Monday, April 13, 2015

Build an Author Resume

Build an Author Resume

Think back to your first resume. What did you include? Perhaps you had a part-time job in high school. Maybe it was flipping burgers, but it showed life experience (or at least the willingness to get out of bed). You continued to build your skills by attending college, participating in clubs, or picking up another job.

When you applied for your first professional position, you were able to develop a resume that highlighted extra-curricular activities, leadership positions, and work experience. You gathered repeated success in smaller positions to land the big opportunity—the job.

The same is true in publishing. Agents and editors not only look for authors who can write a page-turning novel with interesting characters and unique story arc but also professionals who can deliver a manuscript on time—and not just once, but multiple times. They’re interested in working with partners who can help make their business profitable.

How can you demonstrate that you’re an author who delivers? Not just pizzas but professionalism. Build your writing resume.

There are numerous opportunities to cut your teeth, develop your voice, and build credibility by starting small. Short stories, magazine articles, and contests are great avenues to increase your author resume. Then, when it’s time to pitch a novel, you not only have a great story idea, you also have a proven background.

So start today. Here are a few opportunities available now:

"Path to Forgiveness" Anthology - Faith by Grace Publishing*
· Fiction or non-fiction
· 2,000-10,000 words
· Theme: Stories about people who seek forgiveness
· Submission Deadline: May 1, 2015
· Website:

Havok, an imprint of Splickety Publishing Group

· Flash Fiction: 1,000 words or less
· Contest Issue ($10 entry fee)
· Submission Deadline: May 8, 2015
· Theme: Sci-Fi vs. Fantasy
· Website:

Splickety Love, an imprint of Splickety Publishing Group
· Flash Fiction: 1,000 words or less
· Submission Deadline: June 5, 2015
· Theme: Smitten Summer
· Website:

Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature, The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
· Open submissions for poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, and creative nonfiction
· Submission Deadline: August 1, 2015
· Website:

Relief: A Christian Literary Expression
· Open submissions for fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, graphic narrative, interviews
· Year-round submissions accepted
· Submission Guidelines:
· Website:
*Sourced by

Christina Weeks is author of—quick reads posted on the first and fifteenth of the month. In addition, she’s published in short fiction and commercial publications. She’s also worked at Walt Disney World, flown in a stunt plane, and raced a stock car. You can connect with Christina at:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Brainstorming Your Novel

Brainstorming Your Novel
By DiAnn Mills

Every novelist reaches a plateau in which the perfect story idea isn't coming together. The plot germ is there, but the theme, setting, characters, and storyline seem to spin out of control. 

     By using the acronym, BRAINSTORMING, you can bring the whirling to a halt and anchor your writing onto a firm foundation.
     Believe in yourself. You've been given the gift of writing, and you’re pretty good at it. You understand the craft, and you’re continuously educating yourself to add more tools and techniques.
     Realistic writing is what sells. No matter the genre, your storyline must be credible with identifiable characters who react and respond according to the traits you've assigned them.
     Analyze your basic idea. How can you grow your characters by making their goals difficult, perhaps impossible to reach?
     Inspire your readers to attempt and achieve great things. Fiction is truth. Jesus spoke in parables and through His stories, people gleaned meaning and purpose for their lives. Don’t preach your message. Let the reader see who your characters are by the way they tackle life’s challenges.
     Name your book and your characters. Why is this important? Because the title of a book gives the writer passion for the project. Who wants to wake up each morning to the thrill of working on novel X? In the same way, your characters deserve names that mean something significant in the novel.
     Show don’t tell. Propel your story into action by incorporating body language, explosive emotion, purposeful dialogue, and unique settings. 
     Technique is essential to every story. To make sure your plotting is tight, ask yourself the following four questions before writing each scene.
     1. What is the point of view character’s problem or goal?
     2. What does the point of view character learn that he/she didn't know before?
     3. What backstory is revealed? (But not in the first fifty pages.)
     4. How are the stakes raised for the point of view character?
     Organize your thoughts into a file that contains all of your notes: plotting, research, characterization, and where you obtained the information. Go a step further and write a lengthy synopsis. I recommend plotting every scene. This doesn't stifle your creativity! You are the writer, and you can add, delete, and change whatever is necessary.
     Research is vital to every successful novel. If your novel takes place in your backyard, then research the weeds there. Do your best to visit the setting. Interview those who have the same careers or experiences as your characters. Use the services of a library, chamber of commerce, Internet exploration, and any other means of research to root your reader into the story. 
     Motivation is the key to every successful novel. You were motivated to begin a career as a writer. You were motivated to read this blog. Your characters are motivated by their wants and needs.
     Discover your character’s drive to see what he/she will do to achieve those wants and needs. 

This list is only the beginning to get your creativity flowing. Once you've completed the motivation aspect of your novel planning, the desire to write will soon take over. You’ll be ready to position your nimble fingers on the keyboard and speed off on another adventure!

