KM Weiland Understands Me


Katie Weiland understands me, even when no one else does. In her upcoming book Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration, Katie quotes this excerpt from her blog post “Why You Should Be Writing Scared“:

When it comes to writing I’ve got the wanderlust. I’ve no interest in visiting territory I’ve already covered. I want to journey on, see new sights, discover what’s over that next horizon. With every new project I begin, I make it a point to push myself to new heights. I want each story I write to be completely different. I want to meet characters I’ve never met, not just rehash the old standbys. I want to tackle themes that are always a little bigger than what I already have a handle on. I want to attempt narrative feats that seem all but impossible at my current skill level. Life’s too short for me to run in circles chasing my tail. That might be comfortable; it might be familiar; but it’s not exciting and it’s not challenging.

Exactly! And that’s why I’ve been balking about having to limit myself to one genre.

This works for her. This amazing indie-author has done an awesome job of branding herself, which means she’s been able to pick and choose her genres with smashing success because everyone who reads her books knows what to expect–variety and excellence.

But is it wise for me? No, since my goal is to be with a larger traditional publisher someday–and therefore have a wider print distribution–I have to play by the game rules. I wish I’d had the foresight Katie did to work the rules more to my favor. As it is, yes, I’ll stick to Women’s Fiction/Romance. But this is okay. It allows a variety of subgenres, which means that while my playground is hemmed in by a chainlink fence, it’s still a pretty big area.

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Your Facebook Author Page

author banner

Recently, I read a comment from an author who didn’t understand the perks of having an author page apart from his regular Facebook page. I had to think about that a minute, because I wasn’t sure of the answer. I have an answer now, and I think I’ve discovered a strategy to utilize my own author page better.

I use Facebook for keeping up with family, with both personal and close cyberfriends, and with my writer friends and aquaintances. Most of the folks who have “friended” me are writers. Had I possessed a functioning brain at the time I started this, I would’ve opened a separate page for personal friends and family, but I didn’t and I don’t feel inclined to separate everyone at this late date. Besides, they get a kick out of my posts. They’re fun and silly for the most part. I also vent about my writing progress/frustrations here. My writer buddies can always relate, but others couldn’t care less.

I’ve never posted about writing on my author page. Aside from this blog, which gets posted to the page automatically with each new update, nothing goes up on that page that pertains to the art, craft, and adventures of writing. That page is all about the readers and what they would find appealing. Not all of my followers on that page are authors. Some really are fans (yea!) who want to keep up with me, learn when my next book is due out, and participate in the giveaways that are always part of new-book promos.

So that’s two things I do right–I keep that page about the readers, and I host giveaways only for followers of that page. Just like I have things in my newsletter that are only for folks who take my newsletter.

I read an article that gave ideas of how to better utilize the page. Online Marketing expert, Susan Gilbert, suggested these techniques–well most of them. I supplied another. Susan meant these to be for a Facebook marketing campaign, but I think her ideas are great for keeping your fan page active:

1. Hold regular giveaways. I love this idea. I have several books at the house that I ordered for different events but haven’t sold, so I can always offer my own books as giveaways. I can also offer books I’ve read and am ready to pass on. I keep these in great shape, so they’re “like new,” and perfect for another reader. I don’t know about “regular” giveaways, however, since I’m using this to keep my fan page active instead of using it as a component in single marketing campaign, but random giveaways would work.

2. Ask open-ended questions that engage the readers in dialogue. This one is always hard for me. I come up with things on occasion, but more often than not, they’re duds. My winners, however, make the posts fun and the readers’ responses are great. I’ve done this on my regular page and on Twitter (which, for some reason, is always a dud for me), but I think I’ll kick it up for my author page, too.

3. Present “calls for action” in which readers can gain opportunity to champion you and your works, or to help you in some other way. I think this is similar to having a “tribe.” Actually, this may be a great way to identify those willing to be in your tribe. Be sure to have some tangible way to thank those who help you.

