3 Questions Wednesday with Phee Paradise

Happy Wednesday! Today the Inspired Prompt welcomes author, Phee Paradise. We’re so happy you could join us. First question:

Who is your favorite author?

Phee: What reader can answer that easily? Of course, it depends on the genre and my stage in life. But my all-time favorite since I was a child is Rudyard Kipling. He’s a master story teller and the way he uses words always delights me. The only one of his writings I didn’t like was The Light that Failed because it has a very disappointing ending. When I read it, I wanted to break up with him, but . . . his words delight me.

Wonderful author! I enjoy a good classic.  Next question…

 If you could write about anyone or anything fiction/nonfiction who or what would you write about?

Phee: Now that I have a taste of writing biography, I would love to write about my mother. She was the most influential person in my life, and I can honestly say no one knew me like she did. But that’s not enough to make an interesting story for someone else. She also had a fascinating life. She was raised in China as a missionary kid and lived most of her adult life in Guatemala as a missionary. Lots of drama, lots of love and lots of character. But I don’t know if I have enough material sources to do her life justice. Maybe a novel or a memoir . . .

She sounds like a wonderful and influential person. 🙂 Last question:

If you could spend time with a character from your book or another book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Phee:  My book is a biography of my grandfather, whom I didn’t know very well. While reading his letters researching for the book, I fell in love with him. So I would spend a day with him in China, where he served as a missionary for 25 years. I’d ride a bike with him out to one of the villages where he had a church and let him tell me stories about China, the people he loved and the experiences he had. He had a great sense of humor and I think we would laugh a lot and maybe cry a bit too.

What a great way to spend a day. Thanks so much for dropping by!

Click to tweet: Author Phee Paradise talks about writing and a giveaway.  #amwriting #AuthorsLife

Phee is offering a print copy of her book to one blessed reader. Please leave a comment to be entered…


A Sincere Heart: One Mission-Minded Man Serving His Utmost in China

You don’t know John Bickford. He’s one of the thousands of Christians you also don’t know, who gave their lives to missions in the twentieth century. The ones who learned new languages made friends of foreigners and raised their families in remote places so strangers could know the truth about their Savior. John took his pregnant wife to China in 1920 and came back to America for good in 1948, leaving a tiny grave in an obscure town in a Communist country. He oversaw five growing churches in little villages with pride in his Chinese colleagues while agonizing over his own shortcomings. His family often fled political unrest and civil war, but they always returned to the people he loved.

During the World War, he spent two years under Japanese confinement, patiently trusting God while he longed to be with his beloved wife and children who escaped to America. He cheerfully accepted his own physical suffering, but his heart broke over his son’s looming blindness. He was an ordinary missionary and this is his story, the story of God at work through a man with a sincere heart.


Phee Paradise was blessed to be a missionary kid and loves to share that experience in her writing. In Miracles at Midnight, I edited her father’s stories about his years on the mission field where he saw God change lives for the Kingdom. Her latest book, A Sincere Heart, is a biography of her grandfather who was a missionary in China. Phee has also contributed to several books, including A Ruby Christmas, A Dozen Apologies, Unlikely Merger and Trials and Triumphs. She prays that God will use her work to His glory.

Writing for Magazines

By Harriet Michael

When I was a little girl, I loved fishing with my dad. We lived in Nigeria then, so we didn’t have access to many of the fun things people in America had. We didn’t even have swimming pools without traveling at least an hour’s drive from my home. But we had a man-made water reservoir where I could fish. I learned to cast my line out into murky waters, wait in anticipation to feel that tug on my line and then try and reel it in without letting the fish get away.

girls fishing

Maybe that’s why I like freelance writing. I cast pieces—articles, devotions, short stories—out into the murky waters of cyberspace and wait hopefully. Sometimes I feel that tug and sometimes I even reel in a great catch in the form of a contract for a submitted piece.

Of all the publications for which I write, magazines are among my favorite. I get to write on topics of interest to me because I choose the type of magazine I wish to submit to, they pay (some better than others) so I have a flow of cash coming in all year long, and they help build my platform because they are viewed by people I otherwise would not be able to reach.

