Saturday, December 6, 2014

It's the *funniest* time of the year!

Come one, come all to the WOTS White Elephant book exchange celebration for great food, fellowship, and fun. Let's see who gets the most laughs with their offering.

Bring one wrapped book to participate.
Funny, cheesy, corny, or horrible books only, folks.
This is a WHITE ELEPHANT book exchange.
See you Saturday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In Memory of WriterBob Stewart

From his son & daughter

On November 6, 2014, Robert Chisem Stewart Jr. received the reward he had worked for all of his life. Known to most as Bob, he was also affectionately referred to as WriterBobStewart, Uncle Bob, Dad, and Grandad. He was 75 at the time of his death. His residence the past 4 years has been in Spring, Texas with his son, daughter in law, and grandchildren. His last days were spent doing what he loved. He passed in his hotel room in Salem Massachussetts, while attending the Writers Unplugged Unconference. Although the exact cause of death is pending, it is believed to be a “medical incident”, possibly heart failure or complications of diabetes.

Bob was born in Woodsboro, Texas on December 17, 1938 to Robert Chisem Stewart Sr. and Edna Alta Culpepper Stewart. He grew up with a younger sister, Nancy and a much younger brother, Van. He graduated from Calhoun County High School in Port Lavaca, Texas in 1957. He was active in the high school band making all regional band and barely missing all state band his senior year. He was active in drama, playing leading roles in school plays, and competing with great success in district speech and drama tournaments. He was also active in the chess club and enjoyed success in high school chess tournaments. He subsequently attended Abilene Christian College (ACC), now known as Abilene Christian University (ACU), where he also appeared in school produced plays. He began with a major in bible, which he later switched to journalism. When only a few hours from completing his degree, he was offered a job at a daily newspaper, The Vernon Record, and thus began his illustrious career spanning decades. 
Bob’s early years in journalism included times at The Borger News Herald, The Bryan Daily Eagle, The Dallas Times Herald, The Marshall News Messenger, The Laredo Times and the San Antonio Light. At a young age, while managing editor at The Bryan Daily Eagle, he was recognized by editor and publisher and state journalism societies as being the best in the state of Texas in several categories. Also while in Bryan, Bob’s play “WHICH DEATH TO DIE?” was produced by the AGGIE PLAYERS and he wrote 2 scripts for the number one TV series “GUNSMOKE”. 
During his nearly twenty years at the San Antonio light, he began to focus on entertainment news, developing the first TV book to accommodate the multiple channel listings that were needed for the new cable networks. He wrote the weekly cover story for the TV guide and a daily column for the TV section of the newspaper. He also enjoyed a number of years on the air with the local network affiliate Channel 12 KSAT doing moving reviews. He would rank the movies on a scale of 1-12 and give his “Bobservations”. 
Following his work at the San Antonio Light, Bob worked freelance for People magazine, US magazine, Life magazine, and many others. He gave up his freelance status to work full time for People magazine for several years to wrap up a distinguished career in the field of journalism. During his career, Bob interviewed literally thousands of people, both famous and infamous, ranging from presidents, to serial killers, to movie stars. Bob’s most relished interview ever was the day he interviewed Roy Rogers, his childhood hero. He stated that he could hardly speak and that Roy was everything he could ever want a hero to be.

After retiring from People magazine, Bob began a career as an author, having four non-fiction books published:
  • MAN TO MAN When the woman you love has breast cancer St Marten’s Press 1989
  • SACRIFICE Word Publishing 1990
  • REVENGE REDEEMED Fleming H Revell 1991
  • NO REMORSE Pinnacle Books 1996
In recent years Bob has enjoyed the publishing of three fiction books
  • ALIAS THOMAS A. KATT Solstice Publishing 2011
  • HIDDEN EVIL Novel Concept Publishing 2011
  • FIRST BORN Novel Concept Publishing 2013
Recently, Bob received recognition from the Writer’s Guild of America for his work in 1967 on scripts for Gunsmoke, named as one of WGA’s 101 Best Written TV Series of the last 70 years.
Above all else, Bob loved God. A close second was the time he had with his family. A loving and sacrificial husband, father, and grandfather he set an example of what a Godly man should be. Ever patriotic, he was never too busy to stop, and shake hands, and thank every law enforcement officer or any military personnel he saw. Bob was a faithful member of the Church of Christ and consistent in his involvement. He often preached sermons on Sundays, taught bible classes, and officiated weddings and funerals as a lay minister. 

