Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm very happy

A teacher, student or librarian can win $100 – details at
Yup, I'm mighty happy. My grandson, Preston, allowed his father and I to walk down the aisle with him Sunday as he made a profession of faith. I got the Christmas present I wanted the most.
It isn't the first time I've gotten that particular Christmas present and now there are two vying for the spot as my favorite. The other happened on a Christmas eve many years ago when I watched Preston's dad, my son Bryan, and my daughter Teresa baptised together in a candlelight service. The only lighting was candles int he windows on on each pew end, there were live wreaths everywhere which gave the place a smell I will never forget.
In fact, both events are now burned into my memory like a hot brand. If you want to make an old cowboy cry this will get it done every time.
I hope each of you had a terrific Christmas as well and hope the New Year will be happy and prosperous. I do know it will be a year when Christians need to be spending a lot of time on their knees and a lot of time keeping the leaders of our country in our prayers. We have a lot of people in national leadership roles who don't seem to be very religious or even very moral and if there was ever a time when we need God's hand on our nation we need it now.
But in spite of all that . . . I'm still very happy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Past

A teacher, student or librarian can win $100 – details at

Sharing Christmas these days means separate gatherings with family over several weeks, even extending into the new year. While we very much enjoy these gatherings I often miss the old days when the entire family gathered at my grandmother’s house, There’s a poem in my cowboy poetry book that I think says it all:

Christmas at my Grandma’s house was there ever such a time?
And I a button scarcely large enough that I could climb
Upon the wing of Grandpa’s rocker, feet upon the rail
And watch him smoke his pipe & smile as I told him many a tale.

Christmas at my Grandma’s house and the tree would reach the ceiling.
The smell of cooking filled the air & the world was bright with feeling.
From the height we looked the presents stacked
more than halfway up the tree.
And came back down near half the wall, and many of them for me!

Christmas at my Grandma’s house, and music filled the air.
Uncle Ray’s piano shook the room as he played without a care.
Uncle Bills fiddle took it high, Daddy’s guitar filled it in;
We kids supplied the chorus, though maybe a little thin.

Christmas at my Grandma’s house, but we always had to wait
For Uncle Edgar to get back home from the shopping trip he’d take.
We kids would gather round his door and try to peek inside
As he wrapped those final presents while the smallest of us cried.

Christmas at my Grandma’s house, and how excitement grew!
For though the gifts cost not too great neither were they too few.
As parents, aunts, uncles & cousins all bought something small
For each kid, and our eyes bugged out as our stack grew oh so tall!

Christmas at my Grandma’s house, and little did I know
That I was filling my heart so full of love that
through the years would go.
I still recall and see it clear, the faces plain as day
And though I live a hundred years, I’ll always feel this way.

For Christmas at my Grandma’s house is a fairy tale in time!
When love and laughter filled the air and everyone felt just fine.
It cannot be repeated, nor would I if I might;
For our own have been as special, but still there was that night....

When Christmas at my Grandma’s house made all the world seem right.
But now I would remember, and have YOU see that sight.
And as you celebrate this year comes this vision from the past
And I hope this time is just as good and hope these joys do last.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A contest and a promotion

Are you a teacher or librarian or know a youngster who'd like a shot at a hundred bucks? If so, I'm kicking off a contest and a promotion; a contest for young people, and a promotion for librarians and teachers. It also offers teachers, homeschoolers and librarians a chance to use the contest to add interest to a class or library program. How does it work?

I want to offer a $100 prize for the young person who best answers the discussion questions below on my new release "Beyond the Smoke" from BJU Press and enters by sending them to me through the email form on my website ( For the promotion I want to offer a $100 prize to the librarian or teacher who shelves my book and another $100 to the organization they work for and the entry is simply for the librarian to give me the link to the catalog where it is located ( I keep the links on my site) and the teacher just a short comment. Both can also be pasted into the email form on the site and the name will be drawn in 90 days. The only entry fee is getting a copy of the book at , at bookstores after the first of the year, or at your local library.

