Greetings from Kevin Thompson in the sunny South! Today, we take a trek into an area that is affecting more and more people, it seems, each year. I, being an administrator at a middle school by day (and a writer at all other times), am dealing with this issue more and more. The topic is Autism. And our special guest today is Lynda Young!
Lynda, welcome to the CAN front porch! Let’s get started! First question: How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I have three books published in the You Are Not Alone book series. The latest is Hope for Families of Children on the Autistic Spectrum. I have another waiting to be published for families in Children’s Hospitals.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
I’ve mainly had online articles dealing with special needs, autistic spectrum, family communications in magazines and other writer’s blogs.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
The importance of social media. I “share” other author and speakers blogs, insights, books – and reach my public audience and their audience as well.
What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Networking with other professionals in the special needs and childhood cancer field as well as blogs/links of families.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Twitter, and other avenues because I don’t keep up posting!
What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
Networking with special needs community. Special months and days are so important to those on challenging journeys.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
Does giving free chocolate count? I didn’t think so. 🙂
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
My book subjects are so serious that the people I talk to want help and encouragement from me. I try to tell lighter stories at times to get a smile from weary parents and grandparents.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Two Christian ministries who serve Children’s Hospitals bought cases of my books at a discount to give to parents.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
Network with others in your genre, specialty, and ask them to “share” your book information through their avenues. Ask friends and professionals in your field to give an endorsement on Amazon, Goodreads, and other appropriate sites.
Lynda, thank you for your time, and may God bless you and your ministry. If you wish to get in touch with Lynda, check out these outlets:
Did you know that 70% of website/blog readers want to be invited to participate? That means for Christian authors they want to join hands with you in ministry. So how do you do that in a way that is warm, inviting, and not self-promotional? Here are a few ideas to help you move your fans to action.
Greetings from steamy, summery (even before summer officially begins) but beautiful Mount Dora, Florida. Today, I have the privilege of interviewing a friend I’ve never met. Gail Gaymer Martin and I share several writing connections (including CAN) that have allowed us to pray for one another, as well as a “Gail” connection (her first name is my middle one). Gail is a multi-published novelist with lots of insights about marketing and promotion, so let’s get right to her encore interview.
Welcome back to the CAN blog, Gail. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I have 64 books published in fiction with over four million books sold. The most recent novels and novellas are: Romance by Design, Lattes and Love Songs, Apple Blossom Daze, and A Trip to Remember.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
What I’ve learned in the last four years is that nothing stays the same. Publishing has gone through major changes with many publishers folding or merging with other publishers, Christian publishers merging with secular publishers, and independent fiction growing strong. Small presses are new everywhere; in fact, I am now writing for Winged Publications, which has been a good experience. I’m not only able to bring my out-of-print books back to life as the rights are reverted to me, but also to publish novels that did not fit my previous publishers.
I agree—publishing has certainly had more than its share of major changes over the past few years. So what are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since your last interview?
Authors are expected to do a major part of the book promotion for traditional, small press, and independent publishing.
So true! What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Hi Everyone, it’s Judith Couchman. My assignment for this year focuses on blogging about writing: technique, practical pointers,encouragement, and such. I hope this helps you.
If you want to improve your prayer life, try writing.
If you want to improve your writing life, try praying.
If any profession produces anxiety, it’s writing. Writers fret about deadlines, the quality of their work, if they’ll publish, whether readers will buy their books, or if they’ll earn income. Potentially, the anxiety can paralyze getting the work done.
Two thousand years ago a writer working under duress suggested an antidote for these worries. To Philippi, the first Christian church in Europe, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7). To another church at Thessaloniki, he advised, “pray continually” (Thess. 5:17).
Instead of perpetually worrying, you can constantly pray.
Paul’s advice translates to praying generally for a project, but also praying through it as you work: chapter by chapter, section by section. Praying through absent ideas, titles, beginnings and endings, anecdotes and transitions, and anything else.
The result? God’s peace, and most likely, breakthroughs in your work.
Judith Couchman is an author, speaker, writing coach, and adjunct professor. She’s traditionally published more than 42 works. Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com. Write to her at email@example.com.
Dianne Barker here with encouragement. The Lord asked a penetrating question: “…who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?” (Jeremiah 30:21). He yearns for us to draw near, to know his heart, to walk with him in obedience, to put his teachings into practice.
Welcome to the CAN Blog on Fiction Writing. I always enjoy stopping by to share with you my many years of writing Christian romances, romantic suspense and women’s fiction. You can find more about me and my books on my website at www.gailgaymermartin.com
Today I want to talk with you about hooks. Hooks are an important technique to arouse a readers interest in a story and to keep them reading. Reader or writers, these techniques are excellent for both. Who doesn’t want to read a gripping story that tugs you to the end? I think we all do.
