Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good News

I've been spending a lot of time on the road, working a couple of workshops or conferences a month, picking up leads for my clients and looking for that next big blockbuster. We're making deals too, however, and over the last 18 months my little band of clients has signed contracts adding up to 55 books. Not a record by any means, but not a bad average.

Some have been some nice deals, and some are helping my clients get their career started at a small house. That's important to me too, helping them grow their careers. When the current debut author deals hit the Publisher's Marketplace list it should put me in the first or second position of top dealmakers for getting debut authors launched.

When you visit my personal website, I hope you visit the 'Good News' page, which is where I post these success stories. If you do so now you will find congratulations for Max Elliott Anderson for a couple of contracts that he signed and which is for 11 books and is ultimately expected to represent NEARLY THIRTY TITLES. That's awesome! Four debut authors are getting a start at Crossover Publications, Richard Brown, Carolyn Rankin (with Ronni Hossli), Bobby Weaver, and Steve Hutson. Congratulations to them. Caron Guillo is another debut author that recently signed with Written World Communications, Graham Garrison signed a contract for the sequel to his new book from Kregel, and I even signed a couple of new deals for five books myself.

Also on the good news page you will see that Jennifer Hudson Taylor has a new book, Highland Blessings, releasing in a couple of months with a couple of others working through to that point. There are several that just released such as Trish Porter's Rekindle Your Dreams, Graham Garrison's Hero Tribute, Tammy Barley's Loves Rescue, and my own On The Road Home.

I encourage you to browse the Good News page anytime you stop by the website.

Have a Wonderful Easter as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Getting the necessary training

I have a good friend that very badly wants to be a writer. He has a good feeling for telling a story, but he is ‘too busy’ to be in a writing group or critique group or even participate in some of the online possibilities. And of course a writer’s conference is out of the question. That’s like a person deciding they are going to do brain surgery by following the instructions in an open textbook. Telling a story and learning to write it well enough for it to deserve publication are two different things.

When I started writing I participated in all of the above, took a couple of writing courses at college and the Writer’s Digest Course. I learned my craft for six years before I was competent enough to get a book published, and by that time I had quite a bit of short work published. Now, as an agent, I am sent work all the time by people who have a story, but who are miles away from having it competently written. I see others that are a pretty good book, but there are thousands of good books competing for scarce publishing slots. No, even a good book is not good enough, it takes an exceptional book. It takes a unique story in a unique voice aimed at a good market that is currently acquiring.

I can’t imagine anyone expecting to do something well without getting the training to do it. I still try to write on the side and even after some twenty years of trying to do so I continue to try to learn and improve.

There is no shortage of training available. I just came from the Jerry Jenkins ‘Write for the Soul’ conference in Denver Colorado. It goes along with his Christian Writer’s Guild that has a mission of “equipping the next generation of Christian writers.” Last weekend it was the regional Romance Writers of America conference in Shreveport Louisiana. I work these conferences to try and find those exceptional books I was talking about. I also have been told that one of my spiritual gifts is the ‘gift of encouragement’ and I work them to use it to encourage writers and to pass on things that I believe will help them. Things I have learned from all of my writing training and from all of the conferences and workshops that I’ve attended not to mention the ones I have learned the hard way.

Others I have coming up are the Texas Writers Guild in Richardson Texas this weekend, the East Texas Christian Writers conference at East Texas Baptist April 9-10, and the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation in Oklahoma City April 29th. May 12-15th it’ll be the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference in Estes Park Colorado, and the SW regional meeting of ACFW in Edmond Oklahoma May 22nd. June 25-26th is the Panhandle Professional Writers in Amarillo Texas and August 2-5th the Oregon Christian Writers Conference in Portland Oregon. Beyond that some others are pending.

I don’t get to pick the conferences that I work but dependent on being invited. I’ve worked a forty or so other conferences besides these, but there are still some that I haven’t worked but would enjoy getting a chance to do so.

What sort of programs do I do? At present the most popular is “Pitch and Promote like a Pro” based on a month long program done for ACFW (the American Christian Fiction Writers). I have a book coming out on that which will make a nice companion piece for it. A popular feature at conferences is editor and agent panels but at smaller workshops and conferences where that isn’t done I do an “Agent Q & A” that is popular. I do a program on “Making a Living Writing” one on “Being a Christian Writer in a Changing World” which I have also done a couple of times as a keynote. I do a basic program for fledging writers on “So You Always Wanted to Write?” and one on “Using Fiction to Spread God’s Word.” There are others I haven’t been doing lately I could dust off and trot back out or as with a recent conference could design a couple of new ones to fit.

