Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year's Resolution you might actually keep

The New Year is upon us, and I am thrilled. We now have an opportunity to look back on 2009 with lovingkindness, decide what we'd like to change and what goals we'd like to set, and move forward into a new year! At the same time, I recognize the statistics for people who actually reach their New Year's goals isn't very encouraging. Research shows that more than half of those who set goals fall off the resolution bandwagon by mid-February. Why do we abandon our goals so easily?

It's because we take on too much and make it all so complicated! We are overwhelmed and under-motivated. In order to make a New Year's Resolution we might actually stick with we need to put a few things in order first.

Create a Plan. In order for you to manifest your goals, you need to create a series of clear and simple steps that you can put into action. If you resolve to walk every day, don't let the rain dissolve your resolve! There are always the stairwells at work or at home! And there's even rain gear!

Be Specific. Don't write or say, "I'm going to lose weight ." Instead say, "I am going to permanently remove 10 pounds."

Visualize. When you visualize, your brain "practices" your action. See yourself eating less, exercising more, relaxing, succeeding, smiling, being in a happy relationship, making money, singing, dancing, etc! Woo hoo!!

Less is more. The more things you try to change in a short period of time, the less likely you are to change anything over the long term. Pace yourself. Don't try and change 50 things at once.

Find a Resolution Buddy and share your goals with them. You are now accountable to someone other than yourself, and you will also feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment from helping your friend reach her goals!

Set a Timetable. The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline! It can make all the difference. Specifically, when were you going to reach your goal? And how are you going to do that?

Create a Vision Board. Find inspiring quotes, motivating pictures, or anything that reminds you of your goal and collage these bits n' pieces together on paper and place it where you can see it!

Remind yourself of your daily goals. Write your goals on Post-It notes and place them on your fridge or bathroom mirror, or write your goals in your date book, or on your calendar. You don't want them to fall off your to-do list, do you?

Accentuate the Positive. Looking at the bright side of things will definitely generate more energy and enthusiasm that will help you to go after your dreams. And actually celebrate failure If at first you don't succeed, try again! Reassess the situation, tweak it, learn from it and celebrate your moving forward.

Start a Journal. Record your successes and your failures. Your thoughts and a-ha! moments. And give yourself a gold star, while you're at it.

Steer Clear fo Negativity. Just as you will find people who will support you, you will also come across those who are negative and are likely to stop you from moving forward. Smile and walk away.

BE PATIENT! People want immediate results, but change takes time. Remember that it's the journey that's important. Remember YOU matter! Carve out time to give yourself the love and attention you need, and be sure to compliment yourself daily. Fully acknowledge all that you've accomplished and how special you are!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I’m sure we all remember the heroes of books from olden times. Square jawed, aristocratic nose, shoulders that started out as broad as a barn and tapered to a flat stomach with chiseled abs. As if. (Without workout equipment that targeted certain muscle groups, how did these guys manage such a physique? Powerful biceps and a bull like neck I get. But those abs? Get serious.) And don’t even get me started on his gleaming, perfectly straight choppers. How in the world did that happen? A fortunate few are born with straight teeth that never require a dentist or at the very least fluoride, but in those days? Everybody knows what the lack of proper prenatal care does to bones and teeth.

But I digress. In days of yore the hardest part of creating the hero of a dime store novel or bodice ripper was deciding on which color to paint the thick mane that fell in glorious waves past the requisite broad shoulders, even in his waning years.

Villains were just as easy. Their hair was always thin and greasy to match their lecherous smile. They generally had bad teeth and equally poor hygiene. They were usually thin. No ripped abs or rippling biceps on these guys.

Most discerning readers today expect a little more. We want a hero with meat on his bones. No, now wait a minute. Not that kind of meat, though a little is acceptable, especially if he’s married. We still want our heroes handsome, mysterious and in halfway decent shape. But he needn’t be perfect. In fact, if he is we don’t buy it.