He loved a good joke, especially if it involved an Aggie. It was often said “You will know if Bob doesn’t like you if he doesn’t tease you”. He loved to watch his beloved Aggies football team and “bled maroon”. He also was a big Dallas Cowboy fan and especially enjoyed assignments when he got to interview the Cowboy players. A dominating presence, he usually seemed to be in command of all situations. At his last writers “unconference” the night before he passed, Bob spoke on “Perseverence”. All attending were thinking of persevering within the literary world……the fight to be published. The best lesson though form Bob Stewart was the perseverence and love that he showed seeing his wife Martha through 2 bouts with cancer. When Bob gave his word, he kept it.
Bob is survived by his son Dr. Robert Chisem Stewart III and his spouse Kimberly Ann Stewart of Spring, Texas, his daughter Martha Liland Stewart of New York City, grandchildren Christina Leigh Stewart, Courtney (CA) Ann Stewart, and Robert Chisem Stewart IV, sister Nancy Lee Giles of Corsicana, Texas, and beloved “kitty” Schyler, resident of “Grandad’s Cabana.”
Preceding Bob in death are his wife of 50 years Martha Ann Oeding Stewart, and brother William Van Stewart.

Services will be held Friday November 14
Viewing/visitation at 9:00 AM Memorial Service at 10:00 AM
New Klein Chapel-Mausoleum
& 50 Acre Memorial Park
F.M. 2920, Klein Texas, 77379

In charge of arrangements is
Klein Funeral Home
16131 Champion Forest Drive
Klein, Texas 77379
Officiating will be Minister Mark Davis from the Crestway Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas. Pallbearers will include Brian Harris, Charlie Meyers, Bobby Stewart, and Ronnie Giles. 
The family thanks all of those from Bob’s personal and professional life who have given so much support and love for WriterBob and his family!

“Do not go softly into that good night…………”


Monday, October 27, 2014

Our Fall Experiment

We're trying something fun for our November meeting this year. A Show & Tell, Read & Sell party. Here are the ground rules:

For published authors:

  • You can bring as many different books as you'd like to sell, but you can only read from one. 
  • Pick a scene that will whet the appetite of your fellow authors but that is short enough to allow everyone the opportunity to have a turn.

For unpublished authors:

We want you to be able to participate too! There are a few things you can do:

  1. Read a scene from your WIP. Bring printed copies of your scene for people to take notes and give you feedback if you'd like. (Max 5 double-spaced pages).
  2. Read a scene from your favorite book! Do you have a friend or writing partner who is published? You can showcase their book.
  3. Read a section from your favorite novel on writing craft. We can all learn something.
  4. Or just come and listen. :)
If you're willing to provide a book for our raffle, we might all go home with something new. :) Also, you can swap books with your friends as well as sell your own books.

This is a great way to Christmas shop early. Friends and family love to receive signed copies of fiction. So bring tons of $$ and a big book bag to get your purchases home.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Get your serve on

Nominate yourself for an officer position! If you're willing to do the work, we want to know.

Which one sounds most fun to you?

  • Oversees other officers and provides vision for the Chapter
  • Moderates local e-loop if the Chapter has one
  • Directs meetings
  • Chairs Speaker Selection Committee
  • Serves as Critique Group Liaison

Vice President:
  • Serves President as requested
  • Co-moderates local e-loop
  • Directs meetings in absence of President
  • Chairs Fund Raising Committee
  • Sits on Speaker Selection Committee

  • Records minutes of chapter board meetings
  • Maintains meeting calendar
  • Maintains critique calendar (optional)
  • Mails welcome letters to new members
  • Maintains Member roster
  • Chairs Event Publicity Committee
  • Maintains media/industry mailing list
  • Files monthly chapter report with the Area Coordinator no later than the 5th of each month. A report must be filed, even if the chapter does not meet (put zeroes in the number of members and meeting area)

  • Processes new member applications and dues
  • Maintains account for group dues and other monies, sends $25 of dues to ACFW National for the Chapter dues
  • Disperses monies as voted on by officers
  • Reports account balance and membership numbers at monthly meetings
  • Submits new member information to secretary
  • Reminds members about annual dues
Submits the Annual Financial Report to the Zone Coordinator. This reports consists of  the Chapter's opening checking account balance, its income, expenses, the net amount, and year-end checking account balance.

  • Chairs Finance Committee
  • Sits on Fund Raising Committee

Must be a member of ACFW for at least 6 months
Must be a member of WOTS
Must be willing to serve with a great attitude

Email wots.acfw(at) if you're interested. Voting starts November 1!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

You don't want to miss Melissa Williams!

Mark your calendar for Saturday, September 20th!

I met Melissa Williams when she presented at my girls' elementary school in 2012. I was impressed with how she engaged her audience and how she marketed herself and her products. This is a lady who thinks outside the box and overflows with  great ideas on how to get you and your books out there. We are excited to host her at our next WOTS meeting where she'll tell us about her road to publication and beyond. This is something all authors will enjoy and it might just spike the fires of of your own creativity.

