Thursday, August 21, 2014

Growing Connections


I first met Ralene Burke via the ACFW regional page on Facebook, but I think I'd seen her before. According to her article below, we were both in Denver at the 2009 ACFW conference. I can't imagine being in the same room with Ralene and not noticing her. Her bright personality is hard to miss. After relocating to the Louisville area, she set a date for a meeting and several writers gathered. We've been meeting once a month, ever since that day, picking up more members as we go. Her fresh ideas keep us coming back for more. So of course, I had to ask Ralene to share her take on Connections for this month's theme on my blog. I hope you enjoy the post!

Ralene: When your parents tell you that you can be anything when you grow up, that leaves a whole wide world of choices for the young mind. As a young woman, fresh out of high school, I was ready to tackle the world. Or so I thought. 


For several years, I stumbled about, trying to find my place. I floated from job to job. Sure, I excelled at whatever I put my mind to, but I wasn’t happy. Satisfaction eluded me. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing.

While I was working at a bank, I had a chance encounter that included my high school bus driver and my teller supervisor. The result was this brilliant (yeah, not so much) idea for a novel. So, in my free time, I started writing. Over the next few months, I continued to work on the story in bits and pieces. I was even brave enough to let a fellow bank employee read it. 

In February 2006, my husband returned home from deployment, and we moved to Texas. I went from working full time and going out with friends to being a stranger in a strange land: a stay-at-home mom with a newborn with no local friends. Aaaah!

But, the new freedom gave me more time to write. I really didn’t know much about writing or publishing, and I wanted to learn. So I joined Writing.Com (free basic account, which I later upgraded) and found a forum for YA novelists. This group became my source of growth and encouragement. I’m friends with many of them still today.

A year or so later, I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and immediately got involved! I took the free courses and participated in the loops. When I was eligible, I even became one of the Zone Directors. In 2009, I went to my very first writing conference: ACFW in Denver, CO. I thought it would be awkward, not knowing anyone, but it turns out I knew more than I thought. Of course, my critique partner was there, but so were several members from my zone, whom I had communicated with and gotten to know online. 

It was about this time that I started getting into Facebook and blogging. Here was an opportunity to connect with even more writers. Even more homeschoolers. More people to encourage and support, and in whom to find the same. 

Today, as a writer and homeschooler, I find that my life can get rather hermit-esque. All too often, the day-to-day stress (and joys) of working from home while educating my kids can get to me. It’s nice to have found fellow writers who understand my journey. It’s a joy to know that I can reach out to other homeschoolers when I am ready to tear my hair out. And those rare few who write and homeschool? Well, they completely get me.

I’ve finally found my place. It took a few years, a few wrong turns, and a multitude of prayers, but I’ve made it. And God provided me with the support He knew I would need. 

About the Author:Whether Ralene Burke is wielding a writer’s pen, an editor’s sword, or a social media wand, she always has her head in a dreamer’s world. And she wants to make it SHINE! In her own writing, she spins fast-paced tales of fantasy worlds, angels and demons, and the broader calling of every human being. A place where the light pierces the darkness . . . You can find out more about her writing and editing services on her website: http://www.raleneburke.com

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Writerly Connections


I haven't really gone fishing. Not in the usual sense. 

As a writer, I need to make connections. One of the best ways to do that, is to attend conferences. You meet all sorts of people at writers conferences. Of course you meet lots of writers from the novice to the expert, unpublished, published, multi-published. You meet agents, editors, publishers, teachers, speakers, and everything in between.

I attended my first writers conference in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, several years ago. Excited and more than a little nervous, I walked into a classroom and sat down. After it started, I realized I was in the wrong class, but the speaker was so funny and interesting, I decided to stay. And besides, there was chocolate.

After that, I attended every class she taught. Ginny Smith, author of numerous novels in several genres, became my first "writerly" connection. Ginny encouraged me to keep working. She suggested I join a writing organization that offered critique loops where I could meet other beginning writers and improve my craft.

But most important of all, Ginny became a friend. There were others along the way, who also encouraged me to keep working at my writing. I met Fay Lamb on the main critique loop at ACFW. She encouraged me to form my own group, where I met my long-time crit partner, Amy Blake.

After a while, Amy got busy with home-schooling and other responsibilities, and had to move on. I joined two other small groups and met Nike Chillemi and Jennifer Hallmark. Nike (AKA Crime Fictionista) is a constant encourager, and in return, I get to read her crime/suspense stories in progress. Jennifer and I work together on a blog she started with another of our critique loop members, Christina Rich (Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas...Oh My!).

