Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Hate the Term - Homophobic

I hate the term Homophobic. I hate being told that if I do not accept and affirm those that live a homosexual lifestyle, I’m a bigot. I disapprove of a number of life style choices. The recent life choice made by young Adam Lanza comes to mind. Yes, he lived in a free country, where he was presented many opportunities, many choices and paths to follow. To quote the third installment to the Indiana Jones Trilogy “The Last Crusade”, he chose unwisely.

To a similar degree many other life style choices are unwise and carry dangerous associated consequences. Those who worship idols, real or imagined, soon discover their energies wasted. Those who cheat on their spouses find themselves alone and abandoned. The abusive often find themselves behind bars. Liars find themselves lost in a world where nothing is true and certain anymore.

Yet we do not hear terms like idol-phobic, cheater-phobic, abuse-phobic or liar-phobic.
Sin is sin and has been identified by our creator as our greatest struggle, the fulcrum point upon which the status of not only our eternity pivots, but our here and now as well. We can embrace the Free gift of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf and in so doing defeat sin through His strength – or we can continue to be ruled by the Sin of the World.

I am under no delusions – I sin everyday – but He that I call my Lord and Savior stands in the gap and covers my sin as if it is as pure white as the driven snow. His strength can accomplish what I cannot. And because of His great mercy I do what I can to remain His. To remain in His flock and in His keeping is my duty. To be and make Disciples of Christ is my greatest goal

That cannot be accomplished by sweeping what God says about the homosexual lifestyle under a rug. Loving the sinner while hating the sin is hard to accomplish, because people are defined by what they do – how they act. I pray that I may act in a loving manner to all people (sinners one and all) so that God’s love can be seen first and foremost. But I refuse to accept and affirm that which God calls an abomination.   

Monday, September 10, 2012

Journey Worth Taking

Its not the destination, it's the journey. That's what they say...

Recently in a small gathering with my Aspiring writer friends I proclaimed, "If writing a novel is synonymous with conceiving a child, then surely editing that same work is like performing open-heart surgery on him or her" This observation of mine received a good chuckle, but the truth it held haunts me today as I ponder the work ahead of me.

My beta readers (those that read my finished manuscript) have all been wonderfully helpful in pointing out many ways my novel can be improved. From character names and development, to plot structure and cadence, each of them have made me see that this work of fiction can be more than it currently is. Each of them seemed to be telling me that it has potential to be much more. To each of them I'll be eternally grateful for their time and encouragement as I continue down this road.

So, you ask...Why am I haunted by the process?

If I was a painter, that painted portraits or grand landscapes, I could stand back from the canvas and take it all in at once. Then I could lean in and make the smallest of corrections, bringing forth the important details that separate the Mona Lisa from my old Aunt Sally. I don't have an Aunt Sally, but my point is that I find it easy to get overwhelmed by my own work. It is difficult to hold that scalpel and know where to begin to cut into a body of 73,000+ words.

The recent crash of my home computer has not made this task easier either. But just the week before the crash, my entire computer had been back-up to an external hard drive I had purchased  - just in time. I must admit I too easily slip into the mindset of the bottle being half empty. In fact I often want to find the person who drank from my bottle and wring their neck.

I need to remember that this process is building not just a good novel, but a good writer I hope as well. And, if it was easy everyone would be doing it...right? So...with good friends to advise and encourage me in this process and God orchestrating it in His timing, now I too am saying...

It's not the destination, it's the journey. And I must press on!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Show Me the Business Model


This morning I was awakened by a phone call. Richard Robertson, publishing consultant for Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishing was on the other end of the phone and he wanted to talk to me.

     This is the same Thomas Nelson Publishing founded in 1798 in Edinburgh, Scotland and began in a building located at 7 West Bow Street, publishing early editions of many top fiction titles, including Pilgrim's Progress and Robinson Crusoe and later releasing books by such authors as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. 

