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...

Friday, January 28, 2011

This Week's Clash Winner

Hot Off The Presses!
A new COTT winner has been revealed!
(Drum roll, please)...........

And the winner is...........
Tina Pinson! Woo Hoo! Yeah! Way to go!

Tina's excerpt from her book In the Manor of the Ghost, beat out her competitor (DeAnna Julie Dodson's In Honor Bound) with a 56% to 44% vote. Such close results tell us ya can't go wrong with either title, but Tina's did indeed "take the cake". Congratulations are in order to the newest Conqueror at Clash of the Titles. Hip-hip, hooray! Hip-hip, hooray!

Tina competed in the category of Most Gut-Wrenching Scene with a heart-twisting look at a woman watching her husband and baby trapped in a burning building:

Jean Marc stood in the upstairs window holding a bundle. Kaitlin knew, with another slice to her soul, the bundle was Simone. Jean Marc, so quiet, protective, so uneasily riled, yelled. Tormented wails for help rose along with tears of anguish and fear as angry flames licked out behind him.

For the full excerpt, click here

A few of our reader/voters' comments:
  • This would be my worst nightmare!
  • Wonderful writing!
  • Both excerpts were really gut wrenching and had me in tears.
So what did she think of her visit to COTT? In her words:

"Thanks for letting me do battle here. Not quite so bloody as other arenas. I was honored to be a warrior on Clash. I loved the excerpt from my opponent."

Like those before her, Tina exhibits the graciousness and sportsmanship that has come to define the COTT family. She fits right in. And that's something she hasn't always known. Growing up Tina was one of five siblings—the only blonde. Though her sisters often joked that she must have been adopted (all in fun), there's no teasing here.

You can read more about Tina in her interview on Clash of the Titles here
About her book:

In the Manor of the Ghost:

It's the 1870's. The Civil War has long since been fought and laid to rest, settlers are still joining the wagon trains and heading west to the New Eden. The land is changing. But those who dwell in Clayborne Manor seem trapped in time.

Trapped amid the whispers of failure and sorrow, whispers of longing and defeat. Kaitlin hears them clearly at night. But who haunts Clayborne Manor? The ghost that restlessly walks the halls in the night? Or the ones that plague the minds and spirits of those residing there? Though not inclined to believe the dead can walk the night laden corridors, Kaitlin can see them clearly in the eyes of her husband Devlin, and hear them in the deafening silence of her son, Derrick.

Does she have the courage to search the past and face the ghosts? Does she have the faith to stay and direct all those who dwell In the Manor of the Ghost to the one who sets the captive free?

Find out more about Tina and her novel at TinaPinson.com

COTT's next Clash begins Monday with Romantic Moments. Head over there to vote and enter the free book drawing. Get ready to swoon!

Article by Michelle Massaro, COTT Assistant Editor.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Love Me

Something has happened
I don’t understand
I’m crying for love
Then You take my hand

You pull me up
Help me to my feet
Oh! How wounds hurt
After a defeat

My eyes have grown swollen
From tears I have cried
I feel so abandoned
But You stayed by my side

I go limp in Your arms
I give up the fight
I let go of the pain
And You hold me tight

I lift up my head
And see in disgrace
The print of my hand
That once slapped Your face

And Your eyes have grown swollen
From tears You have cried
When You so loved me…
And I abandoned Your side

by Michelle Massaro

Friday, January 21, 2011

Going Up?

The Elevator Pitch.  Maybe you've heard it talked about but didn't know what it was.  Or maybe you know but have placed it at the bottom of your priority list. 

Nuh-uh.  That changes today.

What's an elevator pitch, you ask?  Let me throw you in the deep end.  You're in an office building heading up to the 8th floor.  Suddenly, Karen Kingsbury steps in with you and hits the button for the 7th floor.  Your palms start sweating, your mouth goes dry and you blurt out some embarrassing remark about being a writer.  She smiles and asks, "So what's your story about?"  You've just passed floor 2. 

Quick! What do you say?  It better not start with "Uhhh" or "My story is full of romance, action, adventure, lost innocence, redemption, relationships..." (There goes floor 5).  "Um, the main character is a guy in his 40's-- well, later we find out he's really 82, but anyway... "  ding, ding, ding!  "Oh, here's my floor" she says, "Good luck with your book" and off she goes.  Yeah, you've got to do better than that.  Give it a hearty try right now.  You have 60 seconds. 


