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Follow my journey toward publication. Laugh, cry, point and stare-- it's all good. I'll leave a trail so that you, my fellow author, may have a straighter path to finding your own elusive publishing contract. Adventure awaits. Let's travel together...



Monday, May 30, 2011

Why I love Charles Dickens--Diving Into the Story World

by Jen Slattery


A few years ago someone mailed me a historical fiction about.... Well, I'm not sure what it was about because I never made it that far. I tried. Oh, my, did I try, but after page upon page of life-activities, my perseverance waned and I put the book aside. I learned the heroine wore her hair in ribbons, what she ate for breakfast, and numerous other details of her daily life. To the author, perhaps these events were significant. Maybe she had fond memories of getting her hair done and thought perhaps if she outlined these details, one movement at a time, she could invoke those same emotions in her reader. But sadly, her over-abundance of minute details, void of conflict, dulled my brain.


As I read over today's excerpts again--talking of spiritual warfare, castles, and jail sentences--I realized one of the things I long for in a story is the ability to visit a place other than my own. That doesn't mean I always gravitate toward time-traveling speculative fiction, but I don't want to relive the monotony of life either.


I love books that raise the stakes, introduce me to unique settings and unique characters, and allow my mind to drift from the day-to-day. One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. Upon first glance, I might conclude this is due to his "other-than" settings, but I believe it's more than that. His use of language creates images so vivid and emotive, he manages to turn a walk through the city into a unique experience. And yet, somehow he does this without losing the human element--the universal emotions we all share. So basically, he creates a world that is unique enough to grab my attention and propel me into the story, but he does it in such a way that I deeply connect with the characters.


This week's excerpts captured my attention with their unique settings and story-lines. The shuffle of monotony in a high school is intensified by the presence of evil. In excerpt B, I'm introduced to the magnificent Hearst Castle, and the world of antiquity. In both, I realize much more is at stake than castle restoration and chemistry class.


What about you? What are some things you look for in a story? Think back to a story you've particularly enjoyed. What was it about that novel that grabbed you? Is it a slightly quirky character or a castle shrouded by clouds and hidden behind a patch of trees?


(If you haven't already done so, read over both excerpts. And remember, there are numerous ways to be entered into our drawing for the book give-aways: leave a comment on any of the articles posted over the next week, fb share us, tweet us, or subscribe. Remember to shoot us an email letting us know you've shared, tweeted, or subscribed.)


To our blogging readers, if you'd like to join the COTT family as a blog alliance partner, shoot us an email at contactcott(at)gmail(dot)com. We'd love to tell you more.




Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, freelance writer and biblical studies major at Calvary Bible college. In 2009 she won first place in the HACWN writing contest in the book category, placed second in the 2010 Dixie Kane, fourth in the 2010 Golden Pen and third in the 2010 CWG Operation First Novel Contest. She has a short piece appearing in Bethany House's Love is a Flame (under a pen name), forwarded by Gary Chapman, another piece in Cathy Messecar's A Still and Quiet Soul, and writes for Reflections in Hindsight, Christ to the World, Samie Sisters, The Christian Pulse, and reviews for Novel Reviews. She's also written for Granola Bar Devotions, Afictionado, The Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Romantic Times Review, Bloom and the Breakthrough Intercessor. 

Contact Jennifer: slattery07(at)yahoo(dot)com
Jennifer's Blog, Facebook

Friday, May 27, 2011

Winner! Plus Fiction Friday

The winner of Julie Carobini's Fade To Blue is....

CLAUDIA RIZZI!

Congrats, Claudia--enjoy your book! 

And thanks one more time to Julie for visiting. She sends her best wishes and thank you's to those who left such nice comments. Blogger has been her frenemy this week and she was unable to leave a comment for you. But she loves you nonetheless!  You can read more about Julie, and another interview with her next week, as she competes on Clash of the Titles. Participating in comments over there will put you in another drawing for her book too, so head on over.

http://www.clashofthetitles.com/

And now the moment we've all been waiting for...

Story Improv:

A knock sounded at the door startling Jessica from her trance-like stare at her computer screen. She set down her Diet A &W and crossed the room to greet Jane standing on her porch.

"Jane! I need you to do me a huge favor today and help me break in to the taxidermi office across town."

"Um, okay but can I grab a bag of fritos for the road?" 

"Sure--on the counter next to the stuffed racoon. Hurry up!"


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

COTT Congratulates Christine Lindsay

by Michelle Massaro
Christine Lindsay crowned COTT champ!

Shadowed in Silk won the vote for Best Back Cover Blurb against competitor Sunny Eads.

