Friday, April 29, 2011

This Site is 63% Feminine

At least, according to Gender Analyzer. The unique web tool uses Artificial Intelligence to determine if a homepage is written by a man or woman. And all this time the feminists had me believing that, other than plumbing, there's no real differences between the genders. Okay, so it pegged my personal site, for the most part, as a man. I'm just wondering about the other 30-some% of my site that qualifies me as a female.

Anyway, I took the liberty of running Just the Write Charisma website through the Analyzer (see phot0). And, sure enough, the masculine gene is under-represented here. Greg, Conlan, and Mike D. -- we're only 37% masculine! Dudes, we've gotta step it up!

So, it got me thinking -- Is it advantageous to be more "gender neutral"? I mean, unless your website is aimed at one specific crowd (like, say, tattooists, carnival barkers, or cryptozoologists), a 50/50 split is ideal. Unless, that is, we only want 37% of our readers to be men. Which is why my next posts will be titled How to Shave Using a Straight-edged Blade, The Ten Best Crescent Wrenches, and Tips for Toning That Beer Belly. How's that for masculine!?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Resources and Tools for Writing

What helps us to be better writers?

As writers we know the importance of resources and tools. The computer has allowed us to write more efficiently and quickly, and without it, most of us wouldn’t have written nearly as much as we have. I wrote my first stories on a red Big Chief tablet with a pencil as round as my little finger. It had an eraser I used a lot.

Then came the manual typewriter without correction tape. Revision and editing was a real pain and consumed way too much time as I had to start over so many times. My first electric typewriter had the correction tape and helped with typos, but didn’t help with revisions and editing. I still had to start over.

Today we can cut and paste, use the “track changes” feature and hunt and replace for errors. We even have spell check to help with spellings and grammar check that isn’t always reliable, but better than having to look up so much stuff. Editing and revision is no longer a pain although it still takes time to get it right.

In addition to the internet for research, we have instant contact with editors, agents and publishers. We can send our manuscripts electronically instead of through regular mail which saves time and money. What formerly took hours and even days to accomplish can now be done in a few minutes.

We also have more resources today. My library includes books on writing by Brandilyn Collins, Getting into Character; James Scott Bell, Plot and Stucture; Sol Stein, Stein on Writing; Rennie Browne and Dave King, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers; Donald Maas, Writing the Breakout Novel; Marlene Bagnull, Write His Answer; and Ron Benrey, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction. These and many others are among those on my bookshelves that help me improve my writing.

We all have our favorite tools, books, writing places, and rituals that help on this writer’s journey, but the greatest resource is the One who gave us life and gives us our hope for eternity. Time spent with the Lord is time invested in finding His will for our lives and the direction for our writing.

So what is your favorite tool or resource? What helps you get started or motivates you to write? Answer these questions and enter your name for a free copy of my June release, Summer Dream. I will pick a winner May 4.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Art of Marketing: Video they sell more books?

By Andrea Boeshaar

If you're an author with a new release, you know that the decision of whether to purchase or make your own book/video trailer can be daunting. So many writers have trailers for their novels and just as many swear they bring more hits to their web sites and more readers into bookstores.

For myself I have found that purchasing a trailer has been costly, although I'm not sorry I purchased it. My dear friend, Misty Taggart, owns Trailer to the Stars a highly professional company. She created the trailer for the first book Unwilling Warrior in my Seasons of Redemption series I felt Misty and her production company did a great job -- although, sadly, I only have 184 views on YouTube. In short, the trailer did NOT go viral.

For books two and three I played around with and created my own book trailers. They look like I did them myself. *sigh*

So with book 4, Undaunted Faith, releasing May 1st, I debated whether to pay for another trailer. I felt if I did spend marketing dollars on one, I would contact Misty. But, instead, I chose to go a different route. I've placed ads a few magazines. I also designed and purchased postcards via Vista Print. I'm targeting bookstores and libraries and, besides the post card expense comes the cost to mail each over-sized card.

Marketing a new book is not cheap. One writer advised me to spend 10% of advances and royalties on marketing. I'm now officially over budget!

