Monday, August 31, 2009

Interview with Client Tammy Barley

Continuing in my series of featuring clients and their new titles, today I talk to Tammy Barley about her new title Love's Rescue From Whitaker House:

Tammy, your new "Love's Rescue" has gotten off to a terrific launch and isgoing into a second printing in only a month. You have to be ecstatic aboutthat. It's the first book in a three book "Sierra Chronicles" series fromWhitaker House. Tell us about them:
I am ecstatic about that, and just as ecstatic to see that Love’s Rescue was recently #11 on’s historical fiction best seller list—hugely exciting. Even better are the wonderful comments and reviews I’ve received from readers, that they felt they were right there in the story, in the Sierra Nevadas, in 1863 (and best of all—countless readers have said they can’t wait for the next book)! Yes, it’s very exciting. Here are a few quick blurbs about Love’s Rescue and the next two books:

Book One: Love’s Rescue
A Dividing Conflict
In 1863, the War Between the States is dividing more than a nation. To escape the conflict, Jessica Hale and her family flee their Kentucky home and head for Nevada Territory. Her brother, Ambrose, committed to the Confederates, rejoins his Kentucky militia and is disowned by his father. But the worst is yet to come.

A Heroic Kidnapper
When Unionists presume the family to be Confederate sympathizers, they set a devastating fire to their home. All alone and then “kidnapped” by cattleman Jake Bennett, Jessica is taken to a ranch deep in the Sierra Nevada wilderness. Can she overcome her resentment toward Jake for failing to save her family?

The Depths of Love
When Jake launches a plan to help Jessica’s brother escape from prison camp, she sees him for the honest, good-hearted Christian man that he is and now knows the depth of his love for her. Through the lingering smoke and smoldering ashes from her ruined home and murdered family, will Jessica see a future with Jake?

Book Two: Hope's Promise
Jake and Jessica Bennett learn there was more to her parents’ deaths than they knew, and both the ranch and Jessica are in danger. Now they must quickly find the murderer . . . and discover for themselves how far they will go for love.

Book Three: Faith's Reward
Jake and Jessica are expecting a child while their hope of surviving land redistribution laws grows dim. Worse, Jessica’s inheritance has disappeared from the bank, and turns up in the hands of a man funding Union sympathizers in a personal war against Southerners. To stop it Jessica must confront her greatest fear, and Jake will be forced to risk the lives of Jessica and their unborn child.

You had quite a book launch, can you tell us about it?
LOL—Quite a book launch it was!

I worked a few angles with the book launch to bring about the most benefit possible with the event. First, my church, which has a K-8 school, is struggling financially. So several weeks before the launch, I spoke to the congregation—in an 1863 blue calico hoop skirt like my main character wears—and told them I wanted to throw the 19th century book launch at the church as a means to draw more people to the church and school, and hopefully help it financially.
So several members helped to throw an unforgettable event, and contributed a hundred or more 19th century antiques related to the various settings and characters in the book—cowboy, Civil War, Western Indians, the Shaker people—and in addition I provided interactive displays to reflect the characters and their daily life. I met folks and signed books in 1863 costume at a turn-of-the-century rolltop desk. My daughter, in prairie costume, demonstrated traditional Paiute basket weaving and invited folks to smell smudge sticks and healing teas from Sierran plants and trees and to guess whether the dried bundles were juniper, cedar, sage, sweetgrass, Douglas fir, and so on. One of my sons wore cowboy attire and demonstrated cowboy leather braiding and invited folks to handle various pelts and guess the animals—rabbit, river otter, red squirrel, coyote, raccoon, buffalo. My other son dressed as a cowboy-turned-Civil War soldier since his namesake did exactly that in the book, and manned the Civil War trivia display and the Shaker display. Women served homemade lemonade, cookies, and fudge brownies. Of everyone who came, about a dozen were unchurched or did not attend church regularly, but who enjoyed historical fiction.

The second angle I worked was to benefit The Hope Children’s Mission in beautiful Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico that I support, and the president and vice president of the mission were on hand to chat with folks.So I finished the day 200 books lighter, and a number of people who bought books read them within a day or two and liked them so much that I had to make a special trip to church to sell them more; they want to give copies to family and friends as gifts. One of the guests also invited me to be guest speaker at a biannual country club fundraiser for women who need assistance to go to college to become teachers, which I’ll be doing in December.

Are you working on anything besides delivering the series?
I also work as a ghostwriter and editor and assist with fiction, biographies, and business and self-help books. It’s been a doubly exciting time for me, because one of my clients, John Wolfram, was the first Navy UDT/SEAL in the water to rescue Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins after their first, historic moonwalk. Since the nation just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, John was interviewed by Fox News, CBS, The Weather Channel, and many other networks and newspapers, and a radio interview of him aired from more than 640 K-Love Radio station affiliates across the U.S., spotlighting his book, Splashdown: The Rescue of a Navy Frogman, which I assisted with. John is now a world missionary, so it’s great to see how God is touching lives through Christian books.