A clip of her winning excerpt:

After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.
read the full blurb here

A few reader comments
  • I'm drawn to the post war aspect of the second one.
  • Both really pulls you in but the romance of India under the Bristh rule caught my attention.
  • Oh, India! Sounds mysterious!! Makes me wonder if this is a romance or not. Would def give this book a go.
  • Blurb B is just so intriguing! Definitely makes me want to read the whole thing. So much clearly going on.
Christine says

The only reason I write is in order to encourage readers to love Christ and follow Him. He's God---if He wants me to succeed, then He'll make it happen. And if He wants me to have quiet success, then I'll praise the Lord for that.
read the full interview here.
About her experience with COTT she writes:

I'm so thankful for this opportunity. Thank you every one, especially Sunny and Lisa. What a fun contest. And to every one for their positive comments.

Want to get in on the voting action? Head over to Clash of the Titles now and cast your ballot for this week's Clash!

PLEASE CHECK 
OUT OUR EXCITING NEW VENTURE:
Join us in June as we premier COTT's book club! Karen Witemeyer and her COTT winning novel, A Tailor-Made Bride is up as our first read (The books is offered as a free e-book here; if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the program to your pc or mobile device free here). More details and to vote for July's book, CLICK HERE 


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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fade To Blue--Interview With Julie Carobini

It is my pleasure to be hosting Julie today as one of her blog tour stops! Please give her a warm welcome. Every comment will be entered into a drawing to receive a free copy of her book, Fade To Blue.


Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Sure! I write seaside stories filled with faith, flip flops, and waves of grace. My family and I make our home on California’s central coast, and I’ve written five novels plus hundreds of published articles on everything from parenting, to team building in the workplace, to Christian surf dudes on a mission.

How did you become interested in writing?

My father wrote magazine articles on the side, including interviews with entertainers such as Fred Astaire and Fred MacMurray. Always loved that! I too became an article writer almost twenty years ago, but I always yearned to create fiction. I wrote two novels that did not sell, but as they say, third time’s a charm, and my debut novel, Chocolate Beach, released in 2007 (re-released with recipes in 2011 as an eBook). By that time, I had a renewed faith in God as well as a redefined focus on the kinds of stories he was leading me to write.

Are there some specific lessons you hope readers will learn and apply to their lives after reading your book?

I hope readers get lost in the story and the beautiful setting, that they revel in God’s creation as much as I did while writing it. I also hope they experience the Good Shepherd’s gentle leading (Psalm 23), and fall in the love with the concepts of forgiveness, sacrifice, and grace—as much as they do the breathtaking locale.

What makes your book different than any other books similar to yours that are in circulation today?

Although I’ve been compared to some amazing writers—something that humbles me—I also know that God made each one of us uniquely. I knew you even before you were conceived. Jeremiah 1:4-5. One unique aspect of my books is the focus on God’s creation of the sea and everything in it. My characters have loved dolphins, sea lions, otters—even giant, glowing sea anemones. But they take that admiration a step further by drawing closer to the God who made such beauty.

As we close, is there anything else you would like to add?

Just that I hope people reading this are encouraged to follow their heart’s desires with the Good Shepherd as their guide. God took all the lows and highs in my life and created something new with them. Although I’d always wanted to write, I had no inkling that I’d be writing beach-themed novels one day. I just kept praying and writing and seeking until an idea popped into my head. I followed that idea, and now find myself talking about my fifth novel filled with ‘waves of grace.’ Be encouraged!

Thank you so much!
To hear more, check out this great video interview of Julie:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Social Media Monday: Jen Slattery

Everybody, I am excited to introduce you to Jennifer Slattery, my dear friend and coworker at COTT.

Jen, tell us about you:

I’m a wife, mother and writer who’s madly in love with Jesus and loves to see others experience God’s initiating, healing, life-transforming love in their life. I’ve found stories and dramas to be effective communicators of God’s love.

I agree with that. =) What do you write?

Wow, a bit of everything—freelance articles, Bible studies, radio dramas, inspirational fiction, devotionals. I write for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse, Samie Sisters and Reflections in Hindsight.

lol, yes you really do write a bit of EVERYTHING. You are the busiest woman I know. What are you working on right now?

Again, a bit of everything. I am finishing a five part series on the life Joseph for Christ to the World, finishing a first draft a contemporary romance and working with another writer, Joanne Sher, on a fun, biblical fiction tween devotional series. I also do a fair amount of article writing.

How did you and I meet?

In person or via cyber-space? We met through April and a mutual invitation to join Clash of the Titles, then spent a good deal of time talking via email and skype. We first met in person, however, at the CWG writers’ conference in Denver. Of course, by then we were already great friends.

And I can't wait to see you in person again, too. What's the most exciting thing that has happened this year, relating to your writing?

Finaling in the Operation First Novel was a blast and opened a lot of doors for me at the CWG conference, but what I am most excited about is the contemporary youth program I’ve been assigned by Christ to the World. The series of dramas, which will be aired on radios around the world, will deal with intense, real-life issues today’s teens face, pointing them back to Christ. This series will be especially fun because my daughter will be helping me. I’ve always dreamed of writing with her, so it’s fun to see this dream materialize. Plus, I welcome the open-dialogue this series will likely stimulate.

