Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This Writer's Journey (continued)

A truly mysterious thing happened this week.

After my 1 p.m. Friday workshop at the Space Coast Writers Conference on "Nuts and Bolts for Constructing Fiction," a gentleman stood in line to speak with me. As he approached with a stunned look on his face, he reached over, took a copy of The Distant Shore from my book table, and muttered, "This is weird."

"This is REALLY weird," he repeated, shaking his head.
"Excuse me?" Was he insulting my work?
"This is so, so weird." He held The Distant Shore by two fingers like it might electrocute him.
I was speechless. How was I supposed to respond to that?

"I'm sorry. Let me explain. I rush home from work today just before lunch to change clothes and THIS..." (he dangles my book at arm's length), "THIS is on my kitchen counter."
He noticed my confused expression.
"I'm a single father of a 12-year old son, who wasn't home at the time."
Debbie must have still looked perplexed.
"I didn't buy the book. He surely didn't buy the book. I've never seen this book before in my life. It wasn't there when I left in the morning, but there it was, like God dropped it down from heaven right through my roof. And then I come to this conference and you're the first speaker and I can't believe my eyes, but there it is again..."

We both stared at the magical space-traveling object he held aloft.

I could only think of one thing to say. "Well, God sure must want you to read my book!"

The mystery plagued us the rest of the day. Then later that evening, it suddenly hit me. His son! Of course! His son was 12 and I was speaking at three middle schools in that area the following month. I found him in the ballroom at dinnertime and asked what school his son attended. Sure enough, it was one of the schools that had purchased copies of The Distant Shore for their students to read before I arrived.

I felt like Trixie Beldon, book sleuth. Or at least Nancy Drew.

But it would have been so much cooler if the Almighty had signed up as my book distributor.

-Deb Coty

Top 10 Blog Writing Tips

Have you thought about starting a blog? If not, think again. There's a lot that a blog can do for you--create exposure, build readership, develop your technical skills.

But even more importantly, blogging makes you a better writer. It's like piano scales. The more you practice, the better you get.

Here are a few tips from Website 101 to keep in mind for your soon-to-be-created blog:

1) Write with the reader in mind.

2) Make it valuable and worthwhile.

3) Proof-read!

4) KISS. Keep it short and simple.

5) Keep it lively, make it snappy and snazzy.

6) Link to other sites. Often.

7) Use keywords often.

8) Write clearly.

9) Write like you talk.

10) Use a clear headline.

Source: Website 101

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Snowcrow

You may recall my challenge from last month to try something creative each week. My husband (who at first insisted he was not creative) took up the challenge and, frankly, is outdoing me. He's exhibiting creativity in all sorts of mediums. The picture above is of a snowman he made last week. It stands in our front yard. Every time I drive into the driveway, I'm startled. I wonder for an instant, "Who is that strange man?"

A lady stopped by to get a close-up look. She said, "I love your snowcrow!" To me, her comment demonstrates that creativity inspires creativity. How are your creative pursuits coming?

Can you guess what Steve used to make the eyes and nose? He claimed the use of this substance demonstrates the height of creativity. I said, "Disgusting."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Writer's Journey (continued)

As we all know, promotion is the key to "success" in the publishing biz. You may write the best book in all the universe but no one will read it if they don't know about it.

So this week, my main focus has once again been on promo of my recently released novel, Billowing Sails, and upcoming humorous non-fiction book (March release date) Mom Needs Chocolate. Since BS is a YA novel and my target audience is not only women (same as MNC) but teens as well, my promo approach is a little different.

For the past three months, I've been contacting every bookstore, library, middle and high school principal and English teacher I can find to pitch my Young Writers Workshop, a program I developed in conjunction with The Distant Shore, prequel to BS. Both books come with an affiliated writing instructional mini-course (excellent for adult writing groups as well) that I've been able to use as my "hook" to interest many diverse groups. I'm invited to speak, and BINGO - book sales!

I also developed an hour-long writers mini-workshop, "So You Want to be a Writer..." which is the hook that has served to draw nice crowds at bookstores. Unless you're named Dungy or Rowling, bookstore signings are considered a waste of time these days without some kind of hook to entice people to come. If you're only there to sign books, you end up feeling like a hawker at the county fair, desperately trying to woo people over to your table as they rush by. Demeaning and not much fun.

So Saturday I had a successful mini-workshop/signing at my local Christian bookstore, and depart tomorrow to lead two workshops over the weekend at a the Space Coast Writers Conference in Cocoa Beach. Yes, beach. Beaches are good!

