I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy Birthday, Inkwell Inspirations!

Six years! Wahoo!

We're celebrating the anniversary of our group blog today with a giveaway of 2 $25 Amazon cards.

Ooh! Amazon cards!

Inkwell is the reason I started this blog. I was invited to participate, wanted to desperately, but feared I'd mess up since I had no idea how to blog. That's why I started my own: to practice.

But that's another story. In six years, these women have encouraged, pushed, comforted, mourned with, prayed for, and loved one another. I love them, too!
L-R, back row, Jen AlLee holding a photo of Dina Sleiman, Barb Early (aka Beverly Allen), Lisa Richardson holding a photo of Niki Turner, Anita Mae Draper, Gina Welborn, Suzie Johnson holding a photo of DeAnna Dodson (aka Julianna Deering). Front row, yours truly and Debra Marvin, holding a photo of CJ Chase.

Here we all were at the ACFW conference in Indianapolis, 2013. Some of us are in costume for the genre dinner. Some of us are present only on paper photos. But this is as close as we've ever come to a group photo!

We're also celebrating Austen in Austin, coming from WhiteFire in January, which started as an Inkwell group project. Retelling Jane Austen novels, set in historical Austin, Texas, was a delight to put together. With its sale, too, each and every member of Inkwell Inspirations is now a contracted author!

A dream come true!
Come on over to celebrate! Click here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Five Do's and Five Don'ts to Creating a Stellar One-Sheet

Since ACFW Conference is just a month away, I'm freshening up my one sheets--those 8x11 single-sheet, handy-dandy sales sheets that (along with a business card) can be given out in appointments or during conversations to agents and editors as take-home reminders of who you are and what your book is about.

....After the one-sheet is requested, that is. We authors shouldn't hand them out unless they've been asked for. But I've never had an appointment with an editor or agent that didn't include a request for my business card and a one-sheet.

They're basically flyers, ads, references that sell You and Your Book. (One-sheets for other types of business will follow different rules, but the following has served me pretty well as an author of inspirational historical romance.)

Take a breath and have fun with it!

I am not a graphic artist, but one-sheets don't have to look splashy. You can type it yourself and print it at home (using fresh ink) or take it to Office Depot for printing, or you can use a template on a site like Vistaprint.com, which is what I do. This costs more, but I feel it gives my one-sheets a more professional look that makes me feel more confident.
instrument music Flyers
Example of a template on Vistaprint, which would be perfect for a story about a violinist, wouldn't it? Vistaprint fonts, font sizes, text boxes, and photo boxes can all be changed to suit your needs.
Whether printed at home or online, one-sheets should include the following information on the front:

  • Book Title (and name of series, if applicable)
  • Genre
  • Your Name
  • Your agent's contact info. If you don't have an agent, include your contact info.
  • A story blurb, written as if it's back cover copy (and an overview of series, if applicable)
  • Your Bio
  • Your Photo
  • Length of story, whether completed or not, etc.
The backside can be blank or contain additional information in either color or b/w.

For instance:
  • Blurbs for all books in a series, if they don't fit on the front.
  • Awards.
  • Endorsements.
  • Website, Twitter handle, Facebook Author page link, etc.
So what else should you do? Consider these DO tips:
  1. Start off with a nice big title: the title of your story, in fact. Others may not agree with me, but my title is always in a bigger font than my name is, because I'm trying to sell a book.
  2. Keep in mind that readers scan through printed pages in a "Z" format, according to ad execs. They read the header left to right to gain understanding of what the flyer is about, then they scan down diagonally to the left to see if it's interesting, and then they read the "signature line", to find out who sent it. Therefore, I put the title at the top, try to have strong blurbs in the middle, and put my photo and agent's contact info at the bottom.
  3. Write the best blurb you possibly can, keeping it tight and using language that gives the agent or editor an idea of your voice as well as the story.
  4. Include a good strong photo of yourself, so the agent or editor can better remember your appointment. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the photo shouldn't be too big or too small. 
  5. Include a photo or graphic that reflects the story's setting, if it's not incorporated into the template (if using one).