I was a teensy bit green but so excited for you when you finaled in OFN. How has social media affected your writing relationships and/or marketing strategy?

Social media has provided a great support system and has eliminated the loneliness I used to feel as a writer. It’s also helped me connect with other writers who may be in need of encouragement, something I believe I’m called to do. As far as marketing, I do receive a lot of hits on my personal blog and bi-monthly column from facebook friends. It certainly is a cost-effective way to connect with readers.

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?

Keep your eye on the goal and your heart surrendered to Christ. Don’t get so caught up in your inspirations and dreams that you lose sight of God’s big-picture plan. Ultimately, it’s all about working out God’s will. For some, that may mean writing a best-seller. For others, that may mean writing a Sunday school curriculum for your local church. God alone knows how best to work out His plan and has invited us to participate. True fulfillment comes from surrendered obedience.

Awesome. Can you share a snippet from your latest project?
Ainsley’s neighbor awakens the Cinderella hidden in her heart, but her self-absorbed fiancĂ© won’t give up without a fight.

To Ainsley Meadows, “true love” is synonymous with irrational emotionalism. Raised by hedonistic parents who cycle through relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, she runs from the irresponsibility demonstrated by her parents straight to the safe, predictable, and dull. Yet deep in her heart, she longs for more.

Three months before her wedding to a self-absorbed psychiatrist, a kind-hearted California hottie moves next door and awakens the Cinderella in her heart. But before she can accept true love, she must come to terms with who she is, including the similarities she shares with her mother. To find herself, she must forgive her mother and accept her for who she really is.

I can't wait to see how that one turns out. =) Thanks for spending time with us this morning. To my readers, make sure you connect with Jen and keep an eye on her--she's moving fast!
http://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte
http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/
http://reflectionsinhindsight.wordpress.com/
http://www.clashofthetitles.com/

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fiction Friday: Story Improv

I love these story improvs--and you seem to, too! Thanks for participating. At the end of this post you will find this week's Story Opening. Here is last week's complete story:

written by: Michelle Massaro, Jessica Patch, Katherine, Daphne Michele Webb, Gary L Wade, and April GardnerI died on my fifteenth birthday and it was so lame. I'm still getting the hang of being dead. Before you glamorize me as some sort of ‘self-healer’ or immortal vampire, let me tell you it’s not that cool. 

I wrote about it in my diary. My mom sent me to a shrink. I've been diagnosed with biophobia--the fear of living. As if! So here I sit surrounded by four white walls and Mario--he's afraid of dying. We're a real pair, but sometimes I tell him my story just for entertainment.

Mario, naturally, is an opossum. He plays dead all the time. It used to freak me out, back when we found him in the backyard, but now it just drives me crazy. I really hate it when I talk to him about how much I hate being dead and he flops over, his eyes roll in the back of his head and his tongue hangs out of his mouth. I'm tempted to pick him up by the tail and stick him in my brother's shoe when he gets like that.

Let me stop here and explain a few things before I continue. Yes, I am dead. I'm a dead Amish fifteen year old in space. Cool thing about this is that I can space walk around the station without a suit, if I could get outside these white walls, that is.

The bad news is those cosmic rays and micrometeorites are killer on my complexion. During my last "walkabout" a stray piece of space junk took off my thumb all the way to my wrist—it's been over two hours now, and only the bone has fully grown back. It itches like crazy!

"Michelle? Are you pretending to be in space again?"

"No."

"Are you pretending Mario is a opossum?" She gave me a pointed look.

I swallowed. "No way. Just playing scrabble, Nurse Banner."

I don't think she believed me, but she took the small white paper cup out. Meds. Again. I sighed but obeyed. Sometimes, Nurse Banner could be scary. If only I could walk through walls like ghosts. Not me I have limitations.

An idea came to me. What if they knew I was dead and were experimenting on me? What if these meds kept me from walking through the walls and out of here forever. I did lose blocks of time. It was possible.

"What are you thinking, Michelle."

"Nothing. Thanks for the chill pill." I smiled and hid it under my tongue, pretending to swallow.

Oh yes. I was getting out of here.

"Triskelion," said Mario after Nurse Banner left the room. As he placed the letters on the board, he added his points up. "Isn't it interesting that a word meaning three legs amounts to 14 points?"

The door clicked behind Nurse Banner, and a lock slid into place.

She peered at me through the tiny square window of the door. Did she think I couldn't see her? I wasn't THAT crazy.

Mario smirked from his corner of the room. He bounded a tennis ball against the floor. It bounced and hit the opposite wall before flying back into his palm with a thwack.

Nurse Banner said Mario didn't exist, but I had proof that he did.

"It. Is. YOUR TURN ALREADY!"