Yesterday I received two more inquiries about Young Writers Workshops and now have twelve scheduled for the next five weeks, including four in the same day at one school, and four different schools in the same area (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) for the Friday and Monday I'm planning on spending the weekend with friends in Melbourne. For authors, it always pays to mix business with pleasure!

I also spent time yesterday exploring a delightful campground that my local writer buddy and I have decided to book for our full day November 14 writing workshop: Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat. The lodge where we'll meet overlooks the picturesque Alafia River peacefully winding through the wooded 100 acre property - perfect for a writer's retreat!

One last promo tidbit - keep fresh stuff flowing on your website to entice people to keep coming back. I just added a hilarious chocolate video on my Choc-Out page at in association with Mom Needs Chocolate. It's a fantastic parody of Kelly Clarkson's, "Because of You," and tickles the chocolate bone in all of us. If you need a smile, check it out!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I (Suzanne) just received back revisions for a novel from an editor. I was really (really!) pleased that there weren't many changes to make. I don't know about you, but I tend to focus on the next assignment (even if it's revisions) and not ever pause to celebrate. Yahoo! I'm making progress in my craft!

With that thing I noticed, though, is that I have to re-work a few spots where I put in asides (also known as explanations) outside of dialogue.

It's always best to cut the explanation and weave it into dialogue.

A couple of tips I'd recommend:

Take a highlighter and mark every place where an explanation is mentioned outside of dialogue.

Cut the explanations and see how the dialogue reads without them. Better? Worse? If it's worse, then start rewriting your dialogue.

Should some of your longer passages be turned into scenes?

If one of your scenes seem to drag, try paragraphing a little more often.

Read your dialogue aloud. At some point or another, you should read aloud every word you write.

Now's the time to work and re-work your writing. View it as a craft, one that you're honing each time you have the objectivity to self-edit.

Source: Paraphrased from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King (Collins).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Adjusting to change. Or not.

Deb talked about kindle earlier this week and since I've been contemplating all the changes we writers must adjust to.

I'm not sure I want to adjust to reading books on kindle (What replaces the feel of the paper, the sound of turning pages, or the smell of a new book?) or giving up my over-filled bookcases, but embracing new technology is the way of the future. Even my mother texts! Did you hear about the bestselling novel that a Japanese writer wrote by texting? I read (in my paper newspaper) that it was entertaining and popular.

And what about Twitter? Does anyone get the lure of Twitter?

Here's my twitter report for this morning: It's taking a while to get going here in Central Pennsylvania today. It snowed four inches overnight and it's very cold--about 10 degrees. I have a fire going in the wood stove and another in the fireplace. School was delayed two hours. As I sat in front of the fireplace, alternately watching flames and snow blowing off snow covered tree branches, I was so thankful that I don't have to go into work until 12:30 PM on Thursdays!

While I sat in front of the fire (wondering about who first discovered fire and the change that brought to life!) I took a few minutes to read Psalm 139. A writer crafted this beautiful poem more than 2000 years ago and it's still relevant and exciting and life changing today. WRiting that stands the text of time--that's the quality I want in my writing--whether I write on a slate, on a sheet of paper, or on a Twitter message board.

Stay warm and happy writing!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This Writer's Journey (continued)

I received an e-mail from the publisher of my upcoming "Mom Needs Chocolate" book informing me that they have recently become an entity on Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube. Great networking idea for those in the book biz, including us writers. (Look me up - I'd love to become your friend on Facebook!)

It brought to mind a conversation I had last week with the proud new owner of a Kindle. Never heard of it? I hadn't either before my friend introduced me to her hand-held electronic bookstore, but it's time to become acquainted with the future.

Still a bit pricey ($350 range), a Kindle user can stock the little gizmo the size of a wallet with purchased e-books (less expensive than traditional hard copies), as well as subscribe to just about any newspaper, magazine, or periodical you can imagine (anything available through Amazon). Read anything...any time...anywhere.

And best of all, you can adjust the font and illuminate the screen so you don't need to haul out your reading glasses!

As a techno dinosaur, I stared open-mouthed as my friend demonstrated the myriad of publication functions available at the flick of her thumb. It occurred to me that if we authors don't hop on the cyber train of such as this and Sony's e-pub version, we may be left stranded at the station.

With improving technology, the future price of such electronic wonders will no doubt drop, and bulging bookshelves may become but a memory.

