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Reading Daniel Menaker’s A Good Talk has heightened my awareness of conversation’s power. Amazing things happen when people really talk to each other. We take risks. We make discoveries. We connect.

But sometimes it’s hard to find common ground.

A recent Newsweek column written by Neal Gabler http://www.newsweek.com/id/226457 offers an interesting perspective.

Gabler says that celebrity is, “actually a new art form that competes with—and often supersedes—more traditional entertainments like movies, books, plays, and TV shows…[It] performs…many of the functions those old media performed in their heyday: among them, distracting us, sensitizing us to the human condition, and creating a fund of common experience around which we can form a national community. I would even argue that celebrity is the great new art form of the 21st century.”

I wouldn’t go quite so far as Gabler. But it does make sense to me that celebrity narratives allow us a surefire way to connect with people dissimilar to us. Even if she differs from me in term of politics, religion, economic status, etc., the Stranger at the Coffee Shop will likely have an opinion about the latest scandal. And even more important, if she and I engage in a conversation about that broadly shared narrative, we might begin to agree on some issues of morality.

Certainly there are hazards to celebrity-conversation. Proverbs warns us about gossip (which I understand to be the divulging of secrets and creating/perpetuating scandal). As does Paul in Romans.  And I’ll do my best not to judge anyone, celebrity or not. Only God knows the heart.

But being able to discuss the consequences of behavior with an example of, for instance, infidelity using the Tiger Woods story allows us to really engage with another person who, presumably, has a conscience and a moral center. Speaking in the abstract about the same matter would be hardly as powerful. And if we can discover empathy for the parties involved, I believe God smiles on that.

Agree or disagree. I’m open. But I know we can agree that nothing allows us to connect like a shared narrative. That’s why I’m so grateful we’re in the business of storytelling. Dear Authors, your novels allow readers to engage in narratives where the life of faith in Christ Jesus is core. That’s why I’m carrying a copy of People and a dozen of your novels to my local coffee shop!

  • What topics of conversation do you usually gravitate to or find yourself in?
  • How do you see celebrity lives affecting our culture and conversations today (for better or worse)?

Engaging in conversation, I’m yours truly, Ami.

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In this weeks’ post, I want to offer some well-deserved encouragement and talk about quieting the voices that say “do more”.

I’ve been thinking about you, the Nelson Fiction authors.  I’ve been thinking about the stories you share with the world.  The sense of community you bring to our team.  The glory God gets through your novels.  And I know All of it matters.  The time you spend sitting at a desk or typing at the kitchen table.  The schedule you must manage to fit in the things we ask of you.  So today, I want to lift you up and tell you how much we value who you are and what you do. Thank you for being a part of our team.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had calls with several of you.  Often, the discussion is about things you can/should be doing to promote your books, ways to do social media better, etc.  And what you’ve been hearing from us more recently is that there is no “one size fits all” program that’s going to work for everyone.  Rather than us say that you need to “blog, tweet, update Facebook, and face North for three minutes each Monday”, what’s better is to personalize it.  Do you love to blog? If yes, then you’ll be passionate about updating your posts and sharing that content with others.  If you’re better at engaging with people through twitter or Facebook, then those are the places where you will shine.  And if you like to face North for no reason…well, I can’t help you 🙂

I could make this a longer post, but it’s not needed.  We’re partners with you on this journey, and being partners means we help wherever needed.  Do you need someone to help you manage your social media?  If so, let’s talk.  If you need help setting something up or just need to talk through what’s Not working, let’s talk.  And if you want to brainstorm ideas together, let’s meet in the Bahamas.  With all the comments you hear from the industry, friends, and consumers, we want to be the place you head when life gets noisy.

Smiling about you,

Jennifer

“Where do you get all of your ideas?”

I hear this question so often it’s not even a surprise any more.

My response is simple, “Where don’t I get ideas?”

All around there are stories and story pieces in every element of life. I have more ideas than several lifetimes could develop. I find them in conversations at Starbucks, in stories my friends and family tell, in the headlines, in scenes of movies, television, other books, Wikipedia…pretty much anything can spark an idea.