Of course Mario was real. If I were going to make up a pet opossum, I would make one that was more patient. I couldn't do much with these letters: U,V,C,I,O,V,Y. I had other things on my mind. "Do opossums dig?"

He rolled his beady little eyes. "Do you mean burrow?"
"Whatever. Can you dig through the ceiling or the floor?"
"Maybe. If I had your dessert for the next six months."
"It's yours. Game's over. Start digging."
----
Today's improv starter:

"Crikey--would ya look at that!"

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whatevah Wednesday: Childhood Attempts

Liz Curtis Higgs mentioned at the Writing For the Soul conference in February that she'd had dozens of notebooks filled with stories when she was a little girl. I've heard similar remarks from many of my writer friends. Somewhere along the way those dreams may get pushed aside and forgotten for many. It did for me. Until I rediscovered a passion for storytelling. I too wrote a story when I was young. It never got finished (much the way I feel about my current WIP, lol). It's typed out on small sheets of paper (book-size, you know), and I committed about a dozen cliches and no-no's. But ya know what? I was pretty good! If I say so myself.

So today I decided to show you Page One. Hope my crit partners still want me after reading this! (p.s. I'd forgotten all about this story when I named my daughter Amy. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found this years later.)



What about you? Tell me about one of your earliest stories.

I love seeing my besties drop by and I love making new friends. If you are usually a lurker, I want to meet you! For the next 28 days, when you comment on any post on my blog, you will be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card. If you mention me and link back here on your own blog, you'll be entered a second time. Have a great week!









Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So What About the Back Cover?


 MAKE SURE YOU CHECK 
OUT COTT'S EXCITING NEW VENTURE:

article by Lisa Lickel
Join us in June as we premier COTT's book club! Karen Witemeyer and her COTT winning novel, A Tailor-Made Bride is up as our first read (The books is offered as a free e-book here; if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the program to your pc or mobile device free here). More details and to vote for July's book, CLICK HERE 

Read this week's excerpts here and vote!
What's the Big Deal About the Back of the Book?

I hid behind a copy of the NYTimes at the local bookstore, my trench coat belt pulled tight and my fedora at a swanky angle. Totally incognito, I was on the case. My assignment? To discover once and for all the answers to an author's most persistent questions: Do readers really care about the back of the book? Would they buy based on a catchy blurb or teasing headline or a really cool picture of the author?

I thought back to my own published books which I'd flipped over and compared that morning. Were they exciting enough that someone would buy them? One had an endorsement by an editor; one had my picture and bio – scary. They all had a pretty enticing one-line teaser. One had the illustration continued from the front; one had the picture I originally wanted on the front; others had none.

A half-hour at the book store was all I needed to see for myself. The evidence was in. Serious readers turn the book over—or, open and read the fly. People that are on a mission to buy gifts for someone else grab and pay. Perusers even read a few pages. One guy read the last few pages. Persnickety readers might actually put the book down after reading the back. Even on the discount table. That's how important the back cover copy is: The blurb can make or break a sale.

My informal poll to the ACFW book club group resulted in the following:
Do you look at the back cover first or second? Only one person (an author, go figure) looked at it first; most said they looked at it after checking out the front; three said they don't usually look at the back cover; two said they rarely look at all.

What do you like to see on a back cover? Accurate, enticing teasers without giving too much away, one person said reviews and a couple people said endorsements; one person said something about the author.

Did you ever buy a book because of the back cover? Most said yes, the back cover blurb has sold the book.

I had to include all these responses; they were too good to pass up or condense. Enjoy!

***********************************************************

I always read the back cover copy and if it interests me, then I look at the first few pages before I buy the book. The "blurb" is very important with books ordered on-line as that is all we have to go on. I've skipped a few because what I read didn't click with me. With authors I know well, I usually don't look, and only once or twice have been disappointed when the book didn't live up to what I expected.
~Blessings, Martha Rogers

The FRONT cover is the main thing I look at. Frankly I hardly ever read the back of a book. They really don't tell you exactly what is in the book. If the front cover grabs my attention. I read the FIRST page of the book. If the author had grabbed my attention in the first page. I'm going to be interested in the rest of the book not matter what it's about. So, no the back of a book has never convinced me to buy a book. The few times I've read the back first and then checked out the first page of the book. I wasn't grabbed by the first page and put the book back on the shelf!  
I know I might be an odd duck not to read book blurbs on the back of books but they have let me down so many times! Or made it more confusing than helped. Oh, I forgot one more thing that I check about a book are the DISCUSSION QUESTIONS!! Since I try to mostly read books I think will be a fit for book club discussions. I check out the discussion questions. This tells me one, the heart of the author and what they think is important and some of the topics that will be discussed in the book.
~Blessings, Nora :D

1) look at the front cover first (enjoy looking at beautiful covers—it's what draws me to a book first. If the publisher cares about presentation, they'll care about the story--usually)
2) Then the back cover. I found the back cover on Laura Frantz's Courting Morrow Little to be lovely!
3) I read the blurb; and that usually will convince me "aye or nay" to purchasing the book.
~Pat Iacuzzi