No one likes change (especially me!), but it's a solid fact that the traditional publishing business is in trouble. I've heard of several publishing companies recently closing their doors and cut-backs in many others. My publicist (through my publishing house) mentioned that her work has doubled since her administrative assistant was laid off along with a dozen other employees).

As difficult as it is, we writers need to expect flux. If we want to survive in the flood of change, it's time to get out the ole' surf boards and learn to ride the tides.

-Debora Coty

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why Do You Write?

Last Friday, I (Suzanne) had coffee with Kristen, a new friend who wanted to talk about writing. She has a background in public relations, is smart as a whip, new to the area, a recent empty nester, and is looking for a place to put her energies and talents.

I asked Kristen about what kind of writing "lights" her up. Without missing a beat, she explained that it was communicating in such a way so that it changed people's behavior.

"Oh!" I realized. "You need a cause!"

"Yes! Yes!" She practically jumped out of her chair. "I need a cause!"

Once we had that figured out, we sat and brainstormed a plan. We came up with a couple of very reputable charities that would love to use her "know-how."

Kristen asked about what it's like to write novels. I said that it requires a lot of quiet, uninterrupted time to write.

"Oh, I couldn't handle that," she said. "I need a team to get excited."

After our coffee, I pondered how I write for a different reason than Kristen's. I like to write to work things out in my mind. When I was a young parent, I worked out troubling situations through my magazine articles...I spoke to experts and seasoned parents and tried to figure out the way to handle situations.

It was interesting to see how Kristen and I both love to write, but in different ways and with different end results. I admired her objectivity about herself. I think she will accomplish her goals because she has a realistic idea about herself.

Most writers have very vague goals about writing.

Why do you write? What makes you light up about writing? Do you need a team to get excited? If so, are you part of a writing group?

Faith had some great ideas last week about setting specific goals for herself. This year, what is your writing goal? And how are you going to accomplish it?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Show and Tell

If you want your writing to get to the next level, concentrate on "show and tell."

"Show and tell" is like being an eyewitness to a scene. In other words, the writer is using "real time."

"Not showing but telling" is like writing a secondhand report.

You want to draw your readers into the world you've created, make them a part of it, make them forget where they are. You have to take your readers into your world. You want your readers to be so wrapped up in your world that they're not even aware that you, the writer, exist.

But how? For example, are you describing your characters' feelings? Have you told us they're angry? irritated? morose? discouraged? puzzled? excited? happy? elated? suicidal? Then cut, cut, cut and start again. Re-write it into the dialogue, not outside it.

Keep an eye out for any places where you mention an emotion outside of dialogue. Chances are you're telling what you should show.

Source: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King (Collins)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Writing Routines

Happy 2009!

As I think about the year ahead, I know a few things for certain and one of them is that I want to fine-tune my writing routine.

Due to the holidays and then a long bout of flu, I've been out of routine the last three weeks but today, I'm going to get back to business and get down to writing.

My routine in the past has included way too much procrastination. I'm going to delete that from the process.

Of course, I won't go without a yummy cup of steaming coffee to sip on as I stare at the computer screen.

I'm going to set some writing goals to meet. They say that written goals are more likely to be achieved than unwritten goals. So I'm going to write my goals down. And, I'm going to increase the likelihood of accomplishing them by sharing them with you.

Goal number one: my routine will include at least five hours of real writing time each week. Nothing will interfere with that writing time (not much for you full-timers, I know!)

Goal number two: I will finish the DJ article and send it by January 23.

After that, I'm going to write ambitiously on a novel that just won't go away...

And most of all, I'm going to write what I enjoy writing this year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This Writer's Journey (continued)

This week has been a frenzy of answering responses to the Tampa Tribune article that came out Sat. A lot of people simply wanted to say they were inspired by the "Make a fresh start in 2009" concept and others wanted more information about the writer's workshops mentioned in the article. I directed them to my newly updated website.

And one contact was certainly unique. Would you believe there is a multi-level "healthy" chocolate company out there? A sales rep wanted me to recruit me and have me promote his product through my book, "Mom Needs Chocolate," releasing in March. I thanked him but declined, citing conflict of interest. Yeesh.

Then after all that "successful" promotion, yesterday I drove for two hours, lugged my heavy books and props about a half mile (spilled one box of books all over the sidewalk in the process), and then shouted for two hours to nearly 100 people (they didn't have a microphone and the room was large. All this effort resulted in two - count 'em - TWO book sales.

Ah, the mind-numbing roller coaster life of an author.

Do you think that will stop me? Well, maybe for a moment. Just for a good eye roll. Then it's back to the salt mines. Win a few, lose a few, but keep on digging.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tips about Christian Publishers

• Know what a publisher publishes.