Recently, my husband Nieldon and I were watching Planet Earth. It was a section that began with aerial views of the Amazon River and Jungle. There were dozens of waterfalls and a mist rising like some surreal otherworldly vision. A deep wonder pulls from within me whenever I watch nature shows like this. I feel mesmerized by the scenes.

The Planet Earth show produced by the BBC, Discovery Channel, and NHK is “the definitive look at the diversity of our planet.” Filming occurred in 204 locations in 62 countries on all 7 continents. Over 2,000 days in the field and 71 cameramen and women were needed to capture the footage. And the footage is spectacular.

“I don’t see how people can watch something like this and not believe in God,” I said to my husband as we watched a type of flying squirrel careen from tree to tree.

This sparked a discussion about how science can be religion and the theory of evolution that morphed into us talking about how the Christians community hasn’t always been proactive or relevant about certain essential topics in culture.

At a section about frogs, Nieldon said, “I wonder why little boys like to kill things. Look at how amazing that frog is?”

The footages showed them leaping and climbing, their colors and details extraordinary. The frogs were works of art. When Nieldon was a boy in the Philippines, he killed a frog because it was ugly. He’s never quite gotten over the guilt of it. We talked about original sin from there.

Then we viewed a fungus that gets inside the brains of insects. It drives the insect insane. Then the fungus bursts out of the bug’s head like something from an Alien movie.
“Imagine if that fungus mutated and could infect humans,” one of us said. The intellectual topic of zombies evolved from there.

From one episode of Planet Earth, I can come up with countless ideas for stories: aliens and zombies, a coming-of-age book about a boy who kills a frog, historical fiction with explorers discovering remote jungle locations…. Where do ideas come from people ask?
One of my very favorite parts in Planet Earth is when the narrator, Sigourney Weaver, says some version of, “We don’t know why this happens….”

For all our theology, science, studies, intellectual discussions, and story ideas, we can never truly understand who God is. We understand God about as well as that frog understands us. It just isn’t possible. It’s a reminder that I find extremely comforting, making it simpler for me to be as Christ said to be, “like a child.”

I’m sure the producers of Planet Earth didn’t intend to show the awesomeness of God through their program, and yet, that’s exactly what they’ve done. I can’t watch five minutes without feeling humbled and awed by our Creator.

Our fiction at Thomas Nelson is vast in genre but tied together by being books that offer a Christian worldview. Sometimes Christ’s message of redemption is vivid and tugs wildly at the souls of the readers. Other times, God’s love is woven in with subtle power. At times, it’s the Holy Spirit’s invisible touch that reflects the Divine beyond what we know we’ve created.

From ideas to stories to bound books on the shelves, we’re all honored to be part of creating something reminiscent of what God’s creation does:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalm 19:1-4)

I’d love to hear what brings out a wonder of God in you? Where do you get your ideas?  How do you find stories reflect the greatness of our Lord and Savior?

Sincerely,
Cindy Martinusen-Coloma

Just Ask

“So, what do you do?”

I’ve asked this question more times than my math loathing brain is comfortable to admit.  Last night at a Super Bowl party, I posed this exact question a party go-er I had just met.

“Shannon, what do you do?”

And as the words, tumbled out of my mouth while I was balancing a Styrofoam plate of cheese dip and meatballs, I realized that I was pigeon holing her.  So quickly, I added:

“…not that work is all you do, or defines you…or…er…so?”

My best friend tilted her head and gave me a look that said, “What are you doing? You sound so awkward.”

Awkward or not, we are not simply the title in small print under our names at the bottom of emails. Sure, we write, create, sell and work with press, but we are all so much more.  Maybe you coach your kid’s  t-ball team, have the award-winning recipe for rocky road cake or actually invited the iPad first only to have the idea stolen in the night by some guy named Steve Jobs.

Like Shrek, we are all a bunch of onions!

Just because you answer the question:

“So, what do you do?”

with

“I’m an author for Thomas Nelson.”

does not mean you are limited to writing and creating.

