Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Debut Author Spotlight ... Pam Hillman

by Pam Hillman

With ebook sales rocketing skyward, established publishers, authors and readers alike are taking a second look at electronic publishing. Tyndale House Publishers' answer is the Digital First Program.

Tyndale House Publishers is a Christian publisher that publishes Bibles, fiction, and non-fiction. They’re probably best known for publishing the Left Behind series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, along with a host of amazingly talented and prolific authors. I am very blessed to have been picked up by them because they are one of the most established and well-respected publishing houses in the industry.

This past spring, Tyndale decided to offer a new model of publishing called “Digital First”, which is just what it implies, digital first with print books to (hopefully) follow. With ebooks quickly surpassing print books in sales, they asked a select group of agents to send proposals from their unpublished authors who had completed manuscripts ready to go. My agent sent one of mine, and I was offered a contract, along with 4 other unpublished authors: 3 fiction and one non-fiction. My book, titled Stealing Jake, released July 1, 2011 as an ebook. Generally, it takes 12-18 months for a print book to hit the shelves, but Tyndale put these ebooks on a fast track to publication and had them available in about six weeks.

Tyndale launched the program in July 2011 with four fiction titles and one non-fiction title. Digital First’s initial ebooks include Delivery by Diana Prusik, Cash Burn by Michael Berrier, Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman, The Reinvention of Leona Harper by Lynne Gentry and a non-fiction title, 40 Days without Food: Divine Goodness to a Starving Soul by Russ Masterson.

Right after the announcements came out, someone asked me this burning question, "Why did you go through Tyndale to do an ebook, when you could have gone directly to Amazon?"

First reason, because Tyndale launched a Digital First Initiative, and I was blessed enough to be one of the 5 debut authors chosen to launch the program.

Next, are you ready for this?

My publisher is Tyndale House Publishers!


I could stop right there, because that's reason enough in and of itself, but if you want more, here you go:

My book was edited by Tyndale editors. They were awesome! The entire process was as smooth as silk. My cover was designed by Tyndale cover designers. And I love it! My book is backed by Tyndale's good name. Whoa! Tyndale has marketing and publicity power. That I don't have... Tyndale did all the work to get my book listed on Amazon, CBD, B&N, and Mobipocket.

And finally, I am a Tyndale author, not just another name on Amazon.

How much is that worth to me? I can't even begin to measure that. I have no clout or pull with readers. Sure, some of my friends and family would have bought my book if I put it up on my own, but then that would have been the end of it, unless I got lucky as a few do. And more power to them!

And if this Digital First Initiative is as successful as it's shaping up to be, I might even see Stealing Jake in print next. This is a win-win situation for the Digital First authors and for Tyndale, and I'm over-the-moon excited to be partnering with one of the most respected publishing houses in the industry on this new venture.

Here are three wonderful articles that shed more light on Tyndale’s Digital First Initiative:

by Pam Hillman

When Livy O'Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she's helping to run an orphanage. Now she'll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff's deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy--literally--while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town--as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off--Jake doesn't have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can't seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn't willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Interwoven throughout is a group of street kids arrested in Chicago and sold as child labor. Leading this band of ragamuffins is young Luke, a scared, determined orphan intent on rescuing his little brother at any cost.

Stealing Jake is free for a limited time on Amazon, B&N & CBD. It was #1 on the top 100 Free Kindle list at Amazon for 7 days! Mind boggling and a testament to Tyndale’s clout as a publisher of quality fiction.

To celebrate the release of Stealing Jake, Pam is giving away a Kindle. Deadline to enter the contest is September 30th. 

Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her debut book, Stealing Jake, won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest and was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family.

www.pamhillman.com, www.calicotrails.blogspot.com, www.seekerville.blogspot.com


Monday, August 22, 2011

Top Five Novelists

Seeking your opinion ...

Who are today's Top Five Novelists in all of fiction?

Who are the today's Top Five Novelists in Christian fiction?

I'm not looking for favorite authors, but best authors--those whose storytelling and writing ability exceeds the norm. Also, I'm not looking for classical greats, but for those authors who still publish novels on a regular basis.

Thank you! I look forward to hearing your opinion.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Short Break ...

I've been blessed these past 19 years to be what's become a dying breed: a stay-at-home mom. Even as my children have grown into their latter teen years, and I've focused on writing during the school day, I've been there when they go to school and when they get home.