Besides a few physical flaws that add to his charm and good looks, he better have an issue or two. A little baggage is good as long as it isn’t too grievous. Life has been tough on our hero but it can’t have turned him into heartless jerk. That’s what villains are for.

I’m currently rewriting my hero as if you couldn’t tell from the tone of this post. He has a job, a past—including an ex-wife and an obnoxious teenage daughter—and obstacles to overcome. No ripped abs, but no beer belly either. Somewhere in the middle is good. Powerful arms and calloused hands are a given. I like those on a man. But he hasn’t yet told me exactly who he is. Besides the obvious, I’m unclear on what he needs to accomplish by the end of the book. How will he grow? What will he learn about the man he is and who he hopes to become that he didn’t know before?

I’ve been dwelling on my hero for several weeks. He keeps me awake at night. I can see him when I close my eyes, but he’s still a little blurry. I need to know him better before I can adequately tell his story. Of course he will become clearer as the story progresses. At least that’s what I’m counting on.

Isn’t that the fun of writing? When the story is a journey of discovery for the writer as much as for the reader. Enough stalling. Back to work. Speak to me, Brock. Tell me your story. What’s on your mind? Where do you need to go…….

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas with Anna Joujan

Magnificantby Anna Joujan

Holy. Holy. Holy is the Lord.
The familiar catch of breath. The sting in the eyes. And the tears begin to flow with the falling rain. Or do the tears fall with the flowing rain.

What is it in these words that I whisper that wrenches at my heart so? Why does Mary's prayer touch the core of my being, so many centuries after it was spoken?

I think it must be because I know that she was just a girl, just a human being, with a woman's heart like my own. And so, when I hear her wondering words, I can feel with her the emotion she must have felt. To bear the son of God-what wondrous mystery, what glorious honour! And she was, like me, just a young woman-much younger, in fact, than I am now. And so, no matter how often I hear the story and read her words, it still has the power to bring abrupt and unsought tears.

What a gracious God, to work wonders with such frail and faulty creatures as us!
Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota, as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia, the child of missionary teachers. Since her family's move to the U.S., Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . . France, China, Peru, and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and running to a fault. She blogs at Full of Grace.
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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

You Love it--Write About It

Personally, I love performing and music, so I often write about those experiences. When you write about something you know well and love to do, it automatically becomes interesting to others because you write it with ease and it just seems to flow.

I do have a really good tip for those of you who are still sitting there watching that cursor. Have you ever written a FAQ? It's actually surprisingly easy. Small business owners (and even people who work for larger corporations) tend to answer the same 10 to 12 questions all the time. Different people ask them, and they don't answer all 12 every day, but if you think about it, you probably have some pretty stock answers that you give over and over again.

One of the hardest things new marketers face is figuring out what to write about. You stare at the blank screen watching the cursor tick away while you start to doubt yourself. Maybe a bead of sweat rolls down your forehead. You start thinking, "Man, is it really worth this much pressure?" It doesn't have to be like that. You really can write, even if you don't think you're a writer. All you have to do is write about something you know and love.

Maybe you're a dog trainer: Write about the best method of house-training a puppy! Do you love to ski? Write about your beginning experiences with tips about how to stay in the game What does that mean exactly? Well, for one thing, it means that people generally want to know the same things about what you're doing. If people in real life want answers to these questions, you can bet that people are asking them out in cyberspace as well.

So here's the idea: Write down as many of those questions as you can. I did mine in a numbered list format. Then it's easy to just go back and simply answer them one-by-one. I almost felt like I was back in high school taking an essay test -- only this time I KNEW all the answers!

Once you've written and answered your list of Frequently Asked Questions, write an introductory paragraph or two. Ideally, you'll explain your business and let the reader know exactly what you're doing. You could say, "I run a website selling surveying equipment. These are questions I get asked all the time in my line of work, and I thought it would be helpful to write an article answering them once and for all."

