Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Successful Book Signing

By special request... I am covering how to conduct a successful book signing today. Enjoy!
  • #1. PRAY. Do not underestimate this. Even if you don't follow a single, solitary tip from this post, do not forget to pray. It's God's blessing that makes a successful book signing. He gets the glory. He gets the praise. Because your book should be His books. For the record, I know without a doubt that my successful book signings are solely because of Him. So pray and praise.
  • #2. Be personable. Smile...a lot. (I have done it for three years in a row for three days straight each time at my homeschool convention. You can do it too.) Be friendly. Remember that this is about people...whether or not they buy a book. Be encouraging, listen, and relate to them in some way. 
    Knights of the Coffee Table
     Erynn Mangum and Alicia A. Willis
    2015 CAPE Homeschool Convention
  • #3. Have chocolate. Lots of it. It lures stressed out mothers over. It lures kids over, which means the parents have to come get them. It is a magnet that draws people likes flies. And, if you start to get stressed, you can always eat some yourself.
  • #4. Have your sign up sheets for your newsletter or other services you may offer. So someone didn't buy a book? Chances are, they will still sign up for your newsletter. On average, readers have to hear about a book 4-8 times before they buy it. Never underestimate the benefits of having a sheet full of email addresses. They will probably buy your book later.
  • #5. Engage buyers. Don't sit there, silent and dumb, at your table. Talk. Make eye contact and smile. Be warm, friendly, and uplifting. Who wants to read a book by a boring, silent author?
  • #6. Are you confident in your work? All of us authors struggle with insecurities. We all question if our books are good enough. But don't ever show that side of yourself to your potential buyers. Be confident. Love your work...and be grateful for this special time of sharing it with the world.
  • #7. Be ready with your hooks - your elevator pitch. Know how to describe your book in two sentences or less. Know what your genre is, what the best age-range is, and who your target audience. I am blessed to write historical-fiction, which is pretty much for everybody. Not every genre is like that. 
  • #8. Be considerate and realistic. Please, if you write chick-lit, don't try to sell your books to a seventy-five year old man (unless it's for his cute teenage granddaughter). Awesome as your books are, they are not for everybody. Period.
  • #9. Someone comes out and tells you to your face that he/she does not like your genre? It's not personal. Really. They just don't read your genre and are not interested. Be just as friendly as you would be with someone who bought a book. Chances are, they will take a business card to share with a friend who does read your genre.
  • #10. Speaking of business cards... Do you have professional marketing materials? Business cards? A nice banner? Don't be cheap. Go to Vistaprint and have your materials made up nicely...not printed out on the home printer.
  • #11. How are you dressed? Really. It matters. Be professional!
  • #12. Your handwriting matters. Whether it's signing a book or autographing a business card for that sweet smiling little girl... Please have nice handwriting and a nice pen. Oh, and always double check the spelling of names before you sign a book. 
  • #13. Get photographs of your table. And maybe some with you and your readers. Share them later on social media or in your newsletter.
  • #14. Have fun. Don't spend all your time chatting with whoever you are sharing a table with (which I recommend) - pay attention to your customers and what you are there for. But have fun. Enjoy yourself. No matter what. You don't sell very many books? got experience. Maybe you handed out business cards. You raised awareness. You got some emails. Enjoy and don't worry about the results - they are God's! :)

What are your favorite tips for book signings?

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 or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On Romance...

It's been a while since we've had a controversial topic here on Word Painters. The last one was by John J. Horn and Jason McIntire on violence. So today, let's delve into romance.

So... Is romance good in books?

Yes, I know it's a controversial subject. I will say right now that I think romance is good. If it's good romance. God created it, it's a natural part of life, and the Bible says that "marriage is honorable in all".

But, like everything else, Satan has twisted something beautiful God created into something evil in many instances. He can't create - only pervert. So he has naturally tried to do just that. Therefore, there are many cases in books where ungodly romance is portrayed. 