Melissa is a children's author so if you have or know school aged children, bring your pocket book because she has a lot of cute things that you'll want to buy up as gifts. Now, more about Melissa...

Melissa Williams (@MelissaAuthor) is the author of the Iggy the Iguana chapter book series, the Turtle Town chapter book series and the Little Miss Molly picture book for kids, the owner of LongTale Publishing and founder of the Literacy Non-Profit Foundation–READ3Zero. Melissa received a Master's degree in professional counseling and implements psychological skills when presenting to her young audiences and when writing for her target market. She has visited hundreds of schools and tours all over Texas and California in addition to being a regular guest on ABC and FOX Houston News. As a child literacy advocate, Melissa's main focus today revolves around recognizing the need to keep reading, writing and creativity inside the home and classroom while balancing electronic usage. Her literacy foundation hosts the I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids Publishing Contest, offering opportunities for children to become published authors, illustrators and speakers. Melissa resides in Houston, Texas and is the 2014-2015 president of her local rotary group. More information may be found at

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Coming this Saturday - Marc Schooley's Simple Fiction Fixes

Marc Schooley  lives near Houston with his wife Dorann (AKA Dode, long o, long e), a philosopher dog too smart to figure out how to jump onto the bed, a re-animated twenty-two-year-old, 2 lb. Pet Sematary cat, a massive Great Dane affectionately known as Becky the Bed Walrus or Rebecca of Schooleybrook Farm, and adult children who consistently and lovingly save him from the dread and loathsome horrors of the empty nest syndrome.

Sketched in equal shades of grit and inspiration, Marc’s signature raw blend of literary and pulp fiction engages readers in a forceful swashbuckle of surprising depth, through a supernatural continuum whose hub is the Lone Star State as you’ve never seen it.

Marc works on contract to the NASA Johnson Space Center, preaches every Sunday, and is NOT—I repeat NOT—MS Quixote. Marc's books include K├Ânig’s Fire is a Carol Award (ACFW Book of the Year) winner and Christy Award nominee, Nightriders, and The Dark Man featuring ultimately awesome attack helicopters, which propels the tender love story at its heart.

More about Marc at:

For time, location, and directions to our meeting:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2014 Storming the Short Story Contest!


Squall Line - Jim Hamlett 

2nd place: Dorothy's Carol - Terrie Todd 
3rd place: A Rumspringa Storm - Steve Hooley 
4th place: Tempest Tossed - Annette O'Hare 

Honorable mention:
When Love Pours Down - Angie Dicken 


The Grumpy Chronicles - Susan Lyttek 

2nd place: The Great Storm - Karla Rose 
3rd place: Oddman - Carla Hoch 
4th place: Aperture - Linda Kozar

Honorable mention:
Orphans in the storm - Scott Abel 


Just West of Clovis -  Ralph D. James 

2nd place: Husband Hunting - Crystal L Barnes
3rd place: Detention - Gretchen Engel 
4th place: Fire in a Storm - Angela K Couch 

Honorable mention:
Entertaining Angels - TJ Akers 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Storming the Short Story - Semi-finalists 2014

Congratulations to the Semifinalists in our Storming the Short Story contest. The stories listed below (alphabetical order) will be sent to Chalfont House Publishing to select the finalists who will be published in an anthology by Hope Springs Books.

Thank you to all who submitted stories. As our judges will tell you, it was hard to choose our favorites from the many wonderful stories that were received. We hope you will consider entering our short story contest in 2015!

Contemporary Category

A Rumspringa Storm
Dorothys Carol
Squall Line
Tempest Tossed
When Love Pours Down

Speculative Category

Grumpy Chronicles
Orphans in the Storm
The Great Storm

Combined Category

Entertaining Angels
Fire in a Storm
Husband Hunting
Just West of Clovis

Saturday, July 19, 2014

2014 Texas Christian Writers’ Conference

2014 Texas Christian Writers’ Conference 

Words with a Mission 

Sponsored by Inspirational Writers Alive!

Saturday, August 2, 2014 
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 
Houston’s First Baptist Church 
7401 Katy Freeway
Houston TX, 77024

Michelle Flippin:
  • Speaking for Writers - Would you like to take your writing to a whole new level? You can through speaking. Discover the connection between speaking and writing, how to maximize speaking opportunities near you, and tips for speaking well.
Anita Higman:
  • Writing Page-Turning Dialogue – Learn how to use dialogue to drive the plot and show characterization. Keep your readers turning the page by using this valuable tool. 
  • Creating an Irresistible Proposal – Learn how to leap frog the stacks of manuscripts on the publisher’s desk with a sure-fire proposal.

