Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Interview with Tessa Emily Hall

Today, we have a fellow author with us! Please welcome Tessa Emily Hall, author of Purple MoonEnjoy her interview and don't forget to check out her links! 

Tessa is giving away an ecopy of Purple Moon! Enter the giveaway on the sidebar of the blog. Contest will last one week.




Welcome to Word Painters, Tessa! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Thanks for having me, Alicia! 

I am twenty years old and enjoy writing, coffee, and acting. My debut YA Christian fiction novel, PURPLE MOON, was recently published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. I also write articles for More to Be and Whole Magazine, and am currently working with Favoron Productions in their casting and writing departments. I also own a blog, Christ is Write, where I post writing tips, teen devotions, book reviews, and more.

Can you give us the story behind your book?

I wrote PURPLE MOON when I was sixteen years old. I wanted to write a story that could relate to what many teenagers were going through--broken families, peer pressure, addictions, insecurity, anxiety, etc.--in a way that could minister and perhaps bring healing to their lives. However, I didn't want to come across as preachy. I simply wanted to write a character-driven novel which was initially inspired by the skit that many churches have performed to the song "Everything" by Lifehouse.

I incorporated much of my own teen experience into the story as well, so it was nice being able to express myself through my protagonist, Selena. I gave her many of my own qualities, too. For example: she's passionate, a dreamer, an artist, somewhat of an introvert, has the same style as I do, a romantic, and likes coffee a little bit too much. =)

What is Purple Moon about?

PURPLE MOON is about a 16-year-old girl, Selena Taylor, who is forced to spend the summer with her wealthy aunt and uncle while her mom is in rehab. Along the way, she is re-introduced to a childhood friend, is having to ignore her snobby cousin's remarks, and is trying to take a break from her "bad habits" just like her mom. Selena is hoping that this summer will finally bring the new beginning she has been searching for--however, she soon realizes that it is not quite that easy. 

What is your favorite part about being an author?

I love having the opportunity to show God's love and redemption through the stories He gives me to write. I love having an outlet to express myself and create something--such as a town, person, school, or even a new world--that you wish could be real. I love witnessing the transformation of a simple story idea develop to an actual book. There are also several more perks to being a writer, such as: working from home or a coffee shop while sipping on coffee and listening to music, hearing from readers, writing a blog, and finding bits of inspiration in just about everything. I could probably go on and on, actually. =)

Anything else you would like to share?

Don't let anyone or anything get in the way of reaching your dream. When I was fourteen, I emailed a best-selling author asking if she had advice for an aspiring author. She told me that she wouldn't recommend that I pursue writing, only because it was hard work and unlikely to find success. Although she was right, I do not think either of those facts should hold anyone back. Of course, I respected the author's advice, but I obviously didn't follow it. Yes, writing is hard work. But since when has any career ever been easy? And yes, it is unlikely for a writer to be published. But I did. And so did all of the authors who wrote all of your favorite books. If your passion is big enough, nothing else will matter. Don't let anyone--including yourself--keep you from reaching your dreams. =)


Tessa Emily Hall is a 20-year-old who has been telling stories since before she could read. Her first YA Christian novel, Purple Moon, was published fall, 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She also writes a teen column for Whole Magazine, is a contributing writer for More To Be, and is the Casting Coordinator/Writer for Favoron Productions. Other than writing, Tessa enjoys acting, youth ministry, coffee, music, and her Teacup Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee. She resides in South Carolina and is currently studying to earn her degree in Communications.

You can find PURPLE MOON on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads.

Twitter: @tessaemilyhall
Facebook: tessa.h16
Pinterest: tessaemilyhall

Thank you for joining us today, Tessa!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Is Self-Publishing for You? Part 2: 10 Things You Should Know Before you Self-Publish


In part 1 of this series on self-publishing, I shared why I chose self-publishing. With the rise of print-on-demand and ebooks, it is easier then every to publish your book and do it well. However, self-publishing is not for everyone. Today, I would like to share 10 things you should know before you self-publish.

1.      It is a jungle out there. There are many services out there to help writers get published. While some of them are helpful, many of them are expensive trap. Before going with a company or service, ask around, join an independent authors group and find out as much as you can

2.      You can’t be afraid to work. Self-publishing, if done correctly, is not easy. You have to do almost everything yourself. The more you do yourself, the less you have to pay someone to do it for you and the more chance you have of making money.

3.      It can take a while to start making money. If you are counting on your books selling quickly and well, you probably should wait for a publishing contract. It can take a while for sales to really start coming in and many hours of work on your part.