     Needless to say I was unprepared for this call. As I shook the cobwebs from my head (I hadn’t had my coffee yet and I’ve been feeling ill recently) and listened to Richard’s voice in my ear, I began to understand his reason for calling me. At the mention of the Thomas Nelson Name, I began paying attention. I also realized I had added my contact information, only the night before to their website, indicating I was contemplating the idea of self-publishing my novel.

     After hearing that agents and publishing houses take months and years to reply to query letters, if they even ever bothered to, I was surprised by his quick response a mere 8 hours later. Like quite a number of publishers these days, struggling to stay afloat in the changing world of publishing, Thomas Nelson has created their own self-publishing division – Westbow Press, named after their original Scotland street address.

     Richard spoke at some length about the advantages of Westbow Press and their affiliation (of course) with their famous parent company. We had a very pleasant conversation wherein he informed me of the many famous authors (Steven King and John Grisham included) that began charting their course to success via the self-publishing model. He also forwarded several e-mails detailing their services and company information.

     While he spoke I was reminded that there are two very distinct business models regarding publishing. One model (traditional) has always made its money from READERS. Readers pay their twenty bucks for a tangible product – a book and an intangible product – a reading experience. They’ll either like a book or they won’t. Either way, they’re only out their $20.
     But self-publishing is a much different model. It is designed to make money from WRITERS. It is no longer about a mere $20. And it’s no longer about simply purchasing a product, knowing you might like it or you might not. Instead it’s about a writer’s lifetime of hopes and dreams. It’s about expectations that are often unrealistic. And it’s about laying down anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars for a product.  Not much different from selling me a computer to write my novel with.

     To me the difference between these two is HUGE. If the publisher has already made their money (from you following their model) why would they be motivated to expend more energy (to market your book - think time and money here) to sell more copies of your book?

     I can certainly see how a self-published book that does well in today’s world can help market you (as the author) to a traditional publishing house. Proving your worth as a viable and proven author with a built in platform (read audience base).

     I intend to pursue the traditional publishing model at this point in time and I believe that this distinction between the two models is important to grasp. I may change my mind about this, but if I do I will go into the arrangement knowing full well that my publisher will only be motivated to sell copies of my book if that’s how they make money.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Writing Real Dialogue

While continually working on my own manuscript and edits I have tried to be a voracious reader of other works. The idea being that the more often and varied my exposure to well written work, the better my own writing will become.

One of the things that I am noticing in reading from the stack of books by my bed and from dialogue contained in the variety of movies I watch is the importance of what I call “un-answered” dialogue. When real people talk, questions go un-answered. They answer questions with questions or even ignore them altogether. The best authors can thinly thread these INCOMPLETE conversations together so that the motivation of each evasive speaker remains apparent to the reader, even if undisclosed to other characters in the story.

Such dialogue scripting can reveal a great deal about the characters themselves, the status and depth of the relationship of those speaking, the importance each places on the subject matter and it also helps to create a backdrop to the drama being told. As readers, reason tells us that these characters must have cause or motivation for being evasive and avoiding disclosure.

An element of mystery creeps in through a backdoor and helps to sink that all important ‘hook’ that we authors desire to set with each and every paragraph, page, chapter and work, as we ratchet the tension and keep our readers turning to the next page. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stuck in the Middle with You

Yeah, I know...It's a dog in a tree. That's me...DOG....Stuck in a tree! That's how I feel right now. I've got a fair amount of work, that I'm already aware of, to get my book polished up, edited and ready for submission to agents and publishers and yet I'm waiting for still more input from my readers. 

Bless their hearts, each one of them. They are doing me a great service and I love them for it, but it is difficult waiting, wondering what they are thinking. Is is a chore for them to read? Do they enjoy reading what I've created? 

Time will tell...if my "A Sacrifice of Time" worth the Time and effort.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Comments from my Beta readers are trickling in slowly, but I am encouraged with what I am hearing back from them. Most people are enjoying what I have written. This process is curiously similar to raising a child. Note: I said "raising" and not "giving birth".  

