Thursday, March 20, 2014

"The Top 147 Things I Need To Remember In My Writing While Still Being Creative…Boiled Down To 3 Things" by Alan Schleimer

Notes by our intrepid Secretary, Annette O'Hare. :)

Alan said writing is like learning to drive because you constantly have to decide what is the most important thing to concentrate on.

3 Things to remember:

First, don’t rush by settling on your first idea, rushing the story’s development, rushing into editing mode, or rushing the submission to an agent/editor. And don’t let negative thoughts deter you.

Second, soak up all the help you can (afford and) put it to use. Don’t believe all the criticism you get, but process it. If it hurts, generally it’s true. Use your books on craft to analyze your favorite books. Did the author do the things suggested? If so, how? Use what you learn in your own writing.

If you can afford to go to conferences, do it. When you're there, analyze the sessions offered and sign up for the best teacher. If you can't get to conference, order the conference audios and listen to the talks you would have gone to see. 

Last, make it count - every page, every character, every scene. Make sure each scene you write has an objective. Not just the scene, but every person in the scene. And don't forget to enjoy the ride!

Now let's here from you. If you were at the meeting, what is one thing you learned that you plan to implement?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why I Chose to Self-Publish by Nancy Kimball

As someone who was fairly vocal in 2010 about never, ever self-publishing, I can appreciate the irony of going Indie. The publisher that acquired my debut novel last July chose to withdraw their offer in November. Yes, this happens. For the first time, I began to seriously consider self-publishing for the following reasons.

1.    The work is publication ready.

I thank God I couldn’t afford to self-publish back when I first thought my manuscript was ready. Since that time, I’ve continued to read, learn, write and revise. The hard work yielded enough contest finals, full manuscript requests, and valuable agent and editor feedback that I’m confident this novel is ready for the market. The barrier to traditional publication then became my chosen time period rather than the quality of my writing.

2.     I am unwilling to wait any longer for readers.

I understand traditional houses are doing everything they can to survive. I liken them to the top floor of a high-rise building where the biggest pool of readers awaits. For the past two years, surrounded by pre-published and between-contracts friends, we’ve done the work and waited for our turn on the elevator up. Agents and editors loved my voice and platform. They just didn’t like this time period so much. I waited, hoping that might change. I took my place in line for the elevator and waited. I cheered on friends and critique partners who write the more popular genres and settings as they earned their elevator ride. Every so often, some of us waiting would slip off into the stairwell that is self-publishing. I’ve decided to go with them.
Self-publishing is a lot of work, which is why the stairs analogy is accurate. But I’m not going to spend any more time waiting for an elevator for my brand of stories that may never come.

3.      I can afford to do it right.

Author Donn Taylor, who has published all three ways—large traditional houses, small press, and self-published—said  at my local writers group that self-publishing is right for you if you have something you want to say and can afford to say it. That stuck with me. When I considered the costs of another year of conferences and contests, I realized I would spend that money anyway. So I chose instead to reallocate my author budget to professional book cover design, a freelance editor who has worked for the traditional publishers, a professional formatter to prepare the manuscript for paperback and e-book distribution, and a strong marketing plan.

4.      I remembered my dream.

“Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome, Proximo, and this is not it. This is NOT IT!”

If you recognized that line from the movie Gladiator and hear Russell Crowe shouting it, I’m smiling with you. When I first began writing Chasing the Lion, I had a dream of being a published author. Royalties from sales would send me to Rome where I would be photographed in the Colosseum holding my debut novel along with letters from readers sharing how Jonathan’s story touched them. When my contract fell through, I took a hard look at my writer life. Weary of influencing, blogging, mentoring, and feeling like a sellout hammering away on a contemporary romance to just “get published”, I had my Maximus moment. The prestige and guidance of an agent, having a well-known publisher’s name on the spine of my books, are both things I’d like to achieve one day. But those goals sneaked in along the way. They were never part of my dream.

So I’m taking to the stairs, taking back the dream, and finally, finally getting to share Jonathan and his story with readers. I continue to be grateful to share this author journey with each of you. It’s been a long road, but one without regrets.

Author, avid reader, and shameless hero addict, Nancy Kimball loves books, history, Ancient Rome and all things gladiator. She is the former president of her local ACFW chapter, Writers On the Storm, and her industry accolades include a two-time American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis finalist (Chasing the Lion – 2012 / Unseen Love – 2013), and a Romance Writers of America Lonestar finalist in the Inspirational Category (Adrift No More – 2013). In 2012, her best friend and critique partner bestowed Nancy with the nickname "Phoenix" after hearing her personal testimony. Nancy loved the name and adopted the Phoenix symbol to embody her life verse, Ezekiel 36:33-36.  Her story, more info about her author journey and novels are available at her official website. She enjoys connecting with readers on her Facebook Page or the Fiction Hero Features blog.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Presenting Alan Schleimer: License to Thrill®

Alan Schleimer writes suspense thrillers. His debut novel is the first in the Ezra Chronicles series and features former Wall Street whiz-kid and desert survivalist Jay Hunt. The Q Manifesto was named the top inspirational/religious novel of 2012 by a book review website specializing in eBooks. Previously the story garnered the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis award in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre. The Q Manifesto is a suspense thriller and has been compared favorably to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code for its masterfully-executed twists and turns. Graced with expert writing advice from today’s top Christian Fiction writers, The Q Manifesto weaves a spell-binding plot around the ultimate what-if question. Alan believes good stories entertain, but great stories can change lives. He strives to only tell great stories.