How'd you do?  I know how I did the first time I tried. 

Your elevator pitch is like your query letter, squeezed and shaved and peeled down to its core.  And it's very hard to squeeze only the most important things out of your marvelous masterpiece.  After all, your novel is a complex tapestry of emotions you've spent months or even years weaving together.  How can you find which thread to pull without the whole thing unraveling into an undiscernable mess?  Trial and error, critique partners, and a few tips to get started.

Step #1: Which character is MOST IMPORTANT.  If your life depended on you choosing only one, who would that be? Forget everyone else for now.  For me, that's John.

Step #2: What's the BIG EMERGENCY that character faces-- the one that sets everything in motion?  This shouldn't be too difficult but depending on your story it might not be as obvious as it sounds. 

Put these together in simple terms. Here's mine: John's wife and daughter are killed.

Step #3: What does your MC do that makes EVERYTHING WORSE?  Chances are there will be a series of bad decisions or events that will set your MC up for a fall.  Pick the biggest one.  Mine: John sleeps with a prostitute.

Step #4: What TEST does your MC then face? For John, it's how he'll handle the resulting pregnancy.

Step #5: This is really more of a tip.  You don't have to (and shouldn't) resolve the story in your elevator pitch.  You want the person to feel they have to read the book to find out.

Another important tip (this is huge) is remembering that this is going to be a CONVERSATION.  It will not be read on a sheet of paper or computer screen, it will be heard coming from YOUR LIPS.  So make it sounds CONVERSATIONAL.  You probably don't have a voice like Movie-Preview-Guy, so don't try and insert dramatic pauses or anything that requires an embarrassing tone of voice to get the impact of the statement.  Example: You aren't going to say: He'll finally find love... a love like none he's ever known before... the love... of GOD. You'd say something more like: He'll finally realize the love of God is unlike any other.  That's not probably the best example but my point is- say it aloud and make sure it sounds natural. Record yourself even, if you have to.  Just don't sound like a weirdo.

So here's a couple of tries for mine, and I hope to get some real-life practice with them on friends over the next week so I'm prepared before conference:

1) My story is about a man whose wife and daughter are killed in a fire. He blames God, ditches his faith, and tries to deal with his grief on his own. He finally reaches his breaking point and repents when he wakes up next to a prostitute. He's forgiven, but he finds that newfound faith— and even falling in love again— is not all sunshine and roses when the now-pregnant hooker knocks on his door.

2) My story is about a man in rebellion, angry at God after the death of his wife and daughter-- until he wakes up next to a prostitute, comes to his senses, and repents. He starts putting his life back together, even falls in love, and everything is looking up. But then the prostitute shows up on his doorstep, 6 months pregnant with his child, and John has to decide whether to try and keep his secret buried or risk everything by bringing it to light. Between John, his fiancé, and the pregnant prostitute, it's a very different kind of love triangle.

Let me know what you think.  I hope you've gained something from this post- motivation to get moving if nothing else.  I am providing a couple of excellent links for further reading.  Happy Hunting! (For agents that is)


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Delia Latham Launches Destiny's Dream

If you love inspirational fiction, you should check out Delia Latham’s recently released Destiny’s Dream. Today marks the novel’s Amazon Book Launch.

Buy it today and receive:

1. Gifts from the author

2. E-gifts from generous supporters


Is a little respect too much to ask at a parent’s funeral?

Apparently it is for Destiny May. Clay Gallagher is built like a small mountain and far more vocal than is fitting when he shows up late to her mother’s “going away party.” When it turns out he’s not even at the right funeral, Destiny demands retribution in the form of an escape from the day’s dreary proceedings. Spending time with a handsome stranger who makes her laugh is more therapeutic than fighting with her overbearing family.

Clay finds Destiny beautiful, charming...and intelligent. So why is she stubbornly determined to open a Christian dating service? Clay has little respect for such a frivolous profession, and doesn’t think the small, conservative town of Castle Creek will welcome such a progressive business. But when Destiny is threatened by an anonymous caller who deeply resents her and what she does for a living, Clay makes it his business to keep the saucy redhead out of harm’s way.

Trouble is, spending time in her company weakens his defenses, and Destiny may be the one thing Clay can’t escape...if he even wants to.