Send me your marketing ideas, questions, contest hopes and dreams!  We are always looking for ways to keep your novels top of mind with readers.

Remember those group projects your professors in college made you do? You know, the ones that were supposed to fine-tune your skills on brainstorming, utilizing each other’s strengths and coming together with the best possible answer? Think of your Thomas Nelson fiction team just like that, except this time you won’t get stuck doing all the work.

(or was that just my college experience…)

Do what you do best, but if you have a question or an idea just ask and we’ll our very best to make it happen!

Cheers!

Ashley Schneider

Marketing Specialist

I admit it. I’m a YA junkie. There’s probably some kind of clinic or support group for people like me, but, well, I just love it too much to stop.

It may be because I looked like this when I reached my literary maturity:

 

But I sincerely hope not. No, there is something else going on that is drawing me to the YA section of the bookstore, along with droves of other adult and teen readers.

So, the question is really, Why is Young Adult doing so well now? I think the answer is rather complicated, but I’ve distilled it down to three possibilities.

Reason #1: The fiction out there is truly resonating with teens. The world that teens are living in now is way different than the world in which we grew up. The literature that they are choosing to read reflects that. It isn’t “safe,” it isn’t all wrapped up nicely, and it doesn’t always come with answers. The characters in these novels make mistakes—the same mistakes that the teen reader may be making—but the stories show them how to move past those mistakes and make sense of it all while letting them know that they are not alone. And most importantly, the authors are not talking down to the teens. For the most part, they are writing adult books set with teen characters and their surroundings.

Reason #2: Escapism. When teens get frustrated and tired with their world—school, parents, boy/girl trouble—what better way to escape than to a world where all of that stuff is rendered virtually meaningless? Where there are the perfect guys (Edward Cullen), where parents are practically removed from the scene (Hogwarts School of Wizardry), and/or where the pressures of school fade to the background as you try to save the world from impending doom (corrupt the system in Hunger Games). Frankly, those worlds are a lot sexier than ours. And in those worlds, teens make a difference—if the teens in these novels don’t step up to the challenges before them, the world as they know it will disappear. How often do teens feel like that in real life? Probably not as much as they should.  

Reason #3: Cross-over. I’m not the only adult who occasionally (ok, ok, regularly) indulges in some young adult reading. Many adults are working their way back to the YA section. Why? Because it provides an escape for them as well. While most of us would say we would rather swim in an alligator-infested swamp than go back to middle or high school (ahem, see photo of me above), we can also admit that sometimes we would like to replace our everyday concerns (bills, work, children, lack-of-time) with the drama of teen life. And while we can relate to it because we have been there, we have the added perspective of having gone through it all and survived. It seems to be mostly women who are doing the crossing-over. Why? Well, particularly for the YA, it’s the heightened emotions, the memories of first love, and the personal drama that comes with any teen. We like to feel, and that’s what teens do best.

All of these reasons combine to a perfect storm that is garnering a lot of publicity for YA. The more people write about YA, the more people read it, which causes more authors to write it. It’s a great snowball that is providing more literature for the younger reader than has ever existed.

So where does Christian YA fit in? We have some truly gifted YA authors on our Thomas Nelson Fiction roster (and I’m not just saying that because some of them may be reading this), and it is so important that we continue to publish more great Christian YA for the market. Teens are constantly bombarded by worldly things, perhaps more than at any other time in their lives, so we need to provide a Christian alternative to all that madness. We need Christian teen characters who walk their faith in all situations—ordinary or supernatural—and who face the same real, “unsafe” problems shown in the general market YA.

Why do you think YA is booming right now? What are some good, YA novels that you have read recently?

Happy Reading!