I usually look at the type in the book.....I know, it is weird, but often the font in the book convinces me if I want to read or not read a book. I usually read the back cover of a book after I read the first chapter and am wondering where the story is going. I read a back cover one time that basically told the whole story in short form (It was a book from the 1940s) it ruined the book. Yes, often the back cover has convinced me to buy the book. I do not want too little info on there, and I do not want too much.
~Martha Artyomenko

I look at the back of the book right after the cover. I like to see a synopsis on the back and do pay attention to endorsements and what they say, especially so if they are from other authors I know and respect. Without question, the blurbs have a lot to do with whether I buy the book. 
~Pat Rowland

I look at the back cover immediately after I look at the cover. Both are important to me.
I like the back cover to give me a blurb that leaves me wondering what I’m going to see inside.
And YES, the blurb makes a lot of difference whether I will read the story. Sometimes after I purchase my books, and then re-read the blurbs, that also determines to me which book I will read first.
~Shirley Kiger Connolly

Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she has written dozens of feature newspaper stories, magazine articles, radio theater, and several inspirational novels to date. She is also the senior editor at Reflections in Hindsight.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Social Media Monday: Critique Groups


Critique groups are the first thing I ever used the internet for. Only back then it wasn't a group per se, rather a message board on nanowrimo. But I was using the computer to make social connections for the purpose of feedback on my writing. I've come a long way from simply slapping a scene on a message board and waiting for comments from goodness-knows-who. I'm much more selective now of who I take advice from and even who I give advice to.

My first connection blooming beyond the message boards was with someone at the site as well. Jacki Newberry and I kept in touch and chatted, read each others' work, and encouraged each other years after meeting at nano. We're still facebook friends. I may get her for an interview one of these days yet!

Some of my best mentors have come from interacting in the blogging world. Reading other blogs and leaving comments or asking questions led to my relationship with critique partner April Gardner, one of my most well-respected critiquers. That relationship introduced me to Lisa Lickel and the three of us have given each other feedback as a group for awhile now. I've also critiqued with all of the members of COTT at one point or another and their talent and ability is phenomenal.

Recently I began critiquing with Carol Moncado, Pepper Basham, and Casey Herringshaw--all of whom I met through the ACFW loop. They are all very talented authors. (Shout out: Pepper is a Genesis double-finalist, so she knows what she's talking about. *wink*)

My foremost critique partner is Jessica Patch. If you don't already follow her blog, you should--she writes the most goosebump-raising devotionals, wacky personal stories, and hilarious but touching accounts of moments with her son, Myles. You gotta keep an eye on this one, folks.


With these different groups and partnerships, I get a wide cross-section of perspectives in my feedback (which is vital) and I also learn so much by reading their work and critiquing for them. My writing has grown my leaps and bounds through this process. I've come to believe that you can read all the how-to articles in the world, but working with talented critique partners is like dumping yourself into a foreign country to learn the language rather than relying solely on flashcards and a translating dictionary.  Don't get me wrong, the dictionary and flashcards are necessary too. But you learn much more about practical use and application through living with those who speak the language. Good crit partners "speak the language." And guess what? Chances are you speak the language too--in a different dialect. So hook up with some awesome peeps and glean from each other. It's one of the biggest benefits of social media, in my opinion. =) 

I love seeing my besties drop by and I love making new friends. If you are usually a lurker, I want to meet you! For the next 30 days, when you comment on any post on my blog, you will be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card. If you mention me and link back here on your own blog, you'll be entered a second time. Have a great week!

Who have you met through online connections? Where have you found your best critique
partners?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Story Improv

It's Fiction Friday again! I just returned from watching my 10 year old compete in a relay race at school. And they won! There's something about that passing of the baton that is so fun and holds so much meaning. It's hard sometimes to pass control to the next person but exhilarating to see what they do with it. So let's have our own relay. . .

My husband will start us off, and you guys come and grab the baton from the previous commenter. Keep your sprint to a few lines and then hold out the baton to the next person. But feel free to come and take another turn. We'll keep it up all day today and tomorrow. Remember, keep it clean. But today we're going speculative!

Have fun. Oh, and send your friends over too! =)

I died on my fifteenth birthday and it was so lame. I'm still getting the hang of being dead. Before you glamorize me as some sort of ‘self-healer’ or immortal vampire, let me tell you it’s not that cool.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another COTT Victory


This week's Clash winner is none other than Roseanna White, for her opening pages of
A Stray Drop of Blood.

She triumphed over the very worthy excerpt from Michelle Griep's Undercurrent.

Congratulations, Roseanna!

It's fair to say that Stray Drop was a labor of love. The storyline was first born in Roseanna's heart when she was only 15 years old. It grew over the next six years culminating in the novel we have today.