4.      There is a stigma to self-publishing. Right or wrong, there are many people who don’t consider books that are self-published truly to be published. There are many people that won’t read your book simply because it doesn’t have a label they recognize. Although the number of people that feel this way is shrinking, they still exist.

5.      People do judge a book by its cover. I have learned to do every part of the publishing process myself, except the cover design. I just do not have that creative bent. My first three covers I paid for, the last one I traded formatting work for. You need to make sure that you do what it takes to have a good cover. Many people will choose to buy or not to buy your book based on your cover.

6.      You need an online presence. This does not mean that you have to sign up for every social media outlet under the sun. As an author, you should have a blog or website at the very least. You should pick at least one social media outlet to take part in. It may start out slow, but connecting to your readers is important. Many people will look you up online to find out about you to decide if they might like your books.

7.      You need to be ready to give things away. It is true of any author, but even more so in the publishing word. You will need to be ready to giveaway copies of your book in order to get reviews and to get word spreading about your books. It can be in print and digital forms but you must be willing to not make money at first and give copies away.

8.      You are in charge of the editing. There have been many a self-published book that might have been good, but little or no editing killed it. You need to make sure you have friends and family that will ready and correct mistakes in your story. If you don’t have those, you will need to hire and editor.

9.      You need to know what your story is about. I know this seems silly but sometimes it is hard to sum up your story quickly. Many people will be asking you about your book and you need to be able to tell the quickly about it. I highly recommend Jordan Smith’s book Finding the Core of Your Story if you need help with this.

10.  You need to know why you are self-publishing. If it is for fame or money, get an agent and wait for them to find you a traditional publisher. You should spend a lot of time in prayer and some time counting the costs before you choose to self-publishing.


Join me next week as we explore 10 best things about self-publishing.



Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of three published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Historical Research - Part Two

Here is the follow-up to my post on historical-research from two weeks ago. To view the first installment, click HERE

I'd like to talk a little bit about historical documents today. I think the other resources for research have been pretty much covered (internet, books, historians, documentaries).

One can glean much from going back to the documents penned in the time you are researching. It is very, very helpful to get insights from people living in the actual time.

Before I proceed, however, I've come across modern historians who try to change what was actually said by people living in the era themselves. Many modern historians don't trust the historians of the actual era. In some cases, the modern historian is probably correct. In others, they are not.

One instance of where the historians are probably correct is in dealing with the recorders on the victorious or conquering side of the story. Sometimes, the story is exaggerated and put down as fact. (You know what I'm talking about - you've all heard fishing and hunting stories!) 

For example, many modern historians feel that Roman 
historian Tacitus exaggerated the British causalities as
opposed to the Roman causalities in the Battle of Watling Street. Tacitus claimed that thousands upon thousands of Britons were killed while only around a hundred or so legionaries were killed. Yes, I believe the odds were really great - it is a fact that only a few Romans were killed and thousands of Britons were killed. But some of his numbers were slightly unbelievable.

So, when going back to original documents, bear in mind that exaggeration sometimes went into the writing.

Still, I highly recommend going back to them!

For examples of historical documents I have used, I used the medieval Babees book for information on the well-mannered page. I have used the works of Josephus, Tacitus, Seneca, Pliny, and Gibbon for Roman research and their views on their era. When I researched the African Slave Trade, I read portions of Olaudah Equiano's book about his life and portions of William Wilberforce's books. Now, I am preparing to peruse Travis's letters for research on the Battle of the Alamo. I have read Davy Crockett's personal account of his life. 

Why? Because there is nothing like obtaining the viewpoint of someone who was actually there! 

Just endeavor to have discernment (some 21st historians will deny everything the past historians said) and do the best with you can with sorting out the truth and the exaggerations. And, remember, the professional historians have to do the same thing! You are just like they are.
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Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Any questions or comments?

Monday, January 20, 2014

When it All Boils Down to Perseverance

Happy Monday! This is Caitlin Hedgcock. :)

A few weeks ago, Alicia wrote an amusing post about how writing is perceived. As she mentioned, writing has been romanticized in literature and film to the point that we fall in love with the concept of writing rather than the rubber-meets-the-road reality of it. I had to smile and think, "So true!"

This is human nature, right? We want to run like Eric Liddell . . . but only until we feel our lungs on fire and our legs jellifying. We want to play the violin like Joshua Bell . . . until our fingers hurt and our strings produce more squeak than sound. We want to be an art master like Michelangelo—okay, yeah, not exactly—until our strained eyes give us a headache and paint ruins our favorite shirt. 