Becky Monds,

Associate Editor

This blog is not profound or life-changing. It’s not even particularly provocative. To be in such impressive company with the Thomas Nelson editors, staff and authors and try to pen a blog about writing was simply too overwhelming for me. So, I decided to go with my strengths.
Ask anyone who knows me well. They will tell you I am very organized. And that is true—my closet is arranged by color, as is my sock drawer; my books are arranged alphabetically by author; my spices are arranged alphabetically, as are my canned goods. (I know, I know – disgusting!)
However, when I started writing and working out of my home, my penchant for organization seemed to fly out the window. I found myself drowning in paper work. Since most authors work out of home offices, I thought it might be helpful to offer some organizational tips that I have found helpful:
1.) Don’t put it down, put it up. As an author of historical fiction, I print out volumes of material nearly every day. I use several books a day for research. I found myself stacking things on the floor instead of putting them away. I have started making myself re-shelve my books, file what needs to be filed and throw away what needs to be thrown away as I go.
2.) Keep your email whittled down to 20 or under a day.
I get probably 100-120 emails a day. Most of them I can go through quickly and delete, but if I don’t take care of it daily, it takes on a life of its own. It lurks in the back of my mind and nips away at my creativity. So, find your delete button and clear out the pesky ones, and send a quick reply to fan mail and inquiries every day.
3.) Use a computer filing system to cut down on paper files.
On one of our author discussions Colleen Coble mentioned the Microsoft Word One Note online filing system. Thank you, Colleen! This is a computer filing system where one can organize research, notes, expenses, etc. I have probably cut my paper filing in half. (Other systems have similar programs, I understand.) I file research, all my blog interviews, images from research that I want to preserve, etc. Just be sure you have good backup.
4.) Utilize your walls.
I have the luxury of a room that I can use exclusively for my office. You may be using a corner of your bedroom, or your dining room table, but whatever the case may be, I have found that making use of wall space for something other than pictures has offered more options than I previously realized. Hot files – For files that you are working on currently and need to reach quickly, use hot files within reach instead of having to search through file cabinets. I have one for current projects I’m working on and all the correspondence concerning those, and one for speaking engagements. It’s easy to find them and add to them. Cork board – This is one of my favorite new things. I’ve covered one wall with cork board and am posting things like the covers of my books, pictures of costumes, my storyboard. Calendar – After I double-booked myself last fall, I put an erasable 120-day planner on one wall where I can see it every day! Every engagement goes on that calendar now – speaking engagements, doctor’s appointments, deadlines. Everything! Flat-backed baskets – These handy little items can hold everything from mailing supplies to cds and ink cartridges.
5.) Take five. – At the end of every work day take 5 or 10 minutes to clear the clutter. You don’t have to vacuum and wash the windows, just clear the main clutter. That way it doesn’t build up to where it is a daily adventure to find your computer amid the paper work and coffee cups.
I hope these few little tips will prove helpful. I always learn something when I read organizational tips. Now, I need to go update my calendar.

Happy Writing!
Golden Keyes Parsons

Your fans can’t get enough of your protagonists. And while an author is understandably ready to move on and try something new in their future works, readers usually wrap up a well-written novel wanting to spend more time with that protagonist.

So am I encouraging you to keep writing the same series or character over and over? Not at all.

But I am encouraging you – if this speaks to your creativity – to free your lead characters to roam a bit more.

There are limitless ways to do this.

When you write additional novels in the same time period, let a past popular character weave into the story in a secondary way. Long-time fans will love this. And you have to have secondary characters in new novels anyway – so why not invite some of your past favorites you already know well. If a current reader never read the older novel that this character appeared in – that’s ok. They’ll never know what they’re missing. But those that have will know what they’re gaining…and appreciate the gift.

Here’s a way to free them even further. Let a past character roam in another author’s novel. Again – the genre and the time period need to make sense. But if you’re friends with another author (whether at Thomas Nelson or elsewhere) – and you’re both game – have fun with it. Then cross-promote it on both your websites, blogs, twitters and in the book’s back-matter ads.

And – you can keep your most popular characters active via their own Facebook page. Or on your website, offer an original short stories featuring them or perhaps a Q&A with you interviewing them.

When you invest time in these ways, don’t forget to let us know and let your fans know.

As Southwest Airlines says – the seatbelt light is off. Your characters are now free to roam about the cabin.

~ Allen Arnold