You can go into as much or as little detail as you want in these intro paragraphs -- remember, no one is actually grading this paper! You just need to give your reader something that shows you're a person and an idea about what you're trying to accomplish in your article. Last, give it a read-through and spell-check and you're done! Then you can submit said article via your favorite article submission service and you'll be well on your way to fame and fortune. See how easy that was? Stop fretting and write your FAQ today. You never know how many hits your website might get as a result of that little bit of effort.Source:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Emphasize your Goals in order to Achieve

Regardless of what we strive to do, without goals it’s unlikely we will ever achieve anything.

I start nearly every Monday with a list of goals I want to accomplish by the end of the week. I also have a list of goals I hope to see come to fruition within a given year or other specific timeframe, as well as long-term goals, such as retiring in financial comfort and growing old without the aid of medication.

I do pretty well with the things necessary to achieve my long term goals. I save money, invest wisely, eat right, and exercise nearly every morning. It’s those short term goals that give me grief. I’m not sure why. They’re not that difficult or unattainable. The problem is I haven’t attached enough importance to them.

This week I plan to create a Twitter account for my new blog, Fit to Excel, write five articles to promote each of my writing businesses, and make some final changes to my latest manuscript. Unfortunately many of these goals are the same writing goals I didn’t meet this entire month.

Most of the time my short term goals are cast aside by the middle of the week, replaced by something more pressing. My problem is I have no boss breathing down my neck, demanding I produce. That’s where self-imposed deadlines come into play.

Goals have to be important in order for you to put an emphasis on accomplishing them. If they aren’t important, you won’t find the time to do them. People always find time to do what needs done.

You may have a very tight schedule without a spare minute. But I guarantee if you had a heart attack that schedule would no longer be important. All the important things you had planned that week would be cast aside for doctors’ appointments, procedures, arguments with insurance companies and discussions with your family.

Your goals must have a degree of importance. The higher emphasis of importance you put on them, the more likely you are to achieve them Any goal worth setting should be important to you. Each goal you set, give it a degree of importance.

Be flexible. Running the vacuum cleaner before going to bed may be very important until your daughter needs help finishing a science project. Your evening bubble bath may be high on your list of priorities until your sister calls from out of town calls and announces she’s met the man of her dreams.

Life certainly happens, so leave room for a little flexibility in your schedule. But keep your dreams high on your list of priorities and they will soon be within reach.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Last Full Workweek of the First Decade of the new Millenium

This is the last full workweek before Christmas. Actually it’s the last full workweek of the first decade of the new millennium. Yikes, that’s intimidating.

With a doctor’s appointment and party this weekend still to plan, shop, and clean for, my week is even shorter. Besides the usual gift wrapping, last minute shopping, and all the other things that need done well before the twenty-fifth, squeezing in writing time is going to be tough.

But this is Monday. A fresh start to make something happen in our writing before the relatives descend—or we catch a plane to their house—before the kids begin rifling through our closets in search of bounty, before the dog needs taken to the kennel and the cookies need to go in the oven.

What tips have you picked up along this writing journey that keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard? The key for me is routine and discipline. I wake up before six every morning and jump right in. I eat half a granola bar while watching Joyce Meyer and then do an exercise routine. After a shower and phone call to a friend, I eat my real breakfast and get straight to work. On days when I can’t keep this routine for whatever reason—like aforementioned doctor’s appointment—my entire day is shot. Even if most of the afternoon remains, my productivity level drops to nearly zero. I can't explain why an appointment or unscheduled visit from a friend renders me useless for the rest of the day, but it happens every time.

It’s the end of the year, dear writers. Two weeks and 2009 will be a memory. I have several projects to wrap up before then. If I don’t hustle this week, my totally manageable tasks will follow me into the New Year to be added to what needs done in the next decade.

Let’s practice some discipline and routine this week. This is your last workweek of the first decade of the new millennium. Now let’s get cracking.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Free Books for Christmas

From now until December 31st, buy two of Teresa’s books and get one free. There is no limit to the number of books you can get free and no specific combination of books. Much fewer restrictions here than you’ll find on those BONUS gift cards you buy at your favorite restaurant.

