Monday, January 25, 2010

interview with client Max Elliott Anderson

Max, you have a number of books in print and are gaining a substantial reputation on the subject of books for reluctant reader boys What is your latest project? Tell us about it.

My next book is titled Lost Island Smugglers. It’s the first in a new series called The Sam Butler Adventure Series. Two more books will be released later this year. Their titles are Captain Jack’s Treasure, and River Rampage. I’m spending most of my time, right now, increasing word count on these from the low 20,000 words to the mid 30,000 words.

How did you research for this book?

Most of my research is a combination of Internet and library research, or places I've visited. But I also like to contact primary sources for background information. Once people understand that my book project is about something they care about, they are happy to help. This has included simple email responses, all the way up to books and videos that have been sent to me on my various writing projects.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

It’s a combination of the newspaper, radio or TV news, magazines, or stories I’ve heard from various sources. When a new story emerges, it comes fully formed in my mind with a beginning, middle, and end. I don’t know about the details of the stories or the characters at that time. As I write, it’s like watching a movie I’ve never seen before.

What has been the hardest part of writing your latest book and how did you overcome it?

When I began writing, nearly ten years ago, my stories didn’t come as a traditional series. They arrived with different characters, settings, and plots. Now that I’ve been asked to develop a series, I’m adapting some of those earlier stories by using the same cast of characters. This had been a challenge. In addition, having to increase word count has also provided interesting challenges.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

I hope my books will provide some escape and adventure, especially for tween boys, while teaching various character and spiritual issues – without the reader tripping over those principles.

What new projects are you working on?

I have to develop four more titles for the Sam Butler Adventure Series in 2011. It’s possible that another publisher will pick up some of my other stories, under an umbrella “series.” By that I mean that the books have different characters, but will be grouped under one series name. On one of those manuscripts, I’ve already done a first revision that increased the word count to over 30,000. Since I’ve completed thirty-five manuscripts over the past few years, several could need similar alterations. I also have an interest in picture books, and have been developing a few of these manuscripts. And then, my first publisher went bankrupt late last year. That returned ownership of my first 7 books back to me. I’m working with Terry to see if we can get these re-published because a good market still exists for them.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? The programs and speaking that you do?

Books For Boys Blog

Author Web Site

50 Pages of Reviews

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?
Best – Never give up.
Worst – Write every day.

Anything else you'd like to take this opportunity to say?

Publishing is not for the faint of heart. I like Terry’s advice concerning the things we have to do to make sure we aren’t eliminated early in the submissions process. I’ve spent the last three years building my platform, which I think will be essential for any hope of success in the future. And I’m doing everything I know to build name recognition by writing articles and short stories for magazines like Boys’ Life, and shorter material for places like Guideposts Books. Having a book published is only the beginning of the work we authors will be required to do.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Uncle Larry - In Memorium

Larry C. Wright, 84, passed away Wednesday, January 20th, 2010. He was preceded in death by his wife, Pat, in 2002; a son, Rodney Eugene Wright, in 1953; two sisters, Loretta Waters and Leta Fay Jones; and five brothers, Doyle Burns, Bob Burns, Melton Burns ( my dad), Eldridge Wright and John L. Wright.

That's the official version. What it doesn't say is he is the last of his family. Of his generation only two sister in laws, my mother Ruth and Carol Wright remain. Of the next generation he leaves two daughters, Gail West and husband Larry of Amarillo and Susan Lange and husband Gary of Orlando, Fla.; eight grandchildren, Rodney, Marty, Monique, Laura, Blaine, Sara, Kristin and Lisa; and 17 great-grandchildren.

Larry was a great influence on me, probably more than he knew. At middle age he went back and finished college at West Texas State (now WT A& M), and banking school at SMU, something that helped me keep my feet to the fire when I had to work full time causing it to take me ten years to graduate from the same school. His example helped me believe I could do it.

He was very active in the chamber of commerce and helped convince me that was a field I should go into, a career I pursued for over 27 years. He wrote a book on "The Wright Family" that played a role in interesting me in finding out more about my further family history. I never did write a book (at least not one I published) on the other side of the family but that started me writing and telling stories which led to my pursing writing as a second career.

There was also a period of time when Larry did some professional wrestling and I remember going to watch. Hard to reconcile that with a career of more than 30 years as an officer in several Amarillo banks, but it was hard to put him in a pigeonhole.

I will miss him, and all of that generation. But I know they are presently having the most amazing reunion and that makes me smile. I do know that after so many years of thinking of them as the old timers and myself as one of the kids, that is a shock to wake up and realize that I am now one of the old timers.