As I got to know Fay Lamb better, we discovered so many "odd" coincidences in our lives, we've decided we're long-lost siblings. And yes, "odd" is the correct word. She even named her latest dog "Audrey." Another weird coincidence, since my middle name is Audrie. By the time many of you read this post, I hope to have met Fay, face-to-face for the first time. Ever. But we have so much in common, will it seem we've known each other much longer?

Fay linked me up with Tracy Ruckman of Write Integrity Press. I was invited to contribute to a multi-author novella published this past February--A Dozen Apologies--a humorous "caper" of a romance. Jennifer Hallmark also worked on that novella. What fun we had. I'll also meet Tracy this weekend. Later this year, Write Integrity Press will publish my novel, Amelia's Legacy, the first of three in the Legacy Series.

At a local gathering of authors, I met Hallee Bridgeman and her husband, Gregg. Hallee is busy making quite a splash in the Indie publishing market. I had self-published a couple of fantasy-adventure novels several years ago. They lacked "pizazz" -- Hallee and Gregg helped me get them spruced up. I'm working on some final details that will (huge sigh of relief) make me proud of those two books. I could not have done this on my own. God knows exactly what we need, and when we need it. Along comes the connection at the precise moment of need.

Are you beginning to see the pattern here? Of connections made over the years, one after another? Though many times, I've been tempted to give up, I kept moving forward, and now I'm a published author. I'm still attending conferences, because you still need to make those connections.

I have worldwide connections now, as my connections multiply.

We cross-publicize, pray for one another, encourage one another in the craft of writing and in life. What greater pleasure is there? So dear reader, are you discouraged, thinking you'll never make it? Have you done everything possible to improve your craft? Have you put yourself out there? Found and attended local groups and conferences?

Life is a series of connections, both public and private, whatever field or calling is yours. Where you are right now came as a result of some sort of connection.

I thank God for all my connections. I've met wonderful people along the way, who took the time to express encouragement to a newbie. I learned from some of the best among them. Never forget, you may be someone else's most important connection.

"Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand." Philippians 2: 2-4, The Message


photo credit: Sifter via photopin cc

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Connect - Disconnect Connection

This month is all about connections here on my blog. It's really a celebration of connections. You know those unexpected, surprise connections that result in life changes? There are good ones, and there are bad ones.

For instance, a good friend in Louisville invited me to spend Labor Day Weekend with her. I was living out of state at the time, so drove in. While there, I received a lead on a job, and met my future husband.

That was a "Connect - Disconnect Connection." I connected with an old friend, met a new friend and my life changed course. By the end of the year, I was married and working at that new job.

Things don't always happen so fast, and they are not always positive. Some disconnects include death, divorce, and disease/illness (the 3 D's). Sometimes, even these devastating disconnects can result in positive changes.

I'm still married, but that job went away when I made a new connection, in the form of a brand new baby boy. He was a definite life change. Another connect - disconnect.

The husband, the new baby, and me - way back when...
Not long afterwards, I was walking down the hall on my way out of church, when I was "accosted" by a stranger who began to kiss my brand new baby all over his face. Don't be alarmed, Anita Edmonds was the wife of our new youth pastor, and soon became one of my closest friends. A lasting connection.The best kind.

Friendships are often the connects that last longest. And many gain their best life opportunities through friends. A little later this month, I'll talk about some of these connections. The ones I've made as I started my writer's journey. I'm going to drop a few names in that post. Maybe yours will be there. I've made a lot of friends since starting down this road. Folks traveling the same route with similar life experiences are often bound together in friendship--a sense of "kinship"--because we understand, better than anyone.

Think about a time in your life, you made a positive connect - disconnect connection. Consider how it changed your life for the better--set you on a new road. It may have been your marriage, or your education, your occupation, or even your encounter with God. I would love for you to share that moment if you have the time, in our comment section.

I've got a couple of guests stopping by later this month to share their experience with connections. I hope you'll stop back in to read what they have to say. And, as always, thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Small & Indie Publishers Rock!

What a month I've had! July has been so exciting, I almost hate to see it go. And it flew by, don't you think? Did you take a vacation? Go someplace really fun or restful?