BUY NOW! And receive… http://tinyurl.com/2bdsrjb



• Purchase Destiny’s Dream TODAY and receive the first chapter of Kylie’s Kiss, Book Two in the Solomon’s Gate Series, PLUS

• A personalized, signed book plate mailed directly to you!

• Free signed bookmarks to share with your friends



In Destiny's Dream, Latham writes a story with a nice blend of humor and romance and a neat little thread of intrigue. You won't want to miss this first installment in the Solomon's Gate Series. Latham knows how to weave a wonderful story and balance it with biblical truths to inspire and challenge the reader. Destiny's Dream belongs on every reader's bookshelf.

Sharlene MacLaren
Bestselling Author

What fun! Delia Latham weaves a merry thread of humor through the mayhem of her characters’ lives. Destiny’s Dream will leave readers looking over their shoulders to catch a glimpse of their own guardian angel’s wings.

Bonnie Winters, author of Daughter of Lot
and Daughter of Scarlet


This book was a delightful read, with a cast of quirky secondary characters, a sweet romance, and snappy dialogue that kept me reading.

Lacy Williams
2009 Genesis winner
Historical Romance


Destiny’s Dream captures the reader’s heart from the first page. I could not put it down.

Kassy Paris, co-author of
The Lazy M Ranch Series by Kasandra Elaine


Destiny’s Dream guides readers on a journey from tears to smiles, from longing to fulfillment, and from white-knuckled suspense to happy sighs of contentment. An engaging tale with all the elements of a satisfying story.

Virginia Smith, author of
Third Time’s a Charm,
book 3 in the Sister-to-Sister Series

BUY NOW! And also receive FREE E-GIFTS FROM THE SUPPORTERS OF DESTINY’S DREAM. Exciting e-gifts, available ONLY through these supporting authors, will be yours by purchasing Destiny’s Dream today. Follow this link to learn more. http://tinyurl.com/2bdsrjb

Find out how to earn multiple entries into the Daughters of Destiny Contest! Win amazing prizes! (No purchase necessary!) Follow the link for further information: http://tinyurl.com/2bm55jv  

About the Author
Delia Latham lives in Oklahoma. She writes inspirational romance and women’s fiction. Her third published book, Destiny’s Dream is Book One in the Solomon’s Gate Series.

Brief, Fun Bio

Born and raised in a place called Weedpatch, Delia Latham moved to Oklahoma in 2008, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her simple country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. The author enjoys multiple roles as Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Contact information

Website: http://www.delialatham.net/

Blog: http://my-book-bag.blogspot.com/

E-mail: delia@delialatham.net

Saturday, January 15, 2011

This Week's Clash Winner

Hear ye, hear ye!  Clash of the Titles has just crowned Delia Latham CHAMPION!

For her excerpt from Destiny's Dream, Delia Latham received the cyber-laurel in a Clash against fellow contender Tracy Kraus for best Conversion Scene.  In an impressive display of sportsmanship, both Tracy and Delia praised each other's work and assure us that both books-- Destiny's Dream and My Mother the Man Eater-- are worth a read.

Of her experience on COTT, Delia says: These competitions are wonderful - I love participating, and they're a lot of fun. But at the end of the day, it's PEOPLE that matter.

And it's clear that she means that.  With praise for fellow authors and a winning scene depicting the redemption of a lost soul, Delia is not shy about delivering what people need most- the gospel.  In her interview with COTT Senior Editor April Gardner, Delia says: I do feel that call. I consider my writing a ministry, and every book seems to come with some kind of gospel message, though not always one of a call to salvation. Many times it’s a nudge to greater faith and trust, or forgiveness. Why? God gave me the talent for writing. In my mind, that’s a clear call to write for HIM. 

Visit Clash of the Titles to read her full interview here

About her book:


Is a little respect too much to ask at a funeral? Apparently it is for Destiny May. Clay Gallagher is built like a small mountain and far more vocal than is fitting when he shows up late to her mother's "going away party." When it turns out he's not even at the right funeral, Destiny demands retribution in the form of an escape from the day's dreary proceedings. Spending time with a handsome stranger who makes her laugh is more therapeutic than fighting with her overbearing family. Clay finds Destiny beautiful, charming...and intelligent. So why is she stubbornly determined to open a Christian dating service? Clay has little respect for such a frivolous profession, and doesn't think the small, conservative town of Castle Creek will welcome such a progressive business. But when Destiny is threatened by an anonymous caller who deeply resents her and what she does for a living, Clay makes it his business to keep the saucy redhead out of harm's way. Trouble is, spending time in her company weakens his defenses, and Destiny may be the one thing Clay can't escape... if he even wants to.