And that's when we stop and think, “This is not how it's supposed to be! Something isn't working here! It's not like the movie! What am I doing wrong?” 

Sometimes, we are doing something wrong. (Don't paint with your favorite shirt on.) 

Sometimes, we've got to take the hint that we weren't built for what we're trying to do. (Mozart wants to play professional ice-hockey? Hmm.) 

But sometimes . . . sometimes it all boils down to perseverance.

Too often my pages look blank like this!
Writing can be tough. Writing can be lonely. Writing can be time-consuming. The sparkle of an exciting story idea wears off when you're half-way through the manuscript and your characters are waiting for you to make up your mind on what they should do next. Oh, and the book deadline is looming. The fact that your WIP didn't write itself while you were asleep, and that it's still exactly how you left it, is not motivating. At least, not when you have to stare blankly at the impenetrable dungeon you locked your characters in and invent a way to get them out. (If that's you, I sympathize heartily!)

Discouragement springs up so easily, especially when writing is tough and lonely and time-consuming. But those three challenges can apply to anything else worth doing, too. Serving the Lord with stories that will bless others often means persevering over the hurdles that come our way. Here are a few ideas to help with that.


1. Pray. We want to glorify God in whatever we do, and we can only persevere by His grace. His strength is sufficient for every project and He can open doors nobody else can!

2. Be encouraged. None of those who excel in what they do get to that point by being lazy. Challenges make us grow, and growth is good. :)

3. Seek ideas. This one will depend on your situation, but for myself, one of the best things I can do when I'm stuck in a story is bounce the problem off my parents and siblings. Their suggestions are usually so foreign to my thinking that it's hard to add them to the mental “valid options” list. I find, though, that I'll write myself out of the problem area and later realize the solution was based on one of their ideas.

Sometimes it might be a good idea to take a short break from your WIP (not too long!), connect with other writers, do more research, or ask a knowledgeable friend for help on a technical point. The bottom line is that just as athletes build up their running muscles, musicians get past the squeaky stage, and artists learn to wield a paintbrush . . . so can we persevere with our writing.

What about you? Do you have some favorite ways to write with endurance?

Have a great week!

C. R. Hedgcock

Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire, and spends spare time reading, walking forest trails, and practicing violin for the next orchestra concert. Visit her blog to find out more.

Image above is a photo from a stately home we visited.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Top 10 Ways to Be an Ornery Author

It seems like authors have been stereotyped (apologies to those who handwrite their drafts... make that stereowritten). If you're feeling ornery about that, here are some tips to help...
  1. Don't be a self-proclaimed coffee addict. (Come on, water fans!!)
  2. Write something in a genre no one else is.
  3. Write a happy story.
  4. Try to avoid words like "dreamer" and "scribbling" in your bio. (Everybody uses those!)
  5. Admit that washing dishes is part of your life.
  6. Make sure your Twitter feed is about more than book sales.
  7. Know the buzzwords used in your genre... and avoid them like the plague!
  8. Have a narrow definition of "epic." (See #7)
  9. Give away lots and lots of free stuff.
  10. Don't be a night-owl.
And on that note, I'm headed to bed!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why Proofreading is Essential

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

In this post I outline what proofreading is and why it’s vital to making a good book.

What is a Proof?

In publishing, a proof is a test version of the final product. If the proof were approved as-is, the final product would look exactly like the proof. But instead of printing 10,000 copies of a book and hoping there aren’t mistakes, publishers prepare proofs for proofreaders to comb for errors.

Depending on your personality type, proofing can be a lot of fun. I’ve done professional proofing as well as proofing of my own books, and it’s very satisfying to spot and fix an error. On the other hand, it takes patience to crawl through hundreds of pages looking for missing periods, incorrectly-facing quotation marks, and even typographical errors that the author had nothing to do with.

Why Proofreading is Essential

A book is more than its story. Everything about a book contributes to a reading experience, including the cover, text size, paper texture, and — any mistakes.

The dragon crouched, his wings fanned to full height, his eyes as fiery as the storm brebing in his— 
Wait, what? Oh. The author meant ‘brewing.’ Right, let’s get back to the story . . .

Typos jolt the reader from the story and remind him or her that this is just a book. When there are many typos, they add up until they form one of the reader’s memories of the book. I’ve seen this often in reviews: “The story was great, but there were a lot of typos.” A reader may still very much enjoy your story, but you don’t want that ‘but’ in their review. Most importantly, you’ve given him/her a less than optimal reading experience.

