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Open Mic Day

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This is one of those weeks during which I don’t have a lot of time to write blog posts—or energy to think up topics. So I’m declaring today “Open Mic Day.” What do you want to talk about today? What questions would you like to ask me (about me, about my books, about writing, or whatever) or other readers of this blog? Let’s get some discussion going—it’s been awfully quiet around here the last couple of days!

  1. Wednesday, February 10, 2010 10:58 am

    You asked for it. The answer to this question is probably somewhere on your website, but since I’m fairly new and haven’t read ALL your archived blogs, here goes:

    How did you go about getting an agent (if you have) and finding a publisher (or them finding YOU!), and what have those experiences been like?


    • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 1:15 pm

      No, you asked for it!

      I don’t know that I’ve ever detailed the steps of how this happened in one place here on the blog (I just went back and looked, and couldn’t find it). I feel like I have because I’ve talked about it so much during Q&A panels and writers’ group meetings. So let’s see if I can make this short and sweet.

      I joined ACRW (now ACFW) in the spring of 2001 after attending my first writing conference, Blue Ridge. In 2002, I attended the first ACRW conference and was firmly cemented in the organization. By the time the conference rolled around the next year, I was a volunteer, and in 2004, I was an officer. One of the projects of which I was in charge that year as the Volunteer Officer were the contests: Genesis and Book of the Year. For Genesis, I had to find editors and agents who would serve as final-round judges for the Genesis, and through that, I had plenty of contact with Rebecca Germany, acquisitions editor for Barbour. (We’d met at the conference the year before.)

      At the end of 2004, I was elected Vice President of ACFW. Early in Spring 2005, after I’d been in graduate school almost a year, I applied for a job as an editorial assistant at what was then Warner Faith. The publisher, which just happened to be Chip MacGregor at the time, called me in for an interview—even though he’d just learned that one of the two positions had been filled in-house and the other was being reassigned to another department. We spent two hours talking—the first hour was filled with his career advice for me (as a wanna-be editor), and the second hour was the two of us brainstorming how Warner Faith could be more involved in ACFW, which led us to the idea of WF’s sponsoring the Genesis contest in 2005.

      Throughout that spring, I worked off and on with Chip and the senior editor at WF as the ACFW President and I (mostly the president, though) worked out the details of the sponsorship contract. By the time the national conference (in Nashville that year) rolled around, it had been a few months since I’d had any contact with Chip. But I wanted to touch base with him the first night, just to keep that networking line going. We spoke for several minutes during the opening-night reception, and then I took the continuing-session class he taught. I had also worked again with Rebecca Germany on the Genesis contest that year (strange how those contests followed me from the Volunteer Officer position to the VP position).

      In 2006, no longer an ACFW officer, I submitted the beginning of what is now Stand-In Groom to the Genesis contest and, shortly before receiving my M.A., discovered that it was a finalist. But because I’d just started a new job at the publishing house and because they’d let me take a week off to go graduate (after working there less than a month), I knew I wouldn’t be able to attend the conference. But as it happened, the conference that year was in Dallas, TX, and my parents were still living there at the time. So I flew in on Friday evening, spent time with them on Saturday, and drove out to the hotel where the conference was being held on Saturday evening for the public book signing and the awards banquet. There were two people I had to see while I was there: Chip MacGregor and Steve Laube. Chip to renew that networking tie with (after all, if my manuscript won Genesis, his publishing house would be looking at it) and Steve, because I thought the Lord was telling me he was the agent I was supposed to submit to (and I’d been building a relationship with him throughout the years as well).

      Not five minutes after I walked in, a friend asked me if I’d heard about Chip MacGregor—that he was leaving WF and starting his own agency. No, I had not heard this. And after I heard it, I hunted him down immediately and asked him if I could send him my FINALIST manuscript’s first chapters/proposal. He agreed. I then found Steve and asked him the same thing. He also agreed.

      In October, I received a letter from Steve’s agency saying that my manuscript/writing style wasn’t a good fit for them. A few days later, Chip called and asked me to send him my full manuscript. After reading it, he told me it was well written and “quite publishable”—and I remember telling my mom after speaking with him that he believed in my writing more than I did. (That’s what to look for in an agent, by the way.) However, since Chip was just starting his new agency (he’d been an agent before going to work at WF), he needed to focus on signing already published authors.

      But then the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I got an e-mail from him saying he wanted to pick up our conversation where we’d left off. By the first week of January, I’d signed the agency representation agreement. As of January 2007, I was officially an agented author.