He ran the race well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interview with Client Bryn Jones

What is your latest project? Tell us about it.

The book is called The Next Chapter. It is a thriller where Sal Russo, a writer, finds his career in a freefall after losing his wife and daughter to a terrible accident. While missing deadlines and facing an ultimatim from his publisher, he finds a mysterious package in his garden. In it, he finds a chapter detailing a young girl's abduction. It ends with a challenge: Write the next chapter in her life, or she dies. Proving this is no mere hoax, the package also holds a plastic bag with a heart inside. Meanwhile, the police are investigating the girl's abduction as well as the reappearance of bodies of girls who'd gone missing years earlier. At each of the body dump sites the police find a page of one of Sal Russo's novels. With evidence mounting against Sal as a suspect, his only chance for vindication is to write the next chapter and save the girl before time runs out.

How did you research for this book?

I set the book in Bloomington, Minnesota and its surrounding cities since that's where I live. I called various law enforcement agencies, including the Bloomington Police Department, the FBI regional office and the BCA. I spent hours reading police procedure for abductions and crime scene investigation. I also had a contact who gave me detailed information on the Mall Of America's security procedures for the abduction scene.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

In the most unsuspecting places. For this book I woke up with an idea of a writing game where one person starts a story and the next person has to continue it. In my sleep-adled brain, I wondered what would happen if whatever someone wrote, it really took place. Around the same time I was doing a lot of thinking about God's sovereignty and why bad things happen to good people. I had an idea of a story that would show how even though God is directing our fate, he sometimes allows us to go through terrible things, knowing that he's working it to our ultimate good (in this case, Sal Russo directs the girl's fate in his writing).

What has been the hardest part of writing your latest book and how did you overcome it?

Getting from one chapter to the next. The first 100 pages were both fun and hard. As I got into the story, my outline changed completely and at times I felt like I was driving blind. I overcame the writing by doing what I call the Dean Koontz method. I wrote each chapter over and over until I had it down to what I wanted it to be. Then I moved on to the next. This allowed me to focus in on each scene and craft it for tone and feel. It also allowed my brain to get the story's tempo. I noticed the chapters get shorter and more intense as the story moved toward its climax.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

That while we don't understand why God allows bad things to happen to us, He is in ultimate control and both sees us and knows us.

What new projects are you working on?

I'm working on a thriller/Adventure where treasure hunters are looking for the broken fragments of the original Ten Commandments that Moses brought down and shattered at Mt. Sinai.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? The programs and speaking that you do?

I have a web site, There you can read about me, view a few sample chapters of my novel and read a number of short stories that have been published.

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

The best advice: My mom: "Is that the best word you can use to describe that?" also a book called "Between the Lines."
The worst advice: The market doesn't like novels with writers as the main characters. Or men. Male writer characters aren't going to sell.

Anything else you'd like to take this opportunity to say?

Writing fiction is like being a superhero. There's this gift that seems so hard to use, is often overlooked or underappreciated, and yet it comes with great responsibility to use properly and constantly, regardless of compensation.


Monday, January 18, 2010

I won't go dig through your online site

I’ve gotten several lately that said “I have a book I’d like you to represent, go to my website and you will find all the information you need there.” I try to always be as polite as my momma raised me so I wrote back:

I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound snippy but I don’t go visiting sites checking out projects. I review proposals to see what sort of a document I would have to work with pitching editors. (Besides, responding to links in emails without really knowing what it is simply is not a good idea).

I would such be happy to entertain a proposal on it per the submission guidelines at our website at which shows exactly what our agency needs to receive in order to properly evaluate the work in terms of the markets in which we are currently working.

A professional proposal is a single word or .rtf document that is a quality presentation, yet preserves the proper formatting in the requested first three chapters to show how the actual work is formatted. To see if it's something we could easily base a submission on to sell an editor on the project. The three chapters give me a feel for the writing and the rest of the proposal the marketability of the project and the platform and promotion ability of the author. I accept this file as an attachment to an email and do not accept hard copy submissions.

We look forward to seeing more on this project, and having the opportunity to evaluate it up against the markets that we are currently seeking work in order to fill the needs we know exist, as well as new market needs which surface daily.

Undeterred, in each case they wrote back and said “Go to the site or don’t go to the site it’s the most efficient way to present it.”

The first one that said that I wrote back and just said “don’t.”

I was in a better mood the second time and said : Sorry, but as I said it wouldn’t give me what I need to pitch it for you so there is no point. Good luck with it, although I would highly recommend you check submission guidelines for any agent or editor you want to pitch to and send them what they want the way they want to receive it. Strictly up to you however.

