For many of us, when we consider purchasing a book, we look at the cover, read the back blurb, and scan chapter one for the hook unaware of the process and the professionals involved in creating the book. We may recognize the author or perhaps the publisher, but what role did the editor-in-chief play in the creation of the book? I had the privilege of interviewing Nicola Martinez, Editor-in-Chief of Pelican Book Group. Pelican is the premier publisher of Christian, inspirational fiction and the first publisher to dedicate an entire imprint to promoting purity.
In this article, Nicola provides an insight into her world in producing Christian fiction books, and how her faith is an integral part every step of the way.
Tell us about your path in becoming an editor-in-chief
I started acquiring Christian fiction for a publisher in 2006 as an editor for their inspirational imprint, White Rose. In 2009, I purchased White Rose from that company, and started the journey of publishing as an independent. White Rose Publishing became an imprint of Pelican Book Group, and over the years, we added new imprints.
Can you describe a typical day in the office?
After personal morning devotions, I spend time answering emails. Depending on deadlines and other schedules, I might spend more or less time getting through emails. I’ve gotten it down to a routine of answering emails only twice per day unless there’s something time-sensitive or pressing. With my morning email stint finished, I work through my to-do list, which could include office/accounting work or editing tasks, considering requests for contract, figuring out cover art, working on marketing either in-house or coordinated with the distributor.
Just before midday, I’ll stop to get together with staff to pray. We pray daily for the needs of the company and our authors and staff and for any special requests we receive through the prayer submission form we have on our website. Pelican is a ministry first, so our prayer time could be an hour or sometimes longer. We deliberately don’t put a time-frame on that part of our day. (You know what they say: If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy!)
Once a week, I’ll conference with our marketing director. We take that time either to consider current marketing strategies or to brainstorm ideas and discuss/decide upon the opportunities passed along to us through our distributor or PR.
In May 2017 we launched a weekly TV show, and so a couple days a week, working on that production is in my schedule.
How many different hats do you wear?
Only about four hundred, or so. 🙂 As publisher as well as editor-in-chief, I’m responsible for the business side of everything from contracts to accounting, etc. Because I feel a strong responsibility to the Gospel, I also try to vet every story we publish, so I do a good deal of reading and evaluating manuscripts as the final step before offering a contract. When I can’t read a manuscript an editor would like to acquire, that editor and I have discussions about what should be acquired. Then there’s editing and coordinating marketing efforts with our marketing team, coordinating releases with the distributor, working on subsidiary rights…the list goes on.
What do you look for in new writing?
I’m always looking for passion. Be enthusiastic about your story—believe in getting your message out there through the entertaining word—so much that it rubs off on others.
I want to see great story-telling. Make me laugh out loud, empathize with your character, hate your villain, and to fall in love with Christ a little bit more.
Don’t “tell” me your mission. “Show” me. For example: If you have to repeat the same thing three different ways (over-writing) or explain in minute detail why a character is doing something or saying something (over-simplifying), rather than having that information flow naturally, then you’ve missed the opportunity to immerse me in the reality you’ve created.
What excites you about the publishing industry?
I get excited when authors get excited, when they are so happy to see their work come to fruition, when they are raring to get their book into the hands of readers. As an author myself, I still remember what it feels like to get that contract offer, to see edits for the first time, to receive a release date, to see the cover art and the final product. It’s exciting! And I love getting to share that with authors.
On a more company-centric note, I’m excited that we’re seeing more of our books in audio.
Can you share any trends with us?
We’ve been hearing about it for a little while now, but audio is definitely on the rise. It’s one of the reasons we’ve made the decision in 2018 to produce more of our current and favorite titles in audio.
Christine Schimpf was born and raised in a small town in southeastern Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and is an award winning essayist. Her debut novel, Nick, The Journey of a Lifetime is based on the life of her grandfather-in-law. Five years after its release, the book remains the #1 best seller in her hometown at a local book store and gift shop. Christine is a member of the national and local chapters of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association and the Romance Writers of America. She lives on five acres in the country with her husband and golden retriever and is now fortunate to devote most of her time to writing. She always has a work-in-progress, but in her spare time, she enjoys golf, tennis, kayaking and simply being outdoors as that is her source of inspiration. Her advice to those wanting to take the leap into writing is to join a writing/critique group, read as often as you can, and study the craft.
As the author of twenty-three short stories ranging from 3,000 to 40,000 words that have been published over the last seven years, I am often asked “Is there really a market for short stories?” The answer is YES – and that market is growing! (By the way, I’m going to use the term “short story” throughout this piece to describe any story under 50,000 words. There are more technical terms, such as novella and novelette, but we won’t get into that today.) There is a growing market for short stories as more people are looking for a story they can read in an hour or two. They want to read a full story all at once when they have some spare time—not read a chapter today, find themselves too busy to read for a week, and then try to pick up with chapter two. Enter the short story. Not only are there dozens of indie publishers out there publishing short stories of various lengths, but traditional publishing houses are jumping on the bandwagon as well. Hachette, Avon, and Harlequin all have imprints that publish these fun-sized romances.