      He sent out Stand-In Groom to all the houses while I worked on getting Ransome’s Honor finished. By the beginning of the summer, we were pretty sure we’d heard back from all of the houses with a resounding “NO” on SIG, so we focused on getting RH out—and an opportunity came up for me to talk with the senior editor at Harvest House about the possibility of my writing a contemporary small-town fiction series for them (which they passed on, because I wasn’t published and they thought it too big a risk). At the ACFW conference that year, I pitched the Ransome Trilogy to Rebecca Germany, the only editor appointment I got, but she declined, as I knew she would, because it was too similar to MaryLu Tyndall’s books—and it didn’t have an American setting. For some reason, I’d spent a lot of time putting together a pitch-sheet for Stand-In Groom before conference, even though I was pretty sure everyone had already said no. But neither Chip nor I could remember hearing back from Barbour. So as soon as she said no to RH, I pulled out the one-sheet for Stand-In Groom and mentioned we couldn’t remember hearing back from her on it. She said she couldn’t remember if she’d ever gotten back to us on it, but that they’d just expanded their trade fiction line and needed more contemporary romances. So would we please send her the proposal again.

      For the rest of the story, click here.


      • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 1:41 pm

        Would you say a big advantage early on with an agent is having that established person who believes in what you’re doing?


        • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 2:58 pm

          A tenet of the advertising industry, in which I worked for almost fifteen years, is that the sales person MUST believe in the product being sold—or else they’re not going to be able to sell it to anyone.

          While having an established agent is important (but not necessary—new agents are hungry and eager to establish themselves, so will work hard for you), it’s more important that the agent believes implicitly in the publishability of your work. If the agent doesn’t believe your work is well written and publishable, how are they going to convince an editor of those facts?


        • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 4:31 pm

          Thanks so much for the details, Kaye! I think I may just bookmark this page . ..


      • Steve Laube permalink
        Wednesday, February 10, 2010 8:06 pm

        I just love hearing stories of how I let one “get away.”

        Ultimately it is all under God’s sovereignty. Look at how He navigated the connections between you and Chip. It was meant to be.

        May God richly bless everything you do.

        The Steve Laube Agency


        • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 10:58 pm

          You’re right, Steve—it’s always fun to look back and see how God orchestrates things. And to know that we can still have a good relationship even with “rejection” between us. 😉


  2. Wednesday, February 10, 2010 12:20 pm

    Is the answer to “Life, the Universe and Everything” really 42?


  3. Jennifer Elerick permalink
    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 1:43 pm

    So without digging through the passed blogs..what happened to Happy Endings Inc? Was that the name before it was changed to Stand in Groom? I just can’t find it anywhere.


  4. Wednesday, February 10, 2010 2:44 pm

    Okay I’ve got one. Again, possibly alread answered but… How do you determine when, how, why, to switch POV. In other words, what POV is a particuar scene going to be written in?


    • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 2:53 pm

      Jess–You may want to review the “Make POV Work for You” series.

      From Make POV Work for You: POV Begins with Character:

      “Which character has the most to gain/lose in each scene? Who will be the most embarrassed by what’s about to happen? Who has a secret agenda? Whose heart is going to be racing? Who’s going to be ducking around the corner out of sight and overhear something he/she shouldn’t? That will help you choose the correct viewpoint character for each scene. But it isn’t foolproof. If a scene feels flat to you (or to your crit partners or editor), try it from another major character’s viewpoint and see if it changes things.”

      Basically, the answer is to put the scene in the POV of the character who has the most to gain/lose or who has more emotional involvement in the scene that’s going on. But as I said in that post, sometimes, we start a scene in one of the character’s POVs, but it feels flat. So change it to the other character’s POV. The joy of creating our own stories is that we can explore those kinds of options and see whose POV the scene works best from.


      • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 3:00 pm

        Poifect! I knew you’d have it. Your transitions are well thought out and seamless 🙂 Something to strive for here!


        • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 3:02 pm

          When I start a new scene, it usually comes to me in the voice of the character whose POV it’s supposed to be in. There have been only a handful of occasions I can recall when I’ve ended up changing a scene from one character’s POV to another. Of course, it helps that the most POV characters I’ve had in any book I’ve written in the past five years has been four, so I have a pretty good chance of getting it right the first time.


        • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 3:06 pm

          BTW today’s a good day to study. I’m a sicky! That is definitely not my smiling face today. Ugh!

