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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Submissions and Solicitation

A couple questions were put to me after my recent post. I'm going to try to answer them fully in this post.

Question 1: Someone asked if writing credits from their childhood should be included in a query letter. Here are my thoughts and how I, as editor at FPP, feel about references to items published when the writer was a child:

If I receive a letter that states "I had several short stories published when I was a child and even a small book" that may grab my eye. But if that first statement is NOT followed up by "and I have continued to publish short stories through the years. My work has appeared in Lightning Flash Fiction, Blizzard Magazine, and Seafish Digest (note: these magazines do not exist)" If I don't see particulars on where that writer has been published I cannot determine if the magazines are credible. Also, notice that I made the writer say they have 'continued to publish short stories through the years'. A six-year-old is not going to write the same way as a twenty-year-old, so I need to have proof that the writer has continued to hone their craft. Most importantly, if a writer has indeed continued to write and get published in recent years, then I know that writer is dedicated and will work hard for my company.

On the other hand if I receive childhood credits and it ends there.... Then I must act on the evidence presented, which tells me they had a phase where they wrote, but time has proved they aren't dedicated to it. I would, most likely, pass that writer up for someone who has recent credits to their name.

Question 2: What is a solicited submission in contrast to an unsolicited submission? This is the first time someone has asked me this. The answer is simple, however. An unsolicited submission to a publishing company is when the publisher did not solicit/ask/invite the author to submit their work for review and consideration for possible publication. Unsolicited submissions of query letters and/or manuscripts are automatically discarded by publishing houses, unless that publishing house has specifically invited unsolicited submissions (which never happens with manuscripts, and rarely happens with query letters). Why? Because the author either did not do his research, or is trying to slip past the necessary steps to submitting his/her work.

Any writer who sends a manuscript to a publisher without prior invitation by the publishing house demonstrates a lack of knowledge and/or courtesy. By reading books on the submissions process writers learns what not to do.

When I approached AMG Publishers back in 2006 with my manuscript, I did so at a writers conference. I scheduled a slot of 15 minutes to 'pitch' my book to their acquisitions editor. Then, when I met with him, I pitched my book and waited for his yes/no. His answer was an invitation to submit to the company (making my submission Solicited by the acquisitions department). A solicited submission carries a coveted stamp of approval. For the next two years I went back and forth with that publishing house.

The most important thing that I did as an unpublished writer was to read and study on writing, and the publishing process. Too many writers send me query letters that tell me (by what they don't understand) that they have not done the necessary research. That is an immediate turnoff and I pass on to the submissions that show the writer is taking the time to do things professionally.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Atlanta Homeschoolers & Sending Rejection Letters

Today I spoke to a number of homeschoolers. They set me up in a Church which was literally around the corner from where we're staying in Atlanta. I ended up speaking for over half-an-hour and then answering questions in-depth for another half-hour. I was hoping to put the audio on my website but it says the file is too large, so I'll have to explore other options of sharing that with everyone. (If anyone knows how to put an hour-long presentation [mp3 format] on my website, I'd appreciate your input). A guy from the church set me up with the sound equipment and even arranged a second mic for the audience to use when asking questions. And there were a lot of intelligent questions... which I thoroughly enjoyed answering.

On a side note: I sent out another rejection letter today to an aspiring author. This one was especially hard because I could sense the author's heart was in the right place and they had a passion for their subject. But the query had a few problems. So I'm going to offer a couple tips to all would-be future-submitters to Flaming Pen Press (and this can all be avoided by simply taking time to read books on crafting query letters and books on publishing).

Two Rules:
1) Don't tell the editor that your writing is excellent; that can be an immediate turnoff. If your writing is excellent then hunt down endorsments from professional writers and then include those endorsments in your query.
2) Don't include writing that you did in your childhood as credits. This does not interest a professional. Only include credits that entail a professional took note of your work, ie. magazine stories.
3) A Tip: Keep the teaser about your story and its content succinct, and give specifics on how you intend to market your book. Don't say you'll do store signings, give us a list of contacts you can use and/or methods you will employ to reach the necessary people who can put your book in readers' hands.

It feels strange to be on the other side of the submissions fence. But I remember all too well the many rejection letters (most of them generic, instead of personalized) that I received. The most important thing to remember is not to get discouraged. Learn from your first query and move on; improve. And research the market extensively. The path to publication has little to no shortcuts (and no author that I know has taken them). It takes years. But those years prove to the publishing world that you will persist and that you are determined to succeed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reading, Editing, Publishing & book signings

Yes, in a way all of the things in my post title are related. Last week was very hectic for me. I visited two schools and spoke to over a thousand kids.

The first was a small Christian school but it was a fun, easy presentation. I talked about my writing and publishing journey and what I've accomplished, then I told them about my novel. Then I took questions and they kept me busy the next half-hour answering them.