Then, last week, Charisma Media surprised me by having a book trailer created for Undaunted Faith -- click here to view trailer. I was so tickled when I watched it. My husband LOVES it (and he's quite particular). A big shout out to Hamby Media who designed and produced the trailer. I'm extremely pleased with it!

But will it sell more books?

From a marketing standpoint, it will be interesting to see. I plan to use the trailer wherever I can and wherever I guest blog or I'm interviewed online.

In the meantime, will you let me know what you think of the trailer? Does it make you want to read the book? By leaving a comment you will be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of Undaunted Faith.
I will choose the winner on May 2nd. So be sure to leave a comment.

Click here to watch Undaunted Faith book trailer

Friday, April 22, 2011

Seize the day

Three things happened this week that signal a transition of time for me. My birthday falls on Good Friday. My mother’s only surviving relative, her sister, died. I have now become the oldest living member of my family. I am not sure how that happened so quickly. As I look back over the expanse of my life I find myself thinking about what I would have done differently. I can think of one or two. First, I would not have wasted so much time worrying about all the terrible things that might happen – most of which never did. I am pretty sure my worrying about them was not the reason why. I wish I had learned sooner that life changes in minutes and moments and not so much according to our best-laid plans. That is why it is so important to live in each moment because it is impossible to know until they have passed how important they were. Finally, I would have given up my position as church critic long before I actually did. A few years ago I came to the realization that it was Jesus’ responsibility, not mine, that the church would consist of imperfect people and imperfect doctrine and He did not create me to set them all straight. At the age I now am, I find I have become Switzerland with no intention of going to war against the liberals, the conservatives, the denominationalists, the high church, the deep church, the emergent church, the evangelicals or whatever other groups there may be. I have learned that the blood of Jesus really is sufficient to cover all sins – past, present, and future, including wrong interpretations that have portrayed God as less than He is. So, I begin this new year of my life with a new sense of confidence that the best is yet to come and that Jesus will overcome the world just like He said He would. In spite of my advice. So, when I write, I will do so with a point of view but will not begrudge those who do not agree with me and I will comply with Rob Bell's recent request regarding his book, "Love Wins." I will not criticize books I have not actually read.
What about you? Is your faith big enough to accommodate doctrine different from yours?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You Mean I Should be Famous and Filthy Rich?

I write a bi-weekly column on writing for our local newspaper here in Hanover, PA. I cover topics relating to the craft and the life. Occasionally, I'll write a column addressing some of the more popular misconceptions about writing and authors. Here's a few I've pointed out in the past:

One, anyone can write a book, it’s just a matter of finding the time to sit down at the computer and hammer it out.

Actually, that's a true statement. Anyone can write a book. But not everyone cane write it well, or even write a book someone else will want to read. But it's like saying anyone can pick up an oboe and play Bach or a paintbrush and create another Mona Lisa. The reality is this, writing is an art and like any other art form it takes hours and months and years of practice and sacrifice to become good at it.

Two, all authors must be filthy rich.

Don’t I wish. The reality is that the vast majority of authors don’t make enough from their books to quit their day job. A small percentage consider themselves “full-time authors” and a miniscule percentage is actually filthy rich. The bottom line is that writing is not lucrative. If you’re looking to be filthy rich, marry a Trump.

Three, if you get a book published, it will be in bookstores.

Not necessarily. Booksellers only have so much shelf space so they have to be selective about the books they choose to stock. And the reality is that there are way too many books published each year for bookstores to even think about stocking them all. As an author, you hope your book gets stocked.

Four, if you become a published author, you’ll be famous.

Really? Because it seems nobody told the 99.9 percent of people out there that I’m published. Here’s how a common exchange goes:

Jane Schmain: “You published a book?”

Me: “Yeah, four actually.”

J. S.: “What’s your name?”

Me: (Doing my best to sound modest) “Oh, you’ve probably never heard of me."

J.S.: “I’m sure I have. I’ve read, like, everything.”

Me: “Um, Mike Dellosso.”

J.S.: (Pretending to think, cheeks getting pink) “Sorry. Never heard of you.”

Open mouth, insert healthy helping of humble pie.

