Author Tamela Hancock Murray

Coming Full Circle

by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Today’s guest blog is from Kim Vogel Sawyer a best-selling author whose books have topped the sales charts and won awards since 2005, when she left her elementary school teaching job to write full time. Her books have won the Carol Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Her stories are designed to offer hope and encouragement to her readers. Kim sees a correlation between the writing of a good story and God’s good plan for every life, and she hopes her stories encourage readers to seek God’s will in their own personal lives. Bestselling author Tracie Peterson says: “Kim Vogel Sawyer is an exceptional storyteller who is sure to please fans of historical fiction. Her attention to detail and love of God shines through.”

In addition to writing, Kim Vogel Sawyer is a popular speaker, freely sharing her testimony of God’s grace and healing-both physical and emotional-in her life. She and her husband Don reside in Hutchinson, Kansas, and have three daughters and four grandchildren. She is active in her church and loves singing, acting, playing handbells, quilting, and chocolate! You should visit her web site!

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In 2002, as my health was crumbling to the point that full-time teaching was no longer a possibility and I didn’t know what I was going to do, my dad–feeling as though I needed a major lift–took it upon himself to make my publishing dream come true. He sent a story I’d written, titled A Seeking Heart, to Steve Laube, who, at the time, owned a self-publishing company called ACW Press. And Steve agreed to help me get it into print.

Thus began a journey beyond the scope of my wildest imaginings.

You see, all of my growing-up years I had held tight to aspirations of being a writer someday. But a series of rejections from publishing companies in the early 1990s convinced me I had no future in writing, so I’d poured my heart into teaching. Loved it, too–felt secure and successful in the classroom. But God, the planter of dreams, had a different course for me. I truly believe He allowed my health to deteriorate so I would be forced to step out of my comfort zone and take a second look at writing. And He prompted Daddy to reactivate long-held dream at the perfect time.

A Seeking Heart found an audience, and the feedback from readers gave me the courage to once again submit to traditional publishers. In January of 2005, one of my stories found its way to Bethany House, where Carol Johnson enjoyed it enough to ask Janette Oke to take a peek at it, leading to an endorsement from the “Queen of Christian Fiction” for my first traditionally published novel, Waiting for Summer’s Return. (I still hyperventilate when I think about it!) I contracted with Bethany House in March of 2005 and have been celebrating a full-time writing ministry ever since.

But y’know what? God still had a few surprises up His sleeve. :o)

Between 2002 and 2005, I had arranged with a print-on-demand company to print two follow-up books to A Seeking Heart, creating a three-book series.

Between 2006 and 2010, my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, sent out queries to traditional publishers about the Mountain Lake Series, but none were interested. As much as I wanted these stories–these very special, first, straight-from-my-heart stories–to be given new life, it seemed as though it was a dream that would be forced to fizzle. Until now.

Recently two things happened: 1) Tamela joined the Steve Laube Agency (the same Steve Laube who had a role in placing my very first book into the hands of readers); and 2) a company called Hendrickson purchased rights to reprint the three books in the Mountain Lake Series. My editor for this reprint project is (are you ready for this?) Carol Johnson.

I realize there are some people who would call this coincidence. I don’t. To me, it’s a very clear picture that God is right in the center of my writing ministry. Which is, of course, where I want Him to be. He truly has brought me full circle, drawing me fully into His plans for my writing. Is there any better place to be than the center of God’s will? I don’t think so.

Years ago, I adopted the verse “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4, NKJV).” I wanted to delight myself so thoroughly in Him that seeking and following HIS will would become the deepest desire of my heart. Then, whatever He gave me would be exactly what I wanted. When I adopted that verse, I didn’t know where He would take me, but now I can look back and see how my heart’s desires have been met abundantly and exceedingly beyond my expectation.

The rewritten and updated Mountain Lake Trilogy will release in 2012–ten years after the release of my very first self-published novel. I intend to host a celebration of praise for all God has accomplished within that decade. He simply amazes me!

May God bless you muchly as you journey with Him!

~ Kim

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Responding to Criticism

When someone tells me she’s not sure she wants me to read her manuscript, I know she’s not ready for publication. Such sentiment shows a lack of confidence and a fear of both rejection and criticism. Even though readers usually treat writers with respect, a critical word can puncture the heart.

Imagine the wounds delivered on Internet sites such as Amazon from readers who lack that respect. A major complaint I hear from distraught authors is that people download free Christian novels and then post hostile reviews. A cursory bit of research reveals some say they felt duped because they didn’t realize they were downloading a Christian novel. It is likely they just grabbed it because it was free and did not look at other reviews or the book’s description. These readers aren’t victims of duplicity, they were, at the very least, lazy and then blamed others when the book wasn’t to their taste. Unfortunately the temptation is for the author to strike back with a serrated reply.

