Saturday, June 25, 2016

Melanie Stiles: Life Coach in Blue Jeans

(Thanks to Anthea Kotlan for filling in for me this week.)

Dear friends, I've dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting - begging! - that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. (Jude 3)

Do you sometimes feel that you just have to write? Do you see your writing a gift that God has entrusted to you? Melanie Stiles, a life coach in blue jeans, brought a heaping helping of encouragement and scripture to her audience on Saturday at our June meeting. Stiles charged her audience to view God’s gift of writing as a ministry tool for each to share lavishly. After decades of working in the area of non-fiction writing, Stiles was quick to offer some extremely practical advice in the way of application for her message. “Walk through any other door the Lord opens!” Here are a few of Stiles suggestions:
  • Concoct plays for your church, family or group to act out.
  • Blog for your church or group (and create a team to include other writers).
  • Make and deliver a list of reasons you love or appreciate someone or his/her efforts.
  • Create and publish a family or group newsletter.
  • Write letters for those who don’t have physical or language abilities.
  • Walk through any other door the Lord opens!
Stiles went on to give us four steps to be taken:
  1. Don’t be tempted to hide your words.
  2. Practice boldness…we’ve all been scared sometimes when we say yes.
  3. Let the Lord know you are ready to be used by Him. He’s a gentleman and won’t force you.
  4. Be thankful for any gifts or opportunities God gives you.

She added that when doubts assail us, remember 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV) :

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Finally Stiles closed the meeting by asking to pray the writer’s prayer over us:

Lord, I come to you expressing gratitude for the gift You have bestowed upon me. I thank you for trusting me to use it to my full potential for Your glory. Open my eyes, my heart, my spirit and my mind, that I may see Your intentions. By the strength of Jesus Christ, I know I am able to overcome any insecurity or obstacle that would keep me from doing Your will! I surrender my gift to You and Your purposes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, June 20, 2016

New Releases!

Several WOTS members new and upcoming releases. Actually, this active group of ours has had several releases all year, and I haven't been nearly as diligent as I should've been announcing them. I'm going to try to do better from now on (note I said "from now on," with apologies to those who had releases before June).

Murder Mezzo Forte: A Preston Barclay Mystery

Donn's mystery released June 9, and 
Linda's released June 12.

Donna's newest became available June 14,
and Martha is involved in this set which released June 19.

My sequel to Give the Lady a Ride releases July 5
(available for preorder), 
and the newest in Janice's Bella Series 
(also available for preorder) releases
July 15. 

If you have a release you want to announce, let me know!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Raise Your Book Above the Crowd

© 2015 Sharyn Kopf (reposted with permission from author. Originally posted in The Write Life.) 

You’re probably better off if you just don’t think about how many people you compete against when it comes to marketing your novel. We live in a world where everyone and his uncle can not only write a book but publish it. And they do.

Now we can start by disregarding the hacks—the truly awful writers who wouldn’t know a prepositional phrase from a hockey stick. They’re not your competition. But that still leaves quite a few—the writers who care and have a good story and hired an editor and quite possibly secured a publicist to get their work up and over the stacks of books clamoring for attention.

So … how do you stand out? Well, it helps to do everything I mentioned. But if you really want to be heard above the noise, stop trying to be heard above the noise. If you try to get attention the same way everyone else does, you’re just another cheap noisemaker in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Let’s say, for example, you’re in Times Square and across the way, you see your ideal reader. All these authors stand between you and her. If you could just get her attention, you know she’d pick you. You wave your book in the air. But everyone is waving his book in the air. You shout her name. As do thousands of other voices.

It’s time to look closer. Who is she? Why is she there? What does she need? More importantly, what does she need that only you can provide? Will your story offer her hope or give her direction or help her rest? If so, that’s what you tell her. But don’t make her come to you. You go to her.

The same holds true when you send out your media kit to a blogger or a radio host or a journalist. Do your research. Find out what they want. Go to them. If you can meet a need while at the same time nudging your book in their direction, you’ve done a good job.

What it comes down to is this: When someone opens your email, she's not wondering how she can help you. She's wondering how you can help her. It may sound selfish, but that’s Marketing 101.

Raise your book above the crowd, and your dream reader might forget it’s New Year’s Eve because she’s at home engrossed in your book.
Award-winning author Sharyn Kopf published her first novel, Spinstered, in 2014, then followed that up with a nonfiction version titled Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40. Besides writing and editing, she’s developing a speaking ministry to women. During her spare time, Sharyn plays the piano, makes the best fudge ever, and watches too much HGTV. She lives in Bellefontaine, Ohio, just five minutes from her favorite people in the world—her family. Visit her on Facebook.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Lovable Redhead, Crystal Barnes

She's one of the most lovable characters in our WOTS group. She laughs easily, turns red easily, and is so deliciously teasable. Let's face it: Crystal Barnes is just fun to have around.