I know, I know, if I’d just said “it’s not a good fit” the first time I might not have heard back at all, but then again, a lot of people want to discuss that too and point out the error of my ways. But you see, I really am driven by wanting to help somebody make a successful submission so I very often say something that to them seems to invite discussion instead of them realizing they got a useful tip.

But can you believe it, he came back a third time still wanting to argue about it. He seems to feel that I have an obligation to read his material and not only that that I MUST do it his way rather than how we publicize all over as the method we use to properly process submissions. There are reasons we do things the way we do, as with most agencies and publishing houses. Perhaps he will find someone who will do it his way instead of the way he wants them to do it. I hope so, but it's not going to be me.

The bottom line is that I get more than a hundred submissions a month, a lot of good books, and all were careful to follow the submission guidelines to give me what I needed to see to make a decision, and to be sure I had a great base document to build an agency proposal on. Why with all of those folks that did it right would I go to some website where I’d have to lift pieces right and left and try to piece some sort of proposal together to be able to submit it? And why would they think sending me that little abrasive reply would make me say “Oh my, what am I thinking? I better run over there and dig through that site.”

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Interview with client Claire Sanders

What is your latest project? Tell us about it.

My latest project is "Shades of Grace". It's an inspirational romance set in East Texas and centers around a Christian's response to hate crimes.

How did you research for this book?

I was already familiar with the people and culture of East Texas since I spent a lot of time there in my younger days. What caused me to do a lot of thinking, however, was wondering how Christians should respond to hate crimes. Are we called to fight the hate crime, turn a blind eye, or turn the other cheek?

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I read about several cases of arson against African American churches. That's what got me thinking. Of course, the police and fire fighters would do what was necessary to find the culprits, but how would Christians respond? As Christians, we are taught to turn the other cheek, to forgive those who hurt us, and to pray. But how would a community of believers react if their church was destroyed by arson?

What has been the hardest part of writing your latest book and how did you overcome it?

For me, the hardest part of writing any book is perseverance. There's always some point in writing where I just want to quit, give up my dream, and pretend I don't have stories burning to get out of me. However, if I just take a few days off to reflect and think about where I want the story to go, my desire to write overcomes my self-doubts.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

The enjoyment of a good story, characters they will remember, and thoughts about how Christians react when faced with life's difficulties.

What new projects are you working on?

I'm currently working on a story titled "The Captive Bird." This story concerns a young woman named Jenna. As a young girl, she had a crush on her brother-in-law's nephew. Fifteen years after that girlhood crush, who should show up at her front door but that nephew. Now Matt is an emergency room doctor and he's come to deliver a request. His uncle is in hospice care, and wants to see Jenna. Jenna refuses to see Matt's uncle, but sends him a written note. When Matt reads the note, he sees that Jenna has written "I never told." Needless to say, Matt is curious about the meaning of the note, and the rest of the story is about Matt's discovery of old hurts and the meaning of forgiveness.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? The programs and speaking that you do?

The best way to find out more about me and to contact me is through my web site:

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

The best writing advice I ever got was "don't give up". The worst writing advice I ever got was "just follow the formula". In order to stand out from the crowd, I have to be original.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Interview with Client Bill Garrison

What is your latest project? Tell us about it.

“The Solomon Project” is currently being pitched. It is a corporate suspense novel about a corporate prodigy that discovers fraud at the company he is working for. The fraud may involve his family and closest friends, and threatens to destroy everything believes in. The plot revolves around a construction company bidding for a large state contract. I have experience in that field, so I was able to “write what I know”

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I really get inspired by the feeling I get from reading a good book, whether it be thrills, chills or tears. I want to create the same feeling in the reader when they read my novel.

What has been the hardest part of writing your latest book and how did you overcome it?

It’s been awhile, so I can’t remember too much, but I did learn a lot about POV while writing that book. It finally clicked for me.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

I want people to realize they don’t have to be a pastor or a minister or a saint to be a witness to someone. No matter what you’ve done or how far you’ve fallen, God can still use you for someone who is searching.

What new projects are you working on?

Current project is “The Day She Died,” a suspense novel with an element of time travel. Who hasn’t wished they could relive their formative years knowing what they know now? I know I have. That served as a launching point for this novel in which the main character gets to relive parts of his life, including the day his girlfriend was murdered, to try and find out who killed her.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? The programs and speaking that you do?