Elizabeth Ludwig: 
  • Editing Do’s & Don’ts – Tips for fine-tuning your manuscripts. You have a good manuscript, but you must take it to the next level. Plus how to avoid editing pitfalls which will ruin a great story or article.
  • Creating Believable Characters – The Edge of Freedom Series is full of characters who come alive on the page. Learn how to make your readers root for your characters. Believable characters are the heart of any good story. 

Martha Rogers:  
  • The Story Bank - Places to get ideas for your stories. Exercises to help you explore your experiences to get ideas for articles, devotions, stories, and books. 

Melanie Stiles: 
  • D is for Devotions - The Christian devotional arena is often the starting point of a writing career for many writers. Prepare to discuss all things devotion as Melanie covers the ins and outs of devotional structure, submission methods and markets available. Melanie has written and published hundreds of devotionals published by Barbour Publishing, Standard Publishing and more.
  • Managing a Freelance Career - Step One is the desire to write and submit your work. But where do you go from there? Join Melanie as she shares helpful forms, tips and action plans for starting and maintaining a freelance career. You will leave this session knowledgeable about the tools for trade!

Kathleen Y’Barbo Turner: 
  • Finish the Book: A Procrastinator’s Guide to Reaching THE END and Pressing SEND: This is a step-by-step workshop that will move the conferee from stuck in the writing process to submitting a manuscript to editors or agents. Workshop attendees will learn to know what they have and learn how to reach their goal of completing the book. They will also learn how to decide when to stop editing and what to do next. Issues of procrastination, time management, editing and more will be covered.
  • Writing Romance: Learn how to write romance from one the best Christian Romance authors.

 Notebook and paper for taking notes.
 Light wrap or sweater as classrooms may be chilly.
 Money if you want to purchase books in the bookstore (payment by cash or check only).
A manuscript and/or notes to discuss during your critique and/or one-on-one session with faculty. 

Please contact the following individuals for questions/comments about…
 Conference registration – Pat Vance (patav AT aol dot com)
 Special dietary needs – Martha Rogers (marthalrogers AT sbcqlobal dot net)
 Everything else – Danny Woodall, conference coordinator (dannywoodall AT yahoo dot com) 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

This Saturday - Allison Pittman!

This Saturday, Writers on the Storm is excited to present award-winning author Allison Pittman who will be speaking on Creating Depth in a Scene, Characterization, and Setting. Come and take advantage of this opportunity to meet another Texas writer and learn tips from an industry professional.

Allison Pittman is the author of 12 novels, including the Carol Award winner, Stealing Home (Multnomah). A three-time Christy Award finalist for the Sister Wife Series and All for a Story (Tyndale), Allison divides her time between writing, teaching at a Christian high school, and keeping up with her three sons and hubby, Mikey. At home in San Antonio, she heads up a thriving Christian Writers Group, and serves as president of her local ACFW chapter. You can keep up with her on Facebook (Allison PIttman Author Page) or follow her on Twitter (@allisonkpittman).

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Short Story Contest: Deadline Extended

Did you want to enter the Storming the Short Story contest but ran out of time?
Are you half-way through and worried about finishing by tomorrow?
Is this the first you're hearing about our contest?

Don't fear; the deadline extension is here! You now have until midnight Central Time on July 8th to get your stories in.

Read all about the contest rules, regulations, and expectations on our 2014 contest page.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Linda Yezak's Writing Inspiration

As did so many other authors, I began writing at an early age–pudgy fingers fumbling with red crayons, probably something like "roses are red, violets are blue, I love Mom." And, as was the same with many
others, I improved with age and graduated to better poetry, song lyrics, short stories, flash fiction, all the good stuff (which I’d left in a paper bag when Billy and I moved to Nacogdoches. The cats shredded it and everything in it. We weren’t friends for a while).

When I was at A&M, my English class followed my Algebra class. Switching from numerical logic to verbal logic, from practical to artistic, always took a few minutes beyond the stroll from one building on campus to the other. My creative writing professor at the time gave us a challenging warm­up exercise. Each session, she’d hand out index cards on which we had to write entire stories–beginning, middle, end, complete with viable characterization. At the top of the card, we were to write our "inspiration" for the story.

Mine usually went something like this:

(X + Y) x Z = AB/C

The stories would involve X and Y, who were military commanders of allied nations. They joined forces with Z to infiltrate the country of AB while it was being divided by C–also an ally of X and Y.

After a semester of reading my antics for ABC and XYZ, my prof confessed to me she looked forward to my notecards and encouraged me toward a career in writing. I wish I had heeded her advice. I would’ve had roughly thirty years of writing credits under my belt–which now expands more due to stress eating than publishing accomplishments. Yes, I would’ve been plodding away on my IBM Selectric III, and my transition to a computer would’ve rivaled Jessica Fletcher’s in rebellion and refusal, but I would’ve been well along in my career by now.

