8 Steps to Publication

8 Steps to Publication

Natalie Bright


#1—Write a romance novel and become a published romance novelist.

Reality Check: What is this character doing in my head? Why are her adventure’s keeping me awake at night? This story is for children.

#2—Learn everything I can about writing for children.


Reality Check: Competition is fierce. Everyone wants to be a children’s author. An agent told me, “Your story is great, but it has to be more than great. It has to be extraordinary and rise above the others.”


#3—Study story craft. Attend SCBWI conferences and read award winning children’s books.


#4—Join a writer’s critique group.


Reality Check: Why are you doing this? What is your ultimate goal?


#5—Create a new twist on history for kids today and realize a dream of that book being on school library shelves.


#6—Seek representation of a literary agent who knows way more about the children’s book business than I do.


#7—Have a solid marketing plan with bookmarks and plush toys and a contacts list for book fairs, schools, and community librarians because this book is bound to be published in multiple languages and be a huge success across the nation! Did I hear someone mention movie rights?


Reality check: After 18 months the story that possessed my mind and soul may not be right for today’s markets.


#7—Consult idea journal. What else you got?


Reality check: The world of publishing is in turmoil. My plan for publication isn’t worth diddley squat.


#8—Write something new, i.e. keep writing.










By Nandy Ekle


When you were a kid, what did you like to read? Some of my favorite books were the “choose your own adventure” books. These stories were little mazes of fun where the writers gave you adventurous scenes which set up choices. When you chose what happened next, you were directed to turn to another page to read that choice and the consequences. If your choice was correct the story continued to the next scene, ending with another choice. If your choice was wrong, the story ended in such a way you knew it couldn’t be right. When that happened you had to retrace your choices and start over.

Well, my good friends and fellow readers/writers, this genre is back for adults. Choose or Die is a blog story written by a group of writers possessing amazing talent. The concept is the same. We write what the readers want to read. A list of story lines was presented with vote buttons. Our readers chose the storyline they wanted and we are writing it before your very eyes. Each week a scene of high adventure is written with the sole purpose of creating three choices at the end. The choices are presented to the readers as vote buttons. So you are actually telling us what happens next in our little yarn.

When the voting is closed, the writers write three new scenes. The first is the choice that got second place in the vote and it will end in death for the main character. The second scene is the choice that won third place, also ending in death. The third scene is the choice that received the most votes, and rest of the story will continue.

And so, my dear friends and followers, surf on over to chooseordie.blogspot.com and join the adventure. The story for this season is titled Blazing Saddles, Smoking Tentacles. The first chapter is up, the first voting is complete and the first second-place choice scene is going up today. The third-place story goes up in a few days and I think you will recognize that author as your friendly neighborhood muse, Nandy Ekle.

See you there.

Great Reads Part 2

Outtakes 159


Great Reads Part 2

By Cait Collins


I promised to continue my thoughts on some of my favorite authors. This week my focus is on Carla Neggers, Julie Garwood, and Nora Roberts. These three ladies have a couple of things in common … great characters and fabulous locations.

Carla Neggers writes romantic suspense with a twist. The guy and gal might be attracted, but it’s not I love you in 24 hours. She allows the reader to wonder about the couples’ final commitment. I find this uncertainty appealing. I can’t remember the title of the first book I read by this author, but I remember it was set in Vermont. She has a way with bringing New England to life. I can visualize the pubs, the historic buildings, and everyone-knows-everyone by play in the small towns. Yet she’s equally at home on the Irish coast. I feel as if I’m walking the sheep paths, reading the skies from atop an eroded cliff. I get a wonderful sense of the locals, and want to lean against the bar and drink a pint while swapping stories with the townsfolk.

Her characters are searchers. Men and women who work to discover the evil doers, but more importantly, they are trying to find themselves. I recommend the Sharpe & Donovan series Saint’s Gate, Heron’s Cove, and Declan’s Cross.

The Doubleday Bargain Book Club introduced me to Julie Garwood in 1999. I purchased Ransom from the book club and I have been a fan ever sense. The story is set during the age of Richard the Lionhearted and Prince John. There is no Robin Hood, but there are some intense Scotsmen who know how to defend their ladies. The stark differences in the manors of medieval England and the Highlands is magnificent

Once you get your fill of hunky Highlanders and gorgeous English noblemen, dive into her Bishop’s Cove bachelors. Enjoy Ransom, Sweet Talk, The Ideal Man, Sizzle, and Hot Shot.