I visited with three very busy people. Three publishers who are making their mark, pressing in and beyond to achieve their goals and dreams. Reaching out to bless others and speak living words into as many hearts and lives as possible. I've been blessed beyond measure just reading some of the comments left on the posts. Yes, these ladies are making a difference.

I would like to once again thank Tracy Ruckman of Write Integrity Press, and Pix-N-Pens Publishing, Nike Chillemi of Crime Fictionista Press, and Nicola Martinez of Pelican Book Group, for taking the time out of their oh, so busy schedules to answer my questions.

Three outstanding interviews! If you missed one or all of them, click on the links here:

Tracy Ruckman
Nike Chillemi
Nicola Martinez

I enjoyed working with Tracy, Nike, and Nicola, preparing their posts, and reading their answers to my questions. It is obvious, all three of these ladies work hard at what they do. It shows through their most excellent work.

And most of all, thank you, dear readers, for stopping by. I hope you'll check back in during the month of August when the subject is "Connections." I have a couple of special guests lined up, who will share their take on the importance of connections in our lives.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nicola Martinez, Editor-in-Chief

Nicola Martinez is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Pelican Book Group where she is blessed to work with a group of talented authors and staff.

I'm so pleased she agreed to an interview. This month, I've talked to publishers who have started their own companies. How many of you have thought of doing the same thing? An intriguing idea, but a lot of work is involved. Work, prayer, and a learning process, every step of the way.

I hope you enjoy reading Nicola's answers to my questions. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section. And check out the websites given on each of these interviews. Some of them contain guidelines for you to submit your query letters or manuscripts.


Betty: Why did you decide to start your own publishing company?

Nicola: Starting a publishing company was a desire I had many years before Pelican Book Group came to fruition, but ultimately, I see Pelican as a ministry--a way to bring the Gospel to people in an entertaining and approachable manner.

Betty: How did you begin? (Research? Study? Jump in and learn along the way?)

Nicola: I have to say I began by "all of the above." I always do a lot of research of the market specifically and of business strategies in general--even today. But when it came down to it, I did rather just "jump in." But, I didn't just jump in without any relevant skills. I acquired many skills through a series of life experiences that seemed unrelated at the time because Pelican wasn't even a thought back then.Through different employment opportunities, I learned hands-on about bookkeeping, taxes, business management, customer and employee relations, advertising and marketing, branding. Years before Pelican Book Group, I was self-employed and owned both a print shop and a Christian bookstore, so I got a taste of that part of the industry from graphic design to production, to retail. I'm a published author, and spent many years as an editor--first for a newspaper and then for a book publisher before Pelican Book Group launched. And, then there's the fact that I'm a mother, so we know how to do everything, anyway, right? I could go on and on, but ultimately, a lot of what I needed to know was floating around in the vast, sometimes seemingly empty, expanse of my brain. :) God prepared it all and then pulled it together. (Well, He's still pulling it all together. We are a work in progress.)

Betty: What are some of the obstacles you have encountered?

Nicola: The greatest obstacle I've encountered--and one I think every small publisher and indie-author has to face--is that of discoverability. Reaching readers (and convincing them to purchase one of our stories) when there are so many titles published each day is a constant battle (So if you're so inclined, please do "shout about us from the rooftops!"). Then, there are always the "normal" obstacles of technical glitches, personal illness, encountering the unscrupulous, etc. All-in-all, however, I think we're pretty blessed that things run as smoothly as they do. We put out approximately four titles per month utilizing a very small staff. We have a process, we put out quality stories, and the obstacles, I give to the Lord to deal with. He's better at that than I am. (although, sometimes I do have to scream and pout for a minute. We call it "Whiny Tuesday.")

Betty: How do you stand out from other small publishers?

Nicola: I'm not sure how to answer that question accurately. I don't try to stand out--just to stand firm. Perhaps other Christian publishers try to do the same, and if so, Pelican isn't really standing out from those others. In standing firm, though, I do my best to uphold the Gospel in my life, business, and in the books we publish (I believe there's a trickle-down to living for Christ: Our books can't witness to the Truth, if I, as an individual, am not doing so in my own life); so I try to keep my focus on what He wants, not what I want. I believe the rest -- the standing out from others, garnering readers, etc. -- follows all that and will happen naturally as God wills it.

Betty: Everyone always likes to share their horror stories, so let’s go another way. What has been your greatest blessing since you started your publishing company?