I’m not published, so I’m not active in speaking or teaching yet, but I’m on facebook and shoutlife and have web domains bought for future use…

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

Best would be that “being a published writer is hard” which helped me realize I couldn’t do it all by myself and that it was okay to ask for help. ACFW has been a great resource for me.

Anything else you'd like to take this opportunity to say?

Other than that Terry is the best agent ever, I think there is no greater thrill than reading a good book. The publishing industry may change over time, but there will always be a place for good writers.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Interview with client Suzanne Hartmann

What is your latest project? Tell us about it.

The Race that Lies Before Us is a Christian suspense novel that blends the excitement of stock car racing with the thrills and action of the suspense genre. The protagonist is a top-secret agent with enhanced strength who must use her extraordinary abilities during several high-profile assignments, but struggles with trusting God to protect her secrets, especially when a NASCAR champion becomes determined to find her. As the danger builds, she becomes a terrorist target and realizes the only way she can save her life as she knows it is through death.

How did you research for this book?

Mostly through checking out oodles of NASCAR books from the library. I now volunteer at the NASCAR Nationwide and truck series with Midwest Raceway Ministries at Gateway International Speedway in St. Louis as well. While we minister there, I also have an opportunity to see the race up-close and personal.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

God has always been in control of my writing (and reminds me of that when I try to wrest control from Him) and I try to follow Him as He leads me along my writing journey. Because of this, most of my ideas strike me from out of the blue.

What has been the hardest part of writing your latest book and how did you overcome it?

Developing thick skin and learning how to accept critiques was a huge hurdle. I had to realize that the people critiquing my work wanted to help, swallow my pride, learn from them, then apply the lessons learned to the rest of my manuscript.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

While I mainly just hope people will enjoy a good read and all the twists and turns I pitch them in The Race that Lies Before Us, I hope they also gain an understanding of how we need to trust God even when what He tells us to do doesn't make any sense according to human logic.

What new projects are you working on?

I have two WIP's.

1) Marital Fiction is a romantic suspense novel which also has a NASCAR twist to it. The heroine meets the hero after he is in an accident at a NASCAR race, and soons feels like she might have found Mr. Right, but when a manipulative old woman leaves her an inheritance that will rescue her from the financial ruin caused by identity theft, the terms of the will and her ex-husband's schemes force her to face the consequences of her greed.

2) Disappearing Mom is a story about a woman who learns to embrace the non-entity status that stay-at-home mother's often suffer until she a discovers that she can sink into this status to the point of truly disappearing. She learns to control her new ability and has fun with it, unaware of how her disappearances harm her...until it's almost too late.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

The programs and speaking that you do? I have a website called Suspense with a Twist, where I keep a variety of resources for writers, and two blogs. Write at Home is a blog about the writing craft and The Race that Lies Before Us is dedicated to my novel of the same name.

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

The best writing advice I ever received came from my husband while I was writing the first draft of The Race that Lies Before Us: just finish the book. I've received plenty of bad advice, but I file it all in the trash both physically and mentally, and don't even bother to remember it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Guest blogger - Dr. Bill Griffith

I am Dr. Bill Griffith, a retired pastor. In my years of ministry, so many people had asked me questions about Biblical references to people whose names were given but nothing more. I had to say I did not know.

Who was Rhoda? (Acts 12:12-16) and why was she important enough for Luke to tell this strange story? Who was Theudas that an army of more than 400 men thought he was the promised messiah? And who was Judas the Galilean? (Acts 33-39) What was the story of Matthew’s mother whom he called “the other Mary”? What did it mean that Jesus was “a man of sorrow and acquainted with grieve” and why did he never marry?
Who were Barsabbas and Mathias that they would be the two chosen as possible successors to Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:31-26)? Who was Cornelius? Why was he chosen to be the first Non-Jewish Christian? (Acts 9, 10-11). What does the angel’s quote mean? “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:4)

I set out to find out about the preparers of the way for Jesus. As the months passed other questions demanded answers even as shocks made Jesus’ preparers and opponents into real people for me. Research only created new questions. One day I looked at the pile of papers showing many interconnections with the persons who were helping or opposing Jesus. It did not seem to me possible to tell the complete story by provable facts to satisfy scholarly doubt. So wrote a novel of trust, making the “might have been” into “I believe this is exactly what happened.” Each story seemed to me to have been a likely event.

After nine years and using the services of editor, Carla Bruce, I submitted the novel to literary agent, Terry Burns. He told me that I had too big a book – “old ladies cannot read such a book in bed.” His remark and challenge did not lead me to cut down the size of the novel. It did challenge me to tell the whole story of the struggles of the people who were “seeing a great light.”