Here are some tips for anyone hoping to break into the magazine-writing market:

  • Search engines are your best friends. You can find any magazine you think you might like to write for by searching that magazine’s name and the words, “writers’ guidelines.” Ex: “The War Cry writers’ guidelines” You can search types of magazines this way too. Ex: “parenting magazines writers’ guidelines” or “cooking magazines writers’ guidelines” Any magazine that takes freelance submissions will show up if you search by topic.
  • Read the writers’ guidelines, taking note of a few things:

a] What rights do they buy? I avoid magazines that buy all rights or exclusive rights. See the article on this blog about a writer’s rights if you do not understand this.

b] How much and when do they pay? Do they pay on acceptance of your submitted piece or when the article is published? This is merely a guide to me so I will know when to expect a payment, but both are fine.

c] What word count do they want? Stick to their requested word count to the best of your ability. Usually, it’s okay to be over or under by less than 10 words but some online submission sites will cut you off at their maximum count, so I prefer to err on the “under” side of things.

d] Do they have a theme list? Do they want a particular type of article?

  • Write and submit according to the guidelines. Follow the guidelines as closely as you can … and then wait to feel that tug on your line.

A question I often get when teaching workshops on freelancing or magazine writing, is should a person write from inspiration or according to a theme requested by the magazine.

My answer: “Both.”

Writing according to the magazines’ wishes, whether that is a theme or a type of article (like a “how-to”, essay, or story) brings greater success. If they are looking for something specific and you give them what they are looking for, they are more likely to buy it. However, there have been times when something has happened in my life that I simply wanted to write down. This happens often but sometimes these pieces sit on my computer for a long time until a theme or magazine where the piece might fit pops up.

One example of this is an article I had published in a gardening magazine last spring about a humorous experience that occurred many years ago. When it happened, my youngest son was in elementary school. I laughed about what happened all day at the time, so knew I wanted to write it before I forgot, but I had nowhere to send it. When I finally found a magazine where this piece fit, my son was in college. Still, they did take it, people enjoyed reading it, and I received a check for it, even though it was more than a dozen years from the time I wrote it to the time it was published.

Click-to-Tweet:  You’ll never catch a fish if you don’t throw a line in the water and you’ll never have an article published in a magazine if you don’t try your hand at writing and submitting one.

magazines

Writing Prompt / Exercise: Look up the writers’ guidelines for a magazine that you enjoy reading and begin writing an article for submission to that magazine. *Hint: Christian magazines get fewer submissions than secular ones, so the chances of getting published in them are higher.

Four Tips on Landing and Working with a Traditional Publisher

By Jennifer Hallmark

I stared at the typed manuscript on my desk. It represented over a year of work. Traditional publishing or Indie publishing? Or vanity press? Though I was a newbie, I needed to make a decision. I knew very little about the publishing business. No, scratch that. I knew nothing at all.

I’d been writing my first novel and loving every minute of it. It sang, it soared, it was perfect. (Yes, I can hear you laughing from here)

A person from a vanity press approached me and offered to publish my wonderful 100,000 word work in progress which had no genre, no edits, and no formatting whatsoever. I’d been praying ever since I started writing for God to show me what to do. I was clueless and not ignorant of that fact.

So, when this opportunity presented itself, I went back to prayer. The only words that seemed to resonate inside of me were “Follow the traditional road.” I was a bit sad at the time. I mean, look at what the world was missing by me not putting my novel out there.

*Shaking head.*

What did I know about traditional publishing? Nada. I began to study all the types of publishing, taking online courses, reading writing craft books, and attending writing workshops, groups, and conferences. It didn’t take me long to figure out what a mistake I’d almost made. I kept following the traditional road the best I could and here I am, thirteen years later, about to release my debut, traditionally published novel.