I spent the next three days at Gainesville Middle School. That event had been a bit difficult to arrange at first because the media center informed me that most of their kids came from lower class and probably wouldn't have money to buy my book. But I spoke to over a thousand enthusiastic kids and had the opportunity to address the ESL (English as a Second Language) students. The ESL was a very different experience for me, but several of the kids bought books and one of them even did a rather accurate sketch of me in profile. It was very rewarding and, as it turned out, there were a majority of Christian teachers in the school (which gave me an amazing opportunity to speak more openly about the faith behind my stories). The school Librarian gave me this large basket of bottled water and snacks (which both my wife and I greatly appreciated!) and they also payed me for coming. Travel expenses have been rough, so that was a great blessing.

On Friday I signed at a Borders and did very well...sold just about every copy of my book that they had. Saturday I had a rather quiet signing in a nice, but slow, mall. But two separate people came in just to see me. One was a young girl and her family. They said they'd looked up my info online and were so enthused they decided to meet me at my next event! The other person was a teacher who also works in the bookstore. She wasn't working but came in to see me because she was loving my book and wanted to buy four additional copies for her students! Then, as she left, she bought me a book to read by a GA author. No one had ever done that and I've actually been enjoying the novel she bought me: The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry; it's a thriller (not for younger readers).

Sunday proved to be a short drive, 12 minutes down the road to a Borders. They only had a few copies of my book in stock. But, as it turned out, a fan was already waiting for me. Some of my books had sold off the shelf and I talked to this fan for a good long while. It is rewarding to hear people praise my writing and share how much they are enjoying reading my creations. I sold out that store and sold another 15-books in addition...which the store now owes me for (-:

These past couple days have been refreshing; no events. I finished looking over the edits for "Kestrel's Midnight Song", got in a little reading time, and perused blogs to search out new followers for my own. Artist Dion Williams is beginning work on the color version of the "Offspring" image... I still can't get over what an awesome job he did with it. It is absolutely perfect!
My mind keeps going over the story in my third novel. I knew that once I finished writing my second one my mind would start hammering for me to finish "The Key of Living Fire" ...well, it is. I guess I'll just have to find the time to write it. At least I'll be ahead of the game; when I sign the 3-book-contract with AMG the books will be all but finished!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Artwork for "Offspring" -new artist!

I met this awesome Christian artist while on tour. His name is Dion Williams and he has agreed to do color illustrations for my upcoming books through AMG Publishers! I want to maintain continuity between all the novels. Let me know what you think about this image... I love it and I'm looking forward to seeing it in color.

This image delivers a beautiful feel to it. Doesn't it? (-:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Portraying Dragons in Christian Fantasy

An interesting topic keeps surfacing at my book events. And it always opens with the question: "Do you think it is ok to have a good dragon in your story?" Then they'll say something about how the Bible portrayed Satan as a dragon and so those creatures represent evil.
I decided to post about this after seeing Seth's post about dragons in literature on his blog.

So, why have I chosen to use both good and evil dragons in my series "The Sword of the Dragon"? There is, of course, the most prominent dragon in "Swords of the Six" the powerful Albino who is also a prophet of God. And there is a trinity of sorts in my series which consists of Albino the dragon, Patient the Shepherd, and Ulion the Invisible One.

Does it go contrary to scripture for me to use dragons as leaders and examples of good?
No. Upon examining Scripture we find that Christ was represented by a lion (and C.S. Lewis used Aslan to represent Christ in "Narnia") but at a later time we read in another verse "...Satan himself walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."
The lion is magnificent but deadly, as are dragons. And dragons were also a creation of God and he called all things that he created "good". It is the corruption of sin that makes that which should have been good, evil. Perhaps we should carry this thought further to say that writing a book wherein all members of a certain species (if portrayed as sentient) are evil, then that is not a Biblical representation. All souls are condemned based on the choices they make. If their works are good, or if they are evil. Salvation comes through Christ alone, but choices determine an individual's path in life. There should be good dragons and bad dragons to give examples of the path to God and the path to condemnation, and of how magnificent can be the follower of God and how base can be the purveyor of sin.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Swords of the Six promo video

Leighton H. did this video for me when I was staying with his family in Missouri. Isn't it awesome?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Schools north of Atlanta

I'm having a great time down here in Atlanta. The (2) pictures included on this post were taken this morning at Gainesville Middle School. I had a very positive response from teachers and students alike. It was neat to meet a good number of Christian teachers at this event. It gives me hope for the next generation in spite of the political climate.

I also spoke with students at Hopewell Christian Academy. Not a large group (about 13 kids) but extremely receptive and fun to interact with! Today when I was at the public middle school I spoke to roughly 550 kids. And tomorrow I'll be returning there.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Exciting Tour Results!

