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A Meeting with Friends

For many years the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference was the only conference that I attended.

Friends and Authors Debby Lee, Kristie Kandoll, Barbara Blakey with Kyle Pratt

These last few years I regularly attend more events, but OCW is the one where I feel most at home. I have friends here. Don’t misunderstand me; this is not some small gathering of casual writers. A few years ago I was eating lunch in the main hall and Frank Peretti asked to sit at my table. I can’t remember what I ate, but I’ll never forget our conversation about his books and writing in general.

Cascade Award winner and friend, Jill Williamson

Cascade Award winner and friend, Bethany Hayes

Several hundred attended the Cascade Awards dinner tonight, the last full day of the OCW conference, but despite the size, almost every year, I know someone who wins. This year two friends, Jill Williamson and Bethany Hayes were honored for their work. I laughed out loud when presenters James Rubart and Susan May Warren couldn’t find the right certificate for two of the finalists. Susan threw off her black gloves looking for the correct paper as laughter thundered through the room. Still smiling, I said to the woman beside me, “I’ve seen worse confusion at the ceremony.”  

After the awards dinner, I hurried out hoping to congratulate my two friends and nearly ran into Randy Ingermanson. I didn’t even know he was there.

Every year during the coaching sessions and workshops, I learn things and while that’s important it isn’t why I come back. I’m not sure how something this large can feel so comfortable, but it does, and that keeps me coming back.


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Twelve Years with the Inklings

The Inklings have been meeting for nearly twenty years.

Recently our local paper, The Chronicle, ran a front-page story about a critique group that has been in existence for nearly two decades and that I’ve attended for about twelve years.  As my friend Julie McDonald Zander questioned me about the group for the upcoming story, I dug through old pictures and information to find answers.

Kristie Kandoll, Barbara Blakey and Debby Lee. Kyle Pratt in lower photo.

It surprised me that I had started attending in 2005. The group then consisted of Robert Hansen, Carolyn Bickel, and Joyce Scott. All three were original members. My son James and I joined at the same time. James left several years later due to work and Joyce and her husband have retired to the southwest, but both continue to write.

Others have come and gone over the years, but currently we’ve added Kristie Kandoll, Debby Lee, and Barbara Blakey. All of these writers have become friends and I’ve had a chance to watch as several honed their craft into burgeoning careers as authors.

We critique and comment on both the good and not quite correct writing of each member. Beyond that, we educate and inform each other. The group is very informal, with no elected leader, no treasurer and actually, no name.

While I enjoy the informality, as a busy man, I have to schedule my time. More than once I’ve noted, “Group Meeting,” on my calendar, but that always made me feel like I was going to therapy or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. In July of 2015, I began writing, “Inklings,” on anything to do with the group, just to keep me organized.

Kristie Kandoll, Barbara Blakey, Debby Lee, Kyle Pratt and Robert Hanson with his back to the camera.

The original Inklings were an informal literary discussion group that met in a pub in Oxford, England during the 1930s and 1940s. Two of the original members were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis once wrote that the original Inklings had, “no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections.” That sounded like our local group.

So, by the power vested in me by no one, I named this group, at least for my own purposes, “The Inklings of Southwest Washington,” or simply, “The Inklings.”

I hope to be a member of The Inklings for at least another twelve years.


 
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Oregon Christian Writers (Day 3)

Tonight the Cascade Awards were presented at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference.

During the awards dinner I sat with friends Barbara Blakey and Kristie Kandoll. Barbara is a past Cascade Award winner and Kristie was up for the Unpublished Historical Fiction Award tonight along with another friend, Julie McDonald. I really expected one of them to walk away with the award, but the winner was the third finalist, Kathleen Freeman, with her book Children of the Revolution.

Kyle Pratt and Ben Wolf with his Cascade Award winning children's book

Another friend, Ben Wolf, won in the Published Children’s Book category with his story, I’d Punch a Lion in his Eye for You. Last year Ben won in the Speculative Fiction category with his debut novel Blood for Blood, and I was the runner-up with, A Time to Endure. This year neither of us competed in that group, but next year I’m planning to enter the Speculative Fiction category again with a my unpublished novel, Seekers of Earth. Ben edited the book for me so, I’m hoping it will be a good year for both of us.

Oregon Christian Writers (Day 1)

I traveled down to Portland, today with my friend and fellow author Barbara Blakey to attend the Oregon Christian Writers conference. While we will be attending the same conference we go for different reasons. 