Nicola:  There are so many blessings, I'm not sure I can pin-point a "greatest." Working with talented authors and staff is a huge blessing. If I didn't have excellent, moral people to work with, I'd probably go insane. Then there's the awesome blessing of hearing from readers who feel blessed themselves by our books, and of authors who are realizing a dream by being published. And, of course, there are untold and countless blessings that come from the peace of knowing we're doing something for Him and because of Him.

Thank you so much, Nicola Martinez, for participating in my interview. Readers, you can find more information about Nicola, her companies, and books at these sites: 


Pelican Book Group (website)
Straight to the Books - see what they have available!

Facebook 
Twitter

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nike Chillemi, Author, Publisher

I became acquainted with Nike Chillemi on an ACFW critique loop. So I was privileged to read her suspenseful stories before they went through the publishing process. I was in the background, watching and waiting as she started her publishing company. I waited for the book I'd so enjoyed critiquing, Harmful Intent.

I'm so excited for her to share a little of her story here today. Thanks, Nike for taking the time to answer my questions about your publishing journey.

*She's giving away the ebook, Harmful Intent, to one of our readers (see details below).


1. Why did you decide to start your own publishing company?


Nike: It started with the moniker Crime Fictionista. Before I started seriously writing for publication, I worked in the bridal industry. I traveled to industry bridal fairs in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, and of course in my home town, New York City. That's where I heard the term "fashionista." When I got my first contract, I jokingly called myself a crime fictionista and it stuck. I liked the name and thought it would be just the thing to publish under when I went indie. So, the name of my company is Crime Fictionista Press. BTW, if you notice detailed descriptions of fabrics, necklines, and the like in my stories, that is a throwback to my days in bridal.

2. How do you stand out from other small publishers?


Nike: Crime Fictionista Press has only one name on its author list, one author…moi. The name is part of my brand and is identified with me. So, that, in and of itself makes it stand out. At present it has only one title as well: HARMFUL INTENT, a Veronica "Ronnie" Ingels/Dawson Hughes Novel. ~ Betrayal runs in private investigator Ronnie Ingels' family. So, why is she surprised when her husband of one year cheats on her? The real shock is his murder, with the local lawman pegging her as the prime suspect. 
My very talented daughter Delayne drew the Crime Fictionista Press logo.   

3. How did you get started? (Research? Study? Jump in and learn along the way?


Nike: I was quite naïve and simply started writing. I still keep my first manuscript around for a good laugh. I didn't understand character point-of-view. Didn't know what head hopping was. But I caught on quickly. I took the free online writing course then offered by Harlequin. I also came across a quote, by Stephen King, I believe, advising writers to read the best authors in their genre. To read the authors who excite them, whose book they can't put down. He wasn't advising to copy a bestselling author, but to see how they construct things. One aspect of Michael Connelly's writing I've noticed is he doesn't waste anything. In one novel, I think it was LOST LIGHT (there are so many Harry Bosch novels) Harry drinks a can of soda. He loses hold of it and it falls over the side of his deck into the weeds below his house, hanging over a canyon. Later when the bad guys come to kill him, he flees with a younger, faster bad guy following him under the house. The bad guy trips on the soda can and Harry lives long enough for the police to arrive. I've done things like that a few times in my novels, and it tickles me every time I do.

4. What are some of the obstacles you have encountered?


Nike: When I first started out, things I thought were obstacles were simply part of the process. Everybody has to pay their dues. The publishing business is changing so quickly the biggest obstacle is to keep informed and one step ahead. 


5.  Everyone always likes to share their horror stories, so let’s go another way. What has been your greatest blessing since you started your publishing company?


Nike: My blessings started before my publishing company. My greatest blessing since I started writing seriously has been the friendship of other writers, most of them Christian fiction writers, but not all. You, Betty, are one of them. I can't tell you what the support, encouragement, and the laughs shared with other authors means to me.

*Crime Fictionista Press would like to give away an ebook for Kindle 

to the most interesting, creative, and engaging comment.


A Bit About Nike -
Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (colored might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category, a judge in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories, and a judge in the Eric Hoffer Awards in 2012 and 2013. 

Her four novel Sanctuary Point series, set in the mid-1940s has won awards and garnered critical acclaim. Her new contemporary whodunit, HARMFUL INTENT released under the auspices of her own publishing company, Crime Fictionista Press, made an impressive showing in Amazon's mystery > private investigator category.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Christian Indie Novelists (CHIN). http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/