Nora Roberts needs no introduction. I first met this prolific author through her Harlequin Romances. There was nothing easy about her characters or ordinary in her settings. Later, I began reading the Chesapeake Bay novels. I was drawn to each of the men who changed their lives to raise their adopted father’s grandson.

As much as I enjoy her contemporary romantic suspense, I love her paranormal novels. The Three Sisters Island series won my heart. When I want witches, both male and female, I reread Dance Upon The Air, Heaven and Earth, and Face the Fire.

The same holds for the Donovan Legacy. Imagine a family of withes descended from triplet witch mothers married to triplet witch fathers. What about the two mortal men and one non-magical woman who fall in love with the magically blessed cousins? Talk about working out your differences! The series concludes when a young woman invades the mountain home of a witch prince. How does he tell her she, too, has magic? I recommend Captivated, Entranced, Charmed, and Enchanted. Just remember not to call a male witch a warlock. A male witch is still a witch.

Nora Robert’s current series, The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy, is a spellbinder. Please forgive the pun. Cousin witches join forces with non-magical friends and the descendant of pure evil to destroy the darkness. They meet with their powerful ancestors to battle the monster. I couldn’t put down Dark Witch and Shadow Spell. I can’t wait for the last installment.

The six authors, Robin Carr, Sharon Sala, Jodi Thomas, Carla Neggers, Julie Garwood, and Nora Roberts are among my favorite authors. But there are so many more that write wonderful page-turners. The trick is to try new authors. If you see a title or cover that intrigues you, buy it. That book may be an introduction to a new entry in your reading circle.

The People Surrounding You

The People Surrounding You

Rory C. Keel

For a writing exercise, take a few moments and make a list of your closest friends, relatives, your boss and co-workers.

Choose the person you like the most and the least; the person who has had the most positive and most negative influence on you; the person who has changed the most and the least since you’ve known them; and then write a write a brief paragraph on each of them explaining why you feel this way.

Notice any quirks they may exhibit such as, do they constantly jerk their head back to flip their the hair out of their eyes, or do they run their hand throughout their hair?

Do they chew their food quietly, or smack their lips loudly?

These are the kind of details that add life to your story characters.


The Query Letter

The Query Letter

By Natalie Bright


The more I write and study markets, the more I’ve come to appreciate how useful a tool the QUERY LETTER really is.

A good query letter contains so many things: enticement, introduction, story hook, business savvy, word count, genre, reflection of your work, title, key elements of your story, publication history, affiliations…the list is endless. All of this in one succinct page. Sometimes I spend days, even weeks on editing just one query letter.

Here’s the basic information that I use for query letters, written in as few a paragraphs as possible:

1)    Where did you learn about the opportunity.

2)    What are you submitting; word count, genre, theme, hook

3)    What makes you the best person to write this particular story

4)    Brief list of published works (if you don’t have any to list, leave this blank). Don’t make this hard for editors by saying, “check my website…” Make this easy and pleasant for anyone who reads your query.

5)    For nonfiction, a list of sources is sometimes requested.

6)    All of your contact information. I usually go overboard on this and include email, fax, home, cell and office phone numbers, and mailing address. However they want to contact me, I am available.

Example with Positive Result

Here’s the email I wrote to APPLESEEDS Magazine, in response to a callout for submissions. The article is based on the monthly theme (which I restated for clarification) and includes approximate word count and sources cited. I reviewed their guidelines carefully in the market listing and again on their website.

Query / Who Did What on the Frontier

Title: The Legendary Cowboy

Noted bibliographer and western author, Ramon Adams, said, “The cattleman and his cowboys have been the men who most persistently pushed the frontier farther west preparing the way for civilization.”  An estimated 20 million head were driven to the railheads for shipment to eastern packing houses in the mid 1800’s.

Based on information in Children’s Book Insider for your consideration, my 600 word article will expel the myths and convey the truth about the brutal life of the American cowboy. The basic realities of working, eating, and sleeping under endless skies of the frontier will be explained in a fun, upbeat style.

In addition to my research as an historical author and from resources listed below, the article will be based on my personal experiences. My husband and I run a cow-calf operation on one of the oldest ranches in Texas.