Kyle Pratt with Sue Brower of Gilead Publishing

Barbara is talented, traditional published writer. While she enjoys meeting and talking with people, one of the main reasons she attends conferences is to network with agents and publishers.

While I also enjoy meeting with fellow authors and discussing trends in the world of writing, I never set out to make book proposals to agents and publishers. I’m a successful indie publisher, what could a traditional publisher do for me? Well, I put that question to Sue Brower, vice president of acquisitions for Gilead Publishing, at the first dinner of the conference.

Sue spoke on a panel of editors at the start of the conference, and mentioned that if an indie writer had a platform and was reasonably successful Gilead would be interested in talking to them. So, at dinner I sought her out and ask my question.     

We discussed the books I’ve published and the projects I’m working on, and she told me several ways Gilead might help me. I don’t know if I’ll be working with her in the future, but it is something I need to consider and a great start to the conference.   

I hope the first day was as interesting for my friend Barbara.

Book Credits

How many people does it take to create a novel?  

Braving the Storms, by Kyle Pratt

Recently I watched X-Men Apocalypse with one of my sons. At the end of the action we waited to see if there were any post-credit scenes (there is). As we watched the endless scroll of credits we discussed how many people were involved in the production of my last novel, Braving the Storms.

Over the next few days I jotted down names of people who either worked for me on the novel, or volunteered their time. I hope I didn’t forget to include someone on the list below.

Author:                 Kyle Pratt

Editor:                  Barbara Blakey

Copy Editor:         Joyce Scott

Line Editor:           Lorraine Pratt

Cover Design:       Micah Hansen

Critique Group:     Robert Hansen

                               Debby Lee

                               Kristie Kandoll

                               Carolyn Bickel

eBook Format:       Amit Dey

Audiobook:            Kevin Pierce

Beta Reader:          William Childress

Office Manager:      Lorraine Pratt

Accounting:            Robert Pratt, CPA

Legal:                      Christopher Vandenberg, JD

This doesn’t include people working for distributors such as, Amazon, Nook and iTunes, or the numerous bloggers and reviewers that I speak with on a regular basis.

While my list isn’t nearly as long as the movie credits, it still includes a lot of people, and I’m grateful to every one of them.

Excited for Friends

I recently received great news about two of my writer friends.

Authors Debby Lee, Kyle Pratt and Barbara Blakey

My friend Debby Lee was recently contacted by her agent about writing a 20,000 novella for a Barbour Publishing anthology. Barbour needed more writers for the project so Debby suggested our mutual friend Barbara Blakey. Both have now signed contracts to write novellas for the Hearts of the Pony Express Romance anthology.

Debby is the author several books including Harvest of Hope and Butterflies are Free, along with numerous short stories. Her story in the anthology will be titled, Ride into my heart.

Barbara is the author of Bertie’s War. Her novella will be titled, A Place to Belong. Over the next few months they’ll be preparing their stories for release next spring.

I’m not sure why they didn’t think of asking me to write a sweet historical romance, but I’m thrilled for Debby and Barbara. 

Back to Boot Camp

Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference, Day One

The first day of the 2015 Conference started with Boot Camp.

Susan May Warren and Kyle Pratt at the 2015 Oregon Christian Writers summer conference

The morning started even before the regular conference with a marketing “boot camp” taught by bestselling author Susan May Warren and Nicole Miller of Buffer.com. For three hours they discussed the creation of a marketing plan that included a platform website, mailing lists and the use of social media leading up to the release of a new book. Since the release of my fifth book, Braving the Storms, is coming soon, this is a topic on my mind. I’ll be implementing several things they discussed when I get home.

After the boot camp, I registered with the conference and attended a panel with book and magazine editors. This session was not as pertinent to me as the boot camp, but I enjoyed hearing what they were looking and what they paid. The bottom line is, the editors on the panel were not interested in what I write and they don’t pay enough for me to care. I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing.

For dinner in the hotel ballroom, I had the pleasure to seat with Barbara Blakey, Carolyn Bickel, Kristie Kandoll and across from Karen Ball of the Steve Laube agency. She seemed to be interested in my writing. I’ll be following up with here and see if we can work together.

Therapy No Longer Needed

I meet with a group of local writers every week.