Aside from that and continuing work on The Sierra Chronicles, I’m also planning my next historical fiction series.

What is the best writing advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best: Write what you love, and your books will find their audience.

Worst: Do everything your way no matter what agents or publishers say (I instantly disregarded this “advice”). Fact: the publishing industry has standards for a purpose; following them gives you the greatest chance for success.

What would you like to use this opportunity to say to people?
One—Believe, and you will achieve.

Two—As a promotion to introduce readers to Love’s Rescue, I’m sponsoring a vacation giveaway—Read Love’s Rescue for a chance to win a one-week western guest ranch resort vacation for two to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado! (For details and to enter, visit The drawing is Valentine’s Day 2010.

Unbelievably, though about 1000 copies of Love’s Rescue are selling each week, only thirty—30—people have remembered to enter to win the vacation to date—a one-week all-inclusive mountain resort vacation for two. That means each entrant’s odds of winning are 1 in 30 (not one in 30,000; 1 in 30). Anyone want to win a vacation of a lifetime?

Friday, August 28, 2009

From Birth to Five

Today we're going to interview Brenda Nixon, client and author of the Birth to Five Book:

Brenda, your The Birth to Five Book is doing very well in the market and we’ve presently marketing your discipline book tentatively titled "Difficult to Discipline?-success strategies for getting your kid to mind." I know your primary focus is on speaking and promotion, but what are you working on next?

Thanks for your comments and observations about The Birth to Five Book. As a mom, conference speaker, freelance writer, author, and media guest expert on parenting, I'm always working on something, Terry. This week, I've prepared my Speaking Agreement and vitae for an Iowa hospital event, written my Discipline Tip sent to subscribers, written a blog entry for my co-authored "A Scrapbook of Christmas" Firsts, finalized plans to be a writers conference keynote, and submitted four stories to book compilations plus worked on my internet presence and networking through facebook and twitter. All that was besides getting my college-age daughter ready to return for her senior year and helping my other daughter who is desperately looking for a RN job. And I still feel behind . . . What's on the horizon for my writing career? I hope to continue promoting and see strong sales with my parenting title and get more book proposals written.

You’ve been really active doing interviews and programs and all types of promotion, what are you presenting programs on and to whom? How can people find out more about the programs you offer?

Quick answer: go to the "Where's Brenda?" page at Most of my speaking and interviews are listed. If people want to find out more about my parenting topics or my education and experience they can find it on my website.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received? The worst?

Oh my, probably the best - and most often quoted - advice is to connect with other writers. The writing life can be lonely; if you want to remain fresh, enthused, and improve, you must connect with other industry professionals through online writers groups, critique groups, and at writers conferences. Hmm, I don't know if I recognize the worst writing advice. I've received bad reviews, bad rejections and bad treatment from others but can't say there's any advice on how to write that is off the chart.

What would you like to use this opportunity to say to people?

Write about what you know! If you know about child development and parenting and God has given you the gift of encouragement, then write from that vein. If you know airplanes and are a seasoned pilot, then write about that. Your passion and experience qualifies you to write on a given topic; going to writers conferences and improving your wordsmith skills will help get your work published. You'll hear other professionals tell you to stretch - get out of your comfort zone - and that is good advice when you're an experienced writer. But to begin your career, write fromyour heart's passion. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote many works; some accepted and many rejected. But after she moved to a ruralFlorida hamlet where she experienced a strong passion for the land and the people, she wrote her best works: Cross Creek and The Yearling.

Thank you Brenda, and readers if you would like to automatically know when there is a new posting follow this link ( in a new browser window so it doesn't open in this box ) to the main blogspot site and become a follower. This is a new function offered by blogspot and I am just beginning to accumulate followers.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

From the Heart (Hart)

The Hartline Literary Agency has a new blog entitled "From the Heart." All four of the Hartline agents, Owner and principal agent Joyce Hart, Tamela Hancock Murray, Diana Flegal and myself will share the writing chores. The blog is at

Our intent is to give regularly changing content on subjects that will be interesting to you so you will subscribe and receive it every time a new blog is posted. We do hope you will post questions in the comment section or send them direct to one of us and we'll do our best to answer them. We're going to post interviews with our clients and announce upcoming books. We're going to be posting writing tips and talk about things that are happening in the publishing industry.

Mostly we want to talk about things that interest YOU. The only way we can do that is if you give us feedback, so subscribe to the blog today and give us your comments and suggestions.