          I started a story with my male POV and he is in an intense “fugitive” like setting, though he’s done nothing wrong. ie. Christian persecution. But my crit partners say they don’t like him much, maybe because from his perspective I can’t bring any “why” backstory. I think what I need to do is add a scene before it from the female protag (who of course, has to be on the “bad guy” side) heehee! Maybe that would insert enough back story to give the sense that it really is unjust and he isn’t just some jerk saying “its not fair”. Because we’re all innocent right? LOL


        • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 3:13 pm

          Before adding that new scene, explore ways you could make your male character sympathetic without having to give away any of his backstory. He stops and helps someone or some other random act of kindness that shows he’s a good person and creates doubt in the reader’s mind that he’s rightfully persecuted. No, in the opening scene, you don’t want to do more than hint at a character’s backstory, but you can show who he IS, what kind of person he is, through his actions and how he interacts with others.

          Here’s another post that could shed a little more light on the is he good/is he bad characterization issue:


  5. Wednesday, February 10, 2010 3:04 pm

    OK, I think I already know your answer but I think other readers might benefit from your Wisdom From On High™.

    If someone is a novice without any publication or hint of publication on the horizon but have ideas for novels in different genres that are not compatible (i.e. legal thriller/horror and romance) do you suggest that the writer focus on one genre until they land an agent/publish a book or should they write anything that comes to their brain?


    • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 11:07 pm

      I think if the story is there and it’s working FOR YOU, you need to write it. If I’d listened to conventional wisdom that says you can’t get published in contemporary and historical, and hadn’t written Ransome’s Honor when the idea came to me, I would have missed out on the opportunity to work with another publishing house in a slightly different genre.

      There are a few authors who make it work writing books in different genres, such as Angie Hunt. It’s harder to build a brand and a following that way, but it can be done if the stories are well told and well written.

      Is that the answer you were expecting?


  6. Sylvia permalink
    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 4:06 pm

    Kaye, do you have any say in the covers of your books? Most Christian fiction now days uses real photographs rather than drawings for their covers. I would like to know how the publishers decide on the people for their cover models. Do they hire regular models to pose or do they use people they know personally? I know some of the Bethany House cover models have been people they know. Deeanne Gist’s daughter was the cover model on one of her books and a receptionist at BH was the model for another book of hers. This same lady has appeared on a couple of other books too. One author said that her editor is on the cover of her book. Take the Ransome series. The first two books in this triology have the same woman on the cover. Does she pose for one initial series of photographs and then they choose different poses from that one photo session for each book cover? Do they have someone actually research the time period? I wonder sometimes. Some of the hairstyles of the ladies on the covers of these historical novels are atrocious! Don’t get me started on the eye-liner, makeup, etc. I do get amused at these “outdoor” covers where one can tell they’ve been taken in a studio. The biggest giveaway is the catch lights in the eyes of the models. One can see the studio lights as clear as day! I am into photography and love to do mock-up CD covers, books covers, etc.


    • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 11:12 pm

      I have a lot more input initially with my covers for Barbour than for Harvest House. Barbour has a questionnaire/form for their authors to fill out that include setting and background, time period, themes, icons, and character descriptions. Though Barbour has used stock photos for my covers, for their historicals they do their own photo shoots. In fact, here’s an article in a local paper about it from last year:

      The design company that Harvest House hired to do my covers did do a photo shoot and, yes, the image that’s on the cover of the second book is from that initial photo shoot. They had already created that cover before I’d even turned the book in, so, no, I didn’t have a lot of input on it—I do have to say, though, that I think the cover for Crossing is miles beyond the cover for Honor with much more depth and richness of color. (Now if they could just Photoshop out that black eyeliner on that model!)


      • Sylvia permalink
        Thursday, February 11, 2010 8:21 am

        Thank you for posting that article link! That was very interesting and answered most of my questions. I think some of these Barbour authors should put that link on their blogs. Local people that read those books would probably be delighted to become models for these book covers. Well, depending on if they are chosen.


      • Amee permalink
        Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:55 am

        Wow, I didn’t even notice the black eyeliner! I notice things like makeup on tv shows like Little House on the Prairie and movies set in a time period when they wouldn’t be wearing makeup unless they were wealthy or something. I’m surprised I didn’t see her eyeliner before.


        • Friday, February 12, 2010 3:36 pm

          It’s a lot more noticeable on the second cover than the first. They also photoshopped her eye color on the second cover–to the wrong color–and basically painted over them to the point where they don’t look real. At that point, it wasn’t even worth arguing over the fact that the guy in the background is in TOTALLY the wrong clothes for the period, especially the hat, which looks nothing like a Royal Navy uniform hat of that era.