Every writer should ask themselves if they are getting the necessary training to be successful at getting published or if they think they just “know how to write a good book,” maybe because they have read so many. And when have we gotten enough training that we know what we are doing and can begin to teach? My opinion is that any teacher who is not also continuing to learn will soon be presenting stale or outdated material. I was fascinated at the Denver conference to look over and notice Jerry Jenkins making notes during Max Lucado’s program on writing. If a bestselling writer like Jerry is still working to improve his craft what excuse could the rest of us possibly have?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Irish Blessing

Since it's St Patrick's Day and a lot of people know that I'm a 5th generation Irish storyteller and a 4th generation Texas Bull Shipper (you notice how carefully I said that word) that it might be appropriate to say a few words.

My Irish heritage goes back further than 5 generations, that's just as far as I can document the storytellers in the line, although I suspect they all are. My great-grandmother was an O'Green from Cork County, although they dropped the O on the boat on the way over and it just became Green. I know her daddy could spin a wee tale, so that makes five for sure.

On St Pats day everyone wants to be Irish. I was at a conference in San Antonio when it rolled around a couple of years ago and everyone in the place was trying to be Irish to the core. When they found out I was the real deal I became something of a celebrity. Given my size they speculated that I might actually be a leprecauhn disguised in a ten gallon hat. Someone pointed out that leprecauhns were very little men but someone else quickly pointed out “not in Texas.”

I neither confirmed nor denied it and still stand by that position. If you look up the definition of leprecauhn it says "they usually take the form of old men who enjoy partaking in mischief." Ask my wife if that isn't true.

Should any of you be superstitious, or if you just don't want to take chances, the famous "Luck of the Irish" is only transferable on this day by receiving an Irish blessing, preferably from a real leprecauhn. For that reason I will now pronounce upon you the most famous of all the Irish blessings:

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Oh, yes, it's also said that you can capture a leprecauhn and find the location of their pot of gold, but that's back in the old country and you'd have to catch one over there to accomplish that.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My storytelling heritage

I like to say that I am a fifth generation Irish storyteller and a fourth generation Texas Teller of Tall Tales. I have the family history back much further, of course, I just don’t know for sure that they were storytellers. I do know my great grandfather Martin A Green (of the Antelope Al story) could spin a yarn and am told that he got it from his father. The line of succession comes down through to me through my grandmother Lizzie (Green) Tunnell and through my mother Ruth (Tunnell) Burns. That was O’ Green until they got to America. They dropped the ‘O’ on the boat over. So it may be more than five generations, but who’s counting?

My daughter Teresa (goes by Teri) may be generation six, I don't know. She worked a number of years in various roles at the newspaper and has been an editor and freelance journalist. She works as one of my editorial assistants, but hasn't shown an inclination to spread her wings into fiction.

Grandma Tunnell used her storytelling skills on a regular basis. The whole family agrees that she was a scaredy cat. They went to the cellar every time it came a cloud, and when her husband worked ‘towers’ which is what they called the graveyard shift, she would keep the kids up to keep her company by telling them stories. Mom said she could take the simplest story and build the tension in it to where it would scare them to death.

I come by it naturally. It was hearing these stories and capturing and transcribing them that got me started writing. Then came the piece de’ resistance. I found an old spool of recording wire in my grandmother’s wash house. I had an uncle who kept everything and could fix everything and he had an old wire recorder. We managed to get it working well enough to play the spool and I recorded it on a tape recorder.

It turned out to be my great Grandfather’s son Ira telling the tales he had grown up hearing from his dad. It was a tremendous find. From there I spent hours and hours transcribing it because of the quality of the recording until I finally had it all down except for one word. There was one phrase in there I just didn’t understand. A history teacher friend read the transcript and knew exactly what it was. She said “that’s a league and a labor,” those who fought in the battle for Texas Independence were paid with a “League and a labor of land.” My transcription was complete.

A lot of my western writing friends have wanted me to make some of this material available but I haven’t been able to. Port Yonder Press has helped me with that as they are publishing a set of my “collected short works” giving me the opportunity to pass some of them on.. I am very excited about that opportunity. The first book “On The Road Home” is out now and these stories will be part of the second book in the series tentatively titled “Just Cowboys.”

Growing up with a heritage like this nothing would do but for me to try my hand at writing, particularly with this collection of work to build on. I did a family book with many of these stories, one that was never published, but much of it found its way into my other writing, and much of it makes its way into the next book. I spent many years writing other things connected with my work as a chamber of commerce executive, but always there were the former storytellers from my family tree looking over my shoulder saying “when are you going to write what you really want to write?” and “when are you going to do something with our stories?”

Well, I suppose . . . finally . . . that time is now.

On The Road Home is out now, (you can get an autographed copy through my bookstore)and Just Cowboys will be out soon.