Delia is partnering with the John 3:16 Marketing Network to host an Amazon book launch for Destiny's Dream on Tuesday, Jan. 18th.  More information regarding the launch can be accessed through her website: www.delialatham.net

COTT's next Clash begins Monday with excerpts for the Most Gut-Wrenching scene.  Make sure you stop by and vote- and don't forget the tissues!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Disappointment barely touches my feelings today finding out that I am not one of the 10 semi-finalists in the Operation First Novel contest.  I tried to prepare for it, but it still stings.  I must admit a few tears slipped out and I spent the afternoon recovering at Golden Spoon and Payless Shoesource with my homeschooled daughter. 

I promised to take you on this ride with me, good or bad, so I had to come here and show my sleeves- emotions and all.  It's not that I had any delusions of grandeur, but I have to confess that I harbored dreams of adding "OFN semi-finalist" to my one-sheet, even dreams of winning.  Those dreams have kept me company for so many months now that their disappearance feels awkward and unfamiliar and I grieve the loss of them.  But disappointment is part of the journey.  I know this.  I also know that tomorrow or the next day I'll get to that place where I bolster my resolve and start gearing up to wow everybody at the conference.  I'll pull out my manuscript and comb over it again.  I'll tweak my synopsis till my brain hurts.  I'll memorize my elevator-pitch. I'll tell myself that for all I know, I was number 11. I'll smack myself around a bit and then press forward.  I always knew this wasn't my one and only shot. 

But still...

Query Letters

Two words that can reduce a valiant warrior into a blob of jello. Query letter writing is the bane of the pre-agented author and it's almost as painful to talk about as to write them. But I'm going to give it a try.

Alright, so I'm no expert.

And I hate them.

BUT- I've gleaned a bit of helpful information which I will attempt to regurgitate for you now. Ahem.

First, a definition. A query letter is a single-page business letter introducing your novel (and yourself) to an agent or editor. It must sum up your story in one sentence plus one paragraph. (Explanation below).

Basics: Query letters are always written in 3rd person, present-tense POV. Always. Do not be "clever" by writing as the character or any such gimmick. In fact, leave all gimmicks at home. No colored paper, no perfume, no bribes or flattery.  Do mention if you follow their blog or something, but don't blow smoke. Include the title, genre, and word-count of your manuscript. Address the agent by name, not "To whom it may concern".

Moving on now to the nitty gritty.

Query letters generally will always follow the accepted format of: Hook, Mini-synopsis, Bio.

Hook: An engaging one-sentence summary of your story. A sales handle. A promo sentence. A great tagline for your book. Call it what you will, it must "catch" the reader's attention and draw them further in to your letter, to the...

Mini-synopsis: In about 100 words you must summarize and sell your story. Sound hard? Of course it is. But 100 words or so is a whole lot more than you had to work with in the hook, so be grateful! Great writing is the most important thing here, this is your first impression.

Strong voice, show don't tell, all that jazz.

Important point! Query letters have to tell what your PLOT is. Not just describe your setting and characters. You must, must, must tell the agent what happens in your story. Include setting and characters of course, but action is most important. This is a common problem, as surprising as it sounds. So often queries go something like this:

In this really really cool Location, there are these amazing characters that came from This Place. He has never met someone like Her. She is really really funny and He is a hunk. When they meet, sparks fly. Wait till you read it! It's such a great story! Won't you be my agent?


What's the plot, what actually happens? Your query letter should jump right into the action from the get-go. A good formula to follow is:

When ____ happens, main character must ____ in order to ____ . But ____ will pose an obstacle. Character must choose to either ____ or ____ .

This is obviously not a fill-in-the-blank kind of thing.  But you should get the idea.  Start with the conflict, show what the character's goal is, what the obstacle is, what choice they have to make. 

Conflict, Goal, Obstacle, Choice.  Use your pretty words to beautify it, and off you go!