I’ve attended this particular gathering every week I’ve been in town for over a decade. While I think that is notable, the group has met for nearly twice that time.

Front: Carolyn Bickel and Bob Hansen.  Back: Kristie Kandoll, Barbara Blakey, Joyce Scott, Debby Lee and Kyle Pratt.

We critique the writing of other members, but we also educate and inform each other. The group is very informal, with no elected leader, no treasurer and no name. While I enjoy the informality, as a busy man, I have to schedule my time. More than once I’ve noted, “Group Meeting,” on my calendar, but that always made me feel like I was going to therapy or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

I’ve suggest that we name the group more than once. Each time the conversation quickly turned back to writing and editing.

A few months ago I started writing, “Inklings,” on anything to do with the group, just to keep it organized. The original Inklings were an informal literary discussion group that met in a pub in Oxford, England during the 1930s and 1940s. Two of the original members were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis once wrote that the original Inklings had, “no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections.” That sounded like our local group.

So, by the power vested in me by no one, I have named this group, at least for my own purposes, “The Inklings of Southwest Washington,” or simply, “The Inklings.”

While assuming such a notable name may seem presumptuous, I hope our local group continues, as an informal group of friends. Also, by using the name, I no longer feel like I’m going to therapy.

Books are in the Mail

Last night I sat at the dining room table and signed books.

Earlier, I had made a list of 39 people that would be receiving one, or more, of me novels. When all the books came from the printer on the same day I decided to just sit down, sign and mail them all.

Kyle Pratt signing books

Twenty copies of Through Many Fires and Titan Encounter were going to winners of two contests I conducted. Other books were going to people who helped create them, such as Micah Hansen, who designs the covers, my editor Barbara Blakey, and beta reader William Childress. Many copies of A Time to Endure were heading for bloggers I've worked with in the past, reviewers, critique partners, and friends. 

Most of the books were going to places in the United States, but some were going to Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. I spent a good half-hour this morning getting to know the postal clerks in Napavine.

So, if I told you that a book was coming your way, I can truthfully say, it’s in the mail.

Done with Endure

I wrote the last words of A Time to Endure this morning. 

Except for improving some word choices or making a few sentences clearer, the writing of the book is done and it is now in the editing process. The first twenty-eight chapters are with my editor, Barbara Blakey. I’ll be sending two chapters out for beta reading and two chapters are left for critiquing, but that process should all be done in two or three weeks.

Then the novel goes to final formatting and uploading to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords for distribution.

A Time to Endure is the second book in the Strengthen What Remains series. It begins on the same day the first book, Through Many Fires, ends. In the first novel, terrorists smuggle a nuclear bomb into Washington D.C. and detonate it during the State of the Union Address. Army veteran and congressional staffer Caden Westmore is in nearby Bethesda and watches as a mushroom cloud grows over the capital. The next day, as he drives away from the still burning city to find loved ones and family, he learns that another city has been destroyed and then another. America is under siege. Panic ensues and society starts to unravel.

In the second novel, Caden is home, but the nation’s economy teeters on the verge of collapse. The dollar plunges, inflation runs rampant, and the next civil war threatens to decimate the wounded country. In the face of tyranny, panic, and growing hunger, Caden struggles to keep his family and town together. But how can he save his community when the nation is collapsing around it?

A Time to Endure will be released on December 12th, but the Kindle and Nook versions are available for preorder now. It is also available for preorder on Smashwords

Looking Forward

The Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference may be over, but I’m still busy!

I said goodbye to Randy Ingermanson, Ben Wolf and others on Thursday. After song and praise, the OCW Summer Conference concluded and, with Barbara Blakey at the driving, headed north toward home. The four days in Portland were a truly an inspiring and fun time.

However, I’m the kind of person who looks forward, not back, and the next occasion before me is the Southwest Washington Writers Conference. This one day event is scheduled for September 13th, at Centralia College. I will be there listening to great speakers, and also conducting a workshop.

My workshop is titled, “Author Entrepreneur – The Business of Writing” and in it I will discuss the skills needed to manage a successful writing business. I’ll cover things like planning your workday, finding a niche, establishing a platform, product funnels, the 80/20 rule, marketing strategies, and more.

Until the conference I’ll be working hard on completing my next novel, A Time to Endure. The release date is coming soon, but more about that on Monday.

OCW Third Day

I should have kept a list—with pictures.

