Meet Jennifer Uhlarik–Managing and Acquisitions Editor for Trailblazer Western Fiction

By Jennifer Hallmark

April is all about editors on Inspired Prompt blog. So I’m more than happy to introduce Jennifer Uhlarik, managing and acquisitions editor for Trailblazer Western Fiction, the newest imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Trailblazer Western Fiction seeks to recapture the glory days of the Western, but with an updated feel that will ignite the hearts and minds of a whole new generation of readers. Trailblazer offers stories that combine the action, adventure, mystery, and romance of the American West, all wrapped up in the rugged men and brave women who left the comfort of life back east to discover and settle untamed lands in the West. Whether historical or contemporary, our westerns tell the stories of those who braved rugged terrain and insurmountable obstacles to make a life in the beauty and vastness of the western frontier.

Welcome, Jennifer! What a great name you have 🙂

You are the managing and acquisitions editor for Trailblazer Western fiction. What drew you to this particular job?

The job really fell in my lap. I’ve been in the writing industry as an author for years, and while I’ve had some successes selling western romance stories, I have other titles, either fully written or in the works, that are more western/less romance. Those have been a much harder sell. So as I was talking with author extraordinaire Eva Marie Everson about the difficulty in selling the more traditional western titles I have, she dropped the idea of opening a western line.

I was already working for Eva in her Southern Fiction line as an editor, so after hearing her out, I thought about it, prayed about it, and a very short time later, I felt like this was the direction God was leading me in. So Eva and I approached Eddie Jones at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas about opening Trailblazer Western Fiction, and Eddie quickly said yes. And, “poof!” I was the managing editor of Trailblazer Western Fiction. LOL

When you first entered the writing world, did you want to become an editor?

Nnnnoooooo! In fact, years after entering the writing world…when Eva first approached me about working for her as an editor in her Southern Fiction line, it was such an overwhelming idea that I was paralyzed with self-doubt for several days. Tears were shed, friends and family had to give me pep talks, and only after a lot of thought and prayer did I know this was a direction I was supposed to go in.

What are some pros and cons of being an editor?

I think the pros far outweigh any cons. As an editor, I get to read and acquire some amazing fiction, which is always a plus. Another part I love is that I can now help other authors realize their dreams of publication. After years of struggling to find my path to publication, it’s fantastic to know I’m in a place to help others along the way. And it’s also exciting to be able to help other authors hone their stories into that bright, shiny gem that readers will love!

Cons? Well, for one, I can’t take every story. I wish I could, even just to encourage the author. But Trailblazer is small, so there’s no way I could take every story that came across my desk. And…Life is busier when I’m working with an author toward publication of their book. But in those busy times, I refocus on the pros and move right on past these minor cons!

What percentage of your authors are debut authors?

At this moment, fifty percent. However, I don’t have a set formula for how many debut authors vs. established ones I’ll take. It really depends on the story for me. Tell a great story with even a middling amount of skill, and I’ll give it serious consideration.

What submission advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Two things. First, Trailblazer is a niche market, so it’s important that you know the genre. Read western books, get a feel for the genre, and then craft a story that fits.

And second, be sure to study the guidelines and develop a proposal with all the elements listed on our submission page.

As a bonus piece of advice, keep in mind that Trailblazer (and all of the Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas lines) are moving to a Christian worldview, but not overtly Christian style of storytelling for 2020 and beyond. We are still looking for clean reads, so no gratuitous violence, language, etc. But there doesn’t have to be an overt Christian theme or spiritual arc to the story either.

What stories are you and Trailblazer interested in for future publications?

I am open to new and interesting ideas. I love the classic westerns like Louis L’Amour used to write, but I’d also love to find some contemporary westerns, westerns told in a more complex way, or westerns paired with other genres. You can read more of our vision and desires at https://lpcbooks.com/trailblazer-western-fiction-submissions/

Thanks so much for sharing, Jennifer!


Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed  with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times.

In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

You can find Jennifer at her website, Facebook, TwitterPinterest, and Instagram.


Sand Creek Serenade

Dr. Sadie Hoppner is no stranger to adversity. She’s fought to be taken seriously since childhood, when her father began training her in the healing arts. Finding acceptance and respect proves especially difficult at Fort Lyon, where she’s come to practice medicine under her brother’s watchful eye.