Click to tweet: Four tips on landing and working with a traditional publisher. #publishing #amwriting @Inspiredprompt

If the traditional road is one you’d like to follow, don’t despair. It shouldn’t take you as long as it did me. Let me share four tips that will make a difference in your journey:

  1. Know the publisher. When I first started, I just sent my novels to publisher’s names I liked and gave little thought to what they wanted. I did get some helpful criticism back from several publishers but nothing else. When I finished my novel, Jessie’s Hope, I diligently studied the publisher I had set my sights on, Firefly Southern Fiction. I studied their guidelines until I could say them in my sleep. And I read several books by Firefly.
  2. Get your manuscript edited. Whether you hire a freelance editor, join a critique group, or find a critique partner, get another set of eyes on your work. I ran Jessie’s Hope through a critique group first, then had an editor friend give it a once over. I wanted it to be as polished as I could make it.
  3. Meet said editor or publisher. One way you can meet them is online. You can visit their site, read all their blog posts, and comment until they recognize you. I found out that the Firefly editor, Eva Marie Everson, was going to be at a conference near me and I made plans to go. I made an appointment to meet with her and also took all of her classes. I needed to learn what she was looking for in a more personal way.
  4. Submit your work. Finally, at the conference, I showed her a bit of my work and also explained the trouble I was experiencing in learning deep POV. She ripped my first pages to shreds as she taught me first-hand about deep POV both in our meeting and during class. She asked for a longer submission to be sent to her email and two months later told me the story intrigued her. But I had to first take a chance and submit or I would have never known it had potential.

After the good news, I started snoopy dancing. But then she had one of her beta readers read the full manuscript and tell me all the problems it had. I worked hard over the next two years and resubmitted it in 2017. She accepted the manuscript and on June 17, my dream of being a traditionally published author will come true.

Eleven and a half years after I made the decision to follow this road. I’m sure glad I didn’t know in the beginning how long it would take or I’d have probably given up.

Now which road should you take? Indie publishing has come a long way since I started writing. I believe God understood my lack of patience and desire to see my work in print and the fact that I would regret publishing too soon. He pointed to the traditional road and for me, it was the right one.

I suggest you prayerfully look into both ways of getting your work into print. (I purposely left out the third way. Don’t use a vanity press.) Do some research into both methods. Use my four tips with a publishing house that you feel a connection to and see what happens. You never know until you take that step.

In leiu of a writing prompt:

Question time. Ask me a question in the comments and I’ll try to answer it or find an answer for you.

Mantle Rock Publishing – Kathy Cretsinger

Mantle Rock Publishing, LLC, is a family owned Christian publishing company. The company is owned by Kathy and Jerry Cretsinger. When I asked Kathy for an interview, she graciously accepted, though she was quite busy at the time. If you visit their website, you’ll find a friendly, welcoming vibe. Somewhat like the feeling you get when you enter a love-filled home or a family-owned business where they know your name and truly care about you.

♦ Kathy, please tell us a bit about yourself, how and why you started a publishing company.

Kathy Cretsinger: I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and step-great-grandmother. My husband and I are both from East Tennessee. We’ve been married for 56 years, and we’re still counting. After our parents passed away, we wanted to live closer to our children. Our daughter lives in Nashville, TN, and our son lives in Benton, KY. We’re not big city people, so we decided to buy a small farm in Benton. In 2012 we published our first book. We knew of authors who were having a hard time publishing their book, and I was enduring the same thing. We started Mantle Rock Publishing to publish only my books, but other people wanted us to publish theirs. It has grown from two books to a lot more.

♦ That’s wonderful. Fifty-six years! So, Mantle Rock, that’s an interesting name. Is there a story behind it?

Kathy: There is a story behind it. Mantle Rock is between Paducah and Hopkinsville, KY. During the Trail of Tears, the Cherokees spent the winter at Mantle Rock until the ice thawed and they could cross the river. There is a big granite rock that looks like a mantle over a fireplace. The Cherokees camped in the field.

When we began thinking of a name for the company, we thought about Mantle Rock. The mantle there covered some of the Cherokees like a mantel of love covers us from God. We try to cover our authors with our love for them and their writing.

Our mission is to help first-time writers publish their book. A new author will have her book edited, and they’ll learn about the new grammar rules, how to format their book, and how to market it. All aspects of a good author. We guide them through the publishing process. Of course we do not take every author, but we do concentrate on first-time authors.

♦ How great that first-time writers will know their “baby” will be so well cared for.  Mantle Rock has published a good number of books, and some of your authors have been guests on our blog at one time. I know you can’t play favorites, but is there a standout among your published books? And/or a most surprising success?