4. Give out tips and advice. This is particularly great when it can pertain to something in your book. If I had a lick of sense–and I do, so I’ll probably take my own advice soon–I’d have posts about cat care on my site, since my most recent promo book is The Cat Lady’s SecretOr, since my work-in-progress is a contemporary western romance, I can give tips from my research about things that would interest my western romance readers.

5. Share your author friends’ giveaways when they will appeal to your readers. If you’re branded (like I’m supposed to be, but I’m not yet. Oops.), your readers are following you because they like the genre you write in, so promote friends’ works that appeal to their interest.

Can you do all this on your regular FB page? Of course. Personally though, I like having a separate page for my readers (though not all who follow that page have actually read my books). And, the more active I am on that page, the more people are reached. I’m not sure I can say that about my regular page, because my regular page doesn’t keep stats for me.

That’s another perk to having a separate author page–the stats. Right now, I have around 680 followers on my author page (not many, I know, but give me time). And on the day I wrote this post, my page reached 1091 readers. That discrepancy is a mystery I’m not interested in solving, but it’s great to know that the more active I am on that page, the more people I reach. It’s also great to know which posts reached the most people, a stat which allows me to adjust what I’m putting up to appeal to the readers. Also, if I were so inclined (and I’m not), I can compare my page’s activity levels to those of other author pages.

But a slow-growing page is the best kind, because many of those joining you are interested and will engage with you, respond to your activity. I recently watched a video someone posted from Veritasium, called “The Problem with Facebook.” I recommend everyone watch this before spending too much in the line of advertising dollars on Facebook.

But, regardless of the video, is a fan page worth it? Yeah. I think so. Look for me on mine.


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Linda Yezak Took an Ax . . .

Pat and TalonBefore the ACFW Conference, I’d been on a roll with my work in progress, Riding Herd, the sequel to Give the Lady a Ride. I was nowhere near finished, of course; I’d just crossed over the 10K marker and had a clear vision of where I was going from there. Knowing where your WIP is heading is a wonderful, satisfying experience, something I’m sure outliners get to revel in on a regular basis. Folks like me, who sketch out only a few scenes at a time before committing them to the manuscript, don’t always know what’s going to happen after those few sketched scenes. Don’t get me wrong: I know what is going to happen in the book itself, in each major point throughout the book. But the action that brings me from one point to the next is often contrived at the last moment.

After a week in St. Louis and another week in Bryan with my sweet mama, and a week in between to recuperate from St. Louis and prepare for Bryan–in other words, three weeks after I’d crossed that 10K mark, I picked up the manuscript again.


There’s a trick to writing sequels, a balancing act that I need to work on. How much do I need to include from the last book to bring folks up to speed in the new one? How much is too much? How can the book be both a continuation and a stand-alone without disappointing anyone?

During the “week of recuperation,” I began reading a friend’s sequel-in-progress, and since I’d read the first in the series, I realized she had included too much of some things, not enough of others. She felt the need to explain, to re-present old news, to re-introduce absolutely every character so the new readers would feel up to date. Problem is, the new readers wouldn’t make it through all the backstory–which is what all this old stuff is–to get to the new story. I suggested that she pick out from the first novel only what was important to the plot and theme of the new story and gently weave it in.

I need to heed my own advice.

When I reread Riding Herd this week, I realized I’d done exactly what my friend had done. I felt the need to explain, to re-present old news, to re-introduce absolutely every character–along with some new ones–so my new readers would feel up to date.

I’m introducing a new character, Aunt Adele, in Riding Herd, and I felt I had to explain how and why she fits into the plot. She’s the cactus thorn that pops Patricia and Talon’s love balloon, and she comes with her own backstory and psychological baggage. Her characterization is rough right now; she’s a little too sharp. Readers probably won’t like her as she is right now and will wonder why Patricia puts up with her, but that’s a problem I’ll deal with after the story is written.

