Fun Friday – Cheat Notes for those who missed Class!

For my last post about the 2012 ACFW conference, I’m sharing notes from the classes I attended.

The Continuing Class~Writing that Sings, with former editor, writer and agent, Karen Ball, was awesome. Karen is a fun teacher with a great sense of humor. If you ever have a chance to take one of her classes, do so.

Karen Ball

Unfortunately, I missed most of her lessons due to appointments, but I did learn the all-important secret ingredient to writing stories that sing.

Write your passion.

What drives you? Who we are, the experiences we’ve had lead to a primary catalyst. The catalyst that drives every story we write. The better you understand this catalyst, the stronger your story will be. Our catalyst goes soul-deep. When we write from it, we become more vulnerable on the page.

Karen went around the room asking people what their catalyst was. One person said they were writing about suicide. Karen kept pressing, asking why, digging deeper to find the true catalyst. The need to believe that even when you feel like God has abandoned you, He hasn’t. He’s there. He’s sufficient.   

To find your catalyst, listen to yourself. Talk to those who know you well. Say so what? What else? What does that mean?

Most of my other classes were marketing related. The most important advice I heard from more than one speaker was it’s better to do two or three things well (for example, be on Facebook or Twitter or Goodreads) than to try to do everything and do them all poorly.

As Susan May Warren said so eloquently, “If Twitter’s not your thing, don’t do it. I release you.”

Too many writers feel pressured to jump into every social media op out there and their writing suffers. The most important thing you can do to sell books is first and foremost to write a good book.

One other class that was scary-enlightening was Landmines in Your Book Contract by my agent Steve Laube.

He gave us a mock book contract that had a variety of landmines in it, which we had to find. The scary thing was that every single one of them had appeared in actual publisher’s contracts in the last year and a half.

Too many authors sign contracts without understanding what they are signing. Having an agent negotiate your contract helps you to be on a level playing field, but some agents are more contract savvy than others.

Ultimately, it is up to you, the author, to understand, and be willing to live with, the contract you’re signing before you sign. If you don’t understand something, keep asking your agent to explain it until you do.

Your Turn: Any questions?

2nd image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom /

ACFW Conference Story #2

At Kav’s request, today I bring you more details–ones I hope will interest both readers and writers–about last week’s American Christian Fiction Conference.

From the moment I arrived at the hotel, I encountered fellow writers at every turn. I hugged and caught up on life with the ones I knew and introduced myself to the ones I didn’t. Some years that included meeting my roommate for the first time. But this year I roomed with my critique partner.

Thursday night, the Love Inspired authors had a meet and greet in the president’s suite. Lucky for us, LI author Margaret Daley is also the ACFW president. Since the Harlequin family has recently expanded to include the newly procured Heartsong book club, we packed out the room.

Our editors shared some exciting news. The Love Inspired lines are among Harlequin’s top-selling lines. In fact, in August, LI even outsold Harlequin Presents.

We also learned that the Love Inspired Suspense line may expand to six books in the next year.  So RS writers get polishing.

Friday morning, I had appointments with writers whose manuscripts I’d critiqued. This was one of my favorite parts of the conference. I helped Suzanne B. brainstorm a new beginning–one more befitting a romantic suspense–to her already very strong manuscript. She told me later that both agents she met invited her to submit.

Another writer I met with had a really cool hook for her story aimed at Love Inspired Suspense, and I learned later that the editor invited her to submit the full.

I also attended one-on-one appointments with various publicists. These were super beneficial as I prepare to branch into trade-length books in 2013.

I brainstormed, with Rusty Shelton of Shelton Interactive, online book launch ideas for both Critical Condition and Deadly Devotion.

Jeane Wynn of Wynn-Wynn Media gave me an overview of what to expect for Deadly Devotion’s publicity campaign.

Then I met with Suzy Q, a former retailer and super-fun social media coach. She gave me tons of great advice on book signings, meeting with retailers, and things I might try when I speak at events.

Thanks to her, everyone at the Chamber of Commerce meeting I’m speaking at next month may leave with a free copy of my new release…if the publisher can ship the copies in time.

For writers, Suzy Q’s top two pieces of advice for book signings are:

1) Always sign your books with a fine-tip Sharpie marker. Ink fades. And don’t worry, the fine-tip marker does not bleed through the page.

2) Don’t sit behind a table. Yup, you read that right. Stand in front. Or, for those like me who can’t stand long without your back locking up, use a stool in front.

I’ve got to say that both suggestions surprised me, but she’s convincing. Did I mention that she used to handle Karen Kingsbury’s book signings?

This woman knows what she’s talking about.
Friday night my new publisher, Revell, treated their authors to a fabulous dinner in a private room at the hotel. I so enjoyed meeting the Revell team. They are all super-friendly and sweet. We each left with a yummy gift bag that included everything from the all-important chocolate for those I-don’t-know-what-happens-next writing sessions to a new book they’ve published called Nowhere But Up: The story of Justin Bieber’s mom, who’s Canadian like me, eh.

Okay….since this post is already long enough, on Friday I’ll share the highlights of the classes I attended.

Your Turn: Readers, what do you wish authors would do/offer at book signings, speaking events or online? Writers, any tips of things you’ve done that readers loved? 

P.S. For those who can’t wait to read more, hop over to Barbara Vey of Publisher’s Weekly blog. She wrote a great summary of ACFW, including the main points of Michael Hyatt’s keynote address on why now is the best time to be a writer.