Kathy: I don’t have favorites, but some authors pull on your heartstrings. In 2014 we published A Most Precious Gift by Jacqueline Wheelock. We worked to get it out before her sister passed from cancer. We made it by about two weeks. Jacqueline did not use Facebook, Twitter, any social media, and did not have a website. She began telling everyone about her book. Word of mouth works very well. Even today when Jacqueline goes on a trip we get an increase in her sales. My husband will come in my office and say, “Jacqueline must have traveled someplace. She’s sold X number of books.” She is our top seller today. She still doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter. She talks her book up. I’d love to have more people be energetic about their books. She’s been on Amazon’s #1 Top Seller in both regular books and Black American Romance. It’s such a good book. It still sells well today, after five years.

♦ Now, that’s a great success story and very encouraging to those who are media-challenged. 🙂 Congratulations, Jacqueline. What catches your eye in a proposal or a manuscript?

Kathy: A manuscript that is well written, punctuation is correct, and the story is one that I don’t want to put down.

♦ Right. That’s exactly the type of book I like to read. After the contract is signed, what is a realistic publishing timeline?

Kathy: At this time we are looking at a year or a little more. All of 2019 is full, and we have just filled all of 2020. If we get something we cannot resist, we will find a place next year. We want to keep it a little slower and try to get better manuscripts.

♦ That’s understandable. Quality vs. quantity makes sense. Let’s talk about compromise – how much is too much; how much is too little, on the part of either party. 

Kathy: We need books to sell. If the author won’t work on sales, they will get their rights returned. I hate to do that, but that is business. Too much? Refusing to market their books and wanting all of the commission we receive. Also not respecting our time.

♦ Good answer, Kathy. That brings your role as a publisher into focus. Your hard work up front delivers the finished product, but it’s not your job to sell that product. Your return on investment is at stake, even if that investment is labor only. Knowing this upfront can help weed out those who are not interested in doing the hard work of marketing.

♦ What is the danger you see in following trends versus following the Lord’s leading and what is your advice to writers who are passionate about their message?

Kathy: Several of our authors write feeling they have a mission to share God’s love. I also know it offends some people. I had a review on my first book. The reviewer said, “If I’d known it had so much religion in it, I wouldn’t have bought it.” That made me stop and think. Could a book be written showing God’s love, but not talk a lot about God’s saving power? Several of our books go into Clean Fiction. No preachy, but comfortable in God’s love. I’d tell any author to write what their heart tells them.

♦ Thanks for saying that. In your opinion, at what point should a writer say, this is one for self-publishing? 

Kathy: When no company will pick up your book, maybe it’s time to self-publish.

♦ What types of materials are accepted by your company?

Kathy: Christian – Romance, Romantic Suspense, Cozy Mysteries, Suspense, Historical Romance, Historical Romantic Suspense. At this time we are not accepting anymore Fantasy manuscripts, except from our contracted authors. We have three who write Fantasy for us, and we can’t take anymore.

♦ Please let our readers know how to submit a proposal to Mantle Rock.

Kathy: You can submit directly on the website, or you can send it to me kathy@mantlerockpublishingllc.com. Please email your submission. Do not send the whole manuscript but only what we ask for.

♦ Is there anything you would like to add regarding submissions at this point?

Kathy: I would add to put Proposal in your subject line. Make it as perfect as you can. Read it aloud before you send it.

♦ How can writers pray for their publishers/for publishers in general?

Kathy: Pray that they will keep God first in their publishing. Pray that we will be honest in our dealings with our authors. It’s a big world out there, and we want to treat everyone equal.

♦ I love that. What is a good metaphor for the writer/publisher relationship and how can writers strive to make that relationship the best it can be?

Kathy: The one thing our authors say about us is, “we are family.” Most of the authors encourage each other, help in any way they can, and congratulate each when an accomplishment is made. We get to know each other.

CLICK TO TWEET: The one thing our authors say about us is, “we are family.”–Kathy Cretsinger, Mantle Rock Publishing LLC #publishing #writing #CleanReads via @InspiredPrompt

♦ Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions.

Kathy: Thank you for interviewing me. I’ve enjoyed answering the questions, and I pray I have helped some writers in their journey of writing. I love working with authors, and I enjoy what I do. If anyone has any questions about Mantle Rock Publishing, I will be happy to answer them. Thanks again.