Cost per book--$15.00. Additional savings: I have reduced shipping and handling costs to the absolute minimum. Only $1.00 shipping per book. Again, no limit.

So take the hassle out of your gift shopping this Christmas. Books are a no-brainer for the reader on your list. I will happily autograph each book any way you like. Email me for more information or to place an order. I will put your books in the mail within 2 business days of placing your order.

Description of each title: Streams of Mercy—— On the day of her father’s funeral, seventeen-year-old Jamie Steele discovers he was the prime suspect in the disappearance and possible murder of an old girlfriend. All too familiar with his violent reputation and hard-fisted lifestyle, Jamie has to find out for herself if he was capable of the crime everyone in their small town thinks he committed. What will she do if he’s proven guilty? How can she forgive someone who never asked to be forgiven or admitted any wrongdoing? Can she find the mercy in her heart to forget the past and mourn the father she has lost?

Redemption’s Song—— One woman stands on the precipice of change and discovery. The other carries a twenty-year-old burden of sin in her heart that threatens to destroy everything she holds dear.

Jamie Steele and Abigail Blackwood share nothing more than love for one man. When heartbreak and tragedy test their faith beyond what either can imagine, will they trust the God of purpose, or will foolish pride drive them to take matters into their own hands?

Two women who share nothing more than love for one man. When their lives are shaken and faith tested beyond what either can imagine, will they trust the God of purpose who promises to stand closer than a brother? Or will foolish pride drive them to take matters into their own hands?

Evidence of Grace—— A phone call from a potential eyewitness leads Noel Wyatt to believe the real killer of Sally Blake got away with murder. He enlists the help of a young attorney and his old friend, retired prosecutor and judge David Davis, to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Was someone else involved in the events of that fateful night? Since the convicted killer is already serving time for the murder, is it too late for justice to be served?

A Tender Reed—— Michelle is a 33-year old never married nurse. She leads an uneventful, predictable life, but her calm exterior hides unresolved resentment and emotional insecurity. When Nicole, her irresponsible younger sister, abandons her two young children in Michelle's front yard, she's forced to recall her own mother's abandonment of her.

How Michelle faces her childhood demons while building a family with Nicole's kids offers a thought-provoking examination of family relationships. The author deftly handles Michelle's spiritual cynicism as she struggles to find acceptance and love.

Infused with humor and practical insights, A Tender Reed and its characters will capture the hearts of readers who love children, understand their challenges, and appreciate the many definitions of family.

The Ultimate Guide to Darcy Carter——Considered an expert on every conceivable topic, Ultimate Guidebook guru, Darcy Carter, can’t guide herself out of a paper bag. When her editor suggests she write The Ultimate Guide to Finding Mr. Right, Darcy wants no part of it. To avoid Mr. Right and hopefully find out where the discontentment with her life is coming from, she heads south to research one last ultimate guidebook. Soon she discovers there’s more to life than telling other people how to live theirs.
Don't delay. Offer for free books only good until December 31st.

Monday, December 7, 2009

3 Ugly Truths of Novel Writing

I found this post some time ago at by UK author and freelance journalist Sean McManus and thought I'd share it here.

Year after year the season from Halloween until the end of the year is the least productive for me. Every year I tell myself this year will be different. This time I will stick to my writing schedule. I will not be derailed from my goals. I will not get distracted, and I will not overeat...oh, that's another post.

Possibly you are more disciplined than me and can't relate to my dilemma. Or you find yourself in the same routine every Christmas. Regardless of what you face with your writing at this particular moment…even if things are going swimmingly, here are three ugly truths of novel writing that are not meant to discourage you, but to show how to enjoy the process when all seems hopeless.

“If you're going to write a novel, you need to accept three ugly truths.

The first is that you're not writing a bestseller. If your goal is to get rich, you're better off spending your time doing a paper route and buying lottery tickets with the money. In the UK alone, 130,000 new books are published annually. That means that there are 356 new books every day. Maybe you'll strike it lucky. But the odds are stacked so overwhelmingly against you. The only good reason to write a novel is that you'll enjoy it. It's not worth being a tortured artist in the hope you'll get a payday at the end.

