Welcome back to another day at The Mustard Seed. Author Kris Bock is here to chat with us today and share about her favorite topic, which is writing. Hope you can stick around to chat. Let's meet Kris...

Kris Bock writes action-packed romantic suspense involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Whispers in the Dark involves intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. Rattled follows a treasure hunt in New Mexico. In the upcoming What We Found, a young woman stumbles on the body of a murder victim. Kris also writes for children as Chris Eboch. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots.

You can connect with Kris online here:

Kris Bock’s Website 
Chris Eboch’s Website for children’s books
Write like a Pro! Chris Eboch's Blog
Find Kris on Facebook
Find Kris on Goodreads
Find Kris on Twitter

So, let's chat. Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

I originally went to art school and studied photography. I learned I didn’t want to be a photographer, but I got a great education in creativity and critiquing. I also started writing for the school paper and got interested in journalism. I went back to school for an MA in Professional Writing and Publishing at Emerson College, planning to focus on magazine nonfiction. I wrote my first novel – The Well of Sacrifice, an adventure set in 9th-century Mayan Guatemala for ages nine and up – as something fun to do in between looking for jobs. That led to a dozen more published children’s books (and an equal number of unpublished ones). Eventually I wanted a change and turned to writing for adults under the name Kris Bock.

What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction? 

I’ve written about ancient Egypt, the pre-Columbian Maya, and kids who see ghosts. Even my first two contemporary romantic suspense novels were entirely made up, except for the realistic Southwest settings. But my newest novel is based on a real experience: two friends and I found a dead body. As you might imagine, it was shocking and horrifying and powerful, especially when we learned the victim’s name and that she’d been murdered. I was fortunate that the two men I was with were willing and able to talk about their feelings. From the start, I recognized the unusual opportunity for research, so I took 10,000 words of notes about everything we felt, thought, and did. I waited several years before I felt ready to revisit that experience, but it became the seed for What We Found, due out in August.

I cannot even imagine what that must have been like for you. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Most characters are entirely from my imagination, though there is a little bit of me in many of my heroines. Not necessarily me as I am now, but sometimes me as I was when I was younger. Also, in Rattled, the heroine’s best friend, Camie, is based on a close friend of mine – but I changed the character’s gender. It worked out surprisingly well, and the role model was flattered by the portrayal!

What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books? 

What We Found involves falconry. My husband and I met a falconer a couple of years ago, got to know him, visited his home, and went out on several hunts. (I’ve posted some of my falconry photos on my Picasa page, including shots of newborn hawks and falcons.) I wrote an article about falconry that was recently published in a local magazine, but I wanted to do more. Falconry turned out to be the perfect counterpoint to the murder mystery in What We Found, because of the metaphors it provides regarding predators and prey. I’ve always loved wild animals, so getting to be close to raptors has been amazing.

Sounds like amazing research and a great tie in for your plot line. Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book?  Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?

Writing a book is hard. It can and should be fun, but it also takes a lot of work to make a manuscript into something other people want to read. Take classes – many are offered online, through the mail, or by local writing organizations. Attend writing events and network with other writers. (You’ll not only learn from them and build a support system, but the connections will help with promotion as well.) Focus first on learning to write. Then focus on learning to write better. Don’t rush the process – it may take years. Save stress over publication until you are far along on your writing journey, or you’ll just experience more frustration and disappointment by submitting (or self-publishing) work that isn’t ready.

As for promotion, it’s always going to be a challenge, and I’m still figuring it out. Doing guest blog posts, or getting reviewed on major blogs that have a lot of followers in your genre, seem to be good ways of getting attention for your work. But my best advice is to be patient, don’t stress over sales numbers or Amazon rankings, and focus more on writing your next book than on promoting your last one.

Very sage advice. I especially like your advice about not focusing on sales rankings and promoting your last book, but instead putting your energy into continuing to write more books. What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write?

I am a full-time writer. I make most of my money these days from writing articles, teaching workshops, and doing private critiques. I have to work pretty long hours sometimes to also find time to write novels, but I’m hoping they’ll provide more of the income in the long run. It’s an investment. I generally try to write a couple thousand words on my novel-in-progress in the morning, both because that’s my more creative time and because that way it’s sure get done. If I wait until I’m done with all my other work, I’ll never get to my personal projects.

How did you find your publisher?  What was your journey to publication like?

Remember that first novel I mentioned – The Well of Sacrifice? I got really lucky with that, because I didn’t make many of the mistakes first-time authors make. It was also an unusual topic and perfectly targeted for fourth and fifth grade classrooms when kids learn about the Maya. (Lucky again; I didn’t plan that.) I met an agent at a writing event and she sold the novel to Clarion. I was on my way!