There are so many nuances to writing this part of your query, they could fill books- and they have! It's something you have to practice, and hone, and spend a myriad of time studying. Even then, it won't come easy. I've provided some excellent links for further study at the end of this article. Check them out when you have a decade to spare.  Just kidding.  But there is enough here to keep you busy for a long, long time.

Moving on...

Bio: OK, this should be easier than the last part but still not as much a cinch as you think.  You have to be careful what you choose to include.  You want to sound interesting, but don't drone on about yourchildhood in the 'hood, or brag about your multiple PhD's.  Unless your novel takes place in the 'hood or your plot hinges on the latest bio-molecular-whatever-you-got-your-degree-in... leave it out.  You can mention your love of animals but don't name each of your 20 guppies.  Make sense?  Bottom line, agents don't care about where you went to school or where you live or anything unless it has to do with your story. If you have previous writing credits, this obviously should be included.  If you don't, just hush up.  Don't announce that you're a noob.

One last thing.  If you are submitting to multiple agents at the same time, you should mention that it is a simultaneous query.

So that's it in a nutshell.  A small netshell.  Like... a pistachio, not a walnut.  There are tons of great resources out there to sift through, and lots more in-depth articles.  Here are a few really good ones:

CBA Ramblings- How To Write A Query Letter(Rachel Gardner)
AgentQuery.com- How to Write a Query
Editorial Anonymous- Tips on Your Bio
Janet Reid- Effective Query Class
Nathan Bransford- The Anatomy of a Good Query Letter I
Nathan Bransford- The Anatomy of a Good Query Letter II
Nathan Bransford- The Basic Query Letter Formula
Public Query Slushpile (Have your query ripped to shreds for you)
Query Shark (More ripping and shredding)
**Feel free to jump in with further comments and points I failed to make, anecdotes, or just thank me for wonderful regurgitation.  Mmm, yummy. =)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Conference Essentials

The countdown to the Writing For The Soul conference has begun in earnest.  In five short weeks I will be in chilly Denver, CO- butterflies in my tummy and adreneline in my veins.  I am so not prepared.  But I will be.  I'm trusting the Lord to put His words in my mouth at the appointed time, and to go before me to every appointment and every class. 

Today I started work on my pitch sheet or one-sheet, a flyer encapsulating the essence of my book and my author bio, which I'll be leaving with the agents and editors I meet with. This is the fun stuff if you ask me!  The hard part is combing over my elevator pitch, my synopsis, my query letter, my sales handle, my promo sentence, my marketing strategy, my comparable books... you get the picture.

But since I have to get moving on these things-- like, NOW-- I decided to include you.  And so begins a series of posts about each of these important items, what they are, and how I bumble along through them.

So let's start with that one-sheet I mentioned. You can do one-sheets focused on yourself as an author, or on the specific manuscript you are pitching.  I'm assuming the latter for this discussion.

What should be included?  
  • Book Title (obviously)
  • Short synopsis (word count might vary but I like query letter length.)
  • Your contact info: email, web address, mailing address, phone number(s)
  • Professional headshot of yourself (if you have one)
  • Author Bio
  • An image or two if appropriate, to add interest and color 
Some comments on the above:

Synopsis: Remember, regardless of the POV your book is written in, the synopsis should be in third person present tense. E.g: "After his wife and daughter are killed in a fire, John abandons his faith in the God who betrayed him."

Author photo and bio: I don't recommend putting a snapshot from your recent trip to Disneyworld on your one-sheet.  If you don't have a professional-looking photo, leave it out. Your bio should be written in third person and include relevant info with brief touches of personality. In other words, mentioning you love horses is fine.  Naming all the animals living under your roof and their favorite toys and food is not. Focus on writing credits or anything that gives you credence as an author.

Making it look good: What about making it stand out with bright-colored text or neon-green paper?  Nuh-uh, that's a no-no.  Do that and you'll look like a noob.  Stick with white paper and black text for the body of your information and eye candy with an image or two and/or with splashes of background color.  Save colored fonts for headlines and other bits that are not the main body text.

Creating your pitch sheet can be a fun experience and energize you with the enthusiasm you'll want to bring with you to your appointments.  If you're like me, nerves can sometimes steal that enthusiasm, so arming yourself with a shiny new one-sheet is just the thing.  For more information on creating these marketing tools, visit these links:

Have you made a one-sheet?  How did it go over, what can you share?
Keep an eye out for my next post regarding conference essentials.