Reality check: Writing is hard work, work you may never make any real money from and may never get any recognition for.

So to the authors out there, what are some other misconceptions you've run into? And for the readers, what are you conceptions about authors and the writing life?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Introducing New Charisma House Author, Beth Shriver

I was really thrilled when I learned from Beth that she had been signed by Charisma House. Beth has been published by smaller presses. She had told me that something good was about to happen, and we would have a lot in common. I figured she meant that she would be signing with a large publisher, and I congratulated her.

Imagine my surprise when I found out she signed contracts for six books with the same house where I'm contracted for six books. I'd say that is a lot in common. I asked Beth if I could interview her here on the blog.

What would you like for our blog readers to know about you?

I received a degree in Social Work and Psychology from the University of Nebraska then worked as an emergency Case Worker for the Department of Social Services before starting a family. My father grew up on a farm and my mother a ranch so I have a heart for country life. That’s one reason I enjoy writing about the Amish. The more I have gotten to know them the more I respect the way they keep their faith first in life and live as a true community.  

How long have you been writing?

I didn't start writing until 2003. I began writing articles for inspirational magazines because I thought I had something to say and wanted to share with others. A friend of mine, Shelley Shepherd Gray, read some of my work and encouraged me to write a book, and it sold. Then came the memories of my social work years and my suspense novel was created. For me, writing is all about life experiences on steroids. Each situation, conversation or feeling is heightened to give everyday situations a fun, new kick :-)

I know you have several books published, what are the titles?

My non-fiction devotional, Peace for Parents of Teens, YA and Romantic Suspense have already been released. Three others will be released this year, Funeral Hopper, Love is a Rose, and Reclaiming Tess.

Tell us about your family.

My husband is in sales and my son will be graduating from high school this year, attending college in the Fall. And my daughter is studying for her criminal justice degree. I have two cats and a beagle that keep me company while I writeJ

Now tell us a little about the series you sold to Realms/Charisma House.

They are all Amish stories. The first book is set in Virginia and the last five are in Texas. The name of the series is, Seasons of Grace and the titles are, Annie’s Truth, Grace Given, Surrendered Ground, Touch of Grace, The Gift and, Return to Me.

Thanks, Lena, for making me feel right at home blogging with youJ

So, dear readers, please welcome Beth to the blog, and leave us a comment letting us know what kind of books you like to read. The options available in Charisma House fiction are expanding.

Friday, April 15, 2011


My first book is due to make it's appearance officially on May 3rd. I'm anxiously awaiting the copies that will be delivered to my home the end of this week or the beginning of next week. It's a surreal kind of feeling to know that all these months of waiting and working will soon result in the book I worked on for so long.  Yes, I'm excited. But in truth, this isn't about MY BOOK. This is about the work of a lot of people behind the scenes helping me reach this point. I consider it OUR BOOK. It really is a team effort. God really knows how to bring a team together.

I thought I knew how much work and team effort went into the creation of a book before I received my contract. But now after experiencing the past year I know I didn't know as much as I thought I did. When Debbie Marrie acquired this book I was thrilled. I knew Mike Dellosso wrote for Charisma House and was a member of ACFW so I e-mailed him and asked all kinds of newbie-just-got-a-contract type questions. He was always patient and enthusiastic.

I asked Rachelle Gardner of  WordServe Literary to be my agent. We talked and she agreed. She was there for me when I really needed some guidance. Lori Vanden Bosch, my very patient editor, worked so hard to help me learn the ropes. And there were so many others Ann Mulchan, Anna Silva, Deb Moss, Jihan and Woodley. Then everyone who worked along with Bill Johnson to complete my cover, which I just love. Forgive me if I missed someone. I'm sure I probably did. Just leave a comment and remind me. :)

And of course there are all of the people who helped teach me through years. James Scott Bell, Colleen Coble, Deb Raney, Mae Nunn, Angie Hunt, Kathleen Morgan, Linda Windsor, Tamara Alexander, and many more. The American Christian Fiction Writers were paramount in helping me become the writer I am now and I know they will continue to help me grow. That's one of the things I love about the writing life, you never really know everything there is to know. It's fun to study the craft of writing and I look forward to learning more every year. I enjoy trying to get better and better.