Then my luck ran out. I didn’t sell my next five novels, largely because I was making all those mistakes I’d accidentally avoided with The Well of Sacrifice. (I prefer to think of those bad novels not as failures but as “learning experiences.”) I eventually got some work-for-hire jobs, and I finally sold the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show. Then that series got dropped.

I decided to self-publish my Egyptian historical mystery for kids, The Eyes of Pharaoh, because I believe in the book but publishers weren’t buying much historical fiction. As I explored self-publishing, I came to believe it was a good decision for adult genre fiction as well, so that’s what I’ve been doing with my romantic suspense novels. I haven’t gotten many sales yet, but I’ve been focusing more on the writing than on promotion so far. I have gotten good feedback from readers (including people I don’t know!), so I’m confident in the material. I’m trying to be patient and build up my “brand” slowly by producing more good work and taking opportunities such as these to meet potential readers.

So very true that branding your name is much more important than marketing any one specific book. Continuing to write and finding new readers for each new book, will also bring in a solid readership base once those readers begin reading your backlist. How have your friends and family received your career as an author?  Are they supportive?

My parents have always been wonderfully supportive, even though the lack of security in a freelancer’s life makes my mom nervous. And my husband is amazing, backing my decisions even when the money isn’t coming in as quickly as we’d like. (I’d say I’m lucky, but I chose him, so it’s not really luck.)

Many of my local friends are science or computer types, so they don’t always “get” what I do, but they generally think it’s cool. And I have many writer friends around the world. I love going to conferences or retreats where I can spend days talking about writing.

I totally get the whole mom worried about a freelancer's life! Maybe our moms should chat. :) It's wonderful to have supportive family and friends. What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you? ~ POV issues; using too much passive voice and not enough active voice; trouble creating active and engaging dialogue; using too many similar words in starting sentences; or something else?        

I’ve been writing and teaching writing for many years, so I’m pretty confident in most of my skills. But transitioning from writing for children to writing for adults had some challenges. The longest children’s novel I’d written was 35,000 words. When I hit the 35,000-word mark in Rattled, I was exhausted! I needed to take a week off before I could get back to it, but I eventually got through the remaining 50,000 words. Fortunately, I knew length might be an issue, so I did extensive outlining before I started writing. I wanted to make sure I had enough material to sustain a full-length adult novel.

The other challenge was slowing down and allowing the main character’s introspection. Between my journalism training and writing for children, my style tends to be fast-paced and efficient, without many wasted words. But when writing romantic suspense, character is so important. Often my first draft of a chapter is primarily action and dialogue. Then I go back through and add the reaction in the character’s thoughts and emotions. I want to work even more on character arcs and fully developing the romantic subplots in my books.

Can you share with us about some of your latest books?

Whispers in the Dark
: A young archaeologist seeking peace after an assault stumbles into danger as mysteries unfold among ancient Southwest ruins. Can she overcome the fears from her past, learn to fight back, and open herself to a new romance?

Rattled: A legendary treasure hunt in the dramatic—and deadly—New Mexico desert.... The Victorio Peak treasure is the stuff of legends. When Erin, a quiet history professor, uncovers a clue that may pinpoint the lost treasure cave, she prepares for adventure. But when a hit and run driver nearly kills her, she realizes she’s not the only one after the treasure. And is Drew, the handsome helicopter pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch, really a hero, or one of the enemy? Just how far will Erin go to find the treasure and discover what she’s really made of?

What We Found (coming August 2012): Audra goes back to her small hometown after college, just wanting to fit in. Finding a dead body in the woods was not part of that plan. Simply reporting the body makes her enemies. Too many people have secrets, and someone starts targeting Audra. She’ll have to stand up for herself in order to stand up for the murder victim. And then, just maybe, she’ll find her own path alongside the wounded warrior who is as intriguing as the falcons and hawks he keeps. (Sign up for Kris’newsletter to get an announcement when the book is released.)

Thanks for sharing. I read and write romantic suspense, my favorite genre, so I'm sure I'd love your books. They sound very intriguing. Where can readers find your books online?

My Amazon Author Page
My Barnes and Noble Author Page

I hear you have a book regarding writing tips. What's that called and give us some more details. 

Advanced Plotting written under the name Chris Eboch, is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer. If you struggle with plot or suspect your plotting needs work, this book can help. Use the Plot Outline Exercise to identify and fix plot weaknesses. Learn how to get off to a fast start, prop up a sagging middle, build to a climax, improve your pacing, and more.

Thanks for having me today and giving me a chance to talk about my favorite subject, writing! 

Kris, thank you for chatting with me today. I found the interview to be highly interesting and I enjoyed getting to know more about you and your work. 

Hope you all can hang around to chat with Kris for a bit. 

