Monday, March 18, 2013

COTT: Featuring Books By Clash of the Titles Staff

Clash of the Titles adores featuring new releases from Christian authors all over the world, but we'd be remiss to forget the authors on our very own doorstep. COTT is run by a bevy of talented writers--several of whom are published. In fact, in the last year alone, COTT staff has celebrated the release of no less than seven novels!

And here they are...

 A miracle of love lurks within the branches of a solitary aspen tree.

School teacher Judy Winters sets out to solve the mystery surrounding her only living relative’s murder.

Her past isn't pretty, but it can't be changed. Will it destroy any possibility of a future with the man she loves?

Death in rural Wisconsin is only the beginning to new chaos in Robertsville. What do a stolen piece of revolutionary agricultural equipment, a long-buried skeleton in the yard, and an old quilt with secrets have in common?

Simon Hale finds the reclusive Rosetta both beautiful and intriguing, but when she seeks out the truth behind Shadow Bay Hall’s unexplained happenings, he is torn between hope for the future and his need to protect a dangerous secret.

When Ivy Preston roots up her entire life to start over in Apple Grove at the urging of her cat-loving friend, the mayor, and meets the love of her life, True Thompson, can their romance survive the sudden rise in crime?

She needs a temporary husband. He wants a forever love. Can even Solomon's Gate find a way to join these two hearts?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are Manuscripts Obsolete?

Originally, a manuscript was a document written by hand. However, the meaning of the word has changed to mean the text sent to the publisher for publication in a newspaper, magazine, or book. The format of the manuscript has changed over the years, too. From handwritten to typed (i.e. on a typewriter) to computer generated. My first book was typed into an Alpha Micro computer and printed in the standard double-spaced format that we see today. My publisher retyped it all for publication. Then they printed it out and sent me a copy on 60-pound paper and I made corrections by hand. After several iterations, the book was published. That was in 1983. Today, I doubt if a publisher would take anything other than digital manuscripts.

As an author who publishes his own books, I tried a new approach with my latest novel. Instead of the standard manuscript format, I typed my book directly into a document formatted for paperback printing. There are several advantages to this approach. One is that you can see what the book will look like as you go. Another advantage is that when you're done the book is finished and there are no surprises related to layout.

I still printed it out a few times during the writing process, and made handwritten edits. The fact that it wasn't double-spaced didn't hinder the effort since the margins were extra-large. The book size I use is 5.25 in. by 8 in.

One problem I had was when I sent the near-complete book to an editor. For some reason the first thing she did was change the format to the standard layout for a manuscript. I'm not sure if she did that for printing or not. It wasn't a major problem since I easily got it back into the publishing format when she was finished. Just seemed like an unnecessary step to me.

The only real problem I had was when I got ready to print a proof copy. I uploaded the text to CreateSpace and was told it was the wrong size. I was given a couple of options to continue, neither were what I wanted, but I went ahead since the initial five books were for beta readers only.

I scoffed when CreateSpace said I wouldn't have had the problem if I had used the Microsoft Word templates they provide—because I had used their templates. But, after checking closer, it turns out I had used the wrong one. After changing to the correct template, the book was longer (in pages) and looked more like what I had in mind.

Let me know what you think of this approach.

Monday, March 11, 2013

COTT: Song of the Tree--An Inspiring Contemporary Allegory

This week, Clash of the Titles is featuring a rare genre--
contemporary allegory. 
If you've been itching for something different, this one should do it! The Song of the Tree contains a message that applies to each of us at some point in our lives. It moves the God-seeker from fist shaking stance, down to knees before the throne.

Despite promises of eternal joy given by the Tree of Life, a privileged young woman loses everything in a brutal war. Her husband disappears; her family is murdered; her home is burned to the ground. 
Desperate, starving, and burdened with an unwanted child, she now despises and rejects the Tree she once worshiped. Ripped from her land and people, forced into survival immigration, she becomes a lowly refugee, a servant in the homes of the rich. Her unusually gifted child thrives, but is an ever present reminder of ultimate loss and betrayal.  
Two women: one broken, the other rooted in bitterness, continue to be drawn towards the song of a Tree that will not let them go. Along roads of degrading poverty and equally destructive wealth, each much wrestle with the siren call of perfect love, and its altar sacrifice of perfect trust.  

About the author, Lotis Key:
Lotis Melisande Key has lived a life of wide travel and curious variety. She’s raised horses in the Australian outback; skied the Alps; run tours through a tropical jungle; bought & sold antiquities. She’s been a restaurateur; a breeder of show cats; a third world church planter. She’s worked in an orphanage, and run a ministry that puts children through school.

After a professional theater début at the age of twelve, she subsequently starred in over seventy five feature films for the Asian market. She’s also hosted numerous television and radio shows. Upon settling in the United States, she signed with Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis based talent agencies, expanding into American on-camera and voice over narration, industrial videos, trade shows, professional theater, television, and radio commercials. 