ACFW Conference Story #1

What fun it was to spend a weekend with other novelists!

We had the entire ground level of the hotel to ourselves so not a single person looked at you funny if you started pacing the hall and arguing with the character in your head, or if you discussed with a group of co-conspirators the best poison to use to do away with Charlie and not get caught.

Wednesday, I’ll share some highlights of what I learned at the ACFW conference, but today I’d like to introduce you to a couple whose table I had the privilege of sharing at the awards gala on the last night.

They are Caleb and Brittany Jennings Breakey. Caleb was a finalist for the Speculative Fiction category of the Genesis contest (unpublished). I took the above photo before the awards ceremony of, I said, the future winner. 
And I was right.

Now I’m not a spec fic reader, but Caleb wowed me with his love story. How sweet is this?

He’s loved her since she was 11. Just makes me want to write him into a book.

He and his wife have taken night manager jobs to give them more time to pursue their writing dreams. Listening to them tell their story was like watching all the best parts of an inspirational romance novel come to life. Their passion for Christ and each other was wonderful to see.

I also learned that Caleb is the author of two yet-to-be-released non-fiction books. The first, How to Follow Jesus without leaving the Church, releases from Harvest House in the Fall of 2013. So…

Caleb hadn’t planned to focus on his fiction writing any longer, but his wife urged him to continue. And he’s so glad he listened.

Conferences bring out the gamut of emotions in attendees–from the thrill of a book contract, or proposal request, or an award, to the agony of being told your story isn’t ready yet, or simply being overwhelmed by how much you didn’t know that you didn’t know.

For me, the highlight of the conference was sharing in this couple’s joy the night of the gala. It reignited the passion in me to tell the greatest love story of all.

Your Turn: What inspires you?

P.S. Here’s the complete list of the 2012 Carol Award Winners (published novels)
Here’s the complete list of the 2012 Genesis Winners (pre-published manuscripts)
You can check out more photos on my Facebook Author Page

ACFW Conference Highlights!!!

St. Louis’ famous arch–the gateway to the West

As always the 2011 ACFW conference was a wonderful celebration of the best in Christian fiction and a blessed opportunity to fellowship with, and encourage fellow authors and soon-to-be authors. The highlight of the weekend is the Awards Gala, and this year, many watched it streamed live.

Today, I’ll share some photos and stories and then Wednesday, I’ll focus specifically on Love Inspired authors and have a little name the LI authors contest.

The conference was an extra-special celebration for author Erica Vetsch who learned her book A Log Cabin Christmas Collection made the New York Times best sellers list!!!

Beloved author Tracie Peterson, pictured here with her editor Sarah Long was our keynote speaker, and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Just before coming to the conference Tracie was diagnosed with MS. Your prayers for her health would be greatly appreciated.

Like at the Emmys, there are always a few attenders whose outfits steal the show. Jeff Gerke, of Marcher Lord Press, publisher of speculate Christian fiction was a hit in his historical costume. There were a number of female authors also arrayed in lovely gowns reminiscent of the heroine’s attire in their historical novels.

And what would an ACFW gala be without agent Chip MacGregor sporting his kilt.

Then there were some like Randy Ingermanson who apparently couldn’t behave himself, even while wearing a top hat and tails, after Terri Blackstock took home the Carol Award for Predator. I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with Randy (otherwise known as The Snowflake Guy, or as I like to call him, Flakey) and he really is a nice guy…despite appearances to the contrary!

  For those who read my Friday blog…I never lived down my moniker as “the one who forgot her roommate”. But as you can see, my roomie, Elaine Stock, forgave me. The books we’re holding are the door prize I won as “the person who forgot something really important”. They weren’t sure they should give it to me, considering what I forgot. But after I assured Brandilynn that I’d share them with Elaine, Brandilynn relented.

Brandilynn Collins also perpetuated my infamy by calling me up to the stage after breakfast the next morning. My table burst into fits of laughter when I exclaimed, “What’d I do now?” But Brandilynn just wanted to apologize for roasting me. I assured her that I was playing it up as a publicity stunt for my new release and handed her a bookmark. 😀

This is Bonnie Calhoun, editor of the popular Christian Fiction Online Magazine and fellow author at Hartline Literary Agency. She won the Mentor of the Year Award.

I was very happy for Bonnie, but Margaret Daley remains my mentor of the year as she’s been a wonderful encourager to me and offered invaluable help with the special needs character in my book Deep Cover.

Another of my mentors, Susan May Warren, received a Carol Award for her long Historical Sons of Thunder…which brings to mind another interesting story. You’ll notice in the background of this picture, as well as in Chip’s, there are scenes. The scenes changed to depict the story lines of each winner’s novel. Music related to the title also played as the winner made his or her way to the podium. Susie thought the sound she was hearing was ocean waves and said so aloud, only to be answered with a crash of thunder. It wasn’t until another couple of awards were handed out that she realized why “thunder” crashed during her walk to the front. 😀

Thanks for vicariously sharing the conference with me. I’m posting a few more pics on my Facebook Page. Please come back Wednesday when I share some pictures and stories of favorite Love Inspired authors and… their real life heroes.

Your turn: If you watched the live feed of the Gala, what was your favorite part? If you attended, what’s your favorite memory? If this is all new to you, do you have any questions?

If you’d like to see the list of winners of this year’s Carol Awards, click here and scroll down. They’re listed at the bottom of the center column.