So much time and effort has been spent creating the setting, The sleepy enclave of Bayside, it's characters and then weaving a tale of intrigue. This "baby" still needs some work, but it is out there now for the eyes of others to judge in a raw form. Granted it's exposure is on a very small scale, but isn't that what you're supposed to do with a new born? 

I have discovered it is difficult waiting to hear from my readers. Do other authors struggle with this too? 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jake Justus & The Plan of Attack

Every good detective, especially an ex-Navy SEAL like Jake Justus, needs a plan of attack. It is only right and proper that I (his creator) have a plan of attack for editing and finding a publisher for my novel “A Sacrifice of Time.”

The Macro Editing Process
Before hiring or making other arrangements for a complete edit of the book, I have decided to obtain the responses of an assortment of “readers” to read the rough draft and comment back to me with their first impressions of the work. These readers are trusted friends that I hope will be honest in their assessment. This Macro edit will better enable me to identify elements that need refinement, tweaking or out-right removal, prior to a more in-depth editing takes place.

For those of you out there that I have chosen to be readers: Please offer your honest opinions and suggestions. Growing is painful - I know, but I will only grow as a writer through a truthful assessment of the work. For those of you who may be waiting for me to finish: Please be patient a while longer. I’m almost there - I think?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Are you Hiding His Light?

Recently Rachelle Gardner (literary agent with Books and Such) wrote about a controversy brewing underground for awhile now, ever since publishers started promoting books by offering a limited-time free download. Many of the Christian publishers have done these promotions, but whenever Christian novels are promoted on Amazon as free downloads, many people download them without realizing they’re Christian. They start reading and when they realize it’s “Christian” they become enraged. They feel like they were hoodwinked somehow. And then they leave 1-star, angry reviews on Amazon. Here are some Amazon comments on a recent Christian novel that was free for a limited time:
·         “When you read the review for this book, no mention is made of the Christian nature of the book. This is misleading.”
·         “I resent the absence of the Christian fiction label. ”
·         “This book is not a [genre]. It is a Christian morality tale.”
·         “Why is it that authors of Christian fiction often hide that fact in the descriptions? I am simply irritated when I buy a book based on a secular description only to find that the predominant thread throughout the book is Christian proselytizing.”
·         “It is an excuse to promote a Christian agenda. When a book is Christian Fiction it should be promoted as such.”

            These responses are leading people to ask whether Christian fiction needs to be clearly labeled as such, maybe in the “Book Description” on the Amazon page.  She (Rachelle) went on to describe this problem as a classic “Do unto others…” moment.  She sees no reason to disrespect people of other faiths (or no faith) by refusing to label Christian fiction as “Christian.” I agree, in fact, here is my full response to her question:  
              What do you think? Should Christian fiction be clearly described as such in the book description? Why or why not?
                This is an excellent question Rachelle, thank you for this post. I guess I have been operating under the assumption that Christian Fiction is a genre, that it is well known and understood, even highly sought after and popular. It is the focus of my writing efforts and how I desire to serve the Lord. In fact, I currently have several written works underway in this genre. I am not quite ready to seek representation as I have yet completed my first novel, but plan to do so shortly. When the time comes I will be clearly and (dare I say?) proudly marketing myself and my work in the Christian Fiction genre.
                I think perhaps the scenario you describe comes from either the author or publishing house desiring (understandably) to market to as large an audience as possible. Political pundits call this approach searching for the “Big Tent.” When this happens, the problems (so very well described in your posting) are possible results. These negative comments not only hurt the sale of the particular novel in question, they hurt the growth and integrity of the entire genre.
                Perhaps more that any other genre we, as Christian fiction writers, need to be very careful how we present ourselves. We are after all trying to represent Christ to a fallen world. We are called to be a bright light, shining on a hill. We should not hide (His) light beneath a basket. If we are honest about whom we serve and do not “overreach” our calling, He will honor our efforts and in the end the glory will be all His.