There was no such thing as a teenager before World War II. Kids were expected to go to work on the family farm or in the family store as soon as they got whatever education they were going to get which often was the equivalent of today’s middle school or even less. The purpose of this book is to make history come alive by getting young people to wonder how they would fare if they had been forced to live in this environment.

Discussion questions:

Think of the movie “Back to the Future,” if you knew you were going to be transported back to the frontier in the late 1800’s what would you do to prepare? What would you want in your backpack to take with you?

Today young people have a “growing up period” they didn’t used to have. They aren't prosecuted in their early teens for certain things, yet in the days of this book a youngster old enough to kill a man faced the same consequences as an adult. What are the consequences of this change of attitude, good and bad?

These young people were faced with a number of challenges? What would you have done differently? What are some of the things young people have to face today that they did not have to face then?

What careers do you think were open to young people in this time period, including Native Americans?

The larger than life Texas Ranger dispensed justice with a firm hand. In many places the only law was what they brought with them. What actions did he take that would not be allowed today? How do you feel about the difference?

The bright and shining period in history in England was King Arthur and the Roundtable, the days of Camelot. It has been said that that period for the United States was the settlement of the frontier and the days of the old west. Do you feel that is true? If it is do you feel young people today do not know much about this period nor have much interest in it? Why?

Would you like to see more books about what life for a young person who is a teen today might have been like in earlier years?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shifting gears

I should be getting author copies of “Beyond the Smoke” any time now. I’ve begun by doing the release announcement at 26 different online writing groups and sites with a combined membership of over 8000 (although there are a number of duplications). I have set 14 interviews so far most of which post next month and have a very good exposure coming up in Christian Fiction Online Magazine in the next issue.

I have a book trailer done and posted on my website, Myspace, Youtube and Blazing Trailers. I’ve started getting reviewers and influencers and the early ones are working off of the galleys. Some others will do it when I get review copies in my hands to send. The galleys went a couple of months ago to Bookpage, Christian Library Services, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Booklist and Christian Book As soon as the publisher has the listing there are some reviews headed for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online review sites. I’m working with Hastings to do a book tour if a number of the over 100 stores they have in the tri-state area.

I’m sending an announcement to the database I have of over 4000 friends and relatives, former purchasers, church members, classmates and business associates from my chamber of commerce days. Many of these will be email to save money but many will be postcards as well.

BJU Press is strong in the home-school market and I expect this title to do well there. Some of the galleys sent out were intended to help get into the libraries, public, church and school and I will do a lot of individual contacts to augment those shelvings. I do a lot of speaking engagements, programs, and workshops and will of course have some sales connected with them.

That should get me started. This is a good time of the year for it with the Christmas lull, and the economy has the book industry proceeding cautiously now as well. It means shifting a lot of writing time to promotion and marketing because I don’t want to cut into the time I spend on behalf of my clients.

But today I need to focus on Saundra. It’s her birthday, a rather memorable one, and I’ll be taking her out for her favorite treat . . . lobster. We can get a surprisingly decent one given how far we are from the coast. So I’ll do what I can during the day, then it’s close the computer and give her all my attention. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?
Happy Birthday, Babe.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What am I looking for?

That’s nearly always the first question at a writing conference, panel, or upon meeting someone who finds out that I work as an agent. The answer the writer gets and the answer that I get when I pose the same question to an editor often sounds vague, and to some sounds like no answer at all.

In fact, it’s a lot like the question my wife asked me when we were out looking for those last Christmas presents, “What do you have in mind for xxxx?” To which I would say, “I don’t have anything in mind but I’ll know it when I see it.”

The simple answer is that I’m looking for a good book that is well written in a strong and unique voice, that I can see a solid market for it, and where I feel like I have the right contacts to get it into that market. Ask me the question and that’s probably the response you will get. In actual practice it’s more like I’ll know it when I see it.