With hundreds of thousands of books published each year, how do you and your books stand out from the crowded arena of other published authors? It’s enough to make your head spin and then maybe even run away and hide due to the overwhelming task of succeeding. Success goes to the person who persevered and never gave up. Success goes to the person who tried just one more time and said the dream was worth it. 

With the advent of the internet and now the eBook, publishing and marketing books has been taken to a whole new level. The playing field is now equal and there is so much free publicity at your fingertips, you just need to know where to get started. 

One of the main things you need to do is stand out from the crowd. You need an online hub or place where people can readily find you and your books. This would be your website or blog.  I have a website and my blog is one of the pages on my site. Your blog can be separate from your website, but you need to link both places together. 

Blogging is important and may seem tedious and like a thankless task with no rewards, but again—if you keep working at it, you will get blog followers and it is a way to keep drawing people to your website. That is what you want. If you only have a website that is static and never changes, why should people continue to flock to your site? It’s all about online content. People want to read new and fresh ideas and content online and if your blog offers that, you will keep your current followers and draw new readers. 

Join a blog alliance.  It will be another way to draw people to your site. I am a current member of the Clash of the Titles Blog Alliance and Book Blogs (their buttons are on the sidebar of this blog). 

So what on earth do you blog about every day? If you get all caught up in that and thinking no one will even read what I have to say, then no one will. You need to believe in your blog before anyone else will. When I started my blog back in August 2010, I wrote short posts about my day or the status of my writing projects, but it didn’t even seem interesting to me and I knew it wasn’t interesting to anyone else. I’m a new author; who cares anyway? That’s why I needed to make the blog interesting. 

I post author interviews, guest blogs, reader corner interviews and I also post book reviews that I do. For this year, I am trying something different—I am having guest authors write on themed blog posts, specific to each month. If you’re interested in guesting, please let me know. The Mustard Seed is a place for authors and readers to connect.

Social networking is very important. Start your own personal facebook page and then a fan page. Open a twitter account. I have my blog linked to post to twitter and also my facebook personal and fan page through Networked blogs and it posts to my book blogs page; this is a great way to get multiple avenues of exposure from one posting.

Try to do as many online author interviews or guest blogs that you can do and post links on your social networking pages. Have reviews done on your books. Look into doing radio interviews.  Think about doing book giveaways of your books on your own blog or when you are a guest on another person’s blog. 

Another big part of succeeding in the publishing world is to market your name, not your book.  Yes you need to market each book you write, but your name recognition is what will pave the way to continued sales. If a reader likes one of your books, he or she will look into your backlist to see what else you’ve written. You also need to continue writing books. Don’t stop. After you publish one book, go back to the drawing board and get started on a new book.    

There are so many avenues for success, you just need to keep your eyes open and be willing to think outside the box. What works for one author may not work for you. Be open to that fact and to find what does work for you. Be open to change and trying new ideas.  Not everything you try will always work, but never give up. If you give up, you won’t ever find what could have happened if you stayed with it and kept persevering. 

What’s the missing link that you need in order to succeed in your marketing mission for your work as an author—it’s a deep-seated need to succeed at all costs…it’s not giving up when things get tough…it’s believing in yourself even if no one else does…it’s keeping the end goal in sight.

So many times we lose sight of the end goal and get bogged down with the daily grind so we don’t focus on where we need to be but instead focus on where we are and get discouraged. Discouragement is normal, but allowing yourself to live there is not good and does not advance your plan towards success.

Things don’t always go as planned—that’s a given in this life, but you need to learn to roll with the punches and reformulate your action plan as you go. Change is good, even though we don’t always want to embrace that change. If you are able to keep the end goal in sight even when change is happening, you’ll be better able to deal with the changing circumstances and move forward towards success.

When things are going well, we sometimes slack off a bit and let go of the reigns—we need to continue riding forward no matter what the circumstances. In both good times and bad, it’s important to maintain a solid mental focus that reminds you that perseverance is needed and in order to succeed, you need to take chances.

Not everyone is a risk taker. Now I’m not talking about parachuting out of planes type of risk-taking, but every now and then stepping outside your comfort zone and doing something for your marketing that you’ve never thought you’d ever do. For starters, I did a radio interview several months ago and I was so nervous to do that, but it went well. I was offered the opportunity to do an interview on an internet TV station for the same radio company, but I’ve been too nervous to accept. I need to practice what I preach and get going on that opportunity.

Make sure you stay true to yourself. No matter what marketing opportunities come into your life, only accept those that allow you to remain true to yourself. Stay true to yourself in your writing as well. Write from your heart and your readers will love what you want to share with them. If they know that you’re writing from their heart, they’ll come back for more of your work.

If writing is a dream of yours and is your passion, then don’t give up. Those who give up will never succeed. True success is reserved for those who make a consistent effort and never let up. 