This year, our daughter's a sophomore in college, one son is a junior in high school and the other is a sophomore. While I'll always be a mom, in three very short years the role of full-time mom will come to an end and I'll begin a new chapter in life, but until then, family is priority.

So, with that in mind I've decided to take a short break from this blog, just two weeks to give my undivided attention to the greatest gifts God has given to me. We'll probably do all the silly family things like go to the zoo and a malt shoppe, and we'll check out Minnehaha Falls again. We'll probably play a few games, sing a bit, and even share quiet reading time.

Even though they're teens, they still like doing things as a family. That's a tremendous blessing in itself. How can I not take advantage of it?

I'll see you in two weeks.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Debut Author Spotlight ... Lacy Williams

by Lacy Williams

My journey to publication definitely has had more twists and turns than I could have imagined, but I’ve felt God there with me the whole way—sometimes almost poking me to say, “this *is* what you’re supposed to be doing!”

Originally, I thought it would be so easy to get published—you write the book, an editor loves it, and BOOM you’re published.


The first eye-opening thing for me was right after I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) in late 2006. I subscribed to their main email list and BAM—was inundated with all these emails asking and answering questions about passive voice, head-hopping and POV (what was that anyway?), developing a platform… I immediately knew that there was a lot I *didn’t* know. I needed to learn how to write a well-written book. So I joined a critique group.

Next eye-opening thing. Not everybody “got” my writing. My critique group liked the story, but boy were they picky about things like “your character doesn’t have enough motivation” and “why would your hero do that? it doesn’t make sense!” Hmm… maybe I needed to work a little more.

I attended my first writing conference in September 2007 and that’s where I really started to feel God was an active part of this journey with me. Not only was I uplifted by worshipping and chatting with all these other writers, not only did I receive excellent instruction, but I had my first editor and agent appointments. I visited with the editor first, with my onesheet (sell-sheet) in my shaking hands, and she LIKED the story! In fact, she asked for the full manuscript. I really felt like it was a confirmation from God that I was pursuing something He wanted me to be doing.

Then came what felt like a big mountain in my path. Called life. Overtime hours so I had less time at home to write. Other family responsibilities. And learning the craft of writing well enough to write a *good* book? Well, that didn’t come quickly to me either. I plodded through draft after draft of my story… and then finally decided I was trying to write in the wrong genre. That was another God moment for me. When I started writing historical romance and contemporary romance (instead of romantic suspense), the words started flying onto the pages.

Skip ahead a little. In 2009, I finaled and won in ACFW’s Genesis contest for unpublished writers. My future editor requested my full manuscript—and then in 2010, when I finally sent it in, she bought it. I also signed with my agent at that time.

I have to admit, those last few months between finaling in the contest and selling my book seemed to fly by compared to the time spent slogging through draft after draft of what turned out to be an un-sellable manuscript.

*BUT* I never would have been able to write and sell MARRYING MISS MARSHAL without having the experience of doing that. I learned so much about craft—how to create complete characters, how to write chapter ending hooks, how to keep the romance alive through a whole manuscript… Without that time of waiting and working, I wouldn’t be published today.

So. Moral of the story: don’t give up. Work hard, learn lots, write a lot. And keep your eyes open for those moments when God will show you you’re on the right path.

by Lacy Williams

Love Inspired Historical, 2011
288 pages

Filling the shoes of her late husband as town marshal hasn't been easy for Danna Carpenter. She's not only fighting criminals, she's also fighting to earn the respect of the townspeople. So crossing paths with tenderfoot detective Chas O'Grady is the last thing she needs. He's hunting a band of cattle rustlers and isn't used to the rugged Wyoming landscape. Teaming up is their only option, but when circumstances place them in a compromising situation, the town forces a more permanent partnership—marriage. If they can let down their guards with each other they might find that love is the greatest catch of all.

RT Book Reviews says, "Williams’ debut is a great story with a twist, and it will keep readers riveted." (August)
Publisher's Weekly calls it "warmly romantic with a hint of adventure and an unconventional heroine" and "Williams's storytelling style is ... easy to follow to its cheery conclusion" (June)

Lacy Williams is a wife and mom from Oklahoma. Her debut novel won ACFW's Genesis award before being published. She promises readers happy endings guaranteed. Lacy combines her love of dogs with her passion for literacy by volunteering with her therapy dog Mr. Bingley in a local Kids Reading to Dogs program.