Cheyenne brave Five Kills wouldn’t knowingly jeopardize the peace treaty recently negotiated between his people and the Army. But a chance encounter with the female doctor ignites memories of his upbringing among the whites. Too intrigued to stay away, tension erupts with the soldiers, and Five Kills is injured.

As he recuperates under the tender care of the pretty healer, an unlikely bond forms. However, their fledgling love is put to the test when each realizes that a much greater danger awaits—a danger they are wholly unable to stop, and one which neither may survive.

Purchase link

Which Editor Will You Choose?

I will admit right up front that hiring an editor intimidates me to no end. I just don’t know where to begin. There is so much advice and so many suggestions out there in the writing world that it’s hard for me to decipher which direction I should go.

This month we are looking at editing possibilities and how they will benefit us and our readers in their writing journey. There are different types of editors, who specialize in different areas of the creation process. Let’s look at a few.

A DEVELOPMENTAL EDITOR: Helps a writer with structure and content of a manuscript. This editor looks at the pacing, plot, characterization, and setting of your manuscript. They will also assist you in finding a vision for your story.

A COPY EDITOR: Much like a proofreader, they check spelling and grammar. They also check jargon, terminology, semantics, and formatting. Any factual data in text is also checked for accuracy as there could be a potential legal issue which is then brought to the publisher’s attention for correction.

A LINE EDITOR: This editor looks at voice in your manuscript and focuses on the quality and strength of your story. A line editor will look for sentences that don’t flow well, or cliches in your work. Also, they will look for repetition of sentences, and at each of your words and how they are used to help you tell the best story, so your readers understand it.

A PROOFREADER: Reads copy and transcripts for spelling and grammar errors. They work for publishers, newspapers, and other places that rely on perfect grammar printing. Proofreading is also the final stage to ensure a manuscript or article is well written and has a logical structure. They really do make sure that those editors mentioned above have done their jobs, and your story is ready for print.

AN ACQUISITIONS EDITOR: This editor is part of a publishing team to acquire manuscripts for publication. They work in book publishing companies, literary agencies, universities, and professional institutes. They evaluate manuscripts for their commercial potential, and approach authors when a publisher is interested in their work. They build relationships between authors, agents, and publishing houses. Part of their job may also include collaborating with marketing teams.

What if you’re not quite ready for the editing stage of your book? Focus on making it the best product you can before an editor gets into the picture. Working with your critique partners or a trusted friend who believes in you helps a great deal. Microsoft has a feature in it that will speak each word of print in your manuscript, so listen carefully. You might find areas of your story that just don’t flow well, or don’t sound as smooth when it’s read back to you. You can pause the feature and correct it as you go. Self editing can be bewildering, and stressful. Doing your very best before hiring an editor can be a teachable experience, and may save you headaches in the long run. Remember, an editor is there to help you create the best product you can.

Writing prompt:  Tell me a funny editing story.

Click to Tweet: This month we are looking at editing possibilities and how they will benefit us and our readers in their writing journey. #amwriting #editors #editing

Choosing a Freelance Editor

By Fay Lamb

Hiring a freelance editor may be one of the most important decisions you make in your career, but there are precautions you should take in order to find the editor most suited to your needs.

First, I want to say that the most effective use of a freelance editor is not to rewrite or to revise an author’s work but to catch the mistakes that might have been made or the areas that might have missed because the author is too close to the work.

Now, with regard to the qualifications of an editor, I do not believe that an editor needs to have a degree, but I do believe that they need to have studied the craft of writing and have the ability to show forth a knowledge of the specific area in which they are being requested to offer an edit.

Editors who claim to be able to edit everything should be viewed skeptically. For instance, if I were writing a college thesis on a highly specialized field, I would search for an editor familiar with that field of research, not an editor who would simply look for comma placement or spelling. In fact, I’d be worried that the spelling would be a problem for someone unfamiliar with the subject.

Let’s bring it down to our scope, though. In fiction, there are genres, and each genre requires specific techniques. Thrillers are fast paced, barely leaving time for the reader to breathe while romantic suspense will speed up and slow down depending upon the type of suspense being portrayed. Romance, well, it lingers, but it is often formulaic, and an editor will need to know the formula. Historical fiction is another beast altogether, and nothing can be taken for granted, even word choice. I know, historical fiction is not my expertise.