My work has appeared in numerous publications including Chicken Soup. A few selected clips are attached. In addition my short story, “A Cowboys Christmas Blessings” was chosen for the anthology, WEST TEXAS CHRISTMAS STORIES, coming in October from Abilene Christian University Press. My novels are represented by Mr. Stephen Fraser, who is currently shopping my historical western for middle grades.

Today the traditions and legend of the American cowboy lives on, and continues to hold a fascination for both children and adults alike. Thank you for your consideration. 

Sources include:

Adams, Ramon F., Cowboy Lingo, Houghton Mifflin Co., (1936) 2000.

Editors of Time Life Books, The Old West series, The Cowboys and The Ranchers, Time Life, Inc., New York, 1973.

Molton, Candy, The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West from 1840-1900, Writer’s Diget Books, 1999.

Ward, Fay E., The Cowboy at Work, University of Oklahoma Press (1958) paperback edition 1987.

It’s Good to Be Published!

The query was sent in May 2013 resulting in an email from the magazine editor with specific details about the slant of the article in August. A contract was forwarded upon my acceptance with a one month deadline of September 2013. “A Cowboy’s Life” appeared in the March 2014 edition of APPLESEEDS, and payment was received three months after publication.

This is not a fast-paced business, and everyone works at a different schedule. Most magazine staffs work six months or more ahead of publication date. If you’re working on a holiday story, think about submitting those in the spring, for example. For an anthology, I heard back within the same week of submission, while on the other hand a contract hit my email inbox from Chicken Soup over a year after submitting my story. Keep good submission records. It’s crazy out there but there are opportunities for hard-working writers.

Happy writing and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

One Last Read

Outtakes 158


One Last Read

By Cait Collins


My memoir, First Love; Forever Love is almost ready to go to my beta readers. While my critique group has read every chapter, the beta readers will read the entire work. These three ladies are as important as the critique group. And for that reason, I choose them carefully. They must be objective. I can’t afford readers who pat me on the head and tell me how wonderful I am. I need someone who will be honest and respectful in their reviews. Telling me where I’ve made mistakes is vital to presenting a finished product to agents and editors.

A final reader can more easily catch errors in the continuity. The hero may have brown eyes in chapter one, and blue eyes in chapter five. These inconsistencies are not as noticeable when critiquing individual chapters. However, when read as a complete work, they prompt a red flag.

When the work is read cover to cover, the reader can better judge the flow of the story. They can pick up on the pacing. Is chapter two slower and heavier than the other chapters? Are there too many short, choppy sentences, or are prepositional phrases over used?

Finally, does the story progress to a logical conclusion? Are scenes contrived to create the intended climax and end? Does author intervention skew the story line and ending?

A good beta reader may not fully understand why a scene doesn’t work; she just knows it is not right. By honestly conveying her unease, the author has a chance to take an objective look at the scene, and rework the chapter. With the beta readers’ final critique, the writer makes a last rewrite prior to writing the synopsis and the query letter.

The author’s final read is his assessment of his writing and the quality of the project. His reading must be just as objective as the critique group and beta readers’ perspectives. He must decide if the story is as good as he can make it. He must resist the temptation to over-write and as a result damage the project. Like a parent, the writer must now give wings to his creation. He must submit the work and move on to the next project.





By Nandy Ekle

And now for a bit of magic. If you watch close, you’ll see it happen before your very eyes. So pay attention, don’t talk, no breathing or blinking. Ready?

I’m going to take this blank page and paint a picture using only my imagination.

We start with a pure white screen. Notice, no hint of color anywhere. Suddenly, a frisky yellow ball appears at the top of the page. Besides the bright contrast of color on the white page, you also notice the temperature around you is going up. The warmth is friendly and comforting.

You are also beginning to notice the smells of hundreds of roses. As you breathe in the distinct smell, you can see the reds, pinks, yellows, whites, and even some exotic rose colors such as blue and purple. You walk closer to a bush standing almost directly under the sun and reach out to touch a velvety petal. That’s when you feel a sharp pain in your fingertip. You didn’t realize I put thorns on my rose bushes, did you. No matter. They aren’t poisonous.

But how about the bee hiding in the center of the flower?

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.