Problem is, setting the stage for her and resetting the stage for the new readers put the action off too long. Way too long. Even though I know I’m not supposed to edit until after I write the entire manuscript, I just couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t add on to the story knowing that the first half of what I’d written so far would have to go. So, I pulled up my granny panties and went to work.

I’m not talking surgical precision here. I took the ax and hacked away at it. Then I took the scissors to the discarded parts and rescued scenes and dialogue passages I liked to weave them back into the remainder of the story. Over five thousand words hit the cutting room floor, and just over a thousand were rescued from the incinerator.

And that is how I can now sit here and proudly tell you that I have over 6000 words in my 10,000-word work-in-progress.

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Don’t Tick Off the Author

don't tick of the authorYou’ve seen it on Facebook, I’m sure: “Don’t tick off the author, or she’ll put you in her book and kill you.”

Yesterday, at the doctor’s office, someone ticked off this author. First time in a long time I wanted to start writing murder mysteries again–maybe not to kill her, but I’d certainly love to word-paint her in her true colors.

I walked into the doctor’s crowded outer office and waited in a short line to register, one couple ahead of me, one elderly lady at the window. On the other side of the window, a gum-poppin’ receptionist with a rhinestone-studded head band explained to the older woman that her insurance wasn’t accepted at this office. The girl looked barely over twenty, and to her credit, she was being as patient as she could. When she did get frustrated, she stepped away and let someone else talk with the rejected patient. Because of where I stood, I was able to see the receptionist roll her eyes to the heavens and flail her arms, but I doubt she was visible to anyone else.

The poor older woman had a hard time understanding why the only advantage she had with Medicare Advantage was to be publicly rejected and turned away. She politely argued with the girl for several minutes, explaining that the card she had was the same one they’d accepted long ago. Nothing had really changed–at least in her mind. The receptionist kept trying to explain that the card wasn’t excepted, and the woman would just gape at her. The older woman finally gave up her argument and turned away–shoulders stooped, lips tight, eyes dazed. It broke my heart to watch her leave.

But I also felt sorry for the receptionist. Imagine having to turn people away from medical attention! It’s a sad situation brought about by folks far away from here–and far out of touch with reality, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.

When I got to the window, I said, “That must’ve been hard for you, having to turn someone away like that.” I was expecting her to feel as heartbroken for the elderly patient as I felt.

Her response? “Yeah. Some folks just don’t get it.” Gum-smack. “Name?”

Is it just me, or does that seem lacking in compassion? I’m going to have to figure out how to put her in a book. I won’t kill her. A twist of fate will be far more fun.

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Do You Have a Platform?

groupMaybe I should start with asking, “Do you know what a platform is?” I’m not talking about the construction/architectural definition or the political definition, but the one used for us writers. Recently I proof-read a query for a friend and realized that not everyone knows what agents are asking when they request information about a potential client’s platform. Granted, the terminology is confusing. I’d never heard the word used like this before I got into the business.

A platform is the group of people you personally have access to.

That’s all there is to it. Do you have a family? Do you have friends? Do you belong to any kind of organization? Do you have a job? All these count toward your platform. They may not provide the impressive numbers agents and publishers are looking for, but they’re a start.

The best time to start building your platform is the moment you decide you want to write a book. Get involved with social media if you haven’t already, and if you have, expand your circles. You don’t have to write book-related things, just make friends. Your “followers” count as part of your platform. Write for magazines. Join groups. Like I said, they don’t have to be writing-related. Join organizations that hold the people who will comprise your future audience. They’re your springboard. Look at it this way: A platform is the foundation from which your readership will be developed.

Gaining this understanding is the easy part. The hard part is developing numbers high enough to impress those you query.

At the ACFW conference, I listened to the professionals during two agent panels as they discussed the importance of platform. The numbers they were quoting made me wonder just who was dreaming–me or them? Folks with the kind of platform they’re hunting are a small percentage of those seeking an agent. It was depressing, I tell ya. Made me wonder if I had a chance.