Since I'm a fellow redhead, I could get away with asking her some of these questions. All of us redheads had "incidents" growing up that brunettes and even blonds don't suffer. We're different--there aren't too many of us in the world.

So in search of finding common experiences, I asked:

What's your worst "being a redhead" memory?

That would probably be acquiring a nickname my freckles afforded me. Don't ask what it is. I haven't repeated it in decades. [Yes, I can relate.]

What's your best?

Hmmm...that's a hard one. Maybe the year I went as Pippy Longstocking to a Halloween gymnastics party. We used clothes hangers to make my long hair stick out and everything. [Giggle!]

Bonus: Do you have the temper that matches the characterization of redheads being quick to anger? Or do you feel you have the flamboyance we're accused of?  

I'd say God has a lot to do with me not having much of a temper. I have been accused of being feisty though. I prefer the word determined. I don't know if anyone's ever used the word flamboyant to describe me. I think redheads become accustomed to being unique/different from early on. Maybe that's where that term comes from and maybe why God gave me red hair. I had to be used to being unique. Writers are for sure. [Yep.]

Okay, enough of that. Moving on:

You're definitely a country girl. You could write contemporary country/western novels but opt for historical. Do you feel like an anachronism?

(Ehem, excuse me while I go look up that word. LOL!)

At times, yep, I definitely feel like a girl out of my time period, but then I figure God gave me a love for knowing how to live off the land and old-fashioned things for a reason. When I was a kid I used to LOVE it when the lights would go out. To me it was loads of fun to warm water on the stove to take a bath and use oil lamps to light the house. Yep, I know I'm weird. (FYI: I love watching Little House on the Prairie.)

Where do you get your story ideas?

Um...God. He's the Master Storyteller, and I can't do anything on my own. I strive to write the stories He gives, otherwise they're just words on a page, a waste of ink, paper, and time.  

You've been doing cover design and formatting for a while. What got you into that?

I actually got into cover design and formatting with my own books. The first being Win, Love, or Draw. When others saw the quality of my work, they shocked me by asking me to do the same for them. I'm glad to help, especially considering I find it fun stuff. 

Do you have a website or something for people to find your service? (If not, how do people reach you? Are you taking clients outside WOTS?)

Currently I've been working off of referrals (some of these have been outside of WOTS), but I might be adding a page to my website soon. Folks, are welcome to contact me through my website if they're interested. 

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!!! 

Monday, Janice Thompson, Kathleen Y'Barbo, Vickie McDonough, Marcia Gruver, and Crystal are celebrating the release of a new collection of 5 Texas-style historical romances - Lone Star Love

Crystal's  contribution to the box set is Signed, Sealed, & Delighted (Marriage & Mayhem, Prequel Novella)

Be sure to join the 5-day-long celebration on Facebook. 


An award-winning author, Crystal L Barnes is a born-n-raised Texan and an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), her local ACFW chapter, 19th Century Writers, and her local church. She has a degree in Computing Science because she loves putting things into their proper place, and she enjoys writing because she gets to share her love of old-fashioned things and the Lord. Find out more about Crystal at or connect with her on FacebookGoogle+, or Pinterest. 

Want to stay up to date on the latest happenings? Sign up for Crystal’s Newsletter.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Book Cover Trends

Things I learned about book cover trends from designing print ads

by Cynthia Toney

Let me say right away that I don’t design book covers. I’d rather write young adult novels.  But like any fiction reader, I’m attracted to certain book covers more than others.

After receiving positive feedback regarding the first two covers of my YA series, I began to pay close attention to YA covers I liked. That led me to consider trends, and that led me to figuring out what made them work in attracting my attention.

In deciphering which features draw me to a book cover, I realized they’re the same features that designers of print advertising, known as display ads, employ in their designs. And I used to be one—a display ad designer, not an ad.

Everyone reading this knows that any two-dimensional design must stand on its own merit. It must please the eye regarding use of light, color, movement, balance, unity, and visual texture, to name a few elements of design.

An advertising designer also knows that the ad must somehow jump out at the reader from all the other ads on a newspaper or magazine spread or page. Readers of print periodicals make a decision in a split second whether or not to read an ad’s content. The same goes for a book cover, and thus for a book.

On a table or shelf, what can be done to make a book cover stand out among the rest? It has to do with knowing the trends and staying ahead of them if you can.