We’ve established that there is a growing market for short stories. But why should you write one? If you’ve never published before, I think short stories are a great place to start. When I first started writing, I tried and failed to finish numerous full-length romances. However, the first time I tried my hand at writing a short story, not only was I able to complete it, but it was accepted for publication! Short stories are a great way to build your self-confidence while you develop your writing style on a smaller scale. For published authors, there are a number of reasons to write short stories as well.
Writing a short story is different from writing a full-length novel. My best advice is to think FOCUSED when writing a short story. You’re not giving your readers a distant view of a forest; give them a detailed view of one tree. Many authors make the mistake of thinking “short” or “simple” and get unsatisfying results with their short story. Sure, I could retell Titanic in 10,000 words, but it’s going to read like a Wikipedia page, not a love story. You need to FOCUS on one part that still tells a story—such as Jack and Rose having a horrible dinner together with the upper-class folk before escaping to dance the night away.
When writing a short story, you just don’t have the time or space to flesh out complex internal and external conflicts and resolve them in a way that’s satisfying to readers. For Happily Ever After stories, your characters have probably met previously; it’s less believable if your characters meet, fall in love, and get married in 5000 words. If your characters are meeting for the first time, you’re probably writing a Happy For Now story. You are going to have few, if any, secondary characters; these characters do not get their own plots in short stories. FOCUS on the romance, less on the external conflict or other characters. Be selfish and put your couple in the spotlight; let them steal the show! I once heard that if a novel is a journey, a short story is an experience. Go start your experience today!
By: Kayla Bain-Vrba
Kayla Bain-Vrba has been living in daydreams ever since she was a little girl and writing about them for as long as she can remember. It was her discovery of m/m romance that inspired her first published work at age nineteen. When she’s not writing—or is procrastinating writing—Kayla enjoys spending time with her other half, crafting, and planning things to a tee.
WisRWA is pleased to announce the finalists of both our contests: the Fabulous Five Contest and the Write Touch Readers Award. Congratulations to all!
Winners will be announced on May 20th at the WisRWA Write Touch Conference Awards Luncheon.
*** = WisRWA member
2017 FABULOUS FIVE FINALISTS
Belinda Brooks – Home Again
Kate Courtright – Time and Again
Kate Courtright – You are Love
Monique Headley – Hard Lessons
Christina Hovland – Things I Wish I’d Done
Avery Cove – Fragile Hearts
Elizabeth Everett – The Rescue of Lord Grange
Elizabeth Everett – The Seduction of Mrs. Smith
Carol Potenza – Second Choice
Abigail Wilson – The Secrets Within the Towers
Angela E. Arndt – The Beekeeper’s Daughter
Kathryn Barker – Catch a Falling Angel
Izzy James – The Shopkeeper’s Widow
Patti Stockdale – The Measure of a Memory
Sharee Stover – Believable Lies
Chel Chavez – The Heir of Erois (Book 1)
Paige Helton – Witch’s Veil
Anne Reed – Dark Matter
Kat Turner – Magical Thinking
Chris Westwater – Wolfling
Kelly Duff*** – Tame My Racing Heart
Jeanine Englert – Lovely Digits
Barbara Forlenza – Beyond Paradise
Barbara Forlenza – Forbidden Paradise
Lori Matthews – Hit & Run
Debbie Archer – Pocket Change
Wendi Dass – Liebling
Kristi Rhodes – The Tropical Transformation of Joanie Weston
Linda J. Truesdell – The Mending Time
Vicki Volden – Both
Young Adult/New Adult
Rachel Berens-VanHeest – A Gift of Crows
Laura Cumbie – From There to Here
Riley Darkes – Serving Time
Christine Gunderson – Covenant Park
Monica Headley – Off the Rails
2017 WRITE TOUCH READERS AWARD FINALISTS
Contemporary – Long
Babette de Jongh – Angel Falls
Melynda Price*** – Fighting for Control
Dawn Tomasko – Tides of Hope, A Nantucket Romance Novel
Contemporary – Mid-length
Valerie J. Clarizio *** – Family Forever
Sara Dahmen *** – Wine and Children
Sierra Hill – Sweet Girl
Contemporary – Short
Brenna Ash – Second Chances
Joanne Dannon – Wanting Mr. Right
Stacey Joy Netzel *** – Spring Dreams
Margaret Mallory – Claimed by a Highlander (The Douglas Legacy)
Amy Sandas *** – Luck is no Lady
Vonda Sinclair – Highlander Unbroken
Mary Bentley-Lloyd – Pirate’s Treasure
Laura Scott *** – Shielding His Christmas Witness
Aubrey Wynne – Paper Love
Marissa Doyle – Skin Deep
Marie Johnston – Ancient Ties
Marie Johnston – Birthright
Jade Chandler – Enough
Suzanne Eglington – She’s Got the Jack: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
LaQuette – Lies You Tell
Abbie Roads –Hunt the Dawn
Vicki Tharp – In Her Defense
Tara Wyatt – Necessary Risk
Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance Theme
Kate Forest – Interior Design and Other Emotions
Robin Perini – Forgotten Secrets
Bev Pettersen – Millionaire’s Shot
j. leigh bailey –Guyliner
Tricia Cerrone – Glisten
Katherine Fleet – The Secret To Letting Go
James Michener once said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”
I think that’s where most of us are, which might be why many writing gurus like Anne Lamott encourage bad first drafts, but we won’t talk about those today. Instead, I’ll focus on revision. I’d like to share my top three tips.