A lot has happened since I left my home state of Connecticut in November '09. I've sold around 1,600-copies of my self-published novel, published P.M.M. Green's The Fairy's Ruby Cage through my company, and now (as you can see from the picture above) the cover for Kestrel's Midnight Song is finished. I am anticipating a release date for this book sometime in September of this year.

For those of you interested, I've also started a new blog to accomodate quicker updates on my publishing company's progress.

Now that my first three books will be published through AMG Publishers ( I will have three books published in the next two years, maybe even less time than that.

I'm in Atlanta, GA at this time. I've had two sell-out signings already and I have a crazy full itinerary for the next month-and-a-half. I met a Christian artist down here and he is phenomenal! He has agreed to work on my books' cover art. His name is Dion Williams and his site is I am going to use him for all my covers, if AMG Publishers agrees to it. I'm confident they will because he is a Christian artist and superbly talented... and I'm going to offer to pay for the artwork out of my pocket because good art is very important to my books. Dion has started cover art for my second novel and when he is finished I'll post it for everyone to see!

God is opening doors. I pray he'll guide me to influence the world to Christ as I live out the dream he gave me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

3-Book Contract from AMG PUBLISHERS!

Several years ago, as most of you know, I worked back and forth with AMG Publishers out of Chattanooga, TN. Ultimately things fell apart for various reasons and I did not get the contract.

This Monday I met again with the staff at AMG. They had heard through Bryan Davis of my endeavors and success with Swords of the Six. I presented my marketing history and strategy, detailed some of the events I'd done and the upcoming events I've scheduled, and laid everything on the table. I proposed two options: a three-book-contract and a seven-book-contract.

Today I heard from their acquisitions editor: They are offering me a three-book-contract! I was floored and I keep thanking God for opening that door. It is a great opportunity!

So what does this mean for my readers? Well, first there will be an all-new edition of Swords of the Six and the editions published through my company Flaming Pen Press will be collectors' items! Kind of like when Christopher Paolini self-published Eragon.

There will be a many details to work out with the publisher. I want to pay for the artwork so that I get good-quality pieces. But you can look forward now to seeing Swords of the Six, Offspring, and The Key of Living Fire as a trilogy... and I bet they'll come out a lot faster than I would have been able to manage through my own company.

I'm looking at an entirely new artist for this trilogy. I met him down here in Atlanta and he is also a Christian. But his art is phenomenal. If this moves forward I'll keep you posted on that as well! But here's his website:

This summer I'll be finishing up novel 3 The Key of Living Fire and after that I need to start working on the final four books which start with In Search of Dragons!

I'm rubbing my hands together in eager anticipation!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Approaching Horizon

So... I've had a busy but profitable trip so far and have been to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and now staying in Tennessee. My wife is pregnant (ten weeks) my second novel is written, and I have signings booked in Georgia and North Carolina. Also, in January I released The Fairy's Ruby Cage from Flaming Pen Press.

I'll be on the road for a bit longer. Then I'm taking the summer easier, hopefully. The first week of April I'll be driving my wife back up to Connecticut and we'll be staying there for a little while. Time enough to have the baby in late August and then plan my Fall and Christmas book tours.

I am hoping to move out to Harrison, Ohio in the Fall. I liked it out there and it is a central location from which I can more easily hit all parts of the US (unlike Connecticut, right on the coast).

Also the artwork for Kestrel's Midnight Song (written by Idaho debut author Jacob Parker) will be completed soon. Then it's on to cover design, ISBN and barcode, editing, and then printing for a hopeful publication date of September 2010 (a lot earlier than I had originally anticipated). I'm looking to retail that book for $15.99 (softcover).

My wife and I had a little scare yesterday. She got extremely dehidrated and I had to give her a drop of a solution (water, sugar, salt) every five minutes. Her body rejected everything until about five o'clock that evening. Thankfully God pulled her through without us having to go to the hospital. I stayed up 'till about five AM and made sure to hidrated herself regularly. So the baby is still safe. And my wife says this is the stage at which the little fingernails start to grow and the other organs really grow. She should start 'showing' soon enough!

Anyway, there's an update for everyone!


"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." -Proverbs 16:24

In a world where morality is forsaken and Christ neglected, wholesome books are uncommon. The themes of my writing are love, self-sacrifice, and honor.

I see my generation turning from God to the gods of this world. I see homes torn apart in the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. Children are murdered by the millions every year . . . without ever seeing the world outside their mothers' wombs. Through fiction I strive to encourage those who are willing, to stand against these things and be heroes and heroines; chivalrous, gentle, full of righteous indignation, and the fear and love of their Creator.