But I think if my old professor could see me now, she’d be pleased with how far I’ve come. Give the Lady a Ride was a Grace award winner and a Genesis and Carol award finalist. The Cat Lady’s Secret was a Genesis finalist, and Writing in Obedience has already proven useful to many new authors in it’s short time of being on the market.

I still have a long way to go to meet my goals, but God has blessed me so much. All glory goes to Him.

Linda W. Yezak lives with her husband and three cats in a forest in east Texas, where tall tales abound  and exaggeration is an art form. She holds a BA in English and a graduate certificate in Paralegal Studies. Thirty years later, she’s finally putting her degree in English to good use, combining it with her natural inclination toward story-telling to create fun, unique novels.

Her publications include Give the Lady a Ride, a 2008 ACFW Genesis finalist and a 2012 Carol Finalist, as well as a 2011 Grace Award Winner. Her new release, The Cat Lady’s Secret, was a Genesis finalist in 2010. She was a contributing author for 31 Devotions for Writers, and coauthor with agent Terry Burns of Writing in Obedience.

She has served as a freelance editor for several years. Her editing experience includes work for other small presses and small magazines, as well as serving as an editorial assistant to a popular literary agent. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network).

Linda will speak at our June WOTS meeting on Writing in Obedience.

Social Links

Twitter: @LindaYezak


777 Peppermint Place:


Coffee with Linda:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What I’ve Learned on My Writing Journey

by Martha Rogers

My writing journey began when I realized how much I like to make up stories and live in a fantasy world where I could create the perfect family, especially after my parents’ divorce. I made up stories for my paper dolls and my dolls using them as the characters. I wrote short stories as a teenager and my first novel as a freshman in college, still using it to escape into my “ideal” life.

Rejection after rejection disappointed me, but I kept on writing. I met DiAnn Mills at a writing conference, and she took me under her wing and mentored me. She also convinced me that joining ACRW would really help me improve my writing. I took her advice and it’s the best thing I could have done. She formed a critique group with Myra Johnson, Kathleen Y’Barbo and me as members. Later Janice Thompson joined the group then Marcia Gruver and Linda Kozar.

Through ACRW and then ACFW, I met Brandilyn Collins, Lena Nelson Dooley, Deb Raney, Lynn Coleman, and Rebecca Germany as well as my agent, Tamela Hancock Murphey. The most important lesson I have learned from them is patience. Giving God time to work on His schedule and not mine was difficult for me to do because I’ve always been a “take charge” sort of person. It didn’t take long for me to realize that catching the eye of an editor was more than being in charge.

DiAnn, Kathleen, Janice and I collaborated on a novella anthology, Sugar and Grits and submitted it in 2001. Patience paid off as we waited and left it with Barbour until 2005 when we were offered a contract for it. When it was published in 2007, I thought now I would be on my way. Two years later I still didn’t have another contract, but I didn’t give up.

I adopted Galatians 6:9 as my writing verse because I knew if I didn’t give up on what I believed God wanted me to do, I would reap a harvest. Then in 2009, Tamela called me with the news that Strang was interested in Becoming Lucy. They first sent an offer letter then a contract for one book with an option for three more. I started working on the manuscript and after I turned it in, a got another email from them saying they were ready to contract the next three in the series. In September of 2009 I signed the contract to finish out the Winds Across the Prairie series.

Since then I have signed for Christmas novella that will be released in September 2010. When God opened the door, He kicked it wide open with five books in one year. Unbelievable.

The road has not been easy, and the hundreds of rejections hurt. But I learned from the rejections. I paid attention to what my critique partners and judges in contest said. Of course some of what they said made me a little angry, but then I settled down and began to think things through.

The best way to further your writing is to attend conferences. There you will have an opportunity to attend workshops with great authors and learn from them. Books on improving your writing are usually available, and you have the opportunity to meet and network with others who are on the same journey you are as well as meet those who are well established and long down the road ahead of you.

Detours, bad roads, hazardous conditions, stop signs and other road difficulties with pop up to distract and take you away from your writing. The key is to keep on with your writing. However, we sometimes have to put our writing aside for a season because what is happening in our lives is more important than a manuscript.

Spend time with the Lord, and He will direct your paths in the right direction. Listen for His instructions and follow Him in all that you do. Be patient because our time tables are not God’s and seldom do they match. If it’s to be, it will be, when He ordains that it’s time.

Martha will be speaking at the May 2014 meeting of Writers on the Storm. We'd love to see you there!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Evolution of an Indie Cover

by Nancy Kimball

As authors, we make decisions about our books and careers with the best information available to us at the time. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about cover design and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

  1. A bad cover design is one that doesn’t appear professional, and fails to communicate genre and tone in less than three seconds.
  2. If you self-publish, choose your cover carefully. A great cover is the foundation of your marketing campaign.
  3. If you are signed by a large publishing house, cover design is not nearly as important for you. Legacy publishers have proven practices, design firms, photographers, etc. and marketing departments who have already done and understand the nuances of cover design as product packaging, no more, no less.
  4. If you go with a small press, see if their past covers meet your own standard of quality. If you are considering Indie or small press, it is VERY important for you, because not every Indie or small press has the time, financial resources, and experience available to do what the legacy publishers do.

