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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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part One)

One of the most difficult—and important—things we did when I worked in the publishing house was come up with titles for our authors’ novels. Sometimes it was a breeze, either because the author’s title was spot-on or because the story lent itself organically to a certain title. But more often than not, it was a long process of back-and-forth with the author, marketing, and sales. So how can you, the author, develop a title that works well? Give the following tips a try.

1. Tone. Be sure your title reflects the tone of your story accurately.

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News You Can Use

Non-Fiction is True, Fiction is Un-True – Tony Reinke explodes this myth.

Campus Crusade Changes its Name – No longer call Campus Crusade by that name. It is now called Cru. This is not a prank, it is the real deal. One scalpel edged writer has some pointed things to say about the change.

The Difference Between Buzz and Word-of-Mouth – Matt Perman makes a simple definition to help clarify.

Top Ten Differences Between the Published and the Self-Published – Robert Chazz Chute discussed the main reasons that separate the two groups. Ending quote: “It used to take a powerful store of hope to be a self-published author. Now more faith is demanded of my traditionally published friends.”

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently – a great article from the Harvard Business Review. Number four is my favorite: “Be a realistic optimist.”

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Back to School?

by Steve Laube

Depending on where you live and your school district policies you may already be in a back-to-school mode or preparing for it.

It got me to thinking about the need for all writers to always have a “back to school” mentality.

Here are five things we can learn from always going “back to school.”

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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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Show or Tell: How Do You Know?

As we discussed last week, it’s okay to tell at times, but in fiction you want to show the important, emotion-laden scenes. That way the reader gets the vicarious experience along with the character. So how do you know when you’re telling rather than showing? Here are a few tips:

Beware the dreaded –ly adverbs.

“Get out of my novel, you –ly adverbs!” Alice said angrily.

Ah-ah-ah! Any time you use an –ly adverb (angrily, happily, stupidly, etc), you’re telling us what the emotion is rather than showing it. Instead, show the emotion, whatever it may be, through actions or punctuation. In the example above, the exclamation point tells us Alice is being vehement, but it’s not clear if she’s angry or frightened.

Alice stared at the page of her novel, her blood pressuring rising. Thirty-two! Thirty-two –ly adverbs on one page! What was wrong with her? “Auughh!” Her cry still echoing around her, she grabbed the page, crumpled it into a compact ball, and pitched it, as hard as she could, against the wall.

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News You Can Use

Pretend You Are on an Airplane – an excellent article on how to be more productive in your work day.

How to Handle Criticism – This is the bane of a writer’s existence. So how do you handle it when others criticize?

How Not to Write a Book Review – Three golden rules for those who review books.

Before You Send Another E-mail – Read this post by Seth Godin. For example: “If this e-mail were to cost me 42 cents, would I send it?”

Are You a Perfectionist Writer? – Jeff Goins has some quality advice about perfectionism.

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The Greatest Book (Ever) on Sales & Marketing

by Jim Rubart

Today’s guest post is from Jim Rubart. He and I first met at the Mt. Hermon writers conference where I infamously rejected him (see #10). A bit about Jim. Since 1994, Jim has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Barefoot Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. His debut novel Rooms released in April 2010 and hit the bestseller list that September. His next novel, Book of Days released in January. He’s also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world’s most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn’t sleep much. Visit his website at www.jimrubart.com.

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What’s the best book you’ve read on sales and marketing? I’m guessing that if you were to list your top five favorites,Green Eggs and Ham probably wouldn’t be in the mix.

But it should be.

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