Lacy loves to hear from her readers at lacyjwilliams@gmail.com or via her website www.lacywilliams.net. ou can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lacywilliamsbooks

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Escape Through Entertainment

Everyone needs a little time to escape now and then, but how each of us defines "escape" can vary greatly.

I love going to movies. They give me two complete uninterrupted hours. No phones. No doorbells. No one "yelling" Mom! For two hours, with popcorn and pop in hand, I get to experience a new world. And don't give me a thought-provoking piece: give me adventure and laughter. I'm there to turn my brain off for a couple of blissful hours.

This summer's been great for that. I've seen Cars 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Cowboys & Aliens, and my favorite, Thor. (Ladies, if you haven't seen Thor yet, go. You will not regret it.) Clearly, none of those movies are going to win Oscars, and that's perfectly fine with me. I don't go to the movies to think.

But, when I pick up a book for entertainment, my goals are very different. I don't want to read a mind-numbing piece for hours. Give me something with intellectual challenge, something that will not only transport me to a new world, but make me ponder that world. Does what I've read dispute or support my beliefs? Does it open my eyes to see beyond my narrow vision?

I recently finished a debut novel by Cliff Graham called Day of War. It's a Biblical fiction work that takes us back to 998 B.C. when David is living among the Philistines at the time they are preparing for war against King Saul and Israel. The story focuses on Benaiah, one of Israel's Mighty Men.

While staying true to the Bible, this work is gritty, detailed, bloody, yet poignant. Graham does an excellent job of getting inside his characters' hearts--characters who are very human. Best of all, this story showed me a new perspective on David's time with the Philistines. I don't know if it's the "true" perspective, but that isn't the point. It made me think.

For me, that's the best kind of literary escape.

What about you? Do you go to movies to turn your mind off or to be challenged? What about when you read?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Debut Author Spotlight ... Henry McLaughlin

(Yogi Berra)
by Henry McLaughlin

Like many first time authors, my journey to publication at times seemed like driving with a GPS system that spoke Latin and the maps were in Braille. I labored through several re-writes, attended conferences and workshops, joined local and online writers groups, read books and articles on writing.

My first correct turn was a divinely arranged meeting DiAnn Mills who, for reasons I still can’t comprehend, saw something worthwhile in my first few pages. Thus began a relationship in which DiAnn mentors, encourages and challenges me. I attended her fiction mentoring clinics and came out of them a better writer.

At the same time, I was working my way through the Christian Writers Guild courses: Apprentice, Journeyman and Craftsman, learning more of who I was and what my story was about and how to craft it.

My book was rejected by several publishers and agents, but I took hope when I heard Jack London was rejected over 700 times before his first sale. Although, it did dissuade me from writing about dogs and the frozen North.

In 2008, at the encouragement of others, I entered the Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale House. I received a very nice letter from the Guild thanking me for my entry and congratulating me on finishing a novel.

In 2009, after more rejections from agents and more re-writes, I pondered entering the contest again. I must have pondered a long time because I recently found a receipt showing I sent my entry overnight priority mail two days before the deadline.

In early November, 2009, I learned I was one of ten semi-finalists for the award. My reaction: Good, I can use that when I pitch to agents and publishers. In mid-November, the Guild announced four finalists. I was not among them. And I was fine with this.

Jump ahead to the Guild’s Writing for the Soul conference in February, 2010. At the opening session of the conference, Jerry B. Jenkins stands to announce the winner but first says there was a mistake: there were five finalists, not four. He reads the finalists off alphabetically by title. I hear my book listed and I think, “Cool. I can use that when I pitch to agents and editors during the conference.”

Then, Mr. Jenkins announced my book as the winner of the 2009 Operation First Novel award. Total shock. One of my writing friends had to shove me out of my chair to go up to the platform. The rest of the conference passed in a blur.

After the conference, the work began. I partnered with an editing team from Tyndale and we worked diligently on the manuscript to prepare it for publication. It went through three months of a major re-write to eliminate too many POV characters, to give deeper story arcs to the male and female protagonists, tie up loose ends and tighten up the writing. This included a marathon weekend with my editor to review the final draft before Tyndale sent it for the galley proofs to be printed.

Then came the months of waiting for it to be printed and distributed.