For posterity, though I would rather put a cigarette out in my eye than make these public now, LOL, here is my very first homemade cover for Chasing the Lion in 2011. Yes, I have watermarked them with blue text because eventually they’ll show up in Google returns and while I hate that, clearly visuals are powerful, so here they are.

I call the one above a hot mess now. First, you can’t tell if it’s fiction of non-fiction just by looking at it and in thumbnail, the title and author info are non-existent. It doesn’t look anything like a book cover. But at the time, I thought it was the coolest thing ever and it fueled my creativity and gave me courage to keep writing, so EVERYTHING you create has value. It’s just not always where you want to stop.

This attempt was a step in the right direction, because now it’s at least possible to get a sense of where this story/book is, but we were still a LONG WAY from conveying genre.

Honestly, if I had stopped here, I would have been okay. Because at the time it was what I could afford (the stock photo) and the best I could do myself. If that had been the right time to self-publish my book, the story inside would have still been the same. I would know I’d done the best I could with what I had available to me in times and resources, and put the book out there. However, I did not stop there, because I found over time I used the cover to decide which books I would buy and read. And I got to where I could tell if it was Indie, Christian fiction, or general market fiction, just by the cover. I found for the most part, with few exceptions, cover was an indicator of what I would find if I got to the blurb, and then sampled the beginning at Amazon.

For my debut release, Alexandre my cover designer sent me two concepts, both based on what I’d asked for: warm colors, and emotionally evocative images in a unified design that would form the foundation for the series. These were the first two concepts.

Concept two is still my favorite, although it wasn’t the one I used. It captured the romance, showed my hero’s warrior side, and almost made me cry. Concept one was the cover designer’s preference based on what he thought would work best for the book. When I took both concepts to my core readers and influencers, and total strangers, I found some very interesting things in “product testing.”

  1. With cover two, people thought it was a romance (which it is not, even though it has a strong romantic element). Romance readers have very defined reader expectations and Lion would miss on most counts for them, resulting in unfavorable reviews and buyer’s remorse.
  2. With cover two, most people unfamiliar with the story failed to recognize that the man with the sword was the same man with his arms around the heroine. They thought one was the hero and the other the villain.
  3. The first cover pulled a general “some kind of gladiator story” with follow-ups as far flung as the girl in the cover being a villain and others that he had to fight to protect her. So this one was at least closer to where we needed to be.
  4. The wrist guard in the sword-raised pose (look closely) was being mistaken for a wristwatch. People couldn’t understand why he was wearing a watch (which he wasn’t, LOL) but this was one of those very telling little cover-snob details that I’m so glad we caught before release.
  5. The page curling detail in the upper right was more a distraction than an enhancement.
  6. Some felt the hero on cover one looked fake: too posed, and not emotionally evocative.

My amazingly gifted designer came back with these after sharing our feedback and requested revisions. I chose that sword raised pose as the dominant image because it was the most emotionally evocative of what we had available.

Round two of feedback and testing the cover on new “fresh eyes” of people who knew nothing about the story. We found that we were getting closer to a more consistent and accurate ‘what is this book about’ from those people. But there was still trouble and I wasn’t quite “there” with the response I wanted to see from people viewing the cover for the first time.
  1. In the image with the embrace, people STILL didn’t recognize it was the same man. I finally gave up and new my absolute favorite image just wasn’t going to get the job done.
  2. The middle one above was my favorite out of these three, but people thought the woman appeared weak, too soft, and the emotional contrast was too jarring. It was giving cold viewers trouble figuring out what her relationship was to the man with the sword. So that one wasn’t working either.
  3. The one on the right was doing the best out of the three. Best for what I wanted it to do and the response I wanted out of a person seeing it for the first time.

And then, a God thing happened. I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital with my brother (my photographer and a graphic designer himself) and we were talking about why cover three would be best, and I got a crazy idea. On the screen of my Kindle I put my thumb over the heroine, and there it was. The cover that was right for Chasing the Lion. I took a deep breath, because of the implications of what I was even considering: removing a character from the cover who is integral to the story and the model who is a good friend.

I asked Alexandre to send me one more design with just Jonathan. This is it, and it became the final design.