Retiring from secular work, she founded MESSENGERS, a Christian theater arts group based at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis ( As artistic director, she toured the company throughout the US, Canada, and Asia. 

Vice-president of the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild, Lotis is a passionate storyteller. Her work focuses on the mystery of God, and His incomprehensible love for the unattractive, wayward parts, of His otherwise perfect creation.

Monday, March 4, 2013

COTT: Attention, knitters and lovers of suspense. This novel's for you!

Before we introduce this week's featured new release, COTT would like to extend a quick, yet heart-felt congratulations to our first annual Olympia Award winner, Author Laura McClellan and her manuscript, Do No Harm. More on Laura and her exciting win next month. Stay tuned!

And now, our featured novel...


About The Knitting Fairy: 
Molly Stevenson rather expected her new job at Crabapple Yarns to be deadly boring... but somehow she just didn't expect the "deadly" part to be quite so literal. After all, what could possibly be more sweet and innocent than a yarn store and a bunch of ladies knitting?

As a librarian, by trade and by nature, Molly really ought to have known better. And, worse, she broke the first rule of librarianship - never, ever judge a book by its cover. Sadly, some of us have to learn the hard way. Perhaps that is why Molly didn't exist long as Assistant Librarian at Springgate Library.

The new job at Crabapple Yarns seemed like the only sensible thing to do at the time - until she could find something better of course.

But, working at a yarn store really didn't fit into her Life Plan.

She never expected to become a knitter.

Molly never expected her sweet little boss to be hiding the fact that she was receiving threats.

She never expected to discover a Knitting Fairy.

And, she most certainly never expected a Knitting Fairy to try to kill her either.

What others are saying about The Knitting Fairy:
What do you get when you combine a novice to the world of fiber working in a yarn shop with the owner, a mysterious, fairy-tale inspired character? You get Jaime Marsman's magical, whimsical story of "The Knitting Fairy" which is sure to be enjoyed by knitters everywhere. --Penny Sitler, Executive Director of The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA),

Amidst the characters, humour, and mystery is the fun of witnessing a non-knitter's assumptions and observations turn to affection and obsession. It made me wish to be a new knitter again! --Sally Melville,

A page turning mystery with yarn shops and knitting - what else could you ask for! --Carol Feller, Author of Contemporary Irish Knits

A heartwarming and witty novel, guaranteed to make you smile. Molly Stevenson's new found love of yarn brings her comfort and friendship but leaves her with many unanswered questions. Appealing to the non-knitter as much as the knitaholic, this wonderful and enthralling mystery detailing the weird and wonderful goings on in Crabapple Yarns knitting store, will have you totally hooked. --UK Hand Knitting Association,

About the author, Jaime Marsman:
Since the age of three, Jaime Marsman has long been fascinated with the simple shifting of letters to create different words, thoughts, and sentences. As a knitwear designer for Live.Knit.Love, she has found the same thing to also be true of yarn. Perhaps that would explain the joy she feels every time she picks up her pen or her needles. Inspiring others with her work is one of Jaime's fondest goals and dreams. She wants people to realize the joy of creating and following their dreams in their own special ways. Jaime is so grateful to God for His love and guiding hand in her life. She prays that everyone comes to have the joy and peace of knowing Him.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Use Excel to Track Word Count and Project Completion Date

I'm starting a new book and had to clear out the spreadsheet I used for the last one. When I did it made me think others might like to see how this works.
Here is a description of the spreadsheet followed by the formulas used. If you would like to see the actual spreadsheet I used, see the link below.

Book 4 Projected Word Count
Daily Goal
 Actual -

F1: =IF(WEEKDAY(B5) = 1, "SUN", IF(WEEKDAY(B5) = 2, "MON",  IF(WEEKDAY(B5) = 3,"TUE", IF(WEEKDAY(B5) = 4, "WED", IF(WEEKDAY(B5) = 5, "THU",  IF(WEEKDAY(B5) = 6,"FRI",  IF(WEEKDAY(B5) = 7,"SAT","X" )))))))

F2: Date you start writing.

F3: =$G$1 (Note: use absolute, signified by $ so you can copy the cell and not change the value.)

F4: For first instance (D5) use =C5. For D6 use D5+C6. For D7 use D6+C7, etc. Can be copied.

F5: Type in your total words for the day.

F6: =E5 first time, then =F5+E6, etc.

F7: =F5-D5

F8: Anything you want like excuses for not achieving your daily goal.

Once you fill in down to row 6, you can copy A6:H6 down until column D shows your word count goal. I usually set mine to 80,000 knowing I'll end up cutting 15-20,000 later. You can change your daily goal at any time and it will be reflected throughout. If you lower the daily goal, you will need to add more rows on the end to reach your total word count.

You can also adjust the daily goal to see how many words per day you would need to average to complete your total word count by a certain date.

A copy of the spreadsheet is available here:

If you would rather have a copy sent to you by email, let me know.

Hope you find this useful.