Now for the DON'T tips:

  1. Don't use up all the white space. An editor or agent's eye needs a bit of resting space, and if there's too much text or graphics on a page, they may not read your amazing blurb.
  2. Don't say everything about your novel, your series, or yourself. Focus instead on the most pertinent facts: a blurb about the story (and series overview, if applicable) and a short bio.
  3. Creativity is awesome, but it shouldn't overpower the sales pitch. Don't lose sight of the goal.
  4. Don't make the font too fancy or too small to read clearly. You get a brief opportunity for this to be read, so make it easy!
  5. Don't be afraid to use color...but don't overdo it! Colored fonts can make nice headers, but black or white text (depending on background color) is easiest to read. Just make sure you can read what you've put on the page! 
Once they're done, pack them carefully when you head out to your writer's conference. Keep them with you at all times when you're there! You never know when you'll have the opportunity to hand one out!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Oh, Atticus! When a Name Deserves Another Chance

It's been a few weeks now since the release of Go Set a Watchman, the highly anticipated "sequel" to (or, as others believe, first draft of) American literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Cover of the book showing title in white letters against a black background in a banner above a painting of a portion of a tree against a red background

Who doesn't love To Kill a Mockingbird? And Atticus Finch himself? Father of the heroine, Scout, he's a man of justice, defender of the oppressed, symbol of morality, inspiration to lawyers. He's a righteous man.

Atticus is such an amazing guy, people have named their sons for him; in fact, Atticus was the most popular name for boys in the first half of 2015, according to the LA Times (7/23/15). The name speaks to hip, well-read parents, authenticity, a hope that the compassion exhibited by A. Finch will shine through the new bearers of his awesome name.

I mean, just listen to the guy. He's so wise:

 "If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

But now, with the release of Go Set a Watchman, the name Atticus might not be that popular anymore.

Because (SPOILER ALERT, but this is everywhere), in this book, Atticus is not the same old guy. He's a card-carrying member of the KKK. A racist. The opposite of his Mockingbird self.

How upsetting this might possibly be to an Atticus or parent of, who chose the name with care.

Or maybe it won't matter at all. Maybe it was chosen because it sounds good, different, interesting, or strong.

The name Atticus literally mans "man of Attica" and was the name of a Christian martyr burned at the stake with fellow companions--all soldiers--in 310 in Sebaste.
Menologion of Basil 017.jpg
11th century
Clearly, that Atticus was a brave fellow, proclaiming Christ as Lord even though doing so meant death.

Other Atticuses (Attici?) include a fifth century archbishop, two second century philosophers, and a few contemporary actors and musicians. Not to mention those we know and love personally named Atticus, which for me, includes a dog.

But there's no Atticus as dear to our culture, perhaps, than Atticus Finch. According to one article, Finch is #7 in a list of "best fictional characters of 20th-century literature." The American Film Institute voted him "greatest hero in American film" in 2003, as portrayed by Gregory Peck in 1962.

I wonder how our cultural opinions of Atticus will change, with the release of Go Set a Watchman. I have not read it yet, so I can't comment from experience, but the reviews I've seen are not that great. Rumors abound that Lee herself, nearing 90, is somewhat blind and deaf. For decades she did not want to publish another book. Watchman itself is in fact the earliest draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, which was edited and molded for years before publication. Listen to this by Tina Jordan of Entertainment Weekly:

"First, this is all about the money. And second, reading Watchman will forever tarnish your memories of one of the most treasured books in American literature."

The name Atticus may never be as popular as it has been in the last six months, but those Atticuses out there will be ok. They're their own people.

I can't say the same for our mass memories of Atticus Finch. Maybe that's why I haven't read the book yet. Maybe that's why I never will.