I’d like to close with this with a final thought. Like our stories, our paths are going to be and look different. I think the value in sharing our experiences, and the options, promotes awareness for everyone to be able to appreciate the craft and nuances of cover design. I still hope that one day I’ll get to have all this done for me on a big traditional publisher’s nickel. But until then, I’m going to keep writing, sharing my passion for cover design, and working hard to be a successful author. And since honesty is both my strong suit and my weakness… continue to judge books by their covers. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"The Top 147 Things I Need To Remember In My Writing While Still Being Creative…Boiled Down To 3 Things" by Alan Schleimer

Notes by our intrepid Secretary, Annette O'Hare. :)

Alan said writing is like learning to drive because you constantly have to decide what is the most important thing to concentrate on.

3 Things to remember:

First, don’t rush by settling on your first idea, rushing the story’s development, rushing into editing mode, or rushing the submission to an agent/editor. And don’t let negative thoughts deter you.

Second, soak up all the help you can (afford and) put it to use. Don’t believe all the criticism you get, but process it. If it hurts, generally it’s true. Use your books on craft to analyze your favorite books. Did the author do the things suggested? If so, how? Use what you learn in your own writing.

If you can afford to go to conferences, do it. When you're there, analyze the sessions offered and sign up for the best teacher. If you can't get to conference, order the conference audios and listen to the talks you would have gone to see. 

Last, make it count - every page, every character, every scene. Make sure each scene you write has an objective. Not just the scene, but every person in the scene. And don't forget to enjoy the ride!

Now let's here from you. If you were at the meeting, what is one thing you learned that you plan to implement?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why I Chose to Self-Publish by Nancy Kimball

As someone who was fairly vocal in 2010 about never, ever self-publishing, I can appreciate the irony of going Indie. The publisher that acquired my debut novel last July chose to withdraw their offer in November. Yes, this happens. For the first time, I began to seriously consider self-publishing for the following reasons.

1.    The work is publication ready.

I thank God I couldn’t afford to self-publish back when I first thought my manuscript was ready. Since that time, I’ve continued to read, learn, write and revise. The hard work yielded enough contest finals, full manuscript requests, and valuable agent and editor feedback that I’m confident this novel is ready for the market. The barrier to traditional publication then became my chosen time period rather than the quality of my writing.

2.     I am unwilling to wait any longer for readers.

I understand traditional houses are doing everything they can to survive. I liken them to the top floor of a high-rise building where the biggest pool of readers awaits. For the past two years, surrounded by pre-published and between-contracts friends, we’ve done the work and waited for our turn on the elevator up. Agents and editors loved my voice and platform. They just didn’t like this time period so much. I waited, hoping that might change. I took my place in line for the elevator and waited. I cheered on friends and critique partners who write the more popular genres and settings as they earned their elevator ride. Every so often, some of us waiting would slip off into the stairwell that is self-publishing. I’ve decided to go with them.
Self-publishing is a lot of work, which is why the stairs analogy is accurate. But I’m not going to spend any more time waiting for an elevator for my brand of stories that may never come.

3.      I can afford to do it right.

Author Donn Taylor, who has published all three ways—large traditional houses, small press, and self-published—said  at my local writers group that self-publishing is right for you if you have something you want to say and can afford to say it. That stuck with me. When I considered the costs of another year of conferences and contests, I realized I would spend that money anyway. So I chose instead to reallocate my author budget to professional book cover design, a freelance editor who has worked for the traditional publishers, a professional formatter to prepare the manuscript for paperback and e-book distribution, and a strong marketing plan.

4.      I remembered my dream.

“Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome, Proximo, and this is not it. This is NOT IT!”

If you recognized that line from the movie Gladiator and hear Russell Crowe shouting it, I’m smiling with you. When I first began writing Chasing the Lion, I had a dream of being a published author. Royalties from sales would send me to Rome where I would be photographed in the Colosseum holding my debut novel along with letters from readers sharing how Jonathan’s story touched them. When my contract fell through, I took a hard look at my writer life. Weary of influencing, blogging, mentoring, and feeling like a sellout hammering away on a contemporary romance to just “get published”, I had my Maximus moment. The prestige and guidance of an agent, having a well-known publisher’s name on the spine of my books, are both things I’d like to achieve one day. But those goals sneaked in along the way. They were never part of my dream.

So I’m taking to the stairs, taking back the dream, and finally, finally getting to share Jonathan and his story with readers. I continue to be grateful to share this author journey with each of you. It’s been a long road, but one without regrets.