And even more important than all of this are the writers who prayed for me and my family for years as we went through a very difficult time. It has not been an easy road, but then it rarely is for most of us. But through it all, God is faithful.

If you would like a chance to win a copy of Secrets of the Heart, just leave a comment and I'll throw all the names in a hat and pull one out. Charisma House Media will send you a copy of our baby. Don't forget to leave an e-mail where I can reach you. You can leave comments until Sunday night the 17th at midnight. I'll announce the winner in a comment on Monday's post. I'd like to know what you love most about historical romance. And if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The '10-To-1' Rule: OR, Don't Be Boring!

Writing fiction has challenges – the need for a coherent plot, realistic characters, story that flows, and the need to do it all in a way that isn’t boring. I say this because over the years I’ve been involved in the publishing industry I have learned one very important rule about writing. A kind of golden rule, if you will. Very simple: DON’T BE BORING.

This is always difficult to do. The balance between raw information and titillation is a lot like walking a high-wire over a pit of crocodiles. In fact, just seconds ago I moved back to the top of this post to see if I couldn’t add a little something to keep you from yawning before you got this far. Sadly, nothing came to mind off the top of my head, and I’m expected at my church to help with some setup work in a short while (Procrastinators of the World Unite…. tomorrow…. or even the day after, maybe….).

But back to the balance between factual information and entertainment: Every book has factual information – what does your main character look like? Where do they work? What do they DO at work (that one can be a snoozer if you don’t watch it)? All of this becomes doubly important when writing historical fiction. Especially historical fiction in a setting that isn’t its own genre (Western). If we don’t then the whole story can disintegrate into an anarchy of ‘telling’ wherein the author stops the story dead every few paragraphs to spoon-feed the reader another handful of shiny factoids discovered in the research process (assuming, of course, that the writer actually did any research; which often times is a whole ‘nother problem).

So how do we balance this in historical fiction? I don’t know how all of you do it, but I take the advice of professor I had in college in relation to writing history papers: For every one thing you tell the reader there are ten things you know but don’t share. That’s right: know something that you don’t tell the reader. “But….” the enthusiastic writer of historical fiction protests, having spent months researching the de-colonialization of Africa in the 60s, “I did SO MUCH WORK. How can I not include every single piece of neat (or obscure) information I found in my laborious endeavor?”

Short answer? Restraint.

The only reason you did the research was to enable you to write the story. And that’s why the reader is here: story. The end. If it doesn’t make a better story then leave it in your mind where it belongs. Enjoy your factoids. Impress friends at parties. Take them out of the dusty bins in your brain on rainy days and look them over fondly – just don’t bore your reader with self-indulgent tedium.

So, you might ask, why are you telling me this? Because I stayed up until 1am this morning reading every archived TIME magazine article on their website dealing with 1960s Congo and the Katangese secession…. And in defiance of my work I feel the need to share ALL of it with my readers.

But that would be boring.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Signings: Blessing or Curse

By Andrea Boeshaar

Book signings.  The very idea of sitting at a table in a bookstore and waiting for readers to buy their books makes some authors extremely uncomfortable. However, like them or not, book signings are a necessary evil in the publishing industry. Why? Because readers love to meet authors. Readers feel a sort of kinship with authors after being part of their stories for two hundred pages or more, and to get the author’s autograph is worth future sales…to the author. And to the bookstore owner or manager, those sales are important.

As Christian writers, even if writing is a ministry, we need to honor the Lord by acting as good stewards with our time and talents.  Royalty checks will be marginal if book signings aren’t part of our marketing strategy. Is “marginal” the blessing God really wants to bestow on His children? The Bible says God is able to do “exceeding, abundantly and above all we ask or think” (Eph ). That hardly sounds “marginal” to me; however, we have to be willing to do our part.  What manuscript will bless others if it sits in a filing cabinet and isn’t solicited at writers’ conferences and/or submitted to publishers? Likewise, what author will build loyalty among her readers if she’s unwilling to do book signings?