The follower function is new and we have it on the Hartline blog. I'm going to add it to this blog as well but it makes it look a little funny to have no followers on a blog that has been around this long so I'd really appreciate any of you becoming followers.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

meet mystery writer Donn Taylor

Today we're going to visit with client and I'm proud to say my good friend Donn Taylor

Donn, your mystery "Rhapsody in Red" and your poetry book "Dust and Diamond" are both doing well in the marketplace, and we're working on marketing
the sequel and trying to get a reprint deal for your earlier work, "The Lazarus File." What are people liking about "Rhapsody"? What are they saying?

Almost every comment has been positive. Readers like the characters--the widower professor plagued by musical hallucinations, the feisty female professor of comparative religion, the sometimes-surprising secondary characters like MRS. Blossom Harlow. People have commented favorably on the novel's light satire of political correctness and the small-college scene, and they like the ironic encounters between the professor and the school administration. Quite a few have commented on the mystery's climax and the wrap-up chapter. I've been pleasantly surprised by people I don't know e-mailing to ask when the sequel comes out.

What's next in the pipeline from you?

I've just completed a historical novel set in 1948, when America was trying to restore normalcy after WW II but worrying about early stages of the Cold War. That's the setting, but the story turns on how a small town too proud of its own virtues deals with its first murder. I'm working on a sequel to that one, with a third book possibly taking those characters through America's entrance to the Korean War. I'm also doing the early work for a second sequel to "Rhapsody."

You do programs at writing conferences, what are you presenting on and how do program people find out more?

I teach workshops on poetry writing. They cover the elements that make poetry different from prose, how to get started writing poetry, how to make your poetry different from most of what's being written, and some of the unique special effects poetry can achieve. I also do one-on-one poetry critiques at conferences. Descriptions of my classes are can be found in the Faculty and Workshops link at My Web site,, contains examples of my poetry as well as sample chapters of "Lazarus" and "Rhapsody." Interested parties can contact me via e-mail,

What's the best piece of writing advice you ever got? The worst?

Best: That's an easy one: LEARN THE CRAFT. The hard part is figuring out what parts of it I don't yet know. From my college teaching days I had no problem with the mechanics of writing. But in changing from academic and technical writing into fiction writing, I had to learn the theory of structuring scenes and entire novels. Then I had to practice until I could make the theory work. And as Cec Murphy says, we must never stop learning. There's another barrier of ignorance I'm trying to break through now, but I'd better not name it.

Worst: That's easy, too: the idea that "It's all subjective." Not so, and the statement is all the more false because it's partly true. There are some subjective elements, such as an editor's judgment of whether a particular subject will sell to the readers. But to enlarge the subjective factors into the whole picture is to create an excuse for failure--an excuse not to get better. Craftsmanship is not subjective, and sloppy writing won't be rejected on an editor's subjective judgment because the poor craftsmanship will stop it before the content gets evaluated.

Anything you'd like to take advantage of this opportunity to say?

I like novels that temper suspense and pathos with humor. That technique worked well for Shakespeare, and I'm surprised more of us don't imitate him in practicing it. And C.S. Lewis was all too correct in saying that the hardest thing to portray in any art is simple goodness. Nevertheless, we need to put in the necessary effort and the ingenuity. If we don't, our writing ends up overbalanced in the other direction. I only hope I can actually practice what I preach.

Thank you, Donn, great answers. I encourage readers to sign up for a rss feed to automatically get this blog as it alternates between introductions and advice from my clients, answers to writing and agent questions people ask, new book releases. and a variety of other topics.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Saint's Roost

It was the year 2000 when I wrote my first inspirational fiction, a book titled “To Keep a Promise.” It came about because mother was on me to write a book with a female protagonist. We had a place out at Greenbelt Lake near Clarendon Texas and much of the writing for the book was done out there. In the process I became fascinated by the history of Clarendon and that history combined with mom’s request formulated where the book would go.

The town was fascinating. Established by a group of ministers right in the middle of wild and wooly cow country, and flanked by the wide open towns of old Tascosa, and the town of Mobettie standing outside of Fort Elliott. Where most frontier towns built around a saloon, the first building in Clarendon was a frame building that was a combination church and school structure. As a matter of fact, no saloons, drinking, gambling or ladies of the evening were even allowed in the town which is the reason that the town was nicknamed “Saint’s Roost” by other residents of the Texas Panhandle.