The second ugly truth is that writing is hard work. It takes dedication to complete a book. If you're writing a story of 100,000 words, you'll need to write about 2000 words every week for a year. I'm not saying your book should be that long. Publishing formats (including online) are much more flexible nowadays. But you do need to be sure you can commit the time necessary to finish the kind of book you want to write.

The third bad tiding is that you're going to waste a lot of time. You'll need to rewrite scenes as your story evolves. You'll probably want to re-do earlier bits, as you get to know the characters better and improve your writing skills. You might spend a weekend writing a chapter you delete outright. Sometimes you have to write a scene to see whether it works or not.

I don't think anything from the first three months of writing (perhaps more) survived into my final story. And that is very much a good thing. If you can't accept you'll waste time, you'll find it hard to delete stuff that really should go.

Once you accept those truths, you have absolute creative freedom. You don't have to conform to traditional notions of what kind of books sell. You don't have to meet anyone's deadlines but your own. And you can write whatever you like. If you'll enjoy writing it, write it. You can publish online in a range of formats, including print-on-demand paper books and ebooks. Your book will definitely be published if you want it to be.

Write for the fun of it, and have faith that you can get your story into circulation at the end. You might not have millions of readers, but you will have a wonderful experience. Enjoy the journey.”

I especially agree with the last statement. Enjoy the journey, folks. There is joy to be found there. Have a wonderful writing week.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Is there a change in submission preferences?

Don't we all want to know what's going on inside an agent's head? Or the editor that passed on the manuscript we labored over so intensely? Here's your chance. Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency, who happens to be my agent has offered to let me borrow a post from his blog. Before submitting your next proposal, read on to see what editors require from authors.

I’ve been sensing a change in the way editors look at receiving submissions where the person submitting indicated the manuscript is finished versus a person submitting on proposal with a deadline for completion. We’ve long known the book needed to be completed for a person submitting on their first book, but how about for a person with previous publishing experience?

To see if there is indeed a different attitude I surveyed 175 editors, both mainstream and Christian. Most have now responded. What did I learn?

In nonfiction, selling on proposal seems unchanged except a majority said on a new author they wanted to know the work was complete even on nonfiction.

In fiction, most still say an author with no publishing credentials needs to have the manuscript completed. As to being able to sell on proposal once they have publication credits,

• 20% require the full mss submitted with the proposal instead of sample chapters.

• 33% - respondents said they required the manuscript be complete no matter the writers credentials.

• 12%- said they did not require a full manuscript but preferred knowing that it was.

• 30% - said that the manuscript needed to be completed before submitting unless they are a well published (some said A list) author or someone they had worked with before.

• 7% said they always bought on proposal. (mostly nonfiction)

I would say my new conventional wisdom is that a manuscript should be complete before submitting unless the editor has worked with the author before or if the author been not only published, but very well published with good sales numbers. Changing genre very much puts an author in a new author position in the new genre. Even though it was not part of the survey a number of editors volunteered the information that platform was very important on non-fiction and fiction alike.

Some specific comments that were mentioned:An editor's job is so fast-paced and overloaded these days, if a manuscript needs a complete overhaul, it can leave us in a pickle.

Well, I hate to buy a full-length novel from proposal if I haven't seen the author's published work or even a completed manuscript of a different title that proves the author knows how to start, bridge the middle, and wrap up a story.

I wouldn't say I've found myself giving precedence to completed projects for Heartsong. My search for new books hasn't changed much.

I have in the past contracted books from new authors just on the proposal...but there is a comfort level in seeing more, rather than less, of a manuscript.

Sales history is becoming a more important factor in our decisions than ever before. An author with a shaky sales history is more likely to sway me with a full manuscript I can read fully vs. simply a proposal.

We've been burned a few times by authors who told us they were going to write one thing and then wrote something totally different, or who did not offer the quality of manuscript we believed they would after reading their previous work. So whenever possible, we love to see the complete manuscript because then everybody is on the same page.