The book expanded to three books – the first one tells of the conditions six months before Mary was told she was to bear God’s child. I named that book “Darkness before the Dawn.” The second book told the story between the annunciation and the coming to Palestine of Pontius Pilate in 26 AD. That book is named, “First Light.” The third book called “Dawn” tells the story of Jesus’ followers and his opponents and continues until the end of Pilate’s governorship in Palestine. The three books make one novel which is presently called “Chronicles of Cauis/Preparers of the Way.”

Tantalizing facts - Pilate was arrested and a prison ship transported him to Rome in 34 AD. He either committed suicide in 35 AD, or was executed on the orders of Nero and his head taken to Mount Pilatus in Switzerland. His wife, Claudia, ruled in his name for two years. She was the daughter of Emperor Tiberias and his third wife.

The novel awaits a publisher. If no publisher comes, I have enjoyed twelve years of discovery.

Dr. Bill Griffith

Monday, January 4, 2010

Interview with client Amy Alessio

Amy, you are a client in addition to working as one of my editorial assistants. You contributed to and edited the short story collection "Missing" from Echelon Press and after your book for the library profession "A Year of Programs for Teens" was so successful you have a contract to do version two of it. Tell us about these projects.

The "Missing" anthology began when I wanted to do something about the news in the Chicago area especially about missing young wives, mothers and even young children. I had contributed a short story to Echelon's "The Heat of the Moment" in 2007 published for a charitable cause and I asked CEO Karen Syed if she could do another anthology, this time benefitting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I offered to edit it, and she agreed. My husband and I adopted our second child just as the stories came in and I did a lot of reading while Owen slept on the Boppy on my lap. My story is about Alana, an antiques store bookkeeper and her search for a missing sister, teen and disappearing cookbooks.

Young Adult Librarian Kimberly Patton and I wrote A Year of Programs for Teens and did many workshops as a result. That topic is something libraries often seem to need new ideas for. That's exciting - that so many places want to offer fun services for teenagers! American Library Association Editions asked us for a second edition, and we had done enough new programs to fill up another. It will be out in 2010. When we were in contract negotiations for that, editor Stephanie Zvirin asked me to write a readers/program guide on teen mysteries for 2011. Mysteries are a specialty of mine, and I review them for Crimespree magazine.

Working as your editorial assistant actually teaches me as much about my own writing as it does about the business. When I ask prospective clients to add more action or to reshape their proposals, I think about ways to improve my work as well!

What other writing projects do you have on your plate?

I am self-publishing another Alana story called Felled by Fruitcake on my site soon with recipes, and sales will help the local food pantry, which is really struggling right now. I'm just polishing it up.

I maintain a blog on Vintage Cookbooks ( ), and have just started doing library talks on that topic. I'm amazed at the response, and several places that hired me are asking me to sell cookbooks. I modernize older recipes and adapt them. For example - prunes are everywhere in the old cookbooks, and no one now wants them in cakes! So a cookbook proposal is in the works. I find this amazing - and so different from anything I'd imagine I'd be doing as a writer. I put a mini cookbook on Kindle to go along with my talks, too (it also helps the food pantry). That even includes some of my Grandma Curtin's recipes.

For fiction, I'm rewriting a young adult mystery and finishing an adult romantic suspense.

I know you are a young adult librarian and have been a national officer in your professional library organization. Tell us about that role and the programs you do along that line?

The Young Adult Library Services Association ( filled with energetic and welcoming people. It was a privilege to be elected to their Board twice, including a term as their Fiscal Officer. I've been involved with many projects for YALSA during those times and since, and one thing I do for YALSA is trainings for library staff on teen services. I have presented over 80 workshops and panels nationally on teen literature and services, and I always get as many ideas as I give, I think. Certainly I meet wonderful people doing great things for teens with often very little resources. I'll be doing an online class for them in February on Power Programming. The teens I work with at the library are always amazed that people want to hear me speak. They ask what I have to say!

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

I took a class from J.A. Konrath which helped tighten up my prose a great deal. He also says that a writer who never gives up is called Published. Certainly your advice on presenting my writing and myself like a pro has made a big impact on my career. Honestly I had not previously thought about writing as a business to pursue with a plan or marketing strategies!

The worst? I did pay for a critique at a children's writer's conference once where the author told me I knew nothing about teens...

Anything else you'd like to take this opportunity to say?

Open your mind to possibilities. If your story you slaved over does not get accepted right away, think of other talents you have and other ways to get yourself out there (and in front of editors!).

Thank you Amy for all you do to advance reading for young people.