Going forward on memory alone—and it’s been eighteen years since I designed newspaper ads—here are some of the design trends I recognize from those days and see repeated in book covers today.

Big human eyes. Dog or puppy eyes. Snake eyes. Just about any eyes, with or without much of the face. The reader is captivated unless every book on the shelf uses eyes.

Off with their heads
—or one side or top or bottom half of the body. The brain fills in the missing pieces. This trend focuses the reader on what the body is doing or wearing and can give a strong hint about the story. Using only legs can work as well.

The back 
--of a figure or the back of a head. Done right, it directs the reader into the figure’s point of view.

Human silhouette.
It evokes mystery. Unfortunately, newspaper advertisers often wanted to fill silhouettes with ad copy, to the dismay of the designer.

Symmetry, sometimes with Abstract Graphics.
Like many trends, the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other when it comes to symmetry. For a time, YA book covers celebrated asymmetry. Symmetry was considered boring or lacking in style or design. Not so any more, judging from covers of new releases. Symmetry can be subtle, such as centering from left to right one or more objects or figures on an otherwise asymmetrical background. Abstract graphics might replace more realistic, photographic images.

Limited Color. 
At one time, all newspaper ads printed in black ink, and the product images attracted readers. Then spot color was introduced to draw the eye to an ad, but eventually most advertisers caught on and used it. When presses made full color printing available, a few big-budget advertisers were able to dominate the pages through size and color. Then the little guys followed suit, the pages filled with color and, once again, no one’s ad stood out. So, some clever advertisers went back to black to get their ads noticed on colorful pages.

Today, book covers appear to be moving away from full color and toward a limited color palette. What sometimes appears to be two or more colors is actually a duotone created with one color plus black. Sometimes the entire background is white.

Lens flare or spotlight treatment.
Brings light to an otherwise dark cover image, or calls attention to a particular area of it.

Large Title or Large Author Name.
This trend was addressed continuously in newspaper ads as “Large Header or Large Company Logo,” so it was more of an ongoing debate between designers and clients than a trend.  Sometimes the company logo was the header, just as the author name can appear large at the top of a book cover. Or the title might appear much larger than the author’s name and be located at the top or bottom.

Playing with the Title Presentation or Font.
Other trends include a title that fills the majority of a blurry background, such as the cover of We Were Liars. Sometimes extra kerning (space) is added between letters to spread them out. Another trend is to place the title text on slips of paper, such as on the cover for All the Bright Places. As in that case, a human image might not appear on the cover at all.

I first noticed all these trends in advertising almost two decades ago, but they work now as they worked then.

By paying attention to the cover trends in our genres, authors can plan for our next book cover. The question is whether to ride a successful current trend—or create our own.

What is a favorite recent book cover and why? Did the cover call to you from among many others surrounding it?


Author Bio:

Cynthia writes character-driven teen novels with twisty plots—because life is complicated.

The first edition of her debut novel, Bird Face, won a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award in the Pre-teen Fiction Mature Issues category. With a new publisher, Write Integrity Press, the original story is now book one of the Bird Face series and titled 8 Notes to a Nobody. Book two is 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. Watch for future titles in the series, which will continue to combine mystery, real-life struggles, and innocent teen romance.


Best ways to reach Cynthia:

Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Wanna Play Dress-Up?

Does this pic from 2014 remind you of anything? It's Genre Luncheon time! We get to dress up as a character in our current WIPs this month. Also, we can read the first chapter from our works, so get your voices tuned and ready.

In other news: 

Janice just released Write and Sell Your Novel in paperback. It will be out in ebook form next week, "but," she says, "if you're itching to write and sell your novel, this is the book for you!"  

Write and Sell Your Novel contains all of Janice's novel-writing tips, tricks, and advice. You really CAN write and sell your novel with this book as your companion.

On a personal note: 

I want to thank everyone for their prayers and notes of love and compassion during the time baby Joshua was sick and again after he passed away. Some of you may have even donated to his fund. If so, you have my deep, heartfelt gratitude. The kids are going to have a hard time covering all the bills, but the donations will definitely help. I'm always amazed how generous people can be.

It's hard to see a casket built that small, even harder when someone you love lies inside. He went home to the Father just a few days before his four-month birthday. 

Tyler and Tina were wrapped up in the logistics of getting the baby home and planning his funeral, but now that it's over, everything has had time to sink in. They haven't been too talkative, and Billy and I are giving them their privacy. Please continue to pray for these two kids. I can't imagine how hard this is for them.

Thank you, and I love you all.