The most important task for a writer is to keep writing books. Sounds simple but most often is not so cut and dry. Life gets in the way—you have to continually work on marketing your previous books and branding your name, among other daily tasks. How do you keep the creative juices flowing? Write every day. 

“It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do not do this remain amateur.” (Gerald Brenan)

“I write when I’m inspired and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” (Peter DeVries)

Now, for the record, I slack off many days and don’t always keep up with my newest WIP. As I mentioned, daily tasks, the day job, family and other things continually vie for my attention. It takes discipline to flex the writing muscle each day so let’s talk about some ways to make that happen.

1. Set goals. There are three types of goals—immediate, short-term and long-term. Once you figure out exactly where you want to be, the journey towards getting there becomes a little bit easier.

2. Make a decision. Decide to write each day—even if you only write in your journal, you need to flex your writing muscle every day. It’s how you grow as a writer and you don’t allow your skills to get stale.

3. Be Flexible & prepared. Obviously, there will be days that you don’t accomplish each writing goal that you set out to finish. Be open to stretching those writing muscles so you don’t pull a muscle by too much rigidity in your mindset—not allowing for failure. Forgive yourself when you don’t reach your goals, but then get your but back in gear for a new start the next day.

4. Deflect distractions. True, we won’t be able to rid ourselves of all distractions—unless of course, we decide to get stranded on a deserted island and write all day long…and even then, I think we’d find a way to distract ourselves! Set a specific time during the day where you can write and not be interrupted. If you write better in the morning, pick that time or in the evening etc., whatever works well for you.

5. Welcome accountability. This is the one factor that we may not like—however, it will most likely help us the most in our quest to finish the next great novel. Find an accountability partner. Maybe it will be your spouse or best friend or fellow writing buddy. Whoever it is, you need to find someone that you trust to be patient with you, but also give you that push you may need to get back on track.

6. Re-evaluate the plan. Don’t be afraid to reassess the situation—think of it as a necessary evil. Not many people like to get tested on performance, but if you truly want to succeed, you need to always be open to evaluating your progress. This process is hard for me, but I’ve learned to take a step back and assess the situation.

7. Regroup & continue. Once you’ve assessed the situation and realized what’s working and what isn’t, take a breather and then get back to work. Just as with exercise, when you stop for a while, it’s more difficult to get into the routine again—but once you get back on track, you feel rejuvenating and energized with your progress. If you’re flexible and ready to work hard, you’ll figure out your own rhythm and what works best for you.

Currently, I’m enjoying the release of my newest book, Bella Lucia, and I’m busy making the rounds in my blog tour; however, I need to remember to take my own advice and continue to flex the writing muscle each day. I’d love to hear your thoughts and what steps you’ve found helpful in your own writing career.

I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of pushy salespeople—I know what I want when I’m going shopping and I don’t like to be bothered. I try to bring this mindset into my book marketing. The question remains—do you think readers like a hard sell or not?

"To sell a product you must inform the world of its existence." (Roger Scruton)

I saw this quote today and thought it hit squarely on the mark of the catch 22 situation all authors find themselves in. If no one knows about your book, how can they purchase it? However, doing a blitzkrieg marketing assault will most certainly turn off readers to your book. So, how can you maneuver through this situation and find the middle ground?

I truly believe that starts with name recognition. Do you want to be a one hit wonder or make a big splash with your name in the book industry? Obviously, if we want to continue on towards a successful writing career, then we want the latter. When you find an author that you like and you’ve enjoyed one or two books he or she wrote, then it stands to reason that you’ll be going back for more books. That should give hope to new authors. Even if your first or second book doesn’t sell well, keep on writing more books. Eventually with discipline and perseverance, your efforts will pay off and readers will know your name. Once they read your newer works, they’ll check out your backlist. Your fans are not going to always be able to spout off the titles of all your books, but if they like your work and if you’ve become popular, they will remember your name.  If they know your name, they can easily find you online or in the bookstores.  When they find your website, then they can look up your books.  When they go to the bookstores, they can find your specific titles. 

As you work on building your platform—your online hub and name recognition—you always need to be mindful of how to keep your readers and fans interested in you and your work and that they continually return to your online hub for more content. The hard sell would be to constantly be talking about your book and where readers can purchase it and how many good reviews you’ve gotten. Yes, I’m an author, but I am also a fellow (avid) reader and I don’t want to constantly be thrown this book info. I like to get to know the authors who wrote the books that I enjoy. What is their daily life like? What are their interests? Whom do they follow? Do they like to know about current events?

The opposite sell that works, is to share the answers to these questions with your readers. You don’t have to be an open book per se—however, share important snippets of your life with your readers. Don’t always shove down their throats the purchase info for your books. Interact with readers. Show them that you really do care and know that without an audience, you don’t have a career. Always be appreciative of your readers—that will bring true loyalty and increase your fan base.