Overall, though, fiction has elements such as plot, conflict, suspense, proper use of dialogue, showing and not telling, deep point of view, and characterization. An editor who is unaware of this canvas upon which an author creates can do little to help the author should the brush stroke be imperfect.

There’s also non-fiction. In fact, this editor will only edit non-fiction if the author is requesting proofreading and nothing more. Why? I do not have the expertise in this format either, and my lack of knowledge will harm an author.

Another important thing to know when it comes to hiring a freelance editor is the going rate, and many authors will be surprised at what it will cost because most freelance editors don’t care about the author’s return on investment. They’re rightfully concerned with their return on investment. Thus my reason for stating why an editor should not be used to revise or rewrite.

Before agreeing to a contract with a freelance editor, an author should ask for a free chapter edit. This will be of benefit not only to the author but to the editor. As a freelance editor, I often use those free edits to determine if the author is ready for publication. If not, I will refuse the edit and will offer suggestions on how they might improve their writing. If I find that the author has a command of the story, I am then able to determine the length of the manuscript and offer my estimate, which is always the highest fee I will charge, and sometimes if the edits take less effort, I charge less.

This leads me to the most important advice that I can give to an author seeking a freelance editor: never agree to an open-ended hourly contract. An editor who has given you a chapter edit may estimate high in case the story falls apart somewhere along the line, but agree up front to the total cost and to the terms of payment. If an editor is unwilling to provide the cost up front, run away.

Again, it is important to note, in order to utilize the freelance editor’s time and the money you pay most effectively, send the editor your cleanest manuscript. Utilize an editor’s expertise to find the mistakes you missed and not to clean up the mistakes you didn’t want to remedy.

Click to tweet: Choosing a Freelance Editor by Fay Lamb. “Editors who claim to be able to edit everything should be viewed skeptically.” #editing #amwriting

Writing Prompt: In leiu of a prompt, tell us whether you use a critique group, a critique partner, or hire a freelance editor? Why?

How to Choose the Right Editor

Pixabay imageBack in the day, before the idea of writing ever entered my thoughts, the mention of an editor brought one name to mind: Perry White. I was first introduced to the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet in comic books. Yes, I read comic books (I had brothers). Oh, the excitement of opening a new comic book!

Breathe, Betty, get back to the subject.

Where was I? Oh, yes, editors, and how to choose one. If the company name is Dewey, Cheatham & Howe, don’t go there.  April Fool’s! 😉

This may surprise you, but editors are not the enemy. In fact, their business is to make our writing the best it can be.

Helpful Hint #1: If you have a fear of editors, pass your writing through a good critique loop or group first. Work on your manuscript until it is as clean as you and your team can get it, then look into hiring an editor.

I happen to love working with a good editor. They make my prose look professional. A good editor will save me from embarrassing myself. I have a gift for using the wrong word and don’t even ask me about commas. We seldom get along. It doesn’t matter where I put one, it gets removed.

Pixabay imageEditors sometimes get a bad rap. Why? Writers can be peevish about their “babies.” When I’ve finished writing my story, it is (of course) purr-fect. Then it goes to the editor. I wait. And wait. And then, I worry. Anxiety. Angst. Surely, it’s been too long. My manuscript must be terrible! ←Yes, that is an exclamation mark, and yes, I’m shouting at this point. 😊

Pixabay imageThen it appears—as if by magic—the email with the galley attached. My tummy tightens. I click on it with great trepidation. Will the document be flooded with red marks and comment balloons? Big, overblown comment balloons full of writing and questions and … heaven forbid, “What were you thinking?”

After a fit of crying, I go back to the document and one-by-one, tackle the changes and suggestions. And I soon realize they are all good and often thoughtful. There may be one or two that are misunderstandings, but those are also helpful.

Helpful Hint #2: An editor’s “misunderstanding” means I need to clarify what I’m trying to say, so the reader doesn’t get confused.

So, the editor has done extensive work. But she has not cleaned up my manuscript for me, she’s left suggestions that I can take or leave. I do the cleanup. And, as the author, I have the right to argue my point. A good editor will listen and give her opinion. The publisher will have the final say.


One excellent way to find a good editor: Pray, first and foremost. This person can be invaluable. If a writer believes their work is important, then they will invest in a good editor. Those who are working with a publishing house will likely be given an editor (as I am). In any case, pave the way with ample prayer. I pray for my editor as they tackle my work, and then I prayerfully consider their changes.