I mentioned earlier that one of my goals for this conference is to meet people and network. I’ve continued my practice of sitting at different tables for lunch and dinner. For today’s lunch, I sat with Jeff Gerke at a table of speculative fiction writers, including a teen working on his first novel.

Randy Ingermanson and Jeff Gerke discuss business trends

Jeff is an editor, author, graphic designer and the founder of Marcher Lord Press, now Enclave Publishing, which is the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. Since I write speculative fiction, this seemed a great place to eat lunch. However, it got even better when, moments later, Randy Ingermanson sat across from me. Eating occurred between talk of what those around the table were writing and trends in the genre.

Unfortunately, I’m meeting so many people, I can’t remember many of the names or most of the interesting books they’ve told me about. I should have taken notes.   

Barbara Blakey receives the Cascade Writers Award for unpublished historical fiction.

As fun and interesting as lunch was, the real excitement for me came later, at the Cascade Awards Banquet. This award, given by Oregon Christian Writers, has ten categories for both published and unpublished works. These include contemporary, historical and speculative fiction, young adult, poetry and more. I had known for a couple of weeks that my good friend and fellow author Barbara Blakey was a finalist. That meant her book was among the top three in her category.

I sat beside Barbara as the hosts, Jeff Gerke and author Susan May Warren, presented the first ten awards. Then it was Barbara’s category. Jeff read the first line of the winning book and I recognized the main characters name. Then he announced that in the category of unpublished historical fiction the winner was, “The Secret of Clara Rose, by Barbara Tifft Blakey.”

 I look forward to reading in print soon. 

Writers Group Meeting at My Home

I meet with a group of five local writers on a weekly basis. This group started meeting nearly twenty years ago, but I’ve only been a part of it for ten.

Bob Hansen, author of A Bully's Doom.

The only time I don’t attend is when I’m out of state. 

While occasionally someone will leave, and a new person will be found, there are still two original members, Bob Hansen and Carolyn Bickel. Four of the five current members are published authors.

The group usually meets at a local church, but today there was a change of venue. The group met at my home and I decided to take a few pictures.

Currently I’m working on A Time to Endure, book two of the Strengthen What Remains series, and sequel of Through Many Fires. These pictures, taken in my dining room, show the group critiquing chapter 12 of A Time to Endure.

From right to left: Barbara Blakey, Debby Lee, Carolyn Bickel and Bob Hansen.

As readers of this blog will know, I write thrillers and science fiction, but the members of the group write everything from fantasy, historical fiction, romance to cat stories.

We also have different styles and methods. One thing we do have in common is our Christian faith, but often our stories aren’t so much faith based as faith friendly and beyond faith and friendship we share a desire to write good stories.

Afternoon at the Writers Group

I’ve mentioned before that for many years I’ve attended a writer’s critique group when I’m in Washington State.

Most of our six members are published writers. All have differing methods, styles and genres, but we have come to appreciate each other’s writing. I look forward to their opinion even if they tell me I’m going in a wrong direction.

That’s what happened at this last meeting. I released book one of the Strengthen What Remains series, Through Many Fires, in August. Since then I’ve been working on book two, A Time to Endure. They regularly mark up my stories, and yes, even draw little pictures on them.

Yesterday, when I presented chapter 3 of A Time to Endure, several said that I’d waited too long before I brought Caden, the protagonist of the first book, back into the story.

I’ve come to respect their opinion so, today I’ve been writing two new chapters for the novel bringing Caden into the story right from the start. 

The picture on the left shows the group pouring over my draft. Bob Hansen, the group leader, on the far side of the table. Then counterclockwise is Barbara Blakey, Joyce Scott, Carolyn Bickel and Rudine Mayfield.

Friends and Fellow Writers

For many years now I’ve attended a writer’s critique group.

Bob Hansen, Kyle Pratt, Joyce Scott & Barbara Blakey

Well, for the last seven years I’ve taught in Alaska during the school year, but when I’m in Washington state I attend the critique group. I don’t believe I’ve ever missed a meeting when I’ve been in the state.

Including me, there are six members, but today three of them, all published authors, came to my home. Taken right after the meeting, the picture shows Bob Hansen, me, Joyce Scott and Barbara Blakey. It was great to see them again, get caught up on their lives and hear what they have recently written.

I also had the pleasure of presenting the first chapter of my next novel, A Time to Endure. Before it is released later this year, these valued friends and fellow writers will hear most of the novel.