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Tag, You’re It!

One of the most common habits I see burdening stories is overemphasis on conversational tags, which goes hand in hand with not making good use of action tags. Here’s an example I just made up:

“No,” she exclaimed. She looked at the the pot of stew bubbling the stove and saw red juice splattering. She began to stir.

Unable to resist multitasking, I demonstrated several bad habits in the above sample of poor writing.

First, punctuation. When a character exclaims, use an exclamation point.

“No!”

“She exclaimed” adds no new information unless you need to designate a character from several so in almost every case, omit it. Same can be said for tags such as “said” and “asked.” In fact, “asked” accomplishes nothing because the question mark says it all.

Any tag should reflect what the character is saying. “He’s a slippery snake,” she hissed, trumps, “What a viper,” she hissed. If in doubt, entertain the office cat. Read sentences aloud to make sure the tag works.

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Bon Voyage — or A New Adventure?

On Monday, Barbour Publishing informed the industry that they will be discontinuing their Heartsong Presents imprint. After 18 years and 1,000 titles, it will end its run in December 2011. Publishing has always been fluid. Steve Laube says that it is important to stay flexible because “A publisher can dramatically change directions after a meeting on Tuesday.”

I never thought Heartsong Presents, a line for which I proudly wrote, would collapse. Ever. But their line isn’t the first. Remember, for instance, Palisades? Or Alabaster? Both of those romance imprints were published by Multnomah but abruptly disappeared. Or the Three Rivers imprint or the Jan Dennis imprint at Thomas Nelson (both of which ended on the same day in the 80s). Many times a writer has been waylaid as these situations changed for them, sometimes in mid-contract.

If you are an author whose line has been discontinued, you must summon the courage to take the next step. This is where your agent can be invaluable. 

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More Convention Highlights!

As you know from reading our own Steve Laube’s excellent insights on this blog about ICRS, the days were busy, exciting, and invigorating. The convention confirmed our optimism about Christian publishing’s bright future.

I’ve been to the convention a number of times and have always been blessed. This year, it took place in Atlanta, a lovely city that offers hot, sunny, humid weather. My biggest challenge was trying to keep my hair presentable.

A writer following ICRS news would think this event has shrunk to nothing, but in fact, the Convention Center overflowed with exhibitors. All total, 21 writers from The Steve Laube Agency were in attendance.

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Convention Time!

by Steve Laube

Last week was the 2011 International Christian Retailing Show (ICRS) in Atlanta, Georgia. Tamela Hancock Murray and I  had a busy time. Statistics released declared that professional attendance was up 9.7% to 1,748, primarily representing buyers. Total attendance was up 5.83% to 4,918. International attendance was up 16.17% to 431 attendees from 61 countries.

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Special Announcement

 

Congratulations to Kathi Macias, author of Red Ink (New Hope Publishers) for being given the 2011 Golden Scroll book award for Novel of the Year presented by the Advance Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). This is a tremendous honor.
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We are also thrilled to announce that seven of our agency’s clients have been named as finalists for the Carol Award presented by the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Congratulations to:

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Three Questions About Agents

In meeting with writers on the cusp of their careers or flush with new success, we find that three big questions come to the forefront. Today, Tamela shares her answers:

How do I find a literary agent?

1)      First and foremost, visit the Agency web sites to see which ones are actively seeking the type of work you write.

2)      Talk to your agented friends to learn about their agents. Referrals are a big part of our business.

3)      If time and finances allow, attend a conference or meeting where your preferred agent will be appearing and meet the agent.

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RWA 2011 – Bright Lights Big Stories

by Lynette Eason

Today we are pleased to have a guest post from Lynette Eason, author of the bestselling “Women of Justice” series published by Revell. She also won the 2011 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award for romantic suspense. Last week Lynette was at the RWA (Romance Writers of America) convention and we asked her to share her experience.

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“Bright Lights Big Stories” was the theme of the RWA conference this year. My very FIRST RWA conference. What an experience!

The conference was held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. My hotel room was on the twenty-first floor. My husband came with me and we had a corner king room. It was HUGE. And so comfy. I could have just stood at the window looking down at all of the excitement on Broadway the entire week, but I knew there were other fun things to experience.

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Build it Before They Come

If you want to be a published writer, realize that someone will look for you on the web. Agents will Google your name. I guarantee that editors and marketing folks will visit your web site to find out more about you.

Thus your web site needs to be both professional and effective. It is a bit like putting on your “Sunday Best” before going to an interview. That first impression is critical.

Allow me to share unscientific, subjective thoughts regarding a few elements I especially enjoy as an agent learning about writers through their web sites:

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