So, rather than ask the question of whether or not romance is good in books, I think the question is more How is it portrayed?. The following are a few things I believe are Biblical and good to consider when you are choosing your next book or are writing a romantic scene.

(Might as well get the worst over first...)
  • If your romance portrays too much physical, it's wrong. Most of the physical aspects of marriage are meant to be private. Discreet. Sacred. Not blatantly described for the whole world to read. Not because they are bad (in the Biblical context), but because they are too special to depict. 
  • If the guy in your book is not portrayed as an ordinary guy, there is the chance that a female reader may start longing for her relationship to be like the one depicted in the book. While it is the reader's responsibility to guard her heart and not read anything that will in any way damage her marriage or courtship, authors have a responsibility to be careful. 
  • If the entire book centers on romance, chances are that too much is portrayed. I.E. presenting unrealistic settings, creating unrealistic expectations, creating longings that cannot be fulfilled, or even causing a fictional relationship. All of which, if they happen, are wrong and not demonstrating a heart that is loyal to your spouse or future spouse.

(Cause there is a lot of good!)

  • Romance is natural and God-given. I think it's unrealistic to have books without it. Marriage is honorable and wonderful. Love is wonderful. It is not something to be ashamed about. If romance is a natural process in the book (like it is in real life and/or is an enhancement to the story), it will be a beautiful and worthy enhancement.
  • It's fun! Just like the story of Ruth and Boaz, the creation of a love story and seeing how it all fits together for God's glory is amazing. Both to write and read.
  • I have learned a lot from reading books that have romance in them. I've learned about the importance of putting God first, of knowing how you feel, of being open and having clear communication with your future spouse. (You want to know how many books and movies would be half as long as they are if only the two people would learn how to communicate?!)
  • We as Christians never want to give the impression that we are against love. It's Satan that teaches that only the immoral are having "any fun". God teaches love in purity. So write a pure love story. It's all about that word - purity

Awkward Situations:
(Cause there are problem spots.)

  • What about fornication/perversion/abuse? They happen and many books have to touch on these subjects because it is entwined in the message God has for the book or is just a part of historical fact. I had to myself in From the Dark to the Dawn, lightly hinting at what Thallus wanted Moriah for and what Marcus could have done with her as well. The Romans weren't exactly the purest of people.... If you find yourself in a case where you have to add something along those lines, be discreet. Be careful. Pray about it - a lot. You can hint at things without showing or even telling. Make sure your motive is redemption and honoring Christ - not glorying in wickedness, whether today or in history. Things happen, but our emphatic should always be on the beauty, not the ashes.

Unsure about how much romance to depict when writing or how much to read? Pray about it. I've prayed about many such scenes in my books. The Lord will lead you.  Remember, it's all about what God wants of you

On a side note, I add *pure* romance as a natural process and enhancement to my books. Oh, and I love the man the Lord has placed in my life and enjoy every minute of our relationship. Just FYI.... :) 

What do you think?

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 or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Feed the Hungry

1930s America.

The Great Depression.

We know the history and the terms. Stock market crash, unemployment, failing banks, homelessness, Dust Bowl. Depression.

Survival was the goal of each day. Get food on the table. Live till tomorrow. Work hard. Spend wisely.


Primary sector industries suffered. Jobs were cut back, drought killed crops, and logging and mining floundered. Businesses were in trouble.

It would make sense that people saved every last cent toward food, clothing, and shelter, those basic needs of man. But there was one surprising industry that faltered, picked itself up, and hit a boom from the economic situation.


According to reports, from 60-80 million Americans filled movie theaters every week. And this reveals one more ingredient that we humans consider primal to our survival. Hope.

When everything was crumbling into insecurity, lack, and hardship, folks could pay a nickel for a few hours’ worth of entertainment, investing in a fictional world where adversities were overcome and the hero triumphed. People could forget their sorrows and trials, and live through their favourite actor for a while. The films of the 1930s were made to lift morale . . . and viewers kept coming back for another boost.

Many of us don’t live in Great-Depression circumstances. We have plenty of food, clothing, and shelter. As Christians, our hope comes from the Lord (Ps 62:5-7).

But what about those who don’t look for it from Him? There are many, many people seeking meaning from life, failing to find it, and turning to entertainment for a fix of happiness. They are hungry.

We have in our hands the Bible, the answer to all of life’s questions, the guidance to the One who can satisfy our souls forever. …And we writers find joy in the creativity of communication.

Even if your work is but a seed sown; even if it is but one stepping stone on a journey, you can play a part in leading others to real Hope, true Joy, and lasting satisfaction. Instead of pushing the boundaries of decency, like Hollywood, in pursuit of a stronger dose, you can write stories of real nourishment and edification.

We can ask the Lord to use us, through fictional people, to reach more real people than we’ll ever know.

And to feed the hungry.

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. Visit her website or Facebook page to find out more.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Reality's Mirror

April this year is a very special month. Besides the holidays that commemorate Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, it contains commemorative Jewish days such as Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 16) and Israel Independence Day (April 23). All of these days have at least one thing in common: they testify that there is a shape to the history of the world. God has a plan; events don’t just occur haphazardly.

I’ve recently heard it said that writing a story is like imposing order on chaos. It’s not natural; real people’s lives are made up of seemingly endless, meaningless little details and affairs that need to be left out in order to create a worthwhile story. In one sense, this is true; it would be terribly dull to read a book where everything a character does in a day from the time they wake up is spelled out in exacting detail. The larger events of our days, too, can seem to pedal along without an overall theme as we go from one activity or milestone to another. There isn’t a format to our lives like there is to a work of fiction, which is carefully constructed to give meaning to the events it relates. 

Neither the bridge nor the hills built themselves!

But, in another sense, this is not true. Reality is not meaningless chaos; it’s structured and ordered by God. All artists have to take materials and make something of them—canvases, brushes, and paints don’t create a masterpiece by themselves—but their inspiration comes from what God created in the first place. Writing fiction is a way to mirror the reality of how God has “written” the story of the universe—a beginning, middle, climax, end (or rather, a happily-ever-after, never-ending end). Things happen for a reason, and there is an ultimate goal and a definite overarching plot. The Bible records and foretells many important occurrences that play out God’s plan of redemption and reconciliation. Also, each individual life is a story in God’s eyes. It has a beginning, middle, several defining moments or climaxes, growing and changing character, and a touching and emotional end. Each event has meaning to the overall plan God has for your life (you only have to look for the connections). Things happen that foreshadow the future. And hopefully, you’re a character who grows toward the goal of becoming the person God wants you to be. On this level, then, our lives really are like a story, and writing fiction celebrates the intricately woven plan the Lord has for each of us. Life is not random; it is designed! God is truly the author of our life stories, and they make the best reading!

What other parallels can you see between the structure of a fictional story and your life?

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gifts for Writers

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Pens, coffee cups, monogrammed stationery, and chocolates are all great gifts. If you want to venture further afield, here is a very neat site that I came across.

Postertext makes "art prints for book lovers" — pictures made entirely out of the text from books.

Talk about a way to decorate your study!

And my favorite . . .

John J. Horn is a Christian author from San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about John and his Men of Grit series and sign up for his newsletter at

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Social Media 101

Today is the beginning of a brand new series on social media. Social media is a powerful way of communicating with your readers and potential readers. However, many authors are afraid that it will take over their lives and they will stop writing. That doesn't have to be the case. I spend about an hour or less every day on social media (this includes personal as well as business) and the results not only an expanding radiance, but an engaged audience. Here are some of the social media sites and tools we will be covering:
Amazon Page
And More!

I am far from an expert. However, I love to share what I have learned. I have learned a lot from observing, reading online articles, and blogs like Gretchen's. These articles are NOT how to gain 1,000 followers in a year, it is simply how to get started. I look forward to sharing the information with you in the posts to come.

 Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of five 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. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Picture This

I hope you’re enjoying some ideal spring weather. Resurrection Day is almost here! As I look around outside, watching everything green up or flower, I feel thankful for where I live. The setting of my life impacts me every day, whether it’s my environment, my location, or the current times.

And just like real life, the setting of a story impacts the story in a big way. 

I saw the new Disney Cinderella this week and enjoyed it for a vast number of reasons … but one of the biggest was the sets and the cinematography used to present them. Everything was beautiful and idyllic, and somehow made me feel hopeful and positive about all of life since such beautiful places and objects exist. The sets contributed to the movie’s message: have courage and be kind, look for the beautiful in life. If a movie’s visuals can so greatly influence how you feel about the overall feature, it seems the setting of a story and the way it’s presented can also be influential.

Obviously a book works differently than a movie, but some of the best books feel like a movie in certain respects. One of them is setting. I’m a little biased … I usually prefer a richly described setting, where you can form a movie-like picture in your mind of the world and the scenes where the characters are living. But I grant that certain books don’t require a richly described setting (Jane Austen’s novels, for example) to do what they are meant to do. There are probably certain books where bare-bones description is even necessary to the story. However, sometimes young writers forget to describe any setting at all unless it directly has to do with the plot, and even then, the details are so sparse as to be very general or vague. (“She walked through the woods.” “He skated on the street.” “There were some trees nearby.”) Good writing is supposed to take you somewhere when you read it … but how can that happen if you have no idea what to picture in your mind as you are transported?

I encourage you to take a second look at how you’re using setting in your story … if you feel that a scene is vague because you don’t give any description, how about determining the most relevant details of the set and mixing them in with the actions of your characters? You’ll suck your reader even deeper into your story if you give them something they can imagine with their senses—one or all five. I tried to do this in this scene from my book England Adventure:

When our Dallas flight came to a stop at O’Hare, Emma, Caroline, and I stood up, completely swallowed by the crowd of passengers as we prepared to get off. Emma’s slight form squeezed into the aisle, reaching up for our carry-on bags; she was plenty tall enough to reach them, but she still looked so young and small among the press of people. I was starting to feel desperate now to meet our cousins, to stifle our loneliness and vulnerability in this crowd.

Be careful not overload on unnecessary details (which detracts from the story), but use the details to your advantage. Setting can add depth to your character when you mention the type of house he lives in, or it can add intensity to a scene when you tell us about the wind buffeting her at the edge of a cliff while miles of desolate, waving prairie grass stretch away to the horizon. That’s where “cinematography” comes in … deciding what details enhance the story and how they should be presented. Make your character respond to the setting—capture his feelings about it. Does he like his house, or does it make him feel ashamed whenever he comes home? Why? Make your reader feel the same way about it, and you’ll have used setting as it is meant to be used: to make your reader live your story.

Do you like describing the setting of your story? Or do you find it better to keep your details sparse? Why? What authors do you think do a great job at evoking setting?

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Plot Twists

You ever have a beautiful story planned out in your head? And, then, you realize the one-thousand-and-one ways you could make it different? 

Maybe your adventurers are simply going to take a pleasant boat ride to the lighthouse island for a picnic. That's your plan anyway. But who says man-eating sharks can't surround the vessel? Maybe a storm blows up. Maybe the pleasant lighthouse has been hijacked by stranded pirates. 

You see, we often think we have the story down in our minds. But, truth is, we often only have the skeleton. There are a thousand plot twists we could make, but sometimes tunnel-vision on our original perfect plan keeps those exciting twists from happening.

Why not make something ordinary into something original? 

Train trip to visit Aunt Lucy = near-disaster after the bridge is washed out.
Sunday picnic = a frantic race from angry honey bees.
Boring day at the office = insane robber mistakes the filing cabinets for the safe.
Girl goes to Starbucks = the barista dropping a steaming americano into her purse.

Ordinary can become extraordinary. You just have to see beyond your perfect plot and throw a few twists in.

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 or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!