I’m not saying this as an error-free proofreader. I’ve found many embarrassing errors in my published books, but maybe that does give me a leg to stand on for writing this post. I know how bad it feels to see a finished product that has not been properly proofread.

Who Will Proofread My Book?

Ultimately, you. Your name is on the cover, so most readers will blame you for any problems with the text.
If you have a traditional publisher, they will probably have one or more professional proofreaders work on your book. That’s fantastic. It’s still your job to give them the cleanest manuscript possible.

If you’re self-publishing, you’d better get out your red pen. One of the benefits of traditional publishers is that they have established quality procedures and are usually better equipped than you to turn out an error-free book. Don’t be discouraged, you can still do a good job.

  1. Do as thorough a job as you can.
  2. Consider hiring a professional editor/proofreader.
  3. Ask friends and family (really good friends and close family) if they’d be interested in proofreading your book.

That leads into my next point . . .

There is Wisdom Among Many Proofreaders

. . . and many different opinions.

If you’re working with friends and family, be prepared for them all to offer different opinions. Everyone will probably agree that ‘teh’ is misspelled, but they might think differently about whether ‘lay’ or ‘lie’ is appropriate in a specific situation. Ultimately, you need to synthesize all their edits and do the best job you can.

Proofreading Tips

Your writing software’s ‘Search and Replace’ function is your friend. Use it to find instances where you meant to type one word but actually typed a similarly-spelled but different-meaning word.

Ideas:

  • Though instead of thought
  • Form instead of from
  • And so on. Assemble a list of common mistakes you make to refer to with each project.

Also, search for two spaces next to each other. Just open your Find box and hit your space bar twice. You may be surprised at what you see.

When you’re proofreading and find that you made a mistake, even if you’re reading a physical proof, try searching the digital file for that same mistake. Then fix it, or at least mark it down on the proof to fix later. This way you won’t accidentally miss the same mistake.

Mindset is key, so if you hate the idea of trolling your manuscript for errors, you’ve already made your job harder. Look at proofreading as a treasure-hunt. It’s your job to find all the hidden clues (typos) that lead to the treasure (an error-free manuscript). That mindset probably won’t last you through page 300, but at least it can get you started well.

Do you have any questions or comments about proofreading? Share them!

John J. Horn is a Christian writer from San Antonio, Texas. You can learn more about him and his Men of Grit Christian Fiction series at johnjhornbooks.com.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Is Self-Publishing for You? Part 1 ~ My Story


When people come to our house, usually they make a comment on the number of books. When they ask me about it I shrug and reply: “What do you expect when two bookaholics marry? Their children are predestined to follow in their footsteps.” Indeed our house is full of books and story makers.

Being homeschooled only fuelled my love of reading even more. By the time I was 11 I was reading at a high school level and have a hard time finding books that I could read and at my reading level. For many years, I gave up on fiction and read non-fiction almost exclusively until I was in my late teens.

This lack of fiction books that I wanted to read inspired the story maker in me. I had always had a big imagination, and at 11 I started my first story which was a retelling of Robin Hood. By the time I was seventeen, I had completed four books. Although none of them were long in length or very good, they laid an excellent foundation. They proved I could complete a story, even when it got hard, and I was apply things I learned to each of my new books.

After attending my first writers conference in 2007, I took what I had learned and wrote the first story I thought other people might really enjoy. It was then I was faced with the choice of how I wanted to publish my story. I prayed and asked for advice from my parents and other people I trusted and prayed some more. In the end, I felt led to self-publish.

Many people don’t think that this is a good option. After all, we all have either read or heard about the books that have been self-published and were awful. Many people assume that I self-published my book because I couldn’t publish it any other way, or because I was too eager to have it out there. That is not the case. I truly felt that, after much prayer, it was the way God was leading me.
Over my next few posts, I want to share with you about self-publishing so that you can decide if it is the right choice for you. I wanted to start with my story first so that you can see where I am coming from.


I don’t believe that self-publishing is the only way to go, nor do I think it is the best option for some people. Join me in the coming weeks in exploring this publishing option in this series I am calling: Is Self-Publishing for You? Next week we will explore some of the down sides to self-publishing.

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of three published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

My New Year Resolution

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you are all easing into the new year nicely and finding lots of time to read and write. I have not been on here in a few weeks and I wanted to touch base with you. I personally have not had much time to write, and due to a family emergency I went away for a few days because of a situation with my dad. We never know how much time we have left on this earth, nor do we know how much time we have with our loved ones. Make sure you make the most of your time with those you love, and always, always, tell them you love them.
 