Click Photo to visit Mantle Rock Publishing LLC


♦ A special note of thanks to Kristy Horine, for the excellent questions used in this interview.

Traditional vs. Indie Publishing

I am a multi-published author. I am under contract with a small, traditional press, Pix-N-Pens, the nonfiction arm of Write Integrity Press. I currently have one book I have authored, three I have co-authored, and am contracted to co-write four more under this line. I also have one indie published book and another that barely missed getting a contract with a large traditional publisher, but in the end, it too is in the process of being published independently. So, I have some first-hand knowledge and experience with both types of publishing which I will share.

Differences Between the Two: 

Traditional publishing means that the author does not pay for any of the costs of publishing his or her book. She has a contract with a publishing company allowing them to publish the book as she agrees to split royalties with that company. It is more difficult to get a book traditionally published because the publishing company is pretty selective in the books /authors they choose. They must believe that the book they agree to publish will sell enough for them to at least recoup the money they spent on the publishing process.

There are several types of traditional publishing companies: large press, small press, and boutique presses. Large press are companies like Thomas Nelson, Harper Collins, and such. Boutique presses are usually medium-sized presses that cater to a specific niche audience. Small presses are just that—small, but traditional in that they do not require any payment of any kind from the authors they publish. These also vary in types of publishing with small press most often using print-on-demand (POD) technology.

The most important thing about traditional presses is the wording of the contract an author is asked to sign. Read your contract carefully! They all differ in many ways, including how, when, and what percentage of the royalties they will pay their authors. But even more important than the royalties in my opinion, are the rights you as the author will keep or give up to the publisher.

The book I co-wrote that was a near miss for a large traditional publisher, got picked up by a Boutique publisher but their contract stated that they would own all rights to the book. This differed from what they had told us on the phone and had we not read the contract carefully, we might have signed our rights of ownership over to this company believing the contract was what they said it would be when we spoke with them. As it turned out, it was not a contract we could sign, and we walked away from that offer. By that time, we were tired of dealing with publishers and decided to move ahead with indie publishing of that book.

With Indie publishing, the author assumes all of the responsibility and costs of publishing her book. Because of this, any person can indie publish a book, but the quality of that book will vary greatly depending on how carefully the book has been written, edited, and packaged. If you choose the indie route, I have a few suggestions.

1) Write the best book you can and make it consistent in its word count with traditional books in the same genre. (For instance, my small press requires that nonfiction books be at least 40,000 words. When I see a nonfiction half that size, I almost instantly assume it was indie published by someone who did not know the market standards.)

2) Pay for a professional editor.

3) Pay for a professional cover.

Pros and Cons of Each: The pros of indie publishing are that the author has complete control of the writing and publishing project and he or she will also receive all royalties. The cons are that usually having more than one set of eyes on a book during the publishing process makes the finished product a better book, especially when some of the people working on it are professionals.

The pros of traditional publishing are that the book is usually a high-quality product because of the many people who worked on it and usually the market reach is larger. This is true even for small presses since most small presses do make marketing efforts and the book will reach a larger number of readers than if it’s all up to just the author. The cons are that the author makes less per book and has less control over the publishing process.

So, which do I recommend? It really differs from book to book. I am extremely happy with the small press for whom I write. But I am signed under its nonfiction arm so when I wrote my first novel, I decided to go the indie route and have been happy with that too.

In the case of my other indie book, I think it would have been nice if that large traditional publisher had not decided against publishing it after six months of considering it extensively, but I really don’t know since we didn’t go that route. It may not have been a good experience after all. What I do know, is that walking away from the faulty contract offered to us by the boutique publisher was absolutely the right thing for that book.

Why didn’t I just pitch it to my small press? Again, the reason for that lay in the book itself. It is different from the other nonfiction I write for that small press and I did not think it was a good fit for them. So, yeah, there really isn’t one “right” way to publish. Much depends on the circumstances you as an author are facing and even the content of the book itself.

Click to Tweet: Interested in becoming a published writer? Know your choices up front. Here’s a look at the different types of publishing by author, Harriet Michael via @InspiredPrompt.

Writing Prompt: Story Starter! Using the above picture for inspiration, start a story. Maybe it’s going to be a short story, flash fiction, or an epic novel. We want the first sentence. 🙂