First, put some time between your drafts. At least a few days. A week or a month or two might be better. Most of us fall in love with our stories and we need that infatuation to ebb, so we can read our work without the rosy-everything’s awesome glasses. A little time gives us the emotional distance to view work anew and figure out what’s missing and what might need to change.
Second, have someone else read your work before you upload or send it off to be discovered. Critique partners or first readers can catch story inconsistencies and areas that aren’t understandable in your work. They can tell you which characters they connect to or which one they really don’t understand. Also, they can spot spelling or grammar errors.
At a writer’s conference I attended a copy editor admitted that even she makes mistakes occasionally and when she does, she doesn’t let it bother her because she figures it takes an average of sixteen pairs of eyes to get a manuscript to published flawlessness. Your critique buddies can be one of those first sets of editing eyes. Also, one of the best things about having critique partner or group is that you can become great friends.
My third tip is to try for good or very good instead of perfect. Because being human, and not possessing sixteen sets of eyes yourself, a totally perfect scene or manuscript is unattainable. Too much revision may add hours to your tasks and if you’re like me—it’s a buzz kill. It ruins the fun. So, my advice—do the best you can, look your work over a few times and then stop. Good is good enough.
When I’m not writing, I’m teaching, and I fit the one of the instructor stereotypes. I ask my students to re-think their drafts and to revise more than once. Revision and re-evaluating life decisions are themes that frequently appear in my fiction.
by: Mia Jo Celeste
Mia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English teachers, so it was no surprise that she decided to pursue both careers. She’s an adjunct instructor, who just published her first release, Other Than, your grandma’s Gothic romance gone uber.
Join the Chippewa Falls Area meeting this month as they tackle Candace Havens’s Revisions From Hell. It will piggy back on what was learned during the January meeting.This program is open to WisRWA members from anywhere in the state. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
Need a cure for the winter doldrums? Come to the Chippewa Falls area meeting in January to discuss Candace Havens’s “High Concept Story Writing,” and strategies for using it in your own projects. This program is open to WisRWA members from anywhere in the state. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
The Writers’ Police Academy conference (held in Green Bay, Wisconsin, August 11-14) started with a bang on Thursday afternoon. The attendees explored armored, S.W.A.T, and bomb squad vehicles. Lesson: my characters will need a lot more agility than I have to get inside those vehicles, especially the armored one. The first step into the driver’s seat is waist high on me.
Tried on a flak vest and crowd control shield. Didn’t even attempt the battering ram. Heavy is the theme with this equipment, including the bomb squad suit. Lesson: My characters will need physical strength to handle this stuff.
For a plastic gun, the Glock 17 was heavier than I expected, but has the sweetest trigger action. Now, when I put a Glock in a character’s hand, I know what that gun feels and shoots like, with every expectation my character can be as deadly as I was.
I learned how to poison a person with bacteria from my own cupboard or the woods out back. Useful information for any amateur sleuth that might turn up in a new series. TIP: mushrooms are unreliable, even the known poisonous ones.
I finally found a use for geometry in self-defense. It’s all about the angles. No doubt I’ll have a character using these techniques. TIP: when fighting an attacker, fists to flesh, palms to bone. Meaning, don’t punch ’em in the face and injure your knuckles. Use the heel of your palm against the jaw and cheekbones.
Friday started with a mock crash scene which involved a variety of triage scenarios, among them a trapped man needing the Jaws of Life to extricate him, testing a drunk driver, and a dead guy and his hysterical and combative mother. Yes, combative is among the normal reactions in these scenarios. We got the full show of rescue vehicles arriving with lights and sirens. Even the evac helicopter dropped in. Helpful should one of my characters get in an auto accident or come across one.