I started brainstorming ideas of how to improve my platform, add to my numbers. First idea that came to mind was to streak the Super Bowl. Then, as they led me off the field, wrapped modestly in a cop’s jacket, I’d hold up a placard: “Christian Author! Follow me on Twitter!”

I discarded that idea. Getting to the Super Bowl would be expensive.

Another idea I had was to claim to be related to someone famous. I could be Linda Kardashian, the redheaded stepchild. Linda Trump, the one who didn’t inherit the business mogul gene. Or maybe I could star in a reality show. Real Housewives of Naconowhere, Texas. Dish Dynasty. Naked and Frightening. Laundry Wars.

Truth of the matter is, every single superstar author started out as Joe Blow or Jane Doe. Before Stephen King was–you know, Stephen King!–he was probably just plain Steve. Agatha Christie was probably Aggie. Everyone had to start somewhere.

I asked one of the agents whether not having a monster platform was a deal-breaker, and he said, “Well, not for me.” And probably not for the others either. If so, they’d have a hard time getting clients. Which means that having an incredible product and a willingness to work can still land you an agent, even if your platform is as small as mine.



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Deconstructing “City Slickers,” Finale

city slickersStill with me?

Monday, I introduced the idea that I applied Chris Vogler‘s structure paradigm to City Slickers because that was the movie that kept scrolling through my head as I listen to his course at the ACFW Conference in St. Louis. I covered the first act and its components: the Ordinary World, the Call to Adventure and subsequent Refusal of the Call, Meeting the Mentor (in the first incident, it was Barbara, Mitch’s wife), and Crossing the Threshold.

Wednesday, we entered the Special World and met the allies and enemies. I presented several of the tests our hero faced, then reassessed our allies and enemies. Curly shifted from being an enemy to being a mentor just before he died.

By the end of Act 2A, we’d had the Ordeal–the battle between the heroes and the enemies, that ultimately resulted in everyone leaving the scene but our three main characters, Mitch, Ed, and Phil. That was the big turning point, but it wasn’t the climax. It’s the beginning of the big test–what everything has been building up to.

So, what’s next in the paradigm?

early bird 1(You can click on the picture to make it larger.)

We’re moving toward the Reward and the Road Back, the last elements in Act 2B, then we head to Act 3, toward home and the character’s Ordinary World.

city slicers herding sceneIn the movie, we didn’t get to go through Mitch’s mental process that made him change his mind from going back to the ranch house with the other city slickers and decide to join his buddies in herding the cattle. He showed up on the scene, had some pithy comment about his return, and off they went. I doubt novelists could get away with that, but it worked in the movie.

We’ve had some bared-soul moments with Ed and Phil, but it’s safe to say Mitch isn’t there yet. All he has to go on is Curly’s hint about One Thing, and he doesn’t have a clue what that one thing is. Still, there’s a camaraderie and a sense of well-being among the three buddies. The going is easy, the conversation casual–Mitch teaches Phil how to set his VCR. Having the friends all together, unified toward a common goal, is the Reward they earned for surviving the Ordeal.

They don’t get to enjoy it long, though. They’re facing The Road Back.

It starts raining and the task becomes more treacherous, but they’re dedicated. They keep working, keep pushing.

One of the characters Mr. Vogler lists is the Gatekeeper. As the name implies, the gatekeeper’s task is to keep folks “out,” keep them from achieving their goals. In City Slickers, the Gatekeeper is the river–a live, writhing thing, swollen from rain and ready to kill.

In a nail biting climax, our heroes get the herd across, but the calf is caught in the current. Mitch dives in to save it, and the river carries them both away. Phil and Ed make a frantic effort to save them.