Every novel can use a variety of hooks to keep the reader turning pages. Hanging on to the reader’s interest can result from story hooks based on a theme or a twisted premise. Opening hooks keep the reader captivated by using accepted techniques that grab the reader’s interest. Finally plotting hooks can move the reader from the end of a chapter or scene into the next without realizing it. A hook makes the story memorable. It involves the reader so deeply that all sense of time vanishes, resulting in late dinners and missed appointments.
Certain universal fiction themes have been proven through the years to attract the interest of romance readers of both secular and Christian fiction. These themes tend to grab emotions or provide unique backdrops for the stories. Some of the standard romance themes that have proven themselves are: medical romances, office romances, holiday romances—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day. Other themes involve: undercover agents, cop heros, women in jeopardy, single moms, mom’s with twins, reunions, exotic locations, forced proximities, hidden identities, hidden agendas, kidnaps, characters on the run, abducted children, heroine transformations, second chances, match-makings, and marriages of convenience.
The opening of “Christmas Moon” uses the marriage of convenience hook.
“Rose…I want you to marry me.”
Rose Danby’s spoon clanged into the sink as she spun around to face her employer. She searched his face, expecting to see a grin, but he looked serious. He was handling the joke with the skill of a stand-up comedian.
“So…what’s the punch line?”
Paul Stewart faltered. “It’s not a joke. I was thinking that—”
“It’s not a joke?” She felt her forehead rumple like a washboard. Though she would want to marry a man as kind and handsome as her employer, she was his twins’ nanny. “What do you mean it’s not a joke?”
His gaze searched hers. “I’m sorry. I shocked you.” He moved closer. “It just makes sense.”
“It makes sense to you, maybe, but I don’t get it.”
This theme, like the others mentioned, grabs the reader’s interest from the opening lines and draws them into the story. This particular marriage of convenience theme also has a twist.
Twisted Premise Hook
A premise is an assumption the reader makes from the story’s beginning, based on what is usually expected—a doting husband is in love with his wife, a beautiful woman who has everything is happy, a successful businessman is confident, an engaged couple is planning a wedding.
When hints suggest early in the story that things aren’t what they seem, the reader’s curiosity is nabbed. He or she can’t put down the book until the reader understands the story’s twist. If a book opens with the death of a fiancé, the reader assumes he is dead, but what happens if that is not the case and it’s all a set up? Think of movies like The Sixth Sense, Ghost, Rosemary’s Baby, and others that lead the fascinated reader on a twisted journey.
Page One Hooks
Good writing uses a variety of techniques to grasp the reader’s interest from the book’s first pages. Some of the methods to open with are: action or dialogue, at the point of change,
with a sense of urgency, with captivating characters, with a humorous or novel situation, leaving the reader curious, puzzled, or intrigued, or with the reader wanting to know what happens next.
Notice the effect of these samples from well-known Christian authors.
Action: Angie Hunter stared out the tiny window of the Bombardier turboprop, keeping a death grip on the armrest as the plane bounced and dropped in the turbulent air above the still, snowy mountain range. (From Legacy Lane, Robin Lee Hatcher)
Dialogue: “Listen kids. Stay right here while I get the car.” Standing under the shelter of the covered mall entrance, Debra fixed her gaze on one precious child then the other. All the while a downpour hammered against the roof above them. (From Footsteps, DiAnn Mills)
Humor: Two things had been on Cat Simmons’s mind. Gage Farrell’s handsome face. And a dirty undershirt. (From Hope’s Garden, Lyn Cote)
Intriguing, Curious: Keryn Wills was in the shower when she figured out how to kill Josh Trenton. (From Double Vision, Randy Ingermanson)
What will happen next: The noises, faint, fleeting, whispered into her consciousness like wraiths in the night. (From Brink of Death, Brandilyn Collins)
Opening lines as those above hook the reader and give the promise of an intriguing writer’s voice and a compelling story. Remember though that those lines must deliver the story that it’s suggesting.
Two standard plotting hooks are: the time bomb and the Jack-in-the-box. The time bomb refers to a story line that has an explosive time limit—time is running out. A young woman is heir of her wealthy uncle but most find a husband within the month or she loses the fortune. A kidnapped child must be found before his next life and death medical treatment.
The Jack-in-the-box technique is a plot with surprises. From hints, foreshadowing or rising conflict, the reader senses something is going to happen and the waiting helps to cause tension. For example, the hero is in love with the heroine, but hints he has a secret that would destroy his relationship with the heroine.
Chapter and Scene Hooks
Most readers prefer to put down the book at the end of a chapter or scene. A good writer can learn techniques that will draw readers into the next scene or chapter without them being aware. End each chapter with action, a vital piece of information or a thoughtful question that pulls the reader into the next scene. Don’t stop the scene at the end, but carry some of it over at the point of interest. In A Love for Safekeeping, the heroine senses someone is following her. She darts for her car, hits the remote to unlock the door, and these two lines end the chapter.
A hand clamped down on her shoulder.
A scream tore from her throat.
The next chapter opens with a continuation of the action.
