aspirations for his writing
Once you know which group you fall into, it’s easier to evaluate each individual event. There are 2 reasons to attend a writers event.
  1. To learn more about the craft of writing
  2. To network with professionals within the writing world
Here’s a general breakdown of what is usually offered at each kind of event.

These events vary slightly, so the following information is generalized. You should read all brochures and websites carefully to know what to expect.

Large, National Writing Conference
Expect lots of classes for a wide variety of writers - from beginner to advanced.
Continuing Classes – these are classes that last for more than one class period and concentrate on one subject. Even though they are continuing, they rarely provide advanced information on a given subject.
Workshops – these are classes that give an introduction to a concept (like dialogue, plot or setting).
Breakouts or Panels – these are groups of professionals giving instruction on a given subject. The information here is usually very basic.
Appointments with Faculty – most large conferences include a private appointment with a member of the faculty. This is where you would pitch a book or article idea to an editor. It can also be valuable to let a seasoned author look at your writing and give one-on-one feedback.

Regional or Local Writing Conference
These tend to have more classes for the beginner and advanced beginner writer, although there are exceptions. Depending on the length of time, the conference will follow the same basic setup as a national conference.

Workshop or Seminar
Many of these are very specific in what they offer. They aren’t for a large number of writers and generally target the intermediate or advanced writer.

Online Classes
Again, they are very specific in what they offer and vary widely in who they cater to.

It’s never a good idea to write in a vacuum. I have always tried to attend one large conference a year to expose myself to the writing industry, both for networking and education. I also try to attend at least one focused workshop or seminar each year I and I try to keep my eyes open for online writing courses and take at least two a year.

Let me know what conferences and events you've attended and how they've helped your writing journey.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Clash of the Titles Conquerors!

Elaine Marie Cooper

The publishing industry is rapidly changing. Large bookstores are closing while Mom and Pop chains grow. Books are also changing. Hard copies are making way to e-books and audios and traditional molds are bursting to give way to a wide variety of plots, genres and styles. Suddenly shelf placement is not nearly as important as a great opening hook and back cover blurb. As the industry changes, one thing becomes clear—story is king! As cyber-space opens the door for a greater number of authors to reveal their work, the competition becomes fierce. Those with compelling plots, dynamic characters, and page-turning prose are taking the literary world by storm.

Now more than ever independent publishers are stepping forward, shattering America’s pre-conceived ideas of indie and self-publishing. Our latest Clash of the Titles’ conqueror, Elaine Marie Cooper, is a perfect example. She went straight from our site to a prestigious awards ceremony held in Los Angeles, California, where her COTT winning novel, The Road to Deer Run was honored in the romance category.

Think back to your childhood fantasies. Did you watch Cinderella and Snow White longingly, envisioning yourself in the beautiful gown? Or were you Belle, swept off her feet by a strong, yet tender hero who would do anything to prove his love? What is it about these stories that touch us so deeply that they are able to transcend from one generation to the next? I suspect they reveal a deep need in the woman’s heart—the need to feel cherished. We want strong protectors who will fight for us.

 See if you can’t notice “protector” qualities in the following excerpt.

Mary began to relax. Daniel’s voice was soothing to her spirit. By the time the brush had reached the crown of her head, she was closing her eyes, the tension falling from her face.

Daniel smoothed her soft locks with his hand. “There. Your hair is lovely.”

When he put the brush down, Mary turned to look at him. She noticed the dried blood on his right cheek, a reminder of his encounter with the intruder’s knife. She touched his face, which made him wince. She furrowed her brow and stood up, walking to the medicine cabinet. When she returned, she cleaned off the blood and applied slippery elm to the long but shallow knife wound.

Daniel took her hand and kissed her palm slowly.

“Thank you, Mary. I’d quite forgotten it was there.”

Mary looked at him with a deep pain filling her eyes. “I should not have opened the door,” she said finally, her lips trembling and the tears flowing.


She took a deep breath in between her sobs.
“The door,” she said. “It was locked and I thought it was my mother returning. I should not have opened it.” Her tears spilled forth like a river flowing over a burdened dam. Daniel looked at her with tenderness.

“You did not know, Mary. How could you know? This was not your fault.”

He held her closely and let her sobs slowly subside. When she was finished crying, he looked at her and wiped her tears with his linen shirtsleeve.

“Come sit with me, Mary,” he said. He led her to the chair by the fire. It was the same chair that he had held her in when she had been so ill with the influenza. It was the same place of comfort when she could not get warm. He sat on the wooden seat and held out his arms to her. She gingerly crawled onto his lap and curled up in his arms.