  7. Sylvia permalink
    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 4:11 pm

    Have you ever considered doing a series or book about a flight attendant? I think an airline series would be interesting. I always feel homesick/nostalgic when I’m flying. My dad worked for two different airlines for about twenty years. My three sisters, my parents and I used to fly everywhere when we children were growing up. I was always fascinated by the workings of the airline industry; the flight attendants, ticket agents, pilots, even the baggage handlers.


    • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 11:13 pm

      Nope. Have never considered using a flight attendant. Probably because with someone who traveled like that all the time, it would be too hard to have him or her build a relationship with someone else who wasn’t either another flight attendant or a pilot. And that’s not an industry that’s really ever interested me enough to want to spend that much time researching it.


  8. Amee permalink
    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 7:22 pm

    Like Sylvia I’m interested in your covers. How much input have you had? Which is your favorite? Is there one that you just aren’t satisfied with?


    • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 11:17 pm

      When I saw the initial cover for Ransome’s Honor with the model in a stark white dress, I wasn’t thrilled with it—since the dress is about three sizes too big for that model, it looked like this huge white blob in the middle of the cover. Once they shaded it to green, though I was much happier with it—though the cover itself lacks depth, with everything in shades of ivory and green. It’s not as bad as it could have been, though, and it seems to fit well with most of the other historicals on the market.

      I love the cover design of the Brides of Bonneterre series, and I’m pretty pleased with the direction they’re going in for the Matchmakers series, too. Hopefully, I’ll be able to roll out the cover of Love Remains soon. I just turned in the cover-art worksheets and my files of reference images (characters and ideas for backdrops) for the other two books in that series this week.


      • Sylvia permalink
        Thursday, February 11, 2010 8:12 am

        You send Barbour the pictures of how you imagine your characters to look? That’s neat. I wonder if other authors do that.


  9. Wednesday, February 10, 2010 9:00 pm

    Any thoughts or advice on chapter page length, word count per chapter, and how many scenes you suggest per chapter. My concern is can it be too short or too lean?

    In my historical romance my chapters tend to be about 2, 000 – 3,500 words each. Too short? I’m one that tends to prefer shorter chapters when I’m reading and find that this is also how I write. First chapt. contains the following povs: heroine, hero, heroine, hero, secondary character all within 2,000 words – are these scenes too short?

    Thanks, Kaye!


    • Wednesday, February 10, 2010 11:22 pm

      Two things to keep in mind with chapter length: how long is the overall manuscript and what’s the pacing of the story?

      If you’re writing something between 85,000 to 100,000 words, you probably aren’t going to want chapters that are shorter than about 2,500 to 3,000 words—which is a good length for two point of view scenes per chapter. However, if you’re writing suspense or thriller or something really fast-paced, shorter chapters work better.

      My chapters average between 3,000 to 3,500 words in my contemporaries and 3,500 to 4,000 in my historicals—or between 3o to 35 chapters per book (of 100-105k words).

      Five POV scenes in 2,000 words—I’d say yes, those scenes are probably too short. The shortest I like to see POV scenes is around 1,000 words, but that’s because I really like to get established in a character’s viewpoint for several pages before it switches to someone else. Four POV changes in 2,000 words sounds almost like “pinball” POV to me—bouncing back and forth without a chance to stay anywhere or get to know anyone, almost like drawn-out headhopping. But I haven’t read it. You have to do what works best for your style, your voice, and the story you’re telling.


      • Friday, February 12, 2010 12:47 am

        Thanks so much, Kaye. This was very helpful. I should have mentioned that this is a short historical, if that makes a difference.


  10. Lizard permalink
    Friday, February 12, 2010 3:26 pm

    Because I am a science geek for a living the first thing I thought of when reading the sentences about Zarah in Love Remains was the BRCA gene. It is a gene that is linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (she and her mother having ovarian cancer). My brain when to if Zarah tested positive for this gene she would need to contact her sister because there would also be a chance that she would have this gene and be at an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer. I was wondering what made you bring the challenges of cancer into your book.


    • Friday, February 12, 2010 3:43 pm

      I needed to give Zarah a reason for fearing commitment to a long-term relationship, and for living her life as if she’s “setting her affairs in order” so that it raises questions when Bobby’s team starts looking into her background and financial records as part of investigating the agency for which she works.

      Even though she’s had the genetic test that shows she didn’t inherit the gene from her mother, Zarah doesn’t want to believe it, because it means she’s more like her father—who was verbally/emotionally abusive to her all her life—than like her mother. So she’s convinced herself she’s eventually going to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, because that will mean that she isn’t anything like her father.


      • Lizard permalink
        Friday, February 12, 2010 4:05 pm

        That is so cool. Just one more reason for me to read the book!


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