Spoiler Alert! Our heroes conquer the river! They save the calf, then push the herd onward to their destination. Cue Bonanza theme as they ride down toward an adoring crowd. Accolades all around from their fellow city slickers who chose not to carry on with the herd and from the ranch owners.

They’ve all enjoyed a Resurrection. Phil admits his divorce allows him a “do-over,” a chance to get it right. He leaves the movie with a new love interest. Ed decides he likes fidelity after all and chooses to start a family with his lingerie-model wife, a sure sign his fear of commitment has been conquered.

And Mitch? He found out what that “One Thing” is: his family. He Returns with the Elixir–his smile . . . and Norman.

city slickers and norman





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Deconstructing “City Slickers,” Part 2

city slickersIf you were here Monday, you know I’m using Hollywood screen-writer Christopher Vogler’s structure paradigm to deconstruct one of my favorite movies. I just bought Vogler’s book, The Writer’s Journey, and haven’t read it yet, but he taught our Early Bird course in St. Louis this year, and I don’t think I quit taking notes until the final applause for him hit.

Monday, we went through the prologue and opening scene of City Slickers–“Act 1″ according to the paradigm. Others call this the “set-up,” where we learn the cast of characters and how they interact, and we discover the “Ordinary World,” hear the “Call to Adventure,” and “Meet the Mentor.” Now, we’re going to “Cross the Threshold.”

Here’s the chart Mr. Vogler used during the course (click on the chart to enlarge it):

early bird 1

We’re moving into the second quadrant, going clockwise. This is where we thrust our character into the “Special World.” This world, according to Mr.  Vogler, is always polarized, and to a certain extent, Mitch’s special world is: it’s the Ranchers/Cowboys vs. the City Slickers.

Now our story starts escalating. I wish I’d taken a picture of Mr. Vogler’s visual, but this one will have to do:

progression chartMr. Vogler’s chart was more wavy, illustrating more time allowed in the peaks and valleys, but the idea here is the same: ups and downs in a progressively upward direction. This is what the story line is like from here. Tests increase in intensity, valleys allow time for introspection and reevaluation.

The transition from the ordinary world to the special world (Crossing the Threshold) was as simple as changing scenery. One moment, we’re in an apartment in New York, the next, we’re on a ranch in New Mexico. When writing a novel, all we’d do is turn the page and start a new chapter.

city slickers curlyMore characters are introduced and divided into two camps: other thrill-seekers and the ranchers. Then there’s “Curly” (Jack Palance). Gruff, tough, gritty. In the beginning of Act 2A, he’s the one most admired, and most feared. Nothing fazes him, no one crosses him, everyone obeys him. He’s leathery, like “a saddle bag with eyes.”

So, is he “ally” or “enemy”? We spend much of Act 2A finding out. He’s ever-present during the tests in this part of Mitch’s Special World–and he doesn’t seem too friendly.

The tests start out simple enough. The guys have to learn to rope and ride. Mitch stands up to the ranch hands. Then comes the “Yee-Haw!” scene, with everyone saddled up and ready to roll ‘em. Catch those strays, boys!

We have further exploration into the characters. Ed, for example, is forever looking for a loophole to fidelity. Mitch is honest and wouldn’t dare take advantage of an opportunity to cheat. Phil and Ed bicker. Mitch plays peacemaker, the voice of reason.

city-slickers-grinderNext morning, Mitch wants coffee, and we face our first “big” test. The noise from the coffee grinder starts a stampede. Cattle trample everything in camp and head off to parts unknown, until Curly stops the frantic herd with a single shot in the air. Then, with a sneer on his lips, he chooses Mitch to help him round up the strays. Just the two of them. Alone.

In the next several scenes, we’ll engage in a reassessment of who the allies and enemies are, starting with the harmonica scene.

By the time this is over, we have a shift. Curly no longer falls in the line of “enemy,” though he’s not exactly “ally” either. He becomes a mentor, telling Mitch that all he needs to do is to identify “one thing.” One thing that’s more important to him than anything else. Next scene presents the birth of “Norman,” the bull calf, which results in a “good job, cowboy” from Curly, further emphasizing him as a mentor and affirming Mitch on his quest.