Author, avid reader, and shameless hero addict, Nancy Kimball loves books, history, Ancient Rome and all things gladiator. She is the former president of her local ACFW chapter, Writers On the Storm, and her industry accolades include a two-time American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis finalist (Chasing the Lion – 2012 / Unseen Love – 2013), and a Romance Writers of America Lonestar finalist in the Inspirational Category (Adrift No More – 2013). In 2012, her best friend and critique partner bestowed Nancy with the nickname "Phoenix" after hearing her personal testimony. Nancy loved the name and adopted the Phoenix symbol to embody her life verse, Ezekiel 36:33-36.  Her story, more info about her author journey and novels are available at her official website. She enjoys connecting with readers on her Facebook Page or the Fiction Hero Features blog.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Presenting Alan Schleimer: License to Thrill®

Alan Schleimer writes suspense thrillers. His debut novel is the first in the Ezra Chronicles series and features former Wall Street whiz-kid and desert survivalist Jay Hunt. The Q Manifesto was named the top inspirational/religious novel of 2012 by a book review website specializing in eBooks. Previously the story garnered the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis award in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre. The Q Manifesto is a suspense thriller and has been compared favorably to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code for its masterfully-executed twists and turns. Graced with expert writing advice from today’s top Christian Fiction writers, The Q Manifesto weaves a spell-binding plot around the ultimate what-if question. Alan believes good stories entertain, but great stories can change lives. He strives to only tell great stories.

A former analyst, commodity trader, and entrepreneur, Alan infuses his high-stakes fiction with real world implications. Like an actor who does his own stunts, he has studied martial arts, finance, police work, and the divine source of all truth. He lives in Sugar Land, Texas.

An Unlikely Prospect
Alan wasn’t always a writer. In fact, he says that he was the least likely candidate to become a published author. About ten years ago, he was enjoying a career in the corporate world. The former energy trader and business development professional with a finance MBA claims he struggled writing a two-paragraph business letter. 

“I kept getting these cool ideas for a book. I thought someday, if I ever retired, I would write it. Well, I noticed that these ideas came more frequently while I was spending my quiet time meditating. Eventually, I became convinced it was a calling from God, and I began writing full-time. The story that started it all was a Christian fiction fantasy. It was a great learning process filled with numerous rookie mistakes. I took writing classes and attended writing conferences until deciding to write the kind of fiction I liked to read—mystery/suspense/thrillers.”

Writing Advice
"Write what you love to read and study books on writing especially where you are weakest." 
Alan's favorite book on writing is Plot and Structure by James Bell.

Book Description
The story centers on Jay Hunt, who quit a lucrative Wall Street career to become a backcountry tour guide. Soon after, an ancient manuscript is uncovered that reveals the Gospels were an orchestrated fiction. Though its revelation stuns the world, Jay ignores it until his father, a retired Dead Sea Scrolls expert, gets in over his head investigating the scroll. Chased by assassins, Jay soon learns that the world’s only chance to survive Armageddon depends on him deciphering a cryptic trail of clues in his quest for the truth.

If you like exotic locations, the book has readers sprinting from Arizona to Jerusalem, Paris to the Caribbean, and Houston to Amman. Your fingernails don’t stand a chance.

What Others Are Saying About The Q Manifesto
A “magnificent debut whose stunning depths, pivotal settings and tangible descriptions manifested themselves in imagery akin to an HDTV movie.” The storyline was cited as a “masterfully crafted, full-immersion thriller written with intelligence, heart and virtue, brilliantly plotted, and played out at machine gun pace.”  Categorized by some as Christian fiction, Alan is pleased with that description, but prefers to think of his book as a family-friendly wild ride with a message of hope and a challenge to anyone’s faith.

You can connect with Alan online at and

or see him in person at our monthly meeting on March 15th where he'll be presenting My Rookie Season: Three Lessons Learned from the Road to Being Published.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Expect the Unexpected with Bob Stewart

On February 15, 2014, ACFW's Writers On The Storm welcomed multi-published author, and our very own member, Bob Stewart. Since it was February and so close to Valentine’s Day, we asked Bob to speak on the subject of romance from a man’s perspective. Twenty-two people showed up to hear Bob speak, including his son, Bob III and grandson, Bob IV! 

 According to Bob, many men think of romance the way singer, Dean Martin summed it up in his famous song, Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am. But that is not Bob's philosophy. He thinks romance should be special; that it should be doing something completely unexpected for someone you love. 

Tips for writing male characters in a romance:

1. Male characters should have a ‘tell’ like in the game of poker. A ‘tell’ is a motion that reveals what’s going on behind the poker face. It could be something he’s noticeably uncomfortable with, or a physical movement he performs. 

2. Romantic gestures should be ‘over the top.’ Think of Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate when he storms into the church wedding and screams for actress, Katharine Ross. 

3. Bob said to always, ‘expect the unexpected’ in writing romance. Flee the expected cliche gestures and embrace the spontaneous. As an example, Bob gave each of the ladies present at the meeting a yellow rose. <3

Additional pictures by chapter photographer, Kathrese McKee:

If you were at the meeting, please share with us: What was the main thing you learned or took away from the meeting that you will use in your fiction?