A former analyst, commodity trader, and entrepreneur, Alan infuses his high-stakes fiction with real world implications. Like an actor who does his own stunts, he has studied martial arts, finance, police work, and the divine source of all truth. He lives in Sugar Land, Texas.

An Unlikely Prospect
Alan wasn’t always a writer. In fact, he says that he was the least likely candidate to become a published author. About ten years ago, he was enjoying a career in the corporate world. The former energy trader and business development professional with a finance MBA claims he struggled writing a two-paragraph business letter. 

“I kept getting these cool ideas for a book. I thought someday, if I ever retired, I would write it. Well, I noticed that these ideas came more frequently while I was spending my quiet time meditating. Eventually, I became convinced it was a calling from God, and I began writing full-time. The story that started it all was a Christian fiction fantasy. It was a great learning process filled with numerous rookie mistakes. I took writing classes and attended writing conferences until deciding to write the kind of fiction I liked to read—mystery/suspense/thrillers.”

Writing Advice
"Write what you love to read and study books on writing especially where you are weakest." 
Alan's favorite book on writing is Plot and Structure by James Bell.

Book Description
The story centers on Jay Hunt, who quit a lucrative Wall Street career to become a backcountry tour guide. Soon after, an ancient manuscript is uncovered that reveals the Gospels were an orchestrated fiction. Though its revelation stuns the world, Jay ignores it until his father, a retired Dead Sea Scrolls expert, gets in over his head investigating the scroll. Chased by assassins, Jay soon learns that the world’s only chance to survive Armageddon depends on him deciphering a cryptic trail of clues in his quest for the truth.

If you like exotic locations, the book has readers sprinting from Arizona to Jerusalem, Paris to the Caribbean, and Houston to Amman. Your fingernails don’t stand a chance.

What Others Are Saying About The Q Manifesto
A “magnificent debut whose stunning depths, pivotal settings and tangible descriptions manifested themselves in imagery akin to an HDTV movie.” The storyline was cited as a “masterfully crafted, full-immersion thriller written with intelligence, heart and virtue, brilliantly plotted, and played out at machine gun pace.”  Categorized by some as Christian fiction, Alan is pleased with that description, but prefers to think of his book as a family-friendly wild ride with a message of hope and a challenge to anyone’s faith.

You can connect with Alan online at and

or see him in person at our monthly meeting on March 15th where he'll be presenting My Rookie Season: Three Lessons Learned from the Road to Being Published.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Expect the Unexpected with Bob Stewart

On February 15, 2014, ACFW's Writers On The Storm welcomed multi-published author, and our very own member, Bob Stewart. Since it was February and so close to Valentine’s Day, we asked Bob to speak on the subject of romance from a man’s perspective. Twenty-two people showed up to hear Bob speak, including his son, Bob III and grandson, Bob IV! 

 According to Bob, many men think of romance the way singer, Dean Martin summed it up in his famous song, Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am. But that is not Bob's philosophy. He thinks romance should be special; that it should be doing something completely unexpected for someone you love. 

Tips for writing male characters in a romance:

1. Male characters should have a ‘tell’ like in the game of poker. A ‘tell’ is a motion that reveals what’s going on behind the poker face. It could be something he’s noticeably uncomfortable with, or a physical movement he performs. 

2. Romantic gestures should be ‘over the top.’ Think of Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate when he storms into the church wedding and screams for actress, Katharine Ross. 

3. Bob said to always, ‘expect the unexpected’ in writing romance. Flee the expected cliche gestures and embrace the spontaneous. As an example, Bob gave each of the ladies present at the meeting a yellow rose. <3

Additional pictures by chapter photographer, Kathrese McKee:

If you were at the meeting, please share with us: What was the main thing you learned or took away from the meeting that you will use in your fiction?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bob Stewart - Hard-edged Psychological Thrillers

Bob Stewart with the cover art for his book, Alias Thomas A. Katt

          The inch-thick English notebook lay splayed on the desk top in my dorm room.

         “This undoubtedly is one of the best notebooks I’ve ever received,” the professor at the Christian college scrawled across the face of it.  Below those words of encouragement was my grade: “F.”

         That’s the day I decided to quit studying for the ministry and become a heathen journalist. It was the second time this professor failed me.

         Why? Because I challenged the system. I wasn’t supposed to know a run-on sentence or a sentence fragment or a number of other literary faux pas I had already learned in high school English. So, I went ahead and did it my way, something I have a tendency to do, and suffered the consequences. A similar thing happened when I grew a Van Dyke beard and was called in by the dean of students and told to cut it or leave school. I cut it off but seethe today when it seems that every other male student walking the campus seems to be sporting one, as well as professors.