I think all editors have their own MO's and I can't generalize, but I'd say in my case I've always bought on complete ms unless I've worked with the author before, myself. Publishers are overall more cautious in this economic climate. Sales history of authors' previous work weighs heavily on acquisitions decisions...not just the fact that these authors have completed work.

I'm afraid I do require complete manuscripts from unpublished fiction authors. However, we have always accepted proposals from fiction authors who have established themselves.

Unless the fiction author is a name author (Angela Hunt, Janette Oke, James Scott Bell), we are probably going to want to see the entire manuscript. My exception in this case is because I do know the author and can vouch for her ability to complete a project.

I'm a bit more of a stickler in wanting to see the whole manuscript even from a previously published author. The reason is that I don't know how much work the other house or houses put into that author's unedited manuscripts before publication. I wouldn't feel comfortable going to the publishing committee unless I had read the entire unedited work by a new author to our house.

Yes, it’s changing. I’m told that it’s been true in New York publishing for some time that fiction tended to be sold on the basis of completed mss., rather than proposals. And that was true, in many or most cases, even with well-established authors. In that sense, the world of “Christian publishing” (and let’s face it—the line between the two is disappearing) has been behind the curve and is just now catching up. I have a much better chance of getting a project approved in Pub Board if I have a completed ms. rather than simply a proposal.

We are working sometimes a year in advance. For the author that means if we accept a proposal, the manuscript takes a year, and it takes us another year for editing, production, etc., the result is a two year time frame. I know a lot of authors feel like that's an eternity. So for us, the more finished the manuscript, or the more available for consideration, the sooner we know we can get it into the marketing cycle.

I want to see the completed manuscript before I buy anything. Especially since I'm new and still finding my feet here, I want to make sure that whatever I take to my editorial meeting is solid and well grounded.

For fiction, if an author had a big enough name and I really liked the project and the proposal included a good synopsis, I'd likely go ahead with it. But I admit I do feel much more comfortable with seeing the entire MS, especially if the subject is a controversial one.

Yes, I prefer to see a completed project over just a proposal. Gives me a better sense of the writing and the author's thought process.

If the author is one with whom I've personally had previous experience, I don't mind contracting based on a proposal and sample chapter/s. However, unless the author is WELL established in the fiction industry, all things being equal, if I am considering two similar proposals from authors of similar standing in regards to their publishing history, I would naturally go with the one who has submitted a complete manuscript.

No, I can't say this is the case with us. We'd never sign a new project without sample chapters of the writing, but whether the manuscript is complete or not is not a determining factor in our decisions.

As I know you've experienced, there can be a vast difference between a proposal and three chapters that have been honed to perfection and what we sometimes see as the completed novel. The current marketplace is being particularly difficult on mid-list and emerging authors. Even with publishing history, I have to be very selective about contract extensions and/or commitments to new authors at this level. The market is very crowded with competent authors at this level. With authors whose sales figures are consistent, but below the 25,000 range it is often much easier to sell in a first time/debut author. So . . books at this level need to deliver and publishers need to know that they're not committing to a book that will require rounds of rewrite. That's a long way around the bush to say . . yes, I think authors will almost always have a better chance with a complete novel.

Yes, I am much more likely to consider new(er) authors if they have a complete manuscript because then I know exactly what I'm buying. Publishers, including us, are not taking as much risk on B and C level material because the market is so tough. Obviously, for high-profile, A-level authors/books, incompletion isn't really an issue. In general it is more beneficial for our company to read through the entire manuscript, however, we can certainly give a feel for general interest based on a proposal.

For established authors new-to-our house, I want to see a detailed synopsis, sales history, and sample chapters. The mss does not have to be complete unless the author is changing genres and is writing in a different style than their previously published work.

With first-time fiction authors, or those taking on a new genre (be it fiction to nonfiction or vice versa, or a writing style change like going from romance to supernatural suspense), I almost need a full manuscript to know how the book will play out.

Post courtesy of Terry W. Burns--Inspirational fiction with a western flair