Not long after, Curly dies, and the city slickers are left in the hands of T.R. and Jeff, the cowboys who’ve already shown themselves to be volatile. But they give logical orders, so everyone feels fine about it. And this begins the “Approach“: the place where the hero decides just how far he wants to go into his “Special World.”

At first he’s fine with it. They’re traveling along, chatting with each other–we viewers get more clues about their characters, deeper hints of what makes them the way they are.

Then Cookie gets drunk and drives his covered wagon over the cliff.

Cookie jumps from the wagon, breaks a leg, and necessitates a separation of some of the allies from the rest of the group.

Then the cowboys get drunk, nasty, and mean. This is the beginning of the Ordeal. All three of our heroes get to find out what they’re made of. Mitch, the peacemaker, tries to step in and reason with the guys. Ed, the thrill-seeker, jumps in with fists flying. And Phil–who has been on the verge of cracking all this time–finally comes unglued. It’s intense. And it’s followed by an insight into just how far over the edge Phil has leaned.

During the night, the cowboys turn tail and run, leaving our heroes and the rest of the city slickers to fend for themselves.

The crew has to decide whether to leave the herd behind and return to the ranch house, or to move the herd to its destination. At this point, there are six slickers in all, including our heroes, Mitch, Ed, and Phil. Two others have already left to take Cookie back. There are no enemies at this point, just an enormous task and the decision of whether or not to undertake it. Mitch is all for moving the herd, even assuming the role of leadership by telling them which direction to go. But then he discovers half of the city slickers want to go back, and he’s no longer sure of himself.

Ed says, “I’ll take ‘em. You all go back to the ranch.”

Phil says, “We need this, Ed and I. I’ll stay with him and move the herd.”

Mitch says, “You guys are out of your minds. I’m going back.”

Of course, he won’t.

Friday, we’ll cover Act 2B and move into Act 3.





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Deconstructing “City Slickers”

vogler 2Chris Vogler was ACFW’s Early Bird speaker, and an impressive one at that. Mr. Vogler has quite a list of creds attached to his name, particularly with Hollywood. His book, The Writer’s Journey, is a best seller among writing manuals, especially for screen writers. And it was from this book that he taught our four-hour course.

The class was basically about story structure, something we’ve all studied–or should have, if you’re a writer. But some of the things he said resonated with me better than other structure studies, and his paradigm really hit home, even if some of his terminology confused me (something I’ll discuss more when we get to it).

city slickersAlthough he used The Wizard of Oz for his example throughout the study, I couldn’t help thinking how well his paradigm fit City Slickers, maybe because I’d seen it recently. For fun, I watched the movie again and sketched its structure using Vogler’s charts. This week, I’ll lead you through what I learned. Perhaps it will help you like it helped me, but believe me, it won’t replace getting Mr. Vogler’s book and studying it yourself.

If you haven’t seen City Slickers before, or if it has been a while, check it out. It’s a fun movie, though there is some language, and there are a few places some of my readers may find offensive or at the very least embarrassing. I taped it off TV long ago, so some of the more awkward things were edited; but some of the good parts were edited, too, particularly parts that help with characterization. It’s what I had though, short of renting it from Amazon or something, so I just went with it.

Here’s Mr. Vogler’s first chart:

early bird 2You may not be able to see that very well, but what it depicts is that Act 1 and Act 3 happen in the same place–the hero’s Ordinary World. The bottom half of the circle, Acts 2A and 2B, shows the Special World we thrust him into. Act 1 is called “Separation,” Act 2A is “Descent,” Act 2B, “Initiation,” and Act 3 is “Return.”