Don’t be afraid to network with other authors. Helping another author will definitely come around to help you out in the future. Create an online hub that is bigger than you. For example, just last year I was praying about naming my blog. I got the name of The Mustard Seed Blog with the tagline of It only takes a mustard seed to make a dream grow. In the Bible when Jesus says we should have faith as a mustard seed, that’s very important. A mustard seed is small, yet grows into something big. In order to accomplish great things, we don’t need an enormous faith—God only asks us to take that one step forward with Him and He will accomplish those miracles in our lives. So, the name of my blog and the tagline mean a great deal to me. It’s my perspective on life—that without God I can do nothing…only in Him will great things be done in my life.

One day I would love for The Mustard Seed Blog to become even bigger than it is—currently in its infancy. I truly want my blog to be a place for readers and authors to interact and grow together in their love of books. I want to help new authors get free publicity and help more accomplished authors as well. This is why I say think of the big picture and all that God can accomplish in and through your life. Don’t put God in a box.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)  The way we speak to each other and the tone of our voices is powerful ~ life and death is in the tongue.  How does this apply to the words we, as authors, write?

I believe the same principle applies ~ there is power in our words. 

As authors, we take great pains to make certain that the words we write and the stories that take shape are our best work.  We edit those words and reread them and then edit them again.  We want our finished product to exemplify the story that our imagination birthed.  Does this process apply to everything we write?

It should apply, at least to a lesser degree.  Even when we write emails or texts or post comments on facebook and twitter and when we write our blogs, we need to remember the principle that life and death is in our words.  When you send an email, you can’t take it back.  Are you sure you were happy with the email you sent?  It may not seem like a big deal, but everything we write will come around ~ do you want it to haunt you or bless you?

When you write a blog, try to keep it professional but find the balance with a sense of your personality ~ make your blog inviting to those who follow you.  Remember that you are not only writing to your readers and fellow authors, but also to those publishers and book reviewers who may happen to find your blog.  If you are writing with a negative attitude and bashing other authors or giving a tirade about your noisy neighbors, that won’t seem very professional to them and could turn them off.  Your words could lead to a lost awesome book deal or lost great book review. 

When you do an author interview, if you’re speaking on the radio, be professional, but share your own personality and give the sense that you are a friendly person.  When you are answering interview questions to be posted online on a blog or magazine, remember the same principle ~ there is power in our words.  Just remember that at any point in time, someone out there in the world is or could be soon looking at your interview.  Don’t be negative, but keep that positive tone. 

If you are at a book signing, keep to the same principle.  You don’t want to let a bad day negatively affect how you speak to your fans.  Always keep the filter on your mouth and think before you speak.  This is a lesson we all need to continually learn day by day.  Of course, I’m not telling you to act fake and not who you really are.  It’s just that as an author, you do have a higher responsibility to be careful with your words, if you’re looking to be a blessing to others and not a negative force in this world. 

There are so many instances where we, as authors, will need to write words and speak words.  When you are writing a letter or email to a prospective publisher or agent, keep the tone professional, yet friendly.  Always remain cognizant of the power of life and death in your words.

I remember when I was a novice writer and I had no idea what I was doing.  My journey has taken me a long way from those days, but I wanted to offer some advice for beginning writers.  

Get an Idea Journal

I still have one to this day.  Did you ever think of some great idea and then forget about it later on because you forgot to write it down?  I keep my journal handy and write down new book ideas and keep adding them to the list because I never know when I’m going to need a new book idea.

Write Every Day

You’re never going to accomplish anything in the writing world unless you put pen or pencil to paper or start typing away.  I know it’s hard and many times life gets in the way, but if becoming a published author is a dream of yours, then you need to write every day.  Now, this includes any type of writing, whether you are working on your WIP (work in progress) or writing a blog or writing articles for publication or just writing in your journal.  Keep the creative juices flowing and write every day.

Set Goals for Yourself

If you don’t set goals, you will have a more difficult time succeeding as an author.  There are immediate, short-term and long-term goals.  Immediate goals are those that will be done right now, like writing every day.  Creating a story outline and developing your characters, then starting the manuscript.  Short-term goals are those goals that will be accomplished in the next 6 months to a year.  Will you finish that manuscript?  Do you know how to edit it yourself and then find a professional editor?  Where are you going to go to look for a publisher?  Long-term goals will happen in the next year and following.  Once you’ve signed your first publishing contract, where do you see yourself?  Will you start work on your next WIP?

Write First, Edit Later

Not everyone is the same when it comes to their own editing process, but let me share what has worked well for me.  I do some story outlining (not always as strict a process for every manuscript) and then begin to write, always keeping in mind, my four main rules of writing and I don’t do a complete edit until I finish the entire manuscript.  If I start editing as I go, I will get discouraged and may never finish what I’ve started.  Now that I’ve gotten my four rules down, I feel more confident about my writing and have been doing an initial edit after each section I write so I won’t have to do a big overhaul at the end. 