In January of this year it was released. Seeing my book in a book store for the first time was indescribable as I contemplated that the words God inspired me to write were out there to touch hearts and minister to people.

by Henry McLaughlin

Tyndale House Publishers, January 2011
432 pages

Michael Archer is nothing if not a man of his word. Though he was unable to save Ben Carstairs, Michael is determined to carry out Ben's dying wish: to be reconciled with his father. Unfortunately, Sam Carstairs, one of the most ruthless businessmen on the frontier, has no use for his own son, much less a man of God seeking reconciliation.

Soon after arriving in Riverbend, Michael meets and falls for the stunning Rachel Stone while waiting for Sam to return from a business trip. Beautiful yet guarded, Rachel seems to be running from a past as dark as Michael's. When word reaches town that Sam has been kidnapped on the stagecoach home, Michael offers to join the search party formed by the local sheriff. With a budding romance behind him and a dangerous rescue ahead of him, he sets out on the trail, determined to complete his journey no matter the cost.

Henry McLaughlin is the 2009 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest. He has a master's degree in social work and spent many years working in the public child welfare system. It was in this role that he first honed his writing skills in preparing concise and accurate court reports and petitions. He retired from that career in 1999 to work with Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Henry and his wife, Linda, have been married for over forty years and live in Saginaw, Texas. They have five children, the oldest of whom is in heaven, and one grandchild.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Novel Anticipation ... August Releases

For readers, there's nothing quite as exciting as having a bedstand full of books begging to be read. It's like eating supper while that piece of French silk pie calls your name from the refrigerator. You're tempted to skip supper altogether.

My bedstand is always full, but there are a handful authors who put out only one book per year, thus testing my patience.

Two of my favorite authors release their books in late August, two very different authors. Regardless of your reading tastes, I recommend both highly.

by Laura Frantz

Revell, August 2011

In 1779, when genteel Virginia spinster Roxanna Rowan arrives at the Kentucky fort commanded by Colonel Cassius McLinn, she finds that her officer father has died. Penniless and destitute, Roxanna is forced to take her father's place as scrivener. Before long, it's clear that the colonel himself is attracted to her. But she soon realizes the colonel has grave secrets of his own--some of which have to do with her father's sudden death. Can she ever truly love him?

Okay, I'm cheating a bit with this one as I've just finished reading The Colonel's Lady and no longer have to anticipate reading it, but I had to include Laura Frantz on this list. She writes historical romance, a genre I tend to stay away from, but Frantz's delivery is completely different from the majority of hist/rom writers. Her stories are neither cookie-cutter nor predicatable (elements that will often bore me) and her prose is lyrical (which I love). It's clear she spends much time listening to the cadence of her words. She also has a unique way of placing the reader in amidst the action, painting scenes in vivid color. My only disappointment, when it comes to Laura Frantz, is that I have to wait a year for her next work.

by William Kent Krueger

Atria Books, August 2011

During a houseboat vacation on the remote Lake of the Woods, a violent gale sweeps through unexpectedly, stranding Corcoran O'Connor (Cork) and his daughter, Jenny, on a devastated island where the wind has ushered in a force far darker and more deadly than any storm.

Amid the wreckage, Cork and Jenny discover an old trapper’s cabin where they find the body of a teenage girl. She wasn’t killed by the storm, however; she’d been bound and tortured before she died. Whimpering sounds coming from outside the cabin lead them to a tangle of branches toppled by the vicious winds. Underneath the debris, they find a baby boy, hungry and dehydrated, but still very much alive. Powerful forces intent on securing the child pursue them to the isolated Northwest Angle, where it’s impossible to tell who among the residents is in league with the devil. Cork understands that to save his family he must solve the puzzle of this mysterious child whom death follows like a shadow.

For those of you who haven't discovered William Kent Krueger yet, I highly encourage you to pick up one of his Corcoran O'Connor (Cork) books. Cork, part Ojibwe-part Irish, is the former sheriff of a northern Minnesota county. His heritage alone creates conflict. While this probably isn't a book you'd place in your church library, Krueger respects faith issues and often includes faith elements in his novels.

His books stand alone and don't have to be read in order, but if you're like me, you'll want to pick up the first in the Corcoran O'Connor series, Iron Lake. Then you won't want to stop until you reach Northwest Angle.

I'm curious ...

Who are your favorite authors? Which authors do you anticipate reading every year? Do you have a favorite series?