Comment below and be entered in a random drawing for a personalized or e-copy of Double Cross.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of Americas Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at

FIREWALL - Tyndale - July 2014
DOUBLE CROSS - Tyndale April 2015
DEADLOCK - Tyndale October 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Study of Endings

A Study of Endings
By Natalie Hanemann 

It’s one of the hardest things a novelist does: ending the story. Or maybe it’s the easiest. I've worked with authors who write the ending first and then go back and fill in the rest. Is there a right way to end a novel? It’s not an exact science, of course, but if you've ever read a book and at the end, wanted to drop it in your paper shredder, then you know that the ending can make or break you as a novelist.

I've come across a string of stories lately with poor endings. 

Last week my kids found a movie on Netflix, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. They loved this movie but something happened in the last few moments of the story that changed their minds. They said they never wanted to watch that movie again. I googled the movie and there’s even a site where the ending is discussed:

At a library sale last weekend, I picked up There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly for my kids. I hadn't read it before but I liked the art work. I was shocked when on the last page of the book, the final line was, “There was an old lady who swallowed a horse. She’s dead of course.” Really!? The old lady dies? For the sake of the rhyme. Poor decision and potentially scarring to little kids.

In both of these examples, the protagonist dies at the story’s conclusion. Is it a mistake to have your hero/heroine die at the end? Not necessarily. You must take a few things into consideration. One is the genre. In less commercial, more literary novels, the protagonist’s death seems to be more tolerable. But what about a story where the hero’s death is sacrificial and helps to save the lives of others? This happens frequently and audiences seem to be able to handle it. This was the case in the recent Disney movie Big Hero 6. It was sad to see Baymax die, but my kids didn't feel betrayed because they saw the role his death played for the other characters in the story. Plus, Disney could bring him back in the sequel . . .

I recently edited a novel where the author ended the book with the protagonist getting shot and dying. It wasn't a sacrificial death; he just died. “What if he didn't die?” I asked the author. “But what will he go off and do?” the author wanted to know. Once your protagonist accomplishes their goal, should they just go live happily ever after? Is that realistic? Should it be? 

These are difficult questions and every story has its own, unique way it should end, but it isn’t always obvious. But here’s a universal guide to ending a story well: think about your reader. You should have their experience in mind as you write your novel and especially as you think about how it will end. If the ending isn't satisfying, they will be frustrated. They may blog about it or put a review online to vent their disappointment. They won’t tell their friends to read the book (word of mouth is so important) – they may even tell them NOT to read it.

Here are a few elements of a satisfying ending: Is the reader left feeling hopeful when they put the book down? Is there a promise of happiness for the protagonist (assuming they aren’t dead)? Was justice served? Did the bad guy get their comeuppance? Did good triumph? Did the problems get resolved?

In fiction, no resolution is rarely a good resolution. The danger is that plot threads can get too neatly tied up and a reader will roll his or her eyes at the end. You don’t have to spell everything out. Being subtle can help in not tying too neat of a bow. Everyone shouldn't get what they want. It can be annoying to read stories where everyone wins in the end. The art in closing plot threads is to balance being realistic with offering a satisfying conclusion.

A good ending isn't easy and can’t be rushed. Writing is highly creative and you, as the author, will have strong feelings about how the story should end, but before you complete that final scene, try to step outside of yourself and think about how a reader will feel when they turn the last page. Show your readers some love by considering their feelings.

And if you do, they just might reward you with their loyalty . . . and their recommendation.

Natalie Hanemann is a freelance fiction editor who lives in Franklin, TN with her husband and four kids. Visit her website at:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Expand Your Reach Through Audio Products

Expand Your Reach Through Audio Products
by Becky Lyles / Rebecca Carey Lyles

My husband, Steve, and I started a podcast last year. But we didn't join the podcasting craze just to be trendy. Our audio-engineer son, Toby Lyles, who works with podcasts and audiobooks, advised us to do so. He insisted a podcast would expand my reach into the world of potential readers for my books – and that audio products are the wave of the future.

I balked at the idea because I’m not a professional broadcaster, and I wasn't sure listeners would want to hear me ramble on about, well, any subject. In response, Toby suggested I discuss different aspects of editing because I’m a freelance editor. However, I felt like such a narrow focus would limit my audience. All writers need good editors, but the behind-the-scenes work required to improve a manuscript is not the stuff of Hollywood movies—or interesting podcasts (in my opinion).

With a little arm-twisting, my sweet hubby agreed to join me in a vaguely related podcasting venture – storytelling. Everybody loves a good story, right? Thus, the name: “Let Me Tell You a Story.” We realize all those people who love good stories may not listen to our podcast; however, our intended audience is definitely broader than if I’d gone with the editing idea. (Of course, Toby says I could do both. J)

Many podcast hosts chat about subjects from their field of expertise, or they interview experts, but that’s not our style. We don’t lecture, teach or preach. And, truth be told, we don’t tell stories on “Let Me Tell You a Story”; instead, we read stories.