So what are my four rules of writing ~ No. 1, Keep your POV (Point of View) straight and don’t head hop.  No. 2, Write in the active and not the passive voice.  No. 3, Make your dialogue action-packed and not stale.  No. 4, Watch for repeated words in your paragraphs, like too many sentences starting with “she” or “he” or other words.

Find a Critique Group or Accountability Partner

You need to join a writers group or have some sort of critique group that you can belong to.  You must have support as you learn the writing craft and go on your journey toward publication.  I am currently a member of the Christian Writers online group and I also have an accountability partner, who is my husband.  He helps me by always encouraging me and making sure that I am working on my WIPs and completing them and continuing on in my writing career. 

Create an Online Presence

Even unpublished writers need a website.  You may not have a lot of content to fill up ten pages, but that doesn’t matter; you need to start somewhere.  There must be a place online where potential readers and publishers and book reviewers can go to find you and your future work.  Once you sign a publishing contract that is not the time to create a website.  You need to create one before then and you will always be evolving and changing as an author and so will your website.  I am currently using www.weebly.com and it’s very user friendly and it’s free

You need to also utilize Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites.  I would hold off on starting a Facebook Fan Page until you have your first book published (you can have unlimited followers there).  In the meantime, I would begin with a regular Facebook profile (I think the limit is 5,000 friends).  Also work on your Twitter profile.  If you have questions on utilizing social networking as a marketing tool, feel free to contact me and I’ll give you more tips.

Keep on Reading and Learning

Good writers are avid readers.  I have always enjoyed reading and I still do today.  The problem is ~ finding a balance between writing and reading.  Once I get in a good writing groove, I sometimes put reading on the backburner.  However, that is okay since if you’re inspired in your writing, you should go for it.  I just need to remember to take a break sometimes and get back into reading as well.  Always be open to constructive criticism from editors, publishers and book reviewers.  Take the good with the bad and don’t let it stop you from achieving your dreams.

Follow other Published Authors

I’m a published author and I still follow other published authors.  By follow I mean on social networking sites as well as their blogs.  Other authors can be a great resource to you.  As you watch what others in your field are doing, you can emulate some of their tactics, process what is good for your goals and what isn’t and then stimulate your own ideas as a catalyst from that interaction. 

Research your Publishing Options

At some point, you are going to need to decide how you want to get published.  Will you self-publish through a subsidy publisher and pay your own way?  Will you self-publish on your own?  Will you try to get published through a small press or mid-level publisher?  Are you shooting for the stars and will you try to get in with a larger, traditional publisher? 

Many smaller presses accept unsolicited manuscripts and you don’t need an agent to get you in the door.  Check the Writer’s Market; it is a great resource towards finding a publisher.  I remember the days of paying for postage and the SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and snail mailing manuscripts or chapters 1-3 plus a summary out to various publishers.  I’m glad those days are over and you can submit online now (of course there are still some exceptions).  If you want more details on this, just email me.

If you chose an agent, you will need to obviously pay this person.  Some of them get paid only if they get you a publishing contract and others want money upfront.  I signed with an agent once, but I was stuck for six months and could not simultaneous submit my manuscript to publishers while their agency had it; and they never got my manuscript sold anyway.  I like to work on my own, so I don’t have an agent right now.  Once I make the bestseller list, I’m sure I’ll get an agent for promotion, then.  Lol!!      

Never Ever Give Up

If becoming a published author is truly your dream, then don’t ever let anything pull you down.  I received many rejection letters before I signed my first contract.  If you want to become a published author, it will take hard work and discipline, but also determination.  Keep the hope alive!

Welcome back to another day at The Mustard Seed. Author Radine Nehring is a guest today. She's also doing a book giveaway. Hope you can stick around to visit. Let's meet Radine...

Radine Trees Nehring is one of those late blooming writers who's first feature articles, essays, and poetry were published regionally, nationally, and internationally after she was old enough for AARP.  Her first non-fiction book, DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow, came out in 1995, followed by, in 2002, her first cozy mystery novel featuring mature adults Carrie McCrite and Henry King.  This "To Die For" series now includes seven novels telling the stories of how senior citizens find strength, courage, and . . .  fun!  Radine was the 2011 inductee into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame, and her books have earned, among many other awards, the Arkansas Governor's Award for best writing about the state, "Best Mystery" at Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc, and the national Silver Falchion for best mystery at Killer Nashville.  She is a member of Authors' Guild, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America.


Many mature brides, especially those marrying for the second time (or more) choose a sedate dress or suit for wedding attire. The long gowns, frills and fluff available to young brides?  Nope, not for them.