In his second graph, Mr. Vogler showed what specific things are to happen in each quadrant of the circle:

early bird 1I’ll show this again with each post, and probably each act I present, but you can see that Act 1 carries a heavy load. This is what others call “the set-up.” This includes showing the character’s ordinary world, his call to adventure and retreat from the call, meeting the mentor, and crossing the threshold.

The first thing we have to do is illustrate the character’s Ordinary World, so let’s see how it’s done in City Slickers.

The movie starts with a prologue that takes place in Pamplona, Spain, for–what else?–the running of the bulls.

city slicers pamplona

In this scene we meet the characters and learn a bit about them. In the red beret, we have “Ed” (Bruno Kirby),  then “Mitch” (Billy Crystal), and “Phil” (Daniel Stern). This isn’t their “ordinary world,” but going on daring and adventurous vacations is an annual event for them, so we’re establishing what’s customary.

Mitch is the main character, a run-of-the-mill, reluctant, accidental hero, as is indicated by the fact he lasted longer in the bull run than his friends–but got a horn in the butt for his trouble. That’s one of the first nibbles we get at Mitch’s character. He’s quick witted, but ordinary. He’s the stable one, the one with his feet firmly on the ground–when he’s not flying through the air after a bull tosses him. Phil is married to Attiliana the Hun, a very demanding diva who has him totally cowed, and Ed landed a beautiful woman we later discover is a lingerie model.

city slickers sonWhen we move from the prologue into the first scene, we learn a bit more about Mitch’s Ordinary World and discover his self-image. He’s 39, married with two kids, and it’s his birthday. Another annual event is for him to be depressed on his birthday. He’s in a rut and failing at his job (he “sells air” for a radio station).

Phil works for his father-in-law as the manager of a grocery store. He feigns sleep to avoid talking to his wife. He had been cheating on her with one of the store checkers, and she discovers this during Mitch’s birthday party in a wonderfully explosive scene.

Ed is the thrill-seeker, and the next adventure he lines up for his pals is a cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado. He gives this opportunity to Mitch as his birthday present. This is our “Call to Adventure,” #2 on the chart. Mitch balks at the notion (“Refusal of the Call,”#3), which takes very little time–a simple “I can’t go,” followed by an excuse: he has to go to his in-laws’ house in Florida. His wife is counting on him.

But his wife, Barbara, doesn’t back him up on this. According to her, she’s not saying, “It’s okay if you don’t go with us.” She’s saying, “I don’t want you to go with us.”

Here, his wife is serving as the Mentor. According to Mr. Vogler, a story can have several mentors, or it can have only one. Ordinarily, the mentor does his job, then disappears–maybe to reappear later, or maybe another mentor will come along. But the job of the mentor is to give the character the push that motivates him.

Barbara gives him the push and a mission: “Go find your smile.”

Wednesday, I’ll show him on his quest to fulfill his mission, using Act 2A and 2B of Mr. Vogler’s chart.



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Sunday Shorts


It’s cool out today, and the morning sun is drawing mist from the water. It rises higher than the branches on its way to the brightness, where it peacefully disappears. From here, it looks like dozens of spiraling spirits slow-dancing their way to heaven, but I wonder what it looks like from the road to our neighborhood.

There are several ponds dotting the landscape on the way to our house, and if I were driving right now, I wonder if I’d be blanketed in fog, unable to see the light for all the misty spirits striving to reach it. I wonder if it would be heavy enough to keep me from seeing the road ahead, thick enough to make me anxious and fearful of hitting something.

That’s the way it is, isn’t it? When you’re in the middle of something you can’t grasp, something that seems larger than you, and you can’t see above or beyond it, can’t seem to see within it which way you should go, you start to fill anxious and fearful. That’s when it’s time to remember to “be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid  . . . for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you,” (Deut. 31:6).

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Do you have a strategy for your writing career? I thought I did, finally. Here it is:

1. Write a sequel to my Contemporary Western Romance, Give the Lady a Ride (which I’ve started and named Riding Herd), and self-publish it to keep Ride alive.