A snippet of the winning opening:

Abigail’s tears were unneeded. Mourners enough had been hired by her mother’s husband, and their loud keening drowned out her grief. She risked a glance at Silas, who stood with an appropriately sorrowful expression in the corner. Her mother’s husband, but not her father. Her father was dead. Mother too. And this family would never be her own.

About the book:

For seven years, Abigail has been a slave in the visibullis house. With a Hebrew mistress and a Roman master, she has always been more family than servant . . . until their son returns to Jerusalem after his years in Rome. Within a few months Jason has taken her to his bed and turned her world upside down. Maybe, given time, she can come to love him as he says he loves her. But how does she open her heart to the man who ruined her?
Born free, made a slave, married out of her bonds, Abigail never knows freedom until she feels the fire of a stray drop of blood from a Jewish carpenter. Disowned by Israel, despised by Rome, desired by all, she never knows love until she receives the smile of a stoic Roman noble.

A few COTT visitor's comments:

Wow! Both books sound exciting! Wonderful teasers!
 Thank you for sharing your talents, and good luck.
 Love the book. This truly is a story to enchant a reader.

You can read Roseanna's interview with COTT Assistant Editor Michelle Massaro here
And to get in on the voting action at Clash of the Titles, just click now to be taken to their current Clash of the Back Cover Blurbs

Monday, May 9, 2011

Social Media Monday: Meet April Gardner


Yay! I'm so excited to get to introduce you all to one of my favorite people, April Gardner. April, tell us about you:

Here’s a snap-shot of my life—I’ve been married 13 years to the USAF’s smartest computer geek. And the hottest. (Grin.) We have two amazing, elementary-age kids. One boy. One girl. We are America’s perfect family…at least until we take a road trip and inevitably end up trying to strangle each other.
I have the great blessing of being able to devote myself full-time to writing. Somehow, I still struggle finding hours in the day to actually write. It boggles my mind how other writers who work even part-time jobs manage to ever finish a book. I greatly admire them.

What genre do you write, and what are you working on right now?

My slogan is “History with a Christian perspective…and a little imagination.” I don’t read exclusively historical, but it’s definitely my fave. Right now, I’m hammering away at Warring Spirits, book two in my Creek Country Saga. I’m loving it and can’t wait to share!!

I've read some of it and I can say, it's looking real good--can't wait to see the finished product! Okay now it's time to share how you and I met?

If I remember correctly, you started commenting on my blog. Our relationship really got going when we spent the day on Facebook coming up with a name for my sequel. You were such amazing help! I don’t think I went with any of the names we were tossing around, but you sure helped me eliminate a lot of duds!

Surely MY suggestions weren't the duds? LOL j/k I know what you meant! Any interesting stories about the two of us?

I truly believe God placed you in my path for a purpose. He knew I would need you one day as my assistant editor at Clash of the Titles. At the time, Clash of the Titles existed only in God’s mind, but He knew who the site would need and paved the way. I’m so glad He did!

I have always been in awe over God whispering to you to ask me on board. I've felt His fingerprints were all over my involvement with COTT as well as my friendship with you. =) So what's the most exciting thing that has happened this year, relating to your writing?

Well, it didn’t technically happen this year, but the last day of November, my debut novel, Wounded Spirits, made the Amazon best-seller list. Talk about a high!

I remember that day! Wow, has it been six months already? How has social media affected your marketing strategy?

Since Wounded Spirits is only available for on-line purchase, I could never sell it without social media. My marketing platform would be non-existent. Thank you, Mark Zuckerburg!

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?

Never, ever assume you’ve “arrived.” As long as you are writing, your skills will continue to need improvement and growth. If you think anything other than this, you are in for a rude awakening. Trust me. I know!

Good advice! Can you share a snippet from your latest project?
How fun!

 An Indian, head shaved on the sides, loped from the front of the column toward Phillip. His black hair, collected into a long tail, flipped through the air behind him. His face was a solemn, purposeful mask and he clutched a tomahawk, as if ready for battle. But with whom?

A drumbeat sounded from nearby.

Phillip braced himself, gripping the barrel of his rifle. Sweat dripped into his eye, but he refused to blink and miss even one of this warrior’s breaths.

The Indians had caught him unawares before. Never again.

As the man neared, the path cleared before him. Ahead, a commotion scattered the column.
This was it. The moment Phillip had been dreading. One swing of this warrior’s blade would be the signal for the rest to attack.

By sundown, every last American scalp would dangle from a pole. Unless he did something to stop it.

The drum increased its tempo. He was back at Fort Mims, the fires licking at his heels. The world narrowed to the warrior streaking toward him. Phillip had known better than to trust these savages, but Colonel Clinch hadn’t listened.