• Remember that Christian publishing markets are not open to stories that include
... profanity or minced oaths
... characters who engage in unscriptural activities without a biblical consequence
... magic
... witchcraft
... time travel

• Submit appropriately. Most publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts by
... phone
... fax
... e-mail
... audiocassette
... computer disk

Source: Bethany House Publishers

Monday, January 5, 2009

Is Your Book Ready to Submit?

• Is the theme strong enough to support a book-length manuscript?

• Are the facts carefully researched?

• Is the point of view consistent?

• Are your characters fully developed?

• Does your main character have a clearly defined goal he or she is trying to achieve?

• Is the plot organized, building to a natural, effective climax?

• Is your plot or theme unique?

• Is the language appropriate for the age of the intended reader?

• Are there books in the market similar to yours?

If you answered no to any of those...your book isn't ready. Still needs tweaking and editing and jazzing up. But if you said yes to those...all of those're good to go!

Tomorrow: tips about Christian publishers.

Source: Bethany House Publishers

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tampa Tribune Article about ...ME!

I took a bite of breakfast cereal as I rubbed my sleepy eyes and turned the page of the Tampa Tribune. Whoa, doggies! I almost spewed my Wheaties as my own life-sized face smiled back. Well, it wasn't quite life-sized but it was sure big enough to show the crows feet and under-eye luggage. Wouldn't you think they might have magical picture putty for that?
or go to, scroll down under Local News (1/3/09) and see the second item, "Author Enjoys A Do-Over." It's also on my website, (The online picture is different than the printed monstrosity.)

Anyway, I was completely shocked at the full-page article on page 6 of the main section (I thought it would be much smaller and tucked into a back page somewhere). But at the same time, I felt completely blessed that God had arranged the details of my life to start the new year out with such a lovely plug to my writing ministry.

He's the Lord of details, you know.

One of my favorite stories to prove this has always been when Jesus' disciples were sent to search for a place to have the Passover dinner (Last Supper)and found that Jesus had pre-arranged all the details down to the man meeting them with a pitcher of water on his head (Mark 14:12-16).

It came to my attention this Christmas season that the same was true of the Wise Men who followed the star to find Baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1-21). God had pre-arranged all the details. Daniel was captured and taken to Babylon 500 years before; the Magi, descendants of Daniel's people (at least they were remnants of his faith), traveled 900 miles for more than a year to arrive at just the right time to offer their costly gifts to Mary and Joseph. The gold, frankincense and myrrh funded the family's emergency flight to Egypt (just after the Magi's last camel disappeared over the hill) to save Jesus from the death raid of jealous King Herod.

Wow! It's humbling and incredibly encouraging to know the Creator of the Universe somehow finds the time to manage even the smallest details of our lives. It makes it much easier to trust Him with the big stuff, doesn't it?

-Deb Coty

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Handy, Helpful Hints for a Successful One-page Query

1. Address your query to the appropriate editorial department—Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Young Adult/Children.

2. Review a publisher's guidelines carefully. Does your book idea match its areas of interest? Are you familiar with the kinds of books it publishes? If not, take some time to peruse the books listed on the Web site.

3. Read one of the publisher's books in the same genre as your own to familiarize yourself with its line.

4. Explain why you chose that publisher. Show that you know its needs and are aware of what it publishes. For example, you might lead with something like the following: "Because of the success of your highly acclaimed author Janette Oke, I know that historical novels are a core part of your publishing program. I feel my novel, (title), would fit nicely into your historical fiction line."

5. Present your "sound bite" statement about your novel or nonfiction book idea in 40 words or less. "My book is about _______," will identify its most unique, compelling feature.

The fiction sound bite should focus on the story, and might include the heroic character, the central issue of the story, the heroic goal, the worthy adversary, action, the ending, a grabber, or a twist.

The nonfiction sound bite should include the main focus or topic. One suggestion is to describe the Problem, Solution, and Application.

6. Tell why your book is distinctive. What’s fresh, new, or different? Who will read the book (women, men–adult, teen, child)? For Young Adult/Children, specify the age group of your intended audience (7 – 10, 8 – 12, etc.).

7. Include pertinent manuscript details: a) Is the manuscript complete? b) How long is the finished book (approximate word count)? c) Give brief pertinent biographical information, including published works. d) Is this proposal a simultaneous submission?

8. Tell how to contact you to pursue further information/sample chapters.

Source: Bethany House Publishers