Saturday kicked off with an interactive mock lockdown. No narration. Minutes into the lecture, it just happens. A knife wound victim staggers into the lecture hall. The instructor calls for help from anyone with medical training. When three more victims stumble in, it’s a lockdown situation. Belts are used to tie shut door hinges and objects jammed into the opening mechanisms. Warnings sound over the P.A. A suspect is apprehended. But, is there an accomplice?
S.W.A.T. explodes into the room, guns drawn, shouting, “Hands on your heads!” Their presence is so commanding seven men instantly control a room of hundreds. I am experiencing an adrenaline rush, just as any character I put into this situation will. I also now know what it feels like to get frisked. Told you it was interactive.
There’s much more I could share, from Lee Goldberg (author of the Monk Series and scriptwriter) who delivered his How to Use Research speech like a comedy routine and Tami Hoag (does anyone not know who this author is?) sharing a personal story about using research in one’s private life. Our instructors included an ATF agent, an arson investigator, a Private Investigator, and the amazing officer Colleen (The Rock) Belongea who my six foot plus defense instructor said he would not mess with. She was a favorite with everyone, and as much a face of this conference as organizer Lee Lofland, author and detective.
To view more pictures of this event, go to www.leelofland.com, The Writers’ Police Academy, or my author FB page. This excellently organized event will be repeated in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 2017.
by WisRWA member Barbara Raffin
Are you wondering what the Greater Green Bay group is up to? Well, on September 7th at 11:30 a.m., at the 1951 Restaurant, the talented Randi Alexander is coming to town to help us learn to write steamy love scenes. Randi is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and she’s chosen to spend her valuable time with us! We couldn’t be more thrilled.
Here’s a little interview I did with Randi to get to know her better and to gain a little insight from her.
Q: What or who inspired you to write steamy romances?
A: I’ve always loved reading romance, since I was a teenager, and I soon realized I enjoyed the spicier books more than the ones with the closed bedroom doors. Writing books with a number and variety of love scenes – to me – is telling the whole story of a romantic relationship. What happens between the sheets gives us insight into our characters, sometimes in a way that non-love scenes can’t.
Q: Do you have any unusual writing rituals?
A: I do. I pull my hair up into a bun, put on comfortable clothes (usually a muu muu) then I have a snack before I start writing. Oh, and the room has to be very quiet.
Q: What for you constitutes ‘sexy?’
A: Sexy is not just a running description of what part he has where, what thing she’s doing to him, etc. Its scenes written with emotion that reveal our characters’ deepest feelings, scenes with lovingly detailed description of the physical connection between our characters, and long, sweet afterglow scenes where so much can go right…and wrong!
Q: Who is your favorite character from one of your stories and why?
A: I’m having a lingering girl-crush on the last character I wrote. In Saddle and a Siren (an August 11 release in Sable Hunter’s Hell Yeah! Kindle World) I made Kally Zappa a strong, competent rancher who cusses, handles 2,500 bulls, but is still sweet and funny enough to attract the undivided attention of Paramedic Clint Black. I began the story with this independent, capable woman finding herself vulnerable and in dire need of rescue, and made her first-responder fall crazy-in-love with every contradictory inch of her.
Q: What advice would you like to share with new writers?
More About the Program – Writing Sexy Love Scenes with Randi Alexander
Keep your readers engrossed in your stories by creating love scenes that are romantic, emotional, and sensually descriptive. In this interactive, hands-on workshop, we will focus on: 1) building sexual tension throughout your book, 2) producing physical love scenes and climaxes that are emotional, unique, and unforgettable, and 3) ways to give your readers the impact they crave during the quiet moments of afterglow snuggling. You’ll learn to ask yourself two easy questions as you write, and the answers to these questions will make every scene emotionally gripping, sensually gratifying, or both!
More About Randi
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Randi Alexander knows a modern woman dreams of an alpha cowboy who takes the reins, and guarantees they’re rode hard and put up satisfied. Published with Cleis Press, The Wild Rose Press, and self-published, Randi writes smokin’ hot romance with heroes who’ll have you begging to ride off into the sunset with them. When she’s not dreaming of, or writing about, rugged cowboys, Randi is biking trails along remote rivers, snorkeling the Gulf of Mexico, or practicing her drumming in hopes of someday forming a tropical rock-band.
Forever an adventurous spirit with a naughty imagination, Randi is also family-oriented and married to the best guy in the world, her own cowboy, Kick. Give in to the allure of erotic passion, strong but vulnerable heroines, and irresistibly seductive cowboys, as Randi’s emotional love stories sweep you off your feet and leave you breathless with passion.
Saddle up! And prepare yourself for the sexier side of happily ever after.
We can’t wait for Randi’s workshop!
Wednesday, September 7th, 11:30am
at 1951 Restaurant in Green Bay
For more information, contact Green Bay area coordinator Val Clarizio (valclarizio @ yahoo.com).
by WisRWA member Val Clarizio