Another technique is to shift action and point of view (POV) from one character in a scene to a new scene involving another character’s action and POV. This works well especially in a dramatic situation. In Loving Hearts, the hero and heroine end their relationship. In frustration, he takes his sailboat out too late in the season and a storm comes up on Lake Michigan. Meanwhile she has second thoughts and tries to call him to beg his forgiveness. When she learns he is on the boat and knows a storm is brewing, she panics. The reader is moved between the two characters and experiencing their independent struggles.
Hooks are vital to writing a page-turner. A combination of hooks: plotting, theme, twisted premises, openings, and closing scenes or chapters can be used to capture the reader’s interest. Not every chapter or scene needs to open and close with a dramatic hook, but these techniques should be scattered throughout the story. The goal of a good writer is to write a book people can’t put down until the end.
Last month, we talked about how writing articles can be a fantastic marketing tool and platform booster. Today, we’ll tackle how to figure out what to write about for both fiction and nonfiction authors.
Greetings from Kathy Collard Miller in the Southern California desert near Palm Springs.
When Larry and I had been married for seven years, we were completely disillusioned with each other. I couldn’t understand why Larry didn’t love me anymore. He certainly was far from being the Prince Charming I’d married. Oh Lord, what’s wrong with him? I moaned. I thought we were going to have a perfect marriage because You brought us together. But now we’re such strangers, we might as well be divorced. If only he wouldn’t work two jobs and fly planes as a hobby, we could be happy.
One morning Larry announced he was flying to San Jose for the day. I quickly suggested, “I’ll get the kids ready and we’ll go with you…”
Larry interrupted me. “Kathy, you can’t go. I rented a two-seater plane and I’ve already asked Joe to go with me.”
“But Larry, we never see you. Can’t you stay home just this once?”
“Kathy, I’ve explained I’m working all those hours to secure our financial future. You just don’t appreciate all I’m doing for this family.”
My face grew hot with fury. “Money isn’t helping me cope with these kids!” I snapped. “Darcy makes me so angry sometimes.”
“Kathy, that’s just typical motherhood blues. You’ll be fine. See you later.”
Larry walked away down the hall as I felt like screaming, “Why don’t you love me anymore?”
He walked through the laundry room into the garage, closing the laundry room door behind him. I was eating an apple and before I realized it, I hurled the half eaten apple toward the closing door. The apple shattered on impact and red and white apple pieces flew throughout the laundry room adhering to the ceiling and the walls. I whirled around and marched into my bedroom, dropping to kneel beside my bed. “Lord, make that plane crash! I don’t care if he ever comes home again.”
Larry’s plane didn’t crash, but I felt as if my life had crashed…crashed into a pit of uncontrollable anger and depression. My manipulation and nagging totally failed. During the following many months, the pieces of apple remained adhered to the walls and ceiling of my laundry room and then began rotting. I saw them as a memorial to the rotten marriage I believed God could not or would not change.
One day months later, I sensed God say to me in my heart, “Tell Larry you love him.” I was shocked to hear God’s prodding. I didn’t love Larry and I believed he hated me—so I wasn’t about to give Larry ammunition against me. After all, if he heard those three little words, “I love you,” that I hadn’t said or thought for over two years, he might think I was approving of his negligence. I flatly refused.
God persistently repeated the message and I adamantly refused again! Then I sensed the Holy Spirit giving a different message: “Then think it the next time you see Larry.”
OK. If he doesn’t hear me then he can’t use it against me. Then I’ll do it, even if it’s not true.
That evening, Larry returned from a flying trip and as he walked down the hall toward me, I stared at him, gulped, and thought, “I love you…” and then after a pause, I added, “but I don’t really.” Although I was obeying God, I still couldn’t believe it was true.
But the most amazing thing happened. By making that choice to love Larry and as I continued to make loving choices, more loving feelings took over. I also recognized I’d been holding Larry responsible for my happiness. Larry couldn’t meet all my needs—only God could. My perspective was corrected when I realized I couldn’t change Larry, I could only change myself as I surrendered to God.
Then I went into the laundry room and washed off those rotting apple pieces. I no longer needed a memorial to my rotten marriage. Symbolically, I washed the rotten attitudes off my heart and mind and began to trust God with my marriage and my life.
In time, Larry noticed that I wasn’t as angry and demanding of him and agreed to go on a couples retreat with me, which God used as a turning point in our marriage. That was in 1978 and soon we’ll celebrate over 45 years of marriage. We are best friends and tell each other several times a day how much we love each other. We are committed to choosing the best for each other. I’ll never forget those rotting apple pieces because now I enjoy a laundry room free from them, just like my heart is free from bitterness and anger.
Kathy’s latest book is a women’s Bible study book for groups and individuals. It’s Choices of the Heart: Daughters of the King Bible study series, published by Elk Lake Publishing. Choices of the Heart has 10 lessons, each one contrasting two women of the Bible on different topics like God’s sovereignty, trusting God, and others.