He should give some sort of call to battle, but his brain was numb. Breath ragged, Phillip raised his weapon to shoulder height and pointed the barrel at the warrior’s chest. His sweaty finger trembled against the cool trigger, waiting for the red man to raise his tomahawk.


Wow, thanks for that intense peek at the book. If you want to read Book One, Wounded Spirits, click the cover image above. I've read it and given a copy to my mom and we both are looking forward to Book Two! Before we go, how can people connect with you? 
www.aprilgardner.com
www.aprilwgardner.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kristan and Mark's Weedkiller Sashay




(Written by Jessica Patch, Jerri Harrington, April Gardner, Gary L Wade, Jamie, Paulette Harris, Therese, and yours truly, Michelle Massaro)



"What the heck is this?"

"Coffee."

Kristan Gellar looked at the cup of mud and frowned. "Did you just go rake up some goo from under your truck and microwave it?"
Mark adjusted his Stetson and smirked. "What's a microwave, city girl?"

"Who you callin' a "city girl", Mark? You know I grew up here in Pampa, Texas just like you! You are just contributing to the misconception that anyone with a southern accent is 'dumber than dirt' by callin' this stuff coffee!"

Kristan slung the liquid onto the sidewalk then shook the mug until the last drop fell. "Thanks. You just saved me eight bucks."
Mark's lips quirked to the side in that endearingly familiar way. "How do you figure?"
She jutted her thumb toward the coffee-drenched cracks in the walk. "Won't be needing weed killer any more."

He chuckled. "You know what weed killer is?" He took her hands and rubbed her palms. She was thankful for the sun. It was easier to blame for the heat on her cheeks than his touch. "These aren't hands of someone who does manual labor, city girl."
She jerked them away, the thrilling heat replaced with flames of anger. "You have no idea what these hands are capable of. In fact, they're quite capable of strangling you!"

Catching her off guard, Mark pulled her into his arms and kissed her. And just as suddenly, he made a face and pulled away.
"Yeah, that really was some bad coffee!"

Mark threw back his head and laughed. The look on Kristan's face was priceless. He looked past her and his jaw dropped, "Get out of the way."

He picked her up and swung her body sideways behind him before he put her down. A coiled rattlesnake coiled near where Kristan stood seconds before. Disturbed by the ruckus,his rattlers sizzled in annoyance as he attempted to sun himself on the warm cement sidewalk.

"Those swing dance lessons you made me take finally came in handy!"

"Huh?"

When she looked at him that way, his heart stopped and time stood still. He felt her spell spinning its web through his veins as he stood speechless, lost in her eyes. She looked down and he noticed her hands. "Well, pretty lady, I would rather be dancing with you than watching you strangle that snake with your hands."

When Kristan's eyes panned to meet Mark's, she realized for the first time that he was wearing a sneaker on one foot and a cowboy boot on the other. In the bright sunlight, she saw a stream of red run down the side of his sneaker.

***

Thanks for playing everybody! It's always a blast!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Social Media Monday: Elizabeth Veldboom

One of my favorite friendships I made this year is with this sweet girl right here. She has such a gentle spirit that draws you to her. She can be a little bit shy--the quiet one in a group--but with a little bit of prodding she'll open up and reveal such grace and faith you will be blessed.  Keep an eye on this one, folks! And bless her with a word of encouragement today. =)

Introduce yourself:
My name is Elizabeth (Lizzie) Veldboom. I am a newly-minted twenty year old, and a student in Jerry B. Jenkin’s Christian Writers Guild. I live in a small town in Colorado, where I enjoy eating mint chocolate chip ice cream, singing, and playing with my niece.

What do you write?
Mostly nonfiction articles, for now. That includes devotions, how-to pieces, and pretty much anything else that strikes my fancy. I’d like to get more into developing my fiction soon. In the long run, I’d love to be an author.

What are you working on right now?
A new blog post, as well as a submission for a Christmas version of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

How did you and I meet?
We met at the Writing for the Soul Conference in Denver. I actually got to meet Michelle only one out of the four days of the conference. I went with her and a few other ladies to a local Starbucks where we talked and laughed about everything from book ideas, to funny regional phrases, to being afraid of cats. It was a good time, and one of the highlights of my trip!

Mine too, Lizzie! What's the most exciting thing that has happened this year, relating to your writing?
My first “official” article was published by Susie Magazine, which is run by the former editor of Brio Magazine, Susie Shellenberger. I grew up reading Brio, so to write for Susie now was such an honor and dream come true.

That's awesome--congratulations! I can't wait to check that out. Lizzie, can you talk about how you use social media in your writing career?  
Social media has immensely affected my writing relationships. I attended my first ever Writing for the Soul Conference this February in Denver, and met some awesome new friends I really wanted to stay in contact with. The problem was, all of them lived in other states! Without things like Facebook, email, blog sites, and websites, I would never have stayed in touch with any of them. With Facebook and the internet, one of the people I have managed to stay in contact with was Michelle, which I am tremendously grateful for! (Goes both ways, my dear!)