This is not to say that each book signing will be a smashing success. What’s more, lesser-known authors have to work harder at promoting their signings than those whose names frequent the best seller’s list. My first book signing left me feeling embarrassed because I didn’t autograph a single one of my titles. Since then, I’ve become selective about my signings.

I either do a group signing because it relieves my anxiety over whether any readers will show up, or I sign at local Christian bookstores and send out invitations to friends and family members. In March I also hosted a free writers' seminar with two other authors. It went great!

But first and foremost, I have learned to pray weeks in advance, asking God to bless my endeavors. He is always faithful to reply.

So what do you think of book signings? If you're a reader, do you attend them? If you're a writer, how do you handle them?

Friday, April 8, 2011

The 10 Best Writer's Movies (a List in Progress)

I’m in the early stages of an article on The 10 Best “Writer’s” Movies. The idea occurred (and it’s, by no stretch, an original one) as I was recently re-watching Barton Fink, an early Coen brothers film about an intellectual, idealistic New York playwright who comes to California to write a low-Q wrestling pic. It’s darkly comedic and often surreal. Anyway, I started reflecting on how many of my favorite films involve writers and the craft of writing, and realized there’s a lot.

By “writer’s movies”, I’m not referring to a well-written screenplay — though, no doubt, a well-written screenplay is a joy for writers. Neither am I thinking simply of movies with a writer character in them, like Field of Dreams or Misery. Rather, the "writer's movies" I'm thinking of depict the creative processes involved and the quirky nature of the artists in question. They capture the angst, the transcendence, the bursts of creativity, the loneliness, the oddball celebrity, and the struggles of being a writer.

Below is a random list of the films I’m mulling. Some of them I have not seen (denoted by a *), but they’ve been duly noted and placed in my Netflix Queue.

  • Barton Fink
  • Naked Lunch
  • Atonement
  • Wonder Boys *
  • Finding Neverland
  • Capote
  • The Squid and the Whale *
  • My Left Foot
  • Stranger than Fiction
  • Adaptation
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • Deconstructing Harry *
  • Sideways
  • The Singing Detective *

So that’s my working list, and I clearly have a few faves. What about you? Any writer’s movies that you think capture the essence, the mystery, the struggle, the possibilities, and the joy of the writing life?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Not as Young as I Use to Be

Not as Young as I Use to Be, and Not as Old as I’m Gonna Be

We make so many excuses for not submitting our writing. I don’t have enough time. I have too many other obligations. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’ve got too many rejections. I don’t have an agent. Any sound familiar? If I had used the excuse of age, I would never have been published. My agent believed in me and kept submitting my manuscripts. When I wanted to quit, friends encouraged me to keep on.
When God calls us to a task, He expects us to finish it. If we’re obedient to that call, He will give us what we need to complete it because He who began the work in us will carry through until it’s completed. Galatians 6:9 tells us not to grow weary when we’re doing God’s work because we’ll reap a harvest when God sets the time.

So many younger authors were getting contracts and having success that I wondered if He’d forgotten how old I was getting. Well, God doesn’t forget. He doesn’t sleep. He never quits work. He’s always there willing to help us reach our goals when we call on Him for help. The Lord does expect us to do our part. That part is to put ourselves in that chair and write.

My agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, never gave up on me and encouraged me to keep writing. My first contract came at age 73. God’s timing was perfect. It always is. I’ll be 75 in two months and by that time I will have five novels and one novella published with another five novels contracted. When God opened the door for me, He kicked it wide open. Prayer, perseverance and patience reaped the harvest at the time God ordained.

Do whatever it takes to write. If you’re serious, God will help you find the time. At other times He may tell you to wait a season and take care of other things first. Listen to His voice and calling. Write as much as you can when you can. Be patient, and pray for His guidance in all that you do. Jeremiah tells you to call on Him, and He will answer and tell you great things you do not know. Jeremiah also tells us that God has great plans for us, plans to give us hope and a future. So press on to what God has called you to do whether it is to wait for a season to begin or whether it is to work hard now, for pressing on will lead you where you need to go.

So what excuses have you used to keep from submitting?

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Biblically Accurate Does Speculative Fiction Need To Be?