Sure, there are some genres that I read more than others so I tend to like stories in that vein, but that’s no guarantee. I really love westerns but have little luck with them at present so having only so many client slots that I can service the genre I love the most may be the hardest to connect in. I don’t read much sci-fi and fantasy, but I have a couple of clients who hit me with some of that and the manuscript pulled me in and continued to make me read. As a result I’m trying at present to get it placed somewhere.

It’s a matter of connecting with the author and the story. A fiction story that I enjoy and can’t put down. If I don’t connect with it, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad story, but it simply didn’t pull me in as a reader. Not my kind of thing, or I just didn’t feel I was the right person to try to take it to the market. It’s the same with non-fiction, a topic that really interests me by an author who has credentials to be believable. A book on how to deal with all the problems in life written by a twenty year old who has few real life experiences to draw on probably isn’t going to be very credible, and yes I’ve been sent some of that.

And platform, oh yes, that’s part of it. I see so many that say “a readership of every living being between 18-90.” That’s no platform at all. That’s who all of us would like to sell to. A platform is groups of people a writer has direct access to through media or exposure or group membership, or perhaps associations particularly attuned to a topic. A platform says “These are my readers and this is how I am particularly able to market to them.” Particularly in today’s difficult economy platform is very important.

There’s a lot more that enters into it, the quality and flow of the writing, if it is professionally formatted and error free. But the bottom line is that it just isn’t a one sentence answer. A solid, professional proposal (single document) answers these questions for me, at least enough for me to want to pursue it further. I received over 1000 of these over the past months and the ones I’ve pursued sent me proposals that caught my attention, presented the author well, and answered my questions. Did some really good projects get past me because the author didn’t present them well? Probably. But it isn’t my job to like an author’s work, it’s their job to make me like it so I can then go on and make somebody else like it. It’s how the game is played.

The Marines are always looking for a few good men, and I’m always looking for a few good books.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Its begining to look a lot like Christmas

The tree is up and decorations are spread around the house, inside and out. The publishing industry has all but shut down turning their attention to family and holidays. We still have shopping to do, and those of us in the choir are putting final touches on the Christmas program. We have a dinner to go to with friends. Slowly, but surely it is beginning to feel like Christmas.

That’s the first step, getting in the spirit and taking care of the logistics required to have presents under the tree. But we’ve already gotten a wonderful present as one of my clients and good friend Donn Taylor just got the news that his wife Mildred, after much treatment, has been pronounced cancer free. She is such an terrific lady, I think Saundra and I are almost as happy as they are. I’m sure they won’t mind me mentioning it here. If it was my news I’d want to shout it from the rooftop and I’m sure they feel that way as well. God is still in the healing business.

The next step is remembering the real reason for the season, celebrating the birth of our Savior. The amazing present we received in the above paragraph pales by comparison to the present that Jesus gave us . . . the gift of our salvation. It humbles me to think how unworthy I am, how I could never deserve such a gift, but how He loved me enough to give it to me anyway. How He gave it to us all.

But here at Christmas time having a gift with our name on it under the tree is meaningless. It only has meaning if we take it, open it, and make it ours. Jesus has put a gift under our tree. If we’ve already accepted His gift before then now the gift is a reminder, a chance to pause and reflect on His birth and what He went on do for us at Calvary.

If we have left that gift under the tree unopened in past years then the most amazing gift of all is awaiting us under that tree. I urgently and sincerely hope that anyone that has not unwrapped that gift of eternal life would do so this Christmas and make it their own. We will never receive a more awesome present.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

They're calling it Black Wednesday

Yesterday I mentioned that I was keeping the “publishing and the economy” article updated at my website, and I am. Yesterday I kept having to go back and update it and re-load it when I read in Michael Hyatt’s blog that Thomas Nelson was cutting 54 people, 10% of its work force. It was followed by a statement from Becky Saletan that she had been axed at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt along with an “undisclosed number of employees.”

Then came news that Simon and Schuster was laying off 35 people which is 2% of their workforce and Random House let a number of top people go and announced a restructuring that will include disbanding the DoubleDay Publishing group. To top the day off Borders stock went under a dollar. If it stays that way for three months they have to do a stock consolidation.