Good Reads

Outtakes 157

Release 7-9-2014


Good Reads

By Cait Collins


Some authors have a unique ability to create a series of books based on a core group of characters in magical locations. The characters are something very special. They are people who have made their mistakes, dealt with the fallout, and moved on with renewed strength and purpose. In some instances, they are the people who have been given a bad hand and turned the nightmares into good productive lives. The skilled hand of the writer keeps these people from becoming cardboard characters.

Robyn Carr, Sharon Sala, Jodi Thomas, Carla Neggers, Julie Garwood, and Nora Roberts are among my favorite series creators. These women write women’s fiction or romance, but the style and genre are different.

For example, Robyn Carr writes contemporary stores set in small towns. Her Virgin River series is comprised of 18 novels set in Virgin River in the mountains of northern California. The people are what my grandmother would have called the salt-of-the-earth. Even the poorest lend a hand in times of crisis. Everyone pulls together. The stories move seamlessly from beginning to end. Her newer series set in Thunder Point on the Oregon coast, begins with a visitor to Virgin River who travels to Thunder Point to check up on an old friend. Again there is an easy flow from one setting to the next. I recommend both series.

Sharon Sala’s work takes a darker turn into the romantic suspense side. While there is a love story, the romance never overshadows the search for the criminal element terrorizing the town. Her stories are set in the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky. After reading the first novel in Rebel Ridge series, the Searchers and Storm Front, I anticipated the release of the next book. Her novels are great reads.

Jodi Thomas is not only a favorite author; she is a teacher and a mentor. She’s been a friend to many writers in the Texas Panhandle. Jodi writes both historical and contemporary novels. Her historical works are based on the settling of Texas. The Whispering Mountain series was my introduction to her writing. Then she released her first mainstream novel THE WIDOWS OF WICHITA COUNTY. The story of a group of women whose husbands were killed in an oil field accident was so well researched and told. Jodi keeps a tight hold on the identity of the lone survivor of the accident. This is one novel I would love to see on the big screen.

In future Outtakes we will explore Carla Neggers, Julie Garwood, and Nora Roberts. But if you are looking for good summer reads, may I recommend Robyn Carr’s Thunder Point Series, Sharon Sala’s The Searchers Series, and the Whispering Mountain Series by Jodi Thomas.

Submission Format

Submission Format

By Rory C. Keel


When writing a novel or even short works, you will need to format your work.

There are many different format styles. When submitting your work, make a diligent effort to understand and follow any specific guidelines regarding formatting requests.

Below is a good standard format that will be accepted by most editors, agents, and publishers in the industry.

Page Information

  • Margins — 1.5 inches all the way around
  • Font — Courier, Courier New, or other clean monospace serif font from 10-12 pt.
  • Line spacing — Double-space
  • Paragraph indent — first line, 5 pt.
  • Header — right justified, contains the following information: Last name/ TITLE/ page#

A header does not belong on the cover page. Start headers on page one of the actual manuscript.

Cover page — depends on whether you’re agented or not.


  • Contact information — Name and address, phone number and e-mail address in the top left corner of the page, single spaced, left-justified
  • Title — centered, just above the middle of the page
  • by — centered and one double-spaced line beneath the title
  • Name or pen name — centered and one double-spaced line beneath the word by
  • Word count — centered and rounded to the nearest thousand, one double-spaced line beneath your name or pen name


  • Title — centered, just above the middle of the page
  • by — centered and one double-spaced line beneath the title
  • Name or pen name — centered and one double-spaced line beneath the word by
  • Word count — centered and rounded to the nearest thousand, one double-spaced line beneath your name or pen name
  • Agent’s contact information — Name, business name, mailing address, phone number (e-mail address if you have the agent’s okay first), left justified, single spaced, bottom of the page

First page

Header — should be in the upper right-hand corner of the page, and page number should be 1.

  • Chapter header — can be anywhere from one to six double-spaced lines down from the top of the page, and can be centered or left justified. You can title your chapters, or just write Chapter One or Chapter 1.
  • Body text — drop down two double-spaced lines to begin your story.
  • Scene breaks — drop down two double-spaced lines, insert and center the # character, drop down two more double-spaced lines, and begin your new scene.

Subsequent chapters — start each chapter on a fresh page. Keep chapter formatting and titling consistent with your first chapter.

Happy submitting,



Quotes on Writing

Quotes on Writing

By Natalie Bright

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Tears are words that need to be written.

Easy reading is damn hard writing.