Through email, I have also forged a really great friendship with someone else I met at the conference. We pretty much email each other daily, and I feel as if I’ve found the Anne to my Diana--a kindred spirit. Without email, I might never have talked to her again.

Social media has also affected my marketing strategy (if it can even be said I have a strategy!), although on a lesser level. The blog I keep helps my readers to stay updated on things I have published, either through a link I place on my blog or by telling them to be on the lookout for something. My blog has also provided a few new fans to my writing I have never met before.

Facebook is another great avenue for this. Whereas before I could verbally mention that I’m having something published, I’ve gotten a lot more interest when I can provide a link on Facebook anyone can click on to see what I’ve had published. It also helps me keep friends and relatives who have moved or live far away updated.

You've nailed it. Where would our relationships be without global technology? What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
Definitely keep God first in everything. Pray the entire way, and seek His advice on every decision you have to make. Don’t give up and keep your dreams alive. As my great aunt who used to be a missionary would say, “If God’s called you to it, then nothing can stop it from happening.”

Perfect advice, Lizzie. You are wise beyond your 20 years! Before we go, can you share a snippet from your latest project?
From my current work in progress, tentatively titled: Flawless
Words: 153
Choosing a seat near the back, Parlan flung his book bag on the floor. Like the two students sitting next to him, he just wanted to avoid the professor’s questions. He got out his sketchpad and began drawing the Eiffel Tower as Professor McGinnan opened class. He’d only been to Paris once, with his father. But he didn’t need a picture. He drew from memory.
He needed to get the image out of his mind. The Eiffel was always there--looming and brilliant. He had a lot of pictures like those in his mind. The only way he could get rid of them was to draw them out. He could recall them if he wanted to--in flawless detail. But not now. Right now it reminded him of too many things, and he wanted it out.
He pushed down harder on the pencil.
“Mr. Christofferson!”
Parlan looked up to see Professor McGinnan glaring at him.

Thanks for the peek! Tell us where we can find you online.
My blog:
http://www.thefearlist.wordpress.com/
contributing book reviewing website:
http://www.ireviewchristianbooks.com/
My article from Susie Magazine on preventing teen suicide: http://www.susiemagazine.com/Magazine/Library/January-2011/How-to-Save-a-Life-Three-Ways-to-Respond-to-a-Suic.aspx

Lizzie, thank you so much for spending this time with us today.  I pray many blessings on your writing and I hope to see you again next February at the WFTS conference so we can have more fun times like THIS -->>

Sunday, May 1, 2011

COTT: Exciting News, Poll Results, plus...Fish in a Barrel?

When it comes to books, how easy are you to reel in? Do you swim against the current, requiring a strong line to tug you along? Or do you flow right in to a story's net? I admit I can be a stubborn swimmer. I've become a more critical connoisseur of fiction. Occasionally I'll abandon ship, but I'll usually still swallow a tepid plot even while making a face. It just takes more to make my knees go weak from the complex flavors of a novel. Writing chops get me baited. Strong plotline pulls me in. It's a magical moment when everything comes together perfectly and I'm happy to leap into the boat without resistance.

A couple weeks ago COTT put up a survey asking how long you give a book to reel you in. We received 54 responses! So today we're going to share those results and many of the comments that came in:

     11.1% of responders said one page
     35.2% said one chapter
     46.3% said until they lose interest
     7.4% said they finish every book they start, regardless of interest. (God bless 'em)

What do you think? Here are some of the comments we received: 
  • I know some stress the first paragraph and even the first line, but I don't want my reading to become fast food. Don't bore me with bad writing, but give me something to savor, something to enjoy for a while. Hopefully, my own writing will do the same.
  • I always try to give the author a chance, as some great books have slow beginnings.
  • I am the eternal optimist! I keep thinking, "I know its gonna get better. I just know it." So I trudge along, supporting the author the best I can until finally...I can't go any further. I have noticed that I have a much more critical eye than I used to, though. So maybe my patience isn't quite as long as it used to be. I just hate to give up on ANYBODY!
  • I love it when I'm hooked in the first few pages. Definitely must be in first chapter. I no longer feel obligated to finish a book I can't get into. Twice this year I've chosen not to finish books that failed to hook me.
Thank you to those who participated in the survey--we love giving readers a voice! Throughout the week we will be interviewing our competing authors and collecting your names for our book giveaway so be sure and join us.

And now an exciting announcement:

We all knew it was coming...We at Clash of the Titles have had such fun getting to know new authors we decided to dive deeper into their novels. Join us in June when we launch a Clash of the Titles Book Club! Our first selection will be COTT Conqueror Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride, available for free Kindle download in the month of May. Which means...no reason why absolutely everyone can't join, right?  (To download the free Kindle for PC, click here)
Keep up to date on Book Club News right here

Make it a great week, everybody!