Fascinating, right? All town property sold with the codicil that no liquor would ever be sold on the premises. The little community was founded as a Methodist colony by Reverend L. H. Carhart, a retired Methodist minister. It was started at the mouth of Carroll Creek on the Salt Fork of the Red River, the town named for the Reverend's wife, Clara. Carhart had been a pastor in Dallas and Sherman. Then he discovered land could be bought for $100 a section through the medium of railroad script. With the help of a wealthy brother-in-law, he established the colony and a cattle ranch. Clarendon had been advertised back east as 'Paradise on Earth.' Carhart even ventured as far away as London to promote it, which is one reason a lot of ranches in the Panhandle ended up established with British ownership and capital.

When I started work on the book the town itself became a character that rivaled those that would carry the story. The history in the book is accurate, save some small adjustments in the dates to make the story work better, and many of the characters are actual residents of the community. The book was put out by The Fiction Works, and my good friend Ray Hoy. This company is known for amazing audiobooks that they do with a cast of characters, music, sound effects, the works. To Keep a Promise was to be one of the first titles as they branched out into print. They bought the equipment, set up shop, but were unable to make the print operation work to their satisfaction and the book was stranded after a painfully small print run. Ray went back to doing just the audiobooks. At the same time it received great reviews, was a finalist for the Eppie Award and for the Willa Award given by the Women Writing the West. In short it was a good book, too good to be stranded with a print run that sold out within a couple of months.

Fast forward to the present. I occasionally pitched the book trying to interest someone in a reprint over the years without success. Reprinting a book is really hard even with great sales numbers. Getting someone to understand why a book could be good and have so few sales because so few were printed was something else. Kim Moore over at Harvest House got it, and loved it. She had me to do a major rewrite adding 30,000 words to the project, but couldn’t sell her vision in committee.

It happens. But I loved the book and wouldn’t give up. Enter Lee Emory over at Mountainview Press. She got it too. A smaller Press with a wonderful reputation she thought this was just her kind of project and what had happened to the book in the past was simply prologue. There were too many similar titles with the word promise in them, so the book took on the name of the town that spawned it and became “Saint’s Roost.”

It has gone through several cycles of editing and the galleys have been proofed. It’s ready to go into production. This book is such a fun read and carries the most powerful faith content of anything I’ve ever written, I just couldn’t be more pleased for it to get a fair shot at the market. The people that hang out over here are going to love it! Stay tuned. When it is ready to release, I’m going to talk about it again and tell you about the story itself. And I’ll give a couple of copies away.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Word Count

It can be confusing. It can depend on the genre, on the publisher, on how much you have published, whether it is mass market mainstream paperback or hardback, on a lot of things. There are some general guidelines that can help: a writer selling their first book maybe 85-100,000 words is what a lot of publishers look for (again depending on genre). Why?

Has to do with investment in the book. Lets say a publisher is asking for 90k and we’ve got a manuscript that’s 135k and no publishing history. Every 10k we are over that submission guideline represents a 10% increase in production costs give or take. The more it is over the less likely they are to want to do it for an unproven writer. Always good to start with those submission guidelines.

Here are some other very general guidelines:

Chapter book (6-8 yr) 5-25,000 words
Middle Reader (8-12) 25-40,000 words
Young Adult (12-18) 40-75,000 words
(middle reader and YA kids like to read about characters a couple of years older than they are)
Novelette – 7,500–20,000 words
Novella 20-30,000 words
Short Contemporary 50,000-60,000 words
Long Contemporary 70,000-80,000 words
Mass Market paperback (western, SF, Fantasy, etc) 75-90,000 words
Short Historical /Mainstream 90-100,000 words
Romance novel 90-100,000 words
Long Historical/ Mainstream 108,000-120,000

Then there is another factor, a number of the mainstream houses still want the word count figured on how many pages it is times 250 words per page. Most of the Christian houses have gone to actual word processor count.

Confused yet? How about it depends on how much dialogue and white space is in the book? What? In discussion with some writer friends who have hundreds of books in print they confide that they are more interested in how many pages they are sending to the publisher. Maybe the contract for that mass market paperback calls for delivering 50,000 words (western) which using the 250 per page word count would be a 200 page manuscript. But they write a lot of dialogue in them. In that case maybe they are turning in a 200 page book that only has 40k words, but it is still a 200 page book.

That’s why they call them guidelines, a lot of factors can enter into it. But as a general rule a new writer can find it very difficult to sell a book that is too large or too small per the guidelines the publisher is looking for. These guidelines are set up to produce the size book they want to produce, and it is generally a size they know their readers want to buy.

You will note I said very difficult, not impossible. Harry Potter was a huge book for an unproven writer but you know what it did. Prayer of Jabez was a tiny little thing and it knocked the doors off too. Anything is possible, but I have to say I’m not a gambler, you’re not likely to find me in Vegas putting my money on the line. Still, I understand playing the odds and writing a book defying those odds hoping to be that one in who knows how many thousands that prove to be the exception even though it does not fit the criteria will most of the time be a study in futility.