Black Wednesday. It comes on the heels of a report at the end of November that the economy has taken the largest drop in consumer spending in 28 years. While “Black Friday” did modestly better than anticipated retailers still are very concerned over the remainder of the Christmas shopping season. Historically this shopping makes up a major share of a business’s profits for the entire year.

Still, unless further bad news continues to come in, the majority of those publishers that I talked to forecasted belt tightening, cost cutting measures (hopefully not more layoffs), lower advances and slower acquisitions. I’ll continue to monitor all of the resources I have for further changes of direction. If you don’t have time to monitor this for yourself, I make changes immediately as I get them at my website:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Publishing and the economy

No point in wasting the work I did researching and surveying industry leaders gathering what I hoped would be an "industry snapshot" of what today's depressed economy is doing to the publishing industry. I've given the talk three times, updating information each time.
In the meantime I keep it online at and update information on it constantly as new information comes in. I've gotten mixed reviews on it. From most writers I get good comments on how helpful it is to know what the industry is doing.
I'm also in a group of very well published writers most of whom have well up in the three digit numbers of books published. They weren't impressed. The concensus of the group seemed to be that they didn't need to know the inner workings of the publishing world, that they are always one contract away from unemployment no matter what the industry and the economy is doing. One compared himself to a high wire walker saying he is all right as long as he doesn't look down.
The people who seemed to find the information most interesting were industry people. I've had a dozen editors tell me it got passed around their houses and thanked me for the legwork they hadn't had time to do for themselves. That's nice, and probably doesn't hurt my reputation in the business any.
Things continue to come out and continue to be added while I take other things out that are no longer useful in the article or that have become outdated. In this business things can become outdated at any time during the day.
Doing this doesn't make me any kind of expert on the industry, I'm just quoting other people . . . people in the know. It just means I'm taking time to keep up with it and allow people to find it in one place instead of hunting all over the web for it or interviewing industry people as I've been doing. If we all started doing that they probably wouldn't be very cooperative. That'd be worse than unsolicited submissions.
If it interests you check back now and then. I'll keep updating the info.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Are you Sick?

Really, are you?
Saundra and I were down over the holidays with a nasty little bug. She went down a couple of days before I did and is coming out of it now except for a really sore throat. I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. She went to work today, she’s a massage therapist and has appointments scheduled. I hope it isn’t too much for her.

Fortunately for me going to work is a long commute down the hall to the study. I mentioned it to one of my clients and she said, “Boy, you have it good!” I know I’m blessed, and I’m very grateful. She and her hubby have been down as well and he had to go in this morning.

I just keep hearing it, over and over, I talk to people and editors, clients, authors, people in our agency, seems like everybody I talk to have been down with something. We had to cancel the kids and grandkids coming in for the holiday because we wouldn’t be good company, and even more because we didn’t want them to catch it. We hear back that it’s hitting them anyway.

We didn’t go to church because we didn’t have the strength, and again because we didn’t want to spread it. But I hear that its sweeping through the congregation anyway. I don’t remember a holiday where sickness seemed to be more prevalent. I’m sure there have been, I probably just block them out.

Being Irish, the first remedy even before I started coming down myself and was taking care of my wife was to make a big pot of potato soup. That’s comfort food for the Irish and everybody knows it has great healing powers. Sure, I know about chicken soup, but it’s just not the same.

I did get quite a bit of work done. When you’re trapped in a recliner and there’s nothing on TV you need a diversion of some sort. Reading manuscripts helped fill the time. Was I more or less open to how good the projects I was reading were? I don’t know that it made much of a difference either way. I did lose interest in reading pretty regularly and that would normally be a bad sign for a manuscript. This time I accepted the fact that it could just be the medication and my attention span and allowed myself to set them aside without blaming the work.

I sincerely hope you weren’t one of this large number of people who seem to have gone down over the holiday and hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Now, let’s see, its sixteen days to Saundra’s birthday and 24 days to Christmas eve. My where does the time go?