Something I’ve pondered in the past--and something that I haven’t 100% answered for myself, so this post is more about me thinking out loud than offering any answers--is how theologically sound does Christian speculative fiction need to be? If you’re not familiar with the term “speculative fiction”, I mean science fiction, fantasy, and *gasp* horror--you know, that “weird” stuff.

As a writer of said weird stuff I’m always questioning when I can embellish or stretch something the Bible says and when I can’t. In my work, there’s sometimes been a question if something is theologically sound or not, but then the question is: Am I writing theology or fiction? Fiction, especially speculative fiction, is about asking the question “What if?” Can that “what if” sometimes be something that could be construed to be doctrinally false (or sketchy)?

Take the popular subject of angels. The Bible speaks little on the subject, and it doesn’t offer a manual on what an angel thinks about during the course of his day. What do they look like--not when they’re appearing to humans, but in heaven? Do they speak or communicate telepathically? Do they have souls (though I think the Bible possibly points to the fact that maybe they don’t)? What do they think of humans? What do they think of God? Since the Bible speaks so little of these details that writers like to fantasize about, pretty much anything we write about angels is going to be based on personal interpretation or imagination, and therefore can’t be presented as Biblical truth. Which, I might point out, is one reason some writers won't write about angels.

But the discussion doesn’t end with angels! What about aliens, sentient squid building underwater cities, or wizened dragons? Where do these things fit in the Bible? More importantly, should they? You might say, “Well, of course not, those things are made up.” So how do we tackle this issue with things that are found in the Bible, such as angels, demons, and God?

For that matter, how can we ever be truly “theologically sound”? Sound according to whose theology? Coming from a Baptist upbringing, my interpretation of the Scripture is going to be shaded differently than a Methodist, or a Catholic, or a Pentecostal writer.

In my writing, I want to be as accurate to my understanding of the Bible as I can be--for my own conscious’ sake. But, I also recognize that sometimes I wander off the beaten path--doctrinally speaking--and embellish something found in Scripture for the sake of the story and for the sake of bringing to light Biblical truths. But is it possible to unnecessarily tether ourselves to real-life doctrine in a world of make-believe fiction? How far can we stretch? How far should we? Can someone write a story about Christ being a clone, or about the Devil being a romantic swashbuckling hero--if it's to prove a point--and still be considered “Christian fiction”? For the record, I don’t want to write those stories, I’m just asking the hypothetical here for the sake of discussion. Can God illuminate truth through the absurd or even through what some might consider the profane?

Maybe the question lies in, what are we writing for? Are we writing to educate what the Bible actually says, or are we writing strictly to entertain? Of course, this answer will probably vary from story to story.

How much must speculative fiction adhere to real world Truth in order to remain “Christian fiction”? Is there a line to cross when it turns from fiction to heresy? Where is that line?


Friday, April 1, 2011

Should I be laughing at this?

In a few weeks book number four,"The Redeemer" the conclusion to "Reluctant Demon Diaries" will be out. What I have learned from my fan mail is how many readers are worried about how this series will end. They have become emotionally attached to the sympathetic lead character, a fallen angel with no name, and are concerned about his fate. After all, he did not intend to rebel against God. He fell with Lucifer by mistake because he could not decide where to stand when the war in Heaven broke out. As a result, he became a demon, but not a very good one, and was sentenced to serve Satan as a watcher over the Earth to alert his master as to what God was likely to do next.

When I read the reviews posted on various websites, I find it interesting how many reviewers find it necessary to remind readers that this is a work of fiction and that no such angel ever existed. Nonetheless, many people have written to me to tell me how much they identify with No Name as he stumbles and bumbles through history, always advising God on how to better manage the Earth while all the time planning his plea to re-enter Heaven. "This is a book about demons. Should I be laughing at this?" asked one writer.

But now, the day of reckoning has come. No Name is about to encounter Jesus. Those who have followed him through the Old Testament must now confront his ultimate destiny. Can a demon somehow be redeemed? There is a theological divide between those who believe in second chances for all of creation and those who believe something else.

No matter how the story ends, someone is going to be mad about it.