I am glad to say that God was good (isn't He always?) and spared my father, who had not been able to hold anything down for over eight days. We thought we had lost him, but with the power of prayer, he pulled through and is slowly gaining his strength back. We still have the battle of cancer to fight, but I am praying God will see him through this trial also. I do not think there is one family out there who has not been affected by this evil "C" word, whether it is a close family member, or someone they know in their church, work, etc. Pray for those around you, all the time, every where you go.
 
It was after I visited my grandmother, who also has some health issues, and my heart was very heavy. My family lives five hours away from me and I cannot just up and leave to visit them for a day. My older brother has the burden of helping my dad during this ordeal and it has been hard for him to watch the decline of our dad. On top of that, my brother's wife is struggling with MS and she seems to be going downhill quite quickly. The devil sure has a way of getting his pointy, evil fingers into our lives and breaking us down where we think we cannot stand anymore. As I drove home from my visit, I began praying for my family, especially my brother, that he would not fall under the heavy load on his shoulders. I asked the Lord what I could do to help people who were hurting, and an idea came to me that I thought was very doable. It had to do with writing. I can write. I love to write. I could use my words for good, to encourage, to build up, to edify those around me who were struggling. I could be a light to someone who feels like they are stumbling in the darkness, burdened down by heavy weights that threaten to crush them. So, even though I do not normally make New Year's resolutions, I made one that night. I resolved that I would write 52 letters over the course of the year, (that would be one letter a week) to people who needed a kind word to let them know someone was praying for them. I have done good so far. I have sent out my one letter. :) God gave me the idea for the person He wants me to send a letter to this week. I will write it out Sunday and mail it on Monday. I want to keep this resolution and so I make myself accountable to everyone on here. Never stop praying, and never stop writing. How about you? Do you know someone who might need a kind word in a friendly letter this week?  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Historical Research - Part One

Image property of Pinterest.

I've had a request from a lovely Word Painter's reader to do a post or two on how I do historical research for my novels. So here is part one of a series I will be doing on how I personally recommend doing research.
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The first topic I will cover is the mindset one must have when approaching historical-research. You ready?

Get all sides.

Look at every side you possibly can. There are a lot of historical prejudices out there. Take the American Revolution, for example. The British will insist on their side of the story. Americans will insist on theirs. Few people look at the side of the Native Americans or African slaves. To have a well-balanced view, you must look at every side.

Remember, don't take one person's viewpoint. Take as many as you can, then determine which seems the most logical and the most widely accepted as truth (although there are some exceptions; discernment is also necessary.). 

For example, I was recently studying the Battle of Watling Street. Unfortunately, there was no on-site historian to record events. And the only historian who did end up recording the cold hard facts was Tacitus - a Roman. But, not only was he a son of the victorious nation, he recorded the events many long years after the battle. The Britons were sold into slavery. And who is going to take the word of a slave for what really happened?

I did a ton of research on my own and got as many of the accepted facts together as I could. But I still didn't have the answer to my problem - no one could tell me the age of the youngest warriors on the British side. 

So I contacted historians on the History Channel. They are the world's leading experts on the topic. And three historians disagreed. One told me the youngest Britons were 19, another 13, another said we can never know. So what to do? These historians are professionals, after all! And, fact is, they don't really know any more than I do. 

So I chose what seemed the most logical choice - 16+. I determined this by the assurance the Britons had they were going to win (they didn't think they needed young boys fighting), by the age of the Roman legionaries (no warrior is stupid enough to pit a 13 year old boy against a tough 18+ legionary), and by what was the generally accepted age of manhood. But, to make this choice, I had to look at the problem from every possible side. 

So make sure you get the hard facts and get it from every possible side. That is one of the ways you can create a real feeling story, one that captures many more angles than just the boring one-sided facts. 

On a final note, what if historians disagree and both sides seem accurate? It is possible that both sides are. I experienced this a great deal in my medieval series. More than one possibility is definitely an option. In fact, claiming that only one side of the story is the perfect truth is probably foolish. (For example, abortion is prevalent here in America. Does that mean everyone has one? Does that mean everyone agrees with it? Does that mean there is one view about it. No. So how would we feel about a historian who only gave one side to this issue?) 

So go ahead and include both sides in the story. Maybe add a footnote or put something in the glossary to explain that there is more than one view. I think true historians will appreciate having both sides. I know I would!

Part Two coming on my next day to post, two weeks from today.
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Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!