A second way: Pop back by during the month of April to see what our writers have prepared for our readers.

The writers of Inspired Prompt have been assigned a task: to help you find a good editor.  What do you look for? How much can you expect to pay? What type of editor do you need? We will also interview an editor.

By the end of the month, it is our hope that our readers will be better equipped for their writing journey. As always, send us any questions in the comment section of our blog posts. We’re happy to help.


Writing Prompt Challenge – Your editor highlights this paragraph: Emily cried her eyes out when she received the letter. She felt as though her heart would burst. How would you fix it? Comment with your answer. Remember: show, don’t tell. Best answer wins a $5 Starbucks card!

Click to Tweet: Editors are not the enemy…their business is to make our writing the best it can be. #amwriting #writerslife #editor

Your First Draft Is Not Your Last Draft

by Fay Lamb

In my writing life and both as a freelance editor and an acquisition editor, I have discovered a disturbing trend among some new and not-so-new writers.

Self-publishing is not a bad thing if the author does it correctly. However, there is a generation of authors who have grown up without accountability for what they create. Some sit down at a computer, plunk out one draft of a story, and head off to publication. There are also some who send their first draft to a publisher. When they receive a rejection, the fault belongs to a “system.” They use that excuse to self-publish.

Say what you want about traditional publishers, but in most instances, they truly are the gatekeepers for an industry currently suffering from credibility issues brought on by mass self-publishing. Granted, there are authors who have studied the craft inside and out and write great manuscripts. Yet they can’t find a home in traditional publishing. The rejection has less to do with a lack of diligence on the author’s part and more to do with publishers’ trends. Those diligent authors who take the time to craft a story find new life in self-publishing by bucking those trends.

A first draft is never an author’s best friend. All it says to an author is, “I’ve taken the story from Point A to Point Z, and I have some bones to build upon.” The next draft, or drafts, however many it takes, puts flesh on those bones.

I’d like to share some very obvious clues that indicate to readers and to publishers that an author has not gotten beyond the first draft stage before submitting or publishing:

  • The author has not taken the time to get a command over the small stuff: spelling, grammar, punctuation, consistency in names, hair color, eye color, even the spelling of key locations. Editors see these mistakes as lazy writing. If an author isn’t keen on these areas, finding an editor, or even a critique group that can offer this support, is imperative.
  • The manuscript usually consists only of bones, taking the form of stilted dialogue. Description and deep point of view (POV) are lacking or lax. A story that engages uses effective dialogue to relay information without the reader knowing the information is being fed to them. Deep POV is the best tool to draw the reader into the story and connect them with the main characters.
  • Speaking of point of view: in a first draft, even the most prolific authors will inadvertently switch POVs within the scene. Revisions will correct this mistake. However, an omniscient point of view is a sign that an author has not studied the elements of fiction. POV should always be one character per scene, and the character with the most to win or to lose should always be the POV character for that scene.
  • Often in a first draft, the plot will lack escalating conflict. Instead, an author utilizes contrived conflict, bringing it in and resolving it quickly before introducing another issue. One reason a synopsis is requested by publishers is to determine how well an author introduces and sustains conflict. If conflict is weak or non-existent, the story isn’t ready for publication.
  • Then there’s that old but relevant cliché: show don’t tell. A first draft is littered with telling words or phrases that draw the reader away from the story. This is easily seen in the use of adverbial time phrases such as suddenly and immediately or when she turned … Other telling words have to do with the senses: she heard, he saw, he noticed, he realized, and a host of other similar actions that tell rather than show.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that a first draft or even a second draft will produce a story ready for publication. Take time to revise and edit, to look for the minor mistakes and to implement the elements of fiction that put flesh on those shaky bones and build up a healthy story that readers can enjoy.


Writing Prompt: Rewrite the following short paragraph, utilizing some of the points discussed above to create a second draft:

Paula heard a noise that made the hair stand up on the back of her neck. Immediately, she turned and peered out the window. What she saw terrified her.


Click to Tweet: “In most instances, traditional publishers truly are the gatekeepers for an industry currently suffering from credibility issues brought on by mass self-publishing.” Your First Draft Is Not Your Last Draft via @InspiredPrompt and @FayLamb.