“Rest your head on my shoulder,” he whispered. She found the familiar notch in his neck that seemed as if it were made just for her. She placed her hand on his chest. He once again covered her long fingers with his large hand.

Without lifting her head, she spoke for the first time without crying. “I love you, Daniel.”

The young man struggled to contain his own emotions as he answered her in kind. “I love you too, Mary.”

The exhausted couple closed their eyes and rested for the first time since last night.

Daniel was finally able to relax. He knew deep in his heart that Mary would one day be able to put aside the horror of the intruder’s heartless touch. She would instead remember the tender embrace of the man who loved her.

Next week Elaine will share her journey to publication with us. Why did she choose self-publishing? Does she regret it? Has anything surprised her? Would she do anything differently if she had it to do all over again?

Jennifer Slattery is the marketing representative for Clash of the Titles, writes for Christ to the World and Reflections in Hindsight. Find out more about her and her writing at her website. And stop by Clash of the Titles to join the fun! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference!

This time of year writing conferences are gearing up, the faculty has been chosen and the websites are humming, ready to take your reservations. So why attend a writer's conference? Is there anything to be gained? I believe the answer is a resounding, YES. 

Personally, I've been attending large conferences for years. And as my experience level has increased so have the benefits from attending. Here are my top ten reasons to attend a writer’s conference this year.

10. Relationships. Writing is all about relationships – your relationship with the reader, with the editor and with other writers.

9. Loneliness. Writing is a lonely business. We need time to socialize with others who get this crazy passion we have with words.

8. Confirmation. We all face doubts as to whether or not we really are a writer. A conference is the best place to confirm that calling and receive support from our peers.

7. Misery loves company. If you have spent any time at all as a writer, you know all about rejection. It helps to hear other people talk about their experiences and realize we all face the same thing.

6. The classes. Where else can you spend hours at a stretch learning about all the different aspects of writing?

5. Late night brainstorming sessions. Many of us keep odd hours as writers, where else can you find others ready to share a cup of coffee and discuss an idea at 2am?

4. Meet your neighbor. Okay, I admit, this one’s personal for me. But I had to go to a writer’s conference to meet my writing buddy Vonda Skelton – who lives less than 3 minutes away!

3. Hang out with the stars. We all have writers we admire and a conference where they are on staff is the perfect place to get to know them.

2. Sharpen that pitch. If you want to pitch an idea, a conference is the perfect place to try it out on other professionals before you send it to the editor.

1. Network, Network, Network. Like I said, writing is all about relationships and its human nature for an editor to prefer someone he’s met to someone he doesn’t know.

So where should you start in your search for a conference? I can recommend quite a few, from experience and reputation. The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and The Southwest Christian Writers Studio for a start. Next week I’ll post about how to choose a conference that’s a good fit for you.

In the meantime, I'm taking your suggestions. What conferences have you enjoyed the most? 
Don't forget to join the conversation!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Young Adult Pirate Author Seeks to Raise $10,000 for the Epilepsy Foundation

The Curse of Captain LaFoote

Raleigh, NC— Social networking has changed the way young people communicate. Can we keep books in “their” loop?  According to KidSay Market Researchers, Facebook is now the favorite website among tween (8-11) boys and teen (12-15) girls. Over 90% of tween boys and girls play games online. Could a pirate tale be the perfect antidote to the adolescent blank-stare fascination with video games?
“My goal in writing this book was to spur the imagination of young readers. Boys especially,” says Young Adult author, Eddie Jones. “I wanted to create within them a desire to read and set sail for a life of adventure on the high seas.” Note: Eddie sails and surfs and sometimes works. “I also want to help kids (and adults) who suffer with epilepsy. My goal is to raise $10,000 for the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of Ricky Bradshaw, the hero of the book.” (Ricky suffers from epilepsy.) “For each book sold, the publisher will donate a few pieces of eighthalf a sandy dollarto the Epilepsy Foundation.”
Jones says, regardless of how well the book sells, if it helps others become “Seizure Smart!” and raises money to fight epilepsy, it’s a success.