Except . . . except . . . .Widow Carrie McCrite, preparing to wed for the second time, wants ALL the frills she didn't have at her first wedding.  A religious ceremony? Yes. Long bridal gown? Yes! Henry in a dark suit? Yes. Lots of flowers? Yes.  Family and friends as guests? Yes. White cake with elaborate icing decorations? Yes. Huge buffet? Yes, oh yes. All of it!   

But, where to start?  Ah! Bridal magazines, of course. There will be lots of dresses and ideas to choose from. So--off to the grocery store to buy magazines dedicated to wedding plans and fashions for today's bride. Back at home, turning pages, Carrie's excited happiness sinks out of sight. Page after page of every magazine has photos of young, thin brides in flowing gowns. Most gowns expose abundant cleavage. All hug slim bodies. Not one-single-magazine has one-single-photo of a mature, roundish bride. Mothers of brides--yes. Women like her as brides? No. Tears sneaking down Carrie's face tell her how much she cares, and how much she does not feel like an old woman pretending to something she cannot hope for.

Dear God, why can't my happiness include looking like a dream bride? Why are all the goodies reserved for these brides who don't look a day over twenty? Why do these magazines tell me,"This is reserved for the young?"

When Carrie's best friend Shirley (down-to-earth, Ozarks native Shirley), stops by and sees the stack of discarded magazines, she guesses why Carrie is so quiet, and calls in Eleanor, another friend, from up the road.  

"I kin make your dress," Shirley says, and begins describing a simple ivory gown with a small jacket, and a skirt flowing free to the floor from a back bow. "Easy enough, I made wedding dresses for both our girls."   
"How about the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs? " Eleanor says. "Beautiful place, bridal consultants on staff, over four hundred weddings a year held there. That's where we'll have your wedding."

But now, irrationally, Carrie is fuming. It's her wedding, hers alone to plan, and these two friends have taken over.

What next, for goodness' sake?
Message for all of us:  Be grateful for what you are given. Though the road to Carrie and Henry's wedding is about as bumpy as it can get--at least in fiction--in the final pages of the novel the expected wedding does, at last, take place. And, it's all a mature bride could hope for. My sincere wish is that no bride, mature or not, will have to go through what these people do before Carrie and Henry finally stand up to say "I do." But perhaps their adventurous journey will be of interest to others -- especially mature couples and, if available, their adult children.  (I do know of a bride who ordered her wedding dress made according to the one Shirley describes in A WEDDING TO DIE FOR.)

See you at the wedding? 

Radine, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us! Let's chat...What are the top five random facts about yourself?

1. It didn't occur to me that I'd ever write and be paid for it until I was over fifty.  
2. I was so uplifted by everything around me after we bought rural land in the Arkansas Ozarks that I HAD to share it. That's what began my writing career.  
3. I do the best I can on the Internet, staying in touch and sharing information about my writing, but "it ain't easy."  (And I don't have a teenager near by to help!)   
4. My husband--spurred on by the fact I can have my nose in my computer at 5:30 and he got tired of asking when supper was going to appear--has learned to cook, or at least to warm up already prepared food, casseroles, and so on. (This began after we'd already been married over fifty years. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?)  
5. My life is happy, and my favorite occupation is creating stories, but the work of being a full-time author can be frazzling at times.

What's best about being an author?  

I love what words can do! It's tremendously gratifying to be writing a story, be totally involved in the characters' lives, and to feel the emotions you are writing about. I grew up with an active imagination, and, due to life circumstances, spent much of my time with imaginary playmates.  (I wonder . . . do most fiction writers have a type of "split personality?" Living their own real lives and, at least while in a story, living the lives their characters do?)

I love that about authors having "split personalities" and I might have to agree with that one in my own life! ;) Who's your favorite author of classic literature?  

I guess the definition of classic means various things, depending on who's using the term, but my classic would be "Cyrano de Bergerac" by Edmond Rostand.  ("Love, I love beyond breath, beyond reason, beyond love's own power of loving. Your name is like a golden bell that rings in my heart . . . "), and--I do enjoy most all of the lighter Shakespearean plays.

What's your favorite novel?

"This Rough Magic," by Mary Stewart.

Do you have a fond memory of a reader's comment?

The eighty-three-year-old woman who surprised the heck out of me by saying she imagined my main character, Carrie McCrite, as being in her 80's, and she was so glad I didn't write about decrepit old people, but about someone who had "SPUNK, VIM AND VINEGAR."  (Her caps.)

Please tell us about your book, A Wedding to Die For.