Thanks to the team approach, our listeners get to hear more than one voice on our podcast. We take turns reading, and we alternate writing styles. So far, we’ve read short stories, book chapters, poetry, essays, vignettes, quotations and jokes. Sometimes, guest authors read their own work, which adds even more variety. (FYI, we always obtain permission before we share other writers’ literary creations with the public.)

So, you ask, what’s involved with producing a podcast? As mentioned above, you need to choose a focus for your audio musings and decide what audience you want to reach. Then you can name the podcast and create a cover graphic for the show (we paid a professional graphic artist a small fee to design ours). Next, you purchase a recorder and a good-quality microphone. As you may guess, such equipment comes in all sizes and shapes…and prices. Toby provides great how-to advice in his free podcast manual, which can be downloaded from his website:

For our first few recording sessions, we plugged a USB microphone into my laptop. Using my computer as a recorder worked great – until the motherboard crashed. Thanks to a separate crazy issue, the computer problems continued, and we stopped podcasting for several months. Finally, with Toby’s guidance, we purchased a small recorder and an XLR microphone. If I remember right, the total cost was around $200. You might spend less, and you might spend more.

What’s the average length of a podcast? Ours tend to run between 25 and 45 minutes. We strive for an average number of stories rather than a certain time limit. Other podcasts are longer than ours, 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll have to find your own comfort zone and what best suits the material you’re presenting.

Toby is the audio engineer for our podcast. Does that mean you need to hire an audio person? No. Many people produce podcasts without involving experts, thanks to free or inexpensive programs like Audacity and Reaper, which enable novices to create quality audio products.

That said, we like the intro our son created for our podcast, something our non-techy selves would not have been able to do. Plus, we like the sound effects he adds when he has time to play around with our stories. Again, I’m sure many of you are able to do the same.

Libsyn serves as our podcast host (fees start at $5/month). From there, the podcast is sent to my website, Stitcher and iTunes to provide easy access for listeners.

At this point in our short podcasting history, we only record one or two “shows” per month. Toby thinks we should aim for weekly offerings, which is a good idea because the more we record, the easier it becomes. And the more we practice, the better our tongues cooperate. We’ve learned to read each story, poem, etc. out loud at least two times before we push the record button. Preparation and practice help us relax and have fun during our recording sessions.

Has our podcast increased book sales? So far, we don’t see spikes in sales when we release new editions. However, just like with Facebook or Twitter, we’re growing our audience. The main benefit we receive from the podcast right now is that it provides another avenue to get our names “out there.”

Our featured authors also gain exposure when we read their stories on “Let Me Tell You a Story.” We provide their contact and purchase info so readers are able to connect with them and find their books. If you’ve written something you’d like us to read aloud, send me a note. We’re always looking for new material. To listen to our podcasts, go to

A couple more thoughts regarding audio products –

Audiobooks are becoming more and more popular. Two of my books are now available in audio format. You can hear excerpts at (Winds of Wyoming) and (Winds of Freedom). Again, a sound engineer could help you create an audiobook, or you could do it yourself. Audible, an Amazon subsidiary that publishes audiobooks on Amazon and iTunes, walks authors through the process. Check out

Some podcasters are now combining their podcasts to create audiobooks for their audiences. Evidently, the sky’s the limit when it comes to audio these days.

There you have it – everything you always wanted to know about audio products. Well, maybe not everything. Please feel to contact me at or Toby at with questions.

Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming, the setting for her award-winning Kate Neilson novels, “Winds of Wyoming” and “Winds of Freedom.” (Excerpts from those books can be heard on podcasts 3 and 11 at She now lives in Idaho, where she serves as an editor and a mentor for aspiring authors and women transitioning from prison to life on the outside. She recently published a short story collection titled “Passageways” and is writing the third book in the Kate Neilson series, “Winds of Change.”

Thursday, February 5, 2015

New Releases!

NEW today. Just in time for Valentine's Day.

Book five in the Mail Order Brides of Hickory Stick. Christian Fiction

THE LONE STRANGER by Patricia Pacjac Carroll  ONLY .99

Prudence, desperate to protect her troubled young son, risks everything to go west. After all, it's not easy for an eight-year-old boy to be saddled with a twenty-dollar name, glasses, red hair. And no father.

Herman is proud of his store. His success a tribute to his motto ~ avoid risk and settle for the sure thing. But when Prudence comes into his life, he may just have to set his motto aside.

And ....

Ransom: A White Road Tale- Novella 3 by Jackie Castle

How had lips that once kissed his face with whispers of love now dripped with such poison? 

Tarek was often left wondering if the princess was honestly enchanted into forgetting what they once had together, or simply chosen to forget.

A raging war battled inside his heart. Despair tried hard to convince him to give up. Hope rallied for him to hang on. For a moment, the girl he loved was there. For a moment. And that moment was all he needed.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Writer Tip of the day

“There are some 100-page books that feel long and some 1,000-page books that feel short.” ~ Leonard Sweet

Use your words wisely.