2. Write another Women’s Fiction novel and submit it to select agents for representation.

3. While the WF novel is awaiting a response, and to keep me from yanking out my hair in frustration with the slow process, I’ll write the first novel my next western romance series and self-publish it when it’s done.

4. While I’m working on Book 2 of the Western Romance series, I’ll also continue the research for the Biblical Historical series I have in mind–and while I research this, I can also sketch out my ideas for a devotional/study I’d love to do.

5. And I’ll also work on the sequel to The Simulacrum so Brad and I can keep our conspiracy thriller series going.

6. When I land an agent (the perfect one, of course), and while that agent is shopping my WF novel around, I’ll start on another WF novel.

7. While the first WF is in edits (because, of course, the perfect publisher will snatch it up in an instant), I’ll start developing my marketing plan for it.

8. And after I’ve done all this and released several Book Ones to several different series and promoted the daylights out of each of them–including the WF, I’ll start on that Cozy Mystery Series I’ve always wanted to do.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Self-publishing allows me to explore the different genres while devoting WF novels exclusively to traditional publication. It’s called “being a hybrid.” (Notice they’ve kidnapped my word. “Hybrid” no longer means being part Panster and part Planner. It means being both an indy and a traditionally published author. I’ll have to come up with something else for the fact that I’m a Planster.)

Can you imagine how excited I was when I came up with my plan? I finally found a loophole around the rule of restricting myself to one genre!

At the ACFW Conference, I sat through three discussion panels–two agent panels and one panel of hybrid authors who were already successful in the traditional houses. Here’s what I learned:

1. Don’t execute my plan. It’s not a loophole. It’s a noose.

2. If you are going to write in different genres, make sure they’re compatible. If they’re too different (like the conspiracy thriller series), use a pseudonym.

3. Be careful not to compete with your publisher. That one threw me for a loop at first. I took this to mean that I couldn’t self-publish in the same genre I’m traditionally published in, but I’m not supposed to self-publish in any other genre either. But what they meant was to space your indy books so they’re not being released at the same time as your traditionally published book. Easy enough.

4. The publisher can sue you if you do compete with them.

5. And that’s why you need an agent if you’re a hybrid. Of course, you need one anyway if you’re going traditional, just so you can get in the big houses– 

6. –but agents also help you keep your career on track. They also negotiate contracts and, in general, champion you as one of the greatest authors ever known. Which is one of the reasons why they won’t accept your work if they don’t believe in it.

7. (and important to me), I’m not restricted to the Contemporary Western Romance I started in as I first believed, but I can write Contemporary Romance in general or even continue as a Women’s Fiction author. The novel that lands me a new agent and publisher will have to be the genre I write in for them for a long, long time, but I still have a chance to choose. 

Finally, also vitally important to me, since what I’ve been calling “Women’s Fiction” all this time is actually “Chick Lit,” a term rejected long ago because it’s supposedly offensive (seriously?!)–

8. My kind of “Women’s Fiction” falls under the category of “Contemporary Fiction.”

It’s nice to have that cleared up.

So, do I have a strategy now? Well, kinda. It’s basically the same. I’ll just run a heavy romantic thread through absolutely everything I write and hold off on the genres that romance doesn’t fit into easily. (Well, except for the Conspiracy Thrillers. That one’s a fly in the ointment for me. But since Brad gets the marquis billing in the by-line, maybe it’ll be okay.) Cozy Mysteries can have romance. Biblical Historicals can, too–I just have to figure it out for the particular series I have in mind.

Of course, all my novels will fall in the category of Christian Fiction. I’ve tried to write mainstream, but I just keep bringing it around to CF. Which suits me fine. That’s the one genre I’m certain of.

By the way: if you follow the old maxim “writers write” and believe it to be as simple as that, brace yourself. You’re in for a surprise.

Posted in Misc., Personal, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments