• May 14, 2013

    A Guest Post by Elizabeth Musser


    Elizabeth Musser, an Atlanta native and the bestselling author of The Swan House, is a novelist who writes what she calls ‘entertainment with a soul.’  Her latest novel, Two Destinies, from The Secrets of the Cross trilogy, was recently nominated for a Christy Award.

     Bonjour from just outside Lyon, France.  My just-got-a-little older but still-sharp-as-a-tack agent, Chip, graciously invited me to write a post about my novella, Waiting for Peter, which was recently released as an e-book with MacGregor Literary.  While I was thankful for the opportunity, it is a little daunting to follow all that bad poetry with a semi-serious post about, well, a dog.  And a boy.  And his mother.

    But here I go.

    Five years ago, my Dutch publisher, Kok-Uitgeverij Voorhoeve, asked me to write a novella for ‘The Week of the Christian Book’, a cool annual offer where, for one week, Christian bookstores throughout Holland give a free novella to customers who purchase over ten euros of products at their store. The only criteria given me was to work the story around the theme of animals.

    And so I went about writing Waiting for Peter.  I had plenty of inspiration for the story from personal experience with our loveable mutt, Beau, who is actually the dog on the cover of the novella.  If you are a dog-lover, this next part will make sense.  If not, it may sound a little heretical.

    Throughout the years, I had often journaled about lessons I was learning from our dog as well as the way he ministered to our two sons as they navigated elementary school, Jr. High and high school.  I also included in many journal entries how Beau was teaching me a lot about what my relationship with my Master, the Lord, should look like.

    So I came up with the story—fictional, yes—but with some parts sounding a lot like those journal entries. Here’s a description of

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  • May 14, 2013

    All Bad Things Must Come to an End…


    Now that I’ve hit the speed limit (55), eaten my cake, and generally had a riotous time with friends celebrating my birthday, it’s time we wrap up our annual Bad Poetry Contest and get down to the very difficult business of choosing one member for our Hall of Shame.

    Our annual contest always gives us great lines, such as Travis Campbell’s, “You can’t roll with the punches with a busted wheel under the office chair of your soul,” or famed crime writer Steve Jackson’s “…like the water in the toilet swirling down into lead-piped emptiness carrying with me the byproducts of my broken life…”  It’s exactly that sort of depth and insight that marks this contest. The judges also liked the work of Michele Simmons’ Sibling Rivalry, roller derby star Kathleen Christian’s A Worm, and Rachel Niehaus’ fabulous Untitled #3, as well as Andrew Winch’s A Cacophony of Discordant Sounds Shining Dissonantly: 

    The shining moon shines on my heart,
    With shining rays of anguish.
    She doesn’t know the hidden art,
    Which breathes my cries of languish.

    The mausoleum wastes away,
    With crumbling greys and greens.
    The crickets scream and cry and bray
    Which ‘wakens timeless fiends.

    Curs-ed wolves howl at the moon,
    Making damsels faint and gasp and swoon,
    And I, I… howl with them.

    We hope YOU are howling, since those are just the honorable mentions. In fact, one of the best entries wasn’t even a poem — the actual poem sucked, but the intro was fabulous:

    My poem has a deepness that many won’t be able to apreciate. The skeptics shall veiw it as total nonsence, and shall condenscendingly turn up their noses, inflated with their own facitiosness. But the open-minded, the inspired, the beautiful, the wise, the creative, the good – they shall find infinate layers of meaning, which they will peel away like a banana which has multiple peels, one on another (so that when

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  • May 10, 2013

    You must hurry if you want to be Bad!


    Our 7th Annual Bad Poetry Contest ends tomorrow, on my birthday. The winner will be chosen by an experienced panel of judges (probably me and my best friend Mike, after consuming a couple birthday margaritas, just to make sure our poetic skills are razor sharp), and we’re still looking for the one knock-it-out-of-the-park putrid poem. So don’t wait — start yakking those deep thoughts now.

    The Grand Prize Winner of this year’s Bad Poetry Contest will receive a copy of the text that has been called “The Worst Self-Published Book of All Time.” The title is How to Good-bye Depression: If you constrict anus 100 times everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?  by Hiroyki Nishigaki. (If you don’t believe me, check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/d588msb

    You may not be completely familiar with Mr. Nishigaki’s book, but he starts off with a bang by offering this tip: “Take advantage of this at your peril.” Much of the book consists of random emails he has apparently sent to friends, but he does offer such sound advice as “Erase your bad stickiness” and “stare, shoot out immaterial fiber, ucceed in concentrating, behave with abandon-largess-humor and beckon the spirit.” I’ve been erasing my own bad stickiness through this very method (though Holly has refused to clean up when I shoot out my immaterial fiber at the office). No, I really don’t have any idea what the book is about (other than, you know, constricting your anus 100 times every day), but as a writer I find I can pretty much open it up to any page, read it aloud, and start to laugh. It’s THAT bad.

    I know the excitement that comes with a fabulous, potentially life-changing book like this. So the winner of our Bad Poetry contest DESERVES this book. It’s even autographed. (Not by the author. By the person who gave me a copy. But still… it’s autographed.) So smack that muse; wake

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  • May 9, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Bad Poetry Contest


    Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon andBarnes & Noble.

    Emily Dickinson once said “To write good, you have to learn to write bad.”

    Okay, so she didn’t say that. She probably never even thought it. But, what I HAVE heard respected authors say is something to the effect of “First you must learn the rules so that then you know how to break them.”

    Deep stuff, eh?

    This week on the blog, we’re all about breaking the rules. We’re running our annual Bad Poetry Contest, so if you haven’t already, get out your pen and paper, rouse up that teenage angst that still lurks behind your Toyota Corolla, nine-to-five, everything’s-perfect facade, and start writing.


    To get the juices flowing, here’s a bad limerick I wrote in high school:

    There once was a servant named Jasper,

    Who wanted to marry his master.

    So he grabbed her and fled to the church to be wed

    And was painfully forced to first ask her.


    Your turn. Submit your entries here.

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  • May 6, 2013

    The Badness Continues… Bad Poetry Continues at the Blog


    Yes, it’s Bad Poetry week, here at the blog, where we take my birthday week and enjoy sharing with one another the worst poems we can create. If you’re a sensitive, deep, and misunderstood soul, then we WANT your crappy poem gracing the blog! All you need to do is go to the “comments” section and type in your  words. Share your deepfulness and reflectiveosity with others. The badder the better. Have a look at some of the rotten stuff that was written in the previous day’s blog, just to get a feel for the mood. For example…

    Tom Threadgill gets us going with this truly terrible  opener:

    “Knock,” he said to no one.
    Since he was alone in the room, so alone.

    (Unless you count the other people in the room, which he
    didn’t. Sometimes he did, but not this time.)

    Deep. Meaningful. Bad. And crime writer Steve Jackson shares this:

    I was there
    Then I wasn’t
    like the water in the toilet
    swirling down into lead-piped emptiness
    carrying with me the byproducts
    of my broken life…

    So… dare I say it? Truly crappy, Steve! I’m sure everyone will like the fabulously bad images Neal Worle shares with these wretched words,

    My love for you fills me,
    a flooded basement.
    I must not drown,
    I bail out my heart.
    This poem I write,
    a sump pump of love.


    And we are immediately thrown into both brightness and badness! Becca Jackson takes a thoughtful tone with:

    I was walking on the streets
    bare and rusty, like someone’s
    half-drank bottle of underwear

    Who can resist an image like that?  Then Gwen Faulkenberry gets her Bard on with:
    But sweet Rose protested muchly:
    ”Am I a play thing?
    Have you no conscience? 
    I say, Who died and made you king?
    There’s LOTS more, just as bad as these, and we need to hear from YOU. So don’t delay. The Bad Poetry
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  • May 4, 2013

    Come join our 7th Annual Bad Poetry Contest


    Okay, the time has come… My birthday is coming up soon, and that means it’s time for our Annual Bad Poetry Contest! Yes, try not to wet your pants in excitement as you think about coming up with some deep and meaningful tripe. For those of you not in the know, there is a longstanding tradition with British novelists for turning out truly bad poetry, and the cool kids in publishing take a few minutes each year to participate in my annual contest. (Don’t be left out.) So this is your chance to create something truly bad and get away with it. I want you to send it in — your rotten rhymes, your horrible haiku, your crappy couplets. This isn’t just a chance for you to churn out some doggerel that will make others nod politely while thinking, “geez — was he drinking heavily when he wrote this?” No, this is your chance to give us something truly awful — a piece of crud that make others run screaming from the room. A bit o’ deep thinking that will show the world just how deep and sensitive you really aren’t. A chance to create a poem that will stick like a stone in the kidney of your mind.

    We do this every year, and if you go to the categories (over there –>) you can check out all the bad poetry others have sent in over the years. They include bad imagery, faux depth, and LOTS of terrible word choices. Just consider some sample bad poems…

    The bad opening lines from Ben Erlichman’s A Fruit Soliloquy:

    Alas, the moose, she has taken my bananas

    And I can hear the sound of the wailing wind no longer.

    The bad comparisons, such as this from Damian Farnworth: “I’m spicy like taco meat”

    The bad imagery, including Kay Day’s thoughtful, “Someday I will once again walk in the brightness

    of happiness
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  • May 2, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Social Media Critiques, Part 13


    Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon andBarnes & Noble.



    I’ve got a special thing going on over at my Facebook page…Submit your novel’s opening line TODAY and I’ll give free feedback! Check it out, and I hope to see you all participate.


    Okay, diving into some more social media critiques:

    1. Ardis Nelson provided her website and Facebook page

    • I feel there are too many options on your site’s navigation. Music, Current Projects, and Resources could probably be done without. They just don’t provide much to the reader, while they clutter the site and distract us from the book!
    • What incentive does the reader have for visiting this site? It’s very much focused on you, but readers are selfish! They want to know what’s in it for THEM. What will they get out of reading your blog. What will they learn?
    • Again, I’m not quite sure what readers get out of frequenting your Facebook page. Think about rewarding them for their time with tips, advice, interactive questions, giveaways, and more.

    RECOMMENDATIONS: I’d try focusing less on yourself and more on your readers. By including them in the conversation, I think you’ll find your online experience will be much more lively.

    2. Jo Huddleston provided her website and Facebook page

    • This is a funny comment, but the image at the top of your site is realllllly big 🙂
    • Think about eliminating some of your pages and tabs. For example “Mail” can be made part of the “Contact” page and “My Thoughts” seems to fit more naturally into your “Blog”
    • Until I get to your “Books” page, it’s
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  • May 1, 2013

    What if I'm not happy with my agent?


    Someone wrote to say, “I’ve been thinking of changing agents. I’m not convinced my current agent is a good match for me. What wisdom would you have for me?”

    I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve occasionally had authors approach me to talk about the possibility of dropping their agent. It usually goes something like, “I’m just not happy with my current agent, and I’m thinking of switching…”

    For a long time I struggled with how best to respond to those words. I have a policy against actively poaching other authors, but I have a business to run, so it’s not like I can refuse to answer the phone when a good author calls me to talk about his or her situation. However, I’ve learned to always start the conversation with the same sentence: “Have you talked this through with your current agent?” I mean, it would seem like a reasonable expectation that an author who is unhappy would go to his or her agent, express the dissatisfaction, and try to seek some sort of resolution. If there’s a communication problem, or some unanswered question, it seems like two people who have invested in each other would talk it out. (In other words, we’d all act like adults.) 

    “Lack of communication” is the #1 problem between authors and agents. So having regular communication can alleviate a lot of the problem. But that doesn’t always happen, especially when there’s some disappointment in the job being done. People seem afraid of conflict, and would often prefer to flee the situation than to have a potentially difficult discussion. I can understand that reasoning, but I can’t really respect it. You see, the majority of people will claim they’re leaving an agent because there’s some sort of problem with the work being done. But my experience has taught me the real reason most authors leave an agent is because “the agent hasn’t

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  • April 28, 2013

    Why are you speaking at a writers' conference?


    I mentioned the other day that I’m going to be speaking at the Dallas Writers’ University on Saturday, May 4 — and someone wrote to ask, “Why are you doing a writers’ conference?”

    The fact is, I rarely do many conferences these days. I’m busy with the authors I currently represent, and aside from RWA and ACFW, I don’t do many — certainly not many smaller conferences (I may go to Bouchercon later this year, but after that my dance card is filled up). But when the folks at the Writers’ University asked me about this, I liked the idea right away. It’s a one-day writing conference, focused on some one-to-one face time with authors, so it feels more personal. I’ll be talking about “Creating Your Publishing Strategy” and “Developing Book Proposals that Sell.” Other speakers include Jeane Wynn of Wynn-Wynn Media (a fabulous freelance marketing specialist who I’ve worked on numerous books with) and Michelle Borquez (who runs Bella Publishing and will be talking about “Building Your Author Platform”). There’s also going to be an attorney there, Gary Ashmore, talking about publishing contracts. It’s a great group, and I love the fact that they invited me to participate.

    So last week I mentioned the big news: anyone who registers for the conference and mentions my blog gets a big discount. The normal price is $199 for the full day (that includes all the sessions, your lunch, a face-to-face meeting with me, and access to the other speakers). But if you want to come and you mention you saw this on Chip’s blog, you  can attend for $159. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll consider coming. They tell me space is limited (I believe they have about ten spots left), and I’m doing this one because there are always a bunch of good writers in the Dallas area.

    AND if you decide to register and let me know

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  • April 26, 2013

    What's the role of an agent in today's changing publishing world?


    Someone sent me this question: “What role do agents have in today’s changing market? And I know you do a lot of work in the religious publishing scene — do agents work in that area as well?”

    Yes, I do a lot of work in the Christian market. Not exclusively — I work in both the general market as well as the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association). So yes, there are agents who both areas, though not many. The role of agents is changing, just as the role of publisher is changing. Most publishers, including most religious publishers, simply do the bulk of their business through agents. That is to say, most books are represented by a literary agent. Publishing houses rely on agents to do the initial weeding, so that the proposals being considered by acquisitions editors have already been vetted in some way. That’s a change that has come over the past ten or fifteen years — the dross has already been skimmed away. Publishers also expect agents to know contracts, to help make sure the author makes his or her deadline, and to keep the author on track with all the pieces that come with creating a book. 

    Authors should expect agents to know the bookselling market and have the relationships in place to get a proposal seen by the right people at publishing houses – something many beginning writers lack. Every author expects his or her agent to understand (and explain) publishing contracts, so the agent can protect you from making a bad decision – an important but often overlooked point, since the document you sign is a legal agreement that will govern the terms of your writing as long as it’s in print. And a good agent will know current publishing economics, so that he or she can negotiate a contract on your behalf that is in line with current market standards. The book world is

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