Carrie has problems. First, she needs to figure out what the wedding of a 'mature' bride and groom should look like. Second, she's invited Henry's half-sister to the ceremony before learning why he's never wanted to see the woman. Then the florists they've hired are shot at, their flower shop is bombed, and someone is murdered. If that weren't enough, Carrie and Henry keep catching glimpses of a ghost dressed in a red bridal gown...an omen? Join Carrie McCrite and Henry King as they chase a killer and try to salvage their dream wedding at the historic Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. 

Sounds like a great book. Where can readers find your book online? 

Find A Wedding to Die For on Amazon
I will also have a new series book out by June (cover art not available yet) and will include information about that later.

Radine, thanks so much for guesting today. I enjoyed chatting with you. 

If you are interested in participating in Radine's book giveaway, please leave a comment for Radine. 

Have you ever been in love—you know, the infuriating kind—where you want to be around this person all the time and yet at other times, this person drives you nuts! Yes, you know what I mean. 

Well that’s where Detective Marc Abrams finds himself. He is insanely attracted to U.S. Marshall Sam Collins, but she doesn’t seem too interested in him. So what’s a guy to do? Solve a murder for one! And maybe even hook up with the sexy and spirited marshall. Who knows what will happen when these two collide and join forces! You can meet these exciting characters in my newest romantic suspense novel, Bella Lucia.

Purchase Link for Bella Lucia on Amazon

Excerpt from Bella Lucia:

Reaching into his pocket, he frantically searched for change to finish paying for his coffee. Lint and candy wrappers mixed with the quarters he found. He must not let this woman get away. Ever since he’d met her, she’d ruled his thoughts. He rushed past the line of customers and caught up with Sam. “I thought you’d left me.”

“You’re like a fungus—easy to get and hard to get rid of.”

He followed her as she headed down the sidewalk. “Wow, if your words weren’t so insulting, I’d be impressed.”

“So, was there some actual reason you needed to speak to me, or do you always get your morning coffee here?”

“No, I simply wanted to see you.”

“Couldn’t you at least pretend you needed to discuss the case or something?”

Her words surprised him. “What? I thought women wanted straight talk from men, unless I’ve been reading the wrong playbook.”

She laughed. The musical sound of it made him smile. “We do, but if you’re after a colleague, straight talk isn’t going to cut it, at least not yet. We don’t know each other well enough.”

Sam picked up speed and crossed the street at the corner. Man, she walks fast. Or maybe she truly is trying to get away from me. Either way, Marc didn’t care. He wanted to spend as muchtime with her as he could. He wondered whether she spoketruthfully or not—perhaps women did play by different rules whenamongst colleagues.He opted to follow her lead. “I met with the couple whowitnessed the body dump.” She stopped mid‑stride. Now he hadher attention. This is a good method, if it’ll get her to look at me.

“I didn’t know there were witnesses.”

“Well, they didn’t see the murder, just the body dump. And now they’re adopting Mrs. Reysen’s baby.”


He jumped at the chance. “Do you want to grab lunch later, and I’ll tell you about it?”

She waited, obviously taking time to decide. “Fine, but let’s make it an early lunch. I couldn’t sleep this morning, and I need to get some rest this afternoon before I relieve Eric at the safe house.”

Marc gawked at her, stunned that she’d actually accepted his invitation. Gathering his wits, he mumbled, “Great. Okay, great. Um, I’ll see you later then.”

She called after him as he walked away. “Where are we meeting?”

“Oh, I guess that would help.” Racking his brain for the best pizza place around, he settled on his favorite. “I know a great pizzeria on the corner of Fourth and Exton Street. How does that sound?”

“Fine with me.”

They parted ways, and Marc glanced back a few times to watch her walk away. The words of the waitress from the other day echoed in his mind: Honey, you ain’t fine. You look like a lovesick puppy.

Clash of the Titles' monthly clashes 
have received a makeover! 

Our focus is now on novels new to bookstore shelves. COTT's readers will always have the most up-to-date information on the best and newest Christian literature. 
Thanks to you, our faithful readers, Clash of the Titles’ new unpublished authors literary contest has been christened--


The path to publication in novel length is the most difficult a writer will embark on. For most, it’s a steep, uphill climb littered with deep crevices and seemingly insurmountable boulders. Often, it feels as though the summit of that mountain is on the move, keeping one toehold ahead of even the most relentless writer.

Ancient Olympia, Greece *Attribution
In classical times ancient Olympia was the site of the original Olympic Games. It sat at the foot of Mount Olympus, the tallest, most formidable mountain in Greece. The first Olympic Games were held in honor of Zeus, but at Clash of the Titles, we give all honor to the Most High God and wish every contestant His greatest blessing!

Authors, submissions for The Olympia pen October 29, 2012. For preliminary details, please visit The Olympia page.
If you would like more information on how to be a part of our monthly New Releases Clashes, 
please visit our Submissions page.

*Attribution: This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. United States Public Domain.

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