         I did have the rare privilege of studying under Dr. Heber Taylor, head of the journalism department. His namesake son is now editor of the Galveston Daily News. I count Dr. Taylor as my mentor. His gentle demeanor, his iron will to follow high journalist principles; I practice all of them today.

         I didn’t leave my religious beliefs on that flawed campus. I took them with me and they stood me in great stead when I interviewed grieving parents. I know the top editors in New York City would have cringed if they knew I often joined hands with interview subjects and prayed with them. Once again I challenged the system, but this time not as flamboyantly.

         While working more than forty years as a journalist, I wrote four nonfiction books that went on to critical success. Two of them, I suspect, will be of interest to this WOTS group, RevengeRedeemed and Sacrifice: The Murder of Mark Kilroy in Matamoros. Both deal with parents of high moral (read that religious) values and how they faced the death of their son. The Kilroy book was the True Crime Book of the Month when released. I’m not ashamed to admit I wept when I wrote these stories.

I’d like to close this by answering several questions.

God has given all of us passions. In addition to writing, what is your passion and how does it show up in your fiction?

Although my fiction books are hard-edged psychological thrillers I was surprised when I went through them to find a very strong religious theme woven into the narrative. I believe it was our own Nancy Kimball who pointed that out to me.

What one piece of advice would you give to an author who is just starting out?

           When I’m working on a project I put on blinders and charge forward working as hard as I can. Of course the best advice is to write every day, but sometimes I don’t follow my own advice. I don’t outline. I’m called a “pantser” as in by the seat of. One day I write a chapter that goes near the end of the book, the next day one in the middle, and the day after, perhaps some at the front of the book. Then I lay them out and see what I have to do bridge the gaps. Right now I’m juggling three works-in-progress: One is a joint effort with fellow author, Carl Brush, about The Yellow Rose of Texas, (Carl’s work includes The Maxwell Vendetta and Second Vendetta).

           Also in the hopper is another about a victims rights advocate battling a psychopath and finally, a fantasy about a mythical woman who has love affairs with succeeding generations of the same line of men. 

           The best advice is trite: Just do it and if you do nothing else, learn the meaning of “point of view.”

        What craft book on writing have you found most helpful?

No fair! I have to list two books, and I love them equally. Donald Maass’s wonderful Writing the Breakout Novel and Hooked by Les Edgerton, perhaps the premier noir writer in America and a fellow Texan from Freeport. It has 320 five-star reviews.       

Recent books by Bob Stewart:
Firstborn at Amazon

Bob will be impart his wisdom on the subject of men & romance titled "Expect the Unexpected" at our meeting on February 15th. See our Meetings & Speaker page for more information.

And how, dear friends, do you have any burning questions for Bob?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

From Cliche to Creative with Jeannie Campbell

We had a great time Saturday with licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Jeannie Campbell. She spoke about the ins and outs of using and breaking character stereotypes in our writing. There's a time and a place to do both. We can use stereotypes for invisible characters that pop in and out of our fiction for no real purpose than to deliver a package or a bit of news. But with our major characters, we want to break the stereotypes to provide a multi-layered, real character. Stereotypical characters are not interesting. And we all want our characters to be interesting, right? Otherwise, why should people keep reading our prose?

Kathrese McKee, chapter photographer, took some great shots at our meeting.

Bethany, Laura, and Alice

Doris and Anthea


Ann, Janice, and Doris

Jeannie Campbell, speaker extraordinaire
If you missed the meeting but are interested in the information. Or if you were at the meeting, and wanted more information on character stereotypes, you can contact Jeannie to purchase her revised Writer's Guide to Breaking Character Stereotypes The guide currently for sale at her store (original version, $5 has 12 stereotypes. The revised edition has 18, so make sure to contact her if you're interested in the expanded edition).

So, writers, if you were at the meeting, what is one thing you learned that you plan to use? 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Writers on the Storm welcomes Jeannie Campbell, The Character Therapist

Jeannie is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (MFC # 45366) in California. By day, she serves as Head of Clinical Services for a large non-profit, and has worked with families, couples, teens, & children for over 10 years. by night, she runs the character therapist (, an online therapy service for fictional characters. 

She's also a freelance author, editor, and book reviewer. She has been a two-time finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writer's Genesis contest for writer's unpublished in fiction. She writes regular monthly columns for Christian Fiction Online Magazine and has been featured in many other magazines and blogs. She is the author of several other Writer's Guides, which can be purchased on her website.

Jeannie will present a mini-workshop you won't want to miss called "Breaking Stereotypes." She'll cover popular character types and how to avoid the "C" word (cliche) in humorous and practical detail. Bring your protagonist, antagonist, and your questions as we enjoy lunch and an extended meeting.

January 18, 2014 11a-2p

Lupe Tortilla
19437 Interstate 45 Frontage Rd, Shenandoah, TX 77385
(281) 298-5274


$5 members, $10 non-members thru Jan 16
After Jan 16: $10 members, $15 non-members

To register: 



In advance through Pay Pal (right side bar) or bring payment to the meeting.

Can't wait to see you there. Tell all your friends!