About the Book

RICKY BRADSHAW has never sailed the Caribbean Sea, searched for buried treasure or battled pirates on the deck of a Spanish Galleon. He’s never fallen through the floor of Davy Jones’ locker or watched an old fisherman morph into a porpoise. All Ricky knows is his lonely life with his widowed mom in a tiny apartment overlooking a marina on the Chesapeake Bay. But all that changes on a snowy Christmas Eve when Ricky’s apartment building burns down and he falls into the chilly waters while trying to save a dog with shrimp breath. Suddenly Ricky finds himself thrust into a world where there is surprising beauty on every island, danger around every corner and great honor and glory ahead of him… if only Ricky can summon the courage to survive the curse of Captain LaFoote.

About the Author

Eddie Jones is a full time freelance writer and author of five non-fiction books, one young adult novel, and one adult romantic comedy. He sails, surfs and freely admits: “I'm a boat swab at heart and thief and liar when honest work proves unprofitable.”
A Young Adult / Tween novel, Rated PG13
eBook ISBN - 978-1-935600-05-3 Available in Kindle
Print ISBN - 978-1-935600-04-6 Available on February 14, 2011
Visit his website here.

Reviewers say:
"Eddie Jones has 15-year-old angst down to a science with his warm and witty style of writing." - James Watkins.

"The Curse of Captain LaFoote is the perfect fix for some swashbuckling fun! Eddie Jones brings his time-travel pirate adventure to life with humor, adventure and thoughtful moments that boys will enjoy and their parents will appreciate!" - Christopher P. N. Maselli.

"The Curse of Captain LaFoote by Eddie Jones is a rollicking adventure filled with humor, mystery and the sea." - Doris Fisher.

"This imaginative, Caribbean adventure and colorful characters will hook readers and take them for a tremendous ride! Eddie laced courage, bravery and a tad of romance together for a fresh and fun read!" - Jill Roman Lord.

"Fresh funny fantasy...a book young readers are sure to enjoy." - Max Elliot Anderson.

"Teaser Chapters leave you wanting more! Quite a beginning for the troubled teenage kid. This is a must buy…" "Jones intertwines the foundation of good characters into a cleverly written storyline. Middle school kids will drop quickly into the life of Ricky Bradshaw and relate to the situations and antics he's thrown into…" "I laughed and sped my way through this book. Great characters and a wacky adventure with a wonderfully dry sense of humor."

Contact: Diana L. Flegal, Literary Agent , diana@hartlineliterary.com

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thursday Review—Scrivener for Windows Part Two

by Lynn Huggins Blackburn

Last month we explored a few features of Scrivener for Windows that are particularly useful during the draft process, check out Part One of this review here.

This month, we’re going to scratch the surface—barely—of the Scrivener features I’ve come to love during the revision process. It should be noted here that I’m not a huge fan of revisions.
OK. Truthfully, I hate them. Even having a ready-made excuse to eat tons of chocolate isn’t enough to help me enjoy the process. But after a few weeks of revisions, I’m certain Scrivener is going to make this editing adventure go more smoothly than my last.

Here's a quick rundown of a few of my favorite Scrivener features:
First, let’s talk outlines. I’m not a big outliner, but after the draft is finished, having a quick visual of each scene makes it much easier to decide which scenes need to go, which need to stay and which can stay but need to be moved. In Scrivener, you can create “index cards” for each scene and then view them on the Corkboard.
I know some people use this method with actual index cards and their floor or a handy wall and that’s a lovely idea. Except for one thing…I have small children. One of whom thinks all forms of paper (bills, manuscripts, legal documents) have been provided for her own artistic endeavors. Scrivener allows me to have the visual diagram of my manuscript I crave without the added features of random crayon scribblings.

Second is the fabulous Snapshot. If you’re like me, the idea of cutting a huge chunk of your draft makes your eyelids twitch. But in Scrivener, you can take a snapshot of your original work and if you spend a few weeks tweaking a chapter, only to have your critique group tell you the original was better, no worries! It’s saved and is easily accessible.

Third, the Split Screen. There are so many ways you can use this—to keep a research file open as you edit a scene, or to keep a picture in view as you describe a setting. Or say you want to experiment and rewrite a scene from a different POV, you can keep the original open on the top to refer to as you rewrite the scene underneath.

If you enjoy revisions, you’re probably drooling by now. If not, I’m not prepared to say that using Scrivener will make revisions pleasant.

But, easier? Absolutely.

Less tedious? Certainly.

Possibly require less chocolate?

Nah. I can’t go that far!

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. On her blog Out of the Boat she writes about faith and family while her blog Perpetual Motion documents the joys and challenges of loving and rearing a child with special needs. A graduate of Clemson University, Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, knits, takes care of two amazing children, one fabulous man and one spoiled rotten Boston Terrier.