Novel Rocket

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Once Beyond a Time ~ by Ann Tatlock

By Yvonne Lehmann
Ann Tatlock is a novelist and children’s book author. Her newest novel, Once Beyond A Time, was published in December 2014 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her books have received numerous awards, including the Christy Award, the Midwest Book Award and the Silver Angel Award for Excellence in Media. She also serves as managing editor of Heritage Beacon, the historical fiction imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She lives with her family in Western North Carolina. Please visit her website at www.anntatlock.com.

Once Beyond A Time
A Non-Paranormal Paranormal Story

I want to tell you up front that I don’t believe in ghosts. The idea of disembodied souls haunting shadowy places—rattling chains, slamming doors, walking through walls--just doesn’t fit with my world view. People aren’t meant to remain earth-bound. We either end up in the presence of God or separated from Him eternally. That’s what the Bible says and that’s what I accept as true.

And yet my new novel, Once Beyond A Time, was rejected at several houses for being a ghost story. Too paranormal, they said. As a Christian publisher we don’t want to promote anything having to do with the paranormal.

But it isn’t paranormal, I argued. Not a single character in the book is dead.

No matter; they didn’t want it. Years passed, and I finally found a house happy to publish it. Oddly, this particular publisher wanted to promote it as paranormal.

But it isn’t paranormal, I argued once again. The premise has nothing to do with ghosts.

That may be, the publisher argued back, but what happens in your book isn’t normal—what, with people talking to people who live in different times—so that makes it paranormal.

We decided we have different definitions of paranormal. Which, I guess--to make us both happy--means my newest offering is a non-paranormal paranormal book.

What the book actually deals with is time. Or more accurately, God’s timelessness: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8 KJV).

Unlike humans who occupy a single point in time, God stretches from start to finish, he is and was and is to come, and therefore he is the Eternal Now. He created time for our use, but he remains outside of it and is unhindered by it. So, I wondered, what if one was able to “step out of time” and experience what God experiences? That’s the premise of my story.

It's 1968, and Sheldon and Meg Crane have just moved their family from suburban Philadelphia to the town of Black Mountain, NC. Sheldon has resigned in disgrace from the ministry after an affair. He will now sell used cars for his brother-in-law's auto dealership. Sheldon is burdened by his wife's unwillingness to forgive and his daughter's anger over the move. The oldest son is in Vietnam. The only happy member of the family is his eight-year-old son, Digger.

After settling into their new home--an old house nearly hidden on the side of a mountain—the family soon discover it’s no ordinary place. And this is where it gets to be “not normal.” The family can see and speak with people who have lived there in the past, and with those who will live there in the future. They are trying to make sense out of this odd phenomenon when the unspeakable happens: Digger disappears. They don’t know whether he has been kidnapped or whether he has wandered off into the mountains and gotten lost.

As the family deals with brokenness, heartache and—yes—the paranormal experience of “stepping out of time,” they discover the house is a gift, one that teaches them about the healing power of forgiveness and the loving sovereignty of God.

No ghosts. No rattling chains or slamming doors. Just a chance to take an imaginary journey beyond time. Sometimes the “not normal” can offer a fresh perspective on grace. I hope it will for you.


It’s 1968, and Sheldon and Meg Crane have just moved their family from Pennsylvania to the small town of Black Mountain, NC. Sheldon, recently ousted from the ministry due to an illicit affair, takes a job as a used car salesman at his brother-in-law s auto dealership. Burdened by his wife’s unforgiveness and his daughter’s resentment over the move to “Barney Fife country”, Sheldon finds a measure of solace in his eight-year-old son’s ability to cope. After settling into an old house high on the side of a mountain, the family discovers their new home is no ordinary place. Family members occasionally see and speak with the home’s previous residents and the ones who will live there in the future. While attempting to come to terms with this portal in the past and future, their son, Digger, suddenly disappears. Was he kidnapped or did Digger wander off into the mountains and become lost? The answer lies in a place once beyond a time in a realm where the mysterious power of forgiveness removes sorrow and heals even the most egregious sins. 

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What’s a Novelist Like You Doing in a Neighborhood Like This?


by Alton Gansky

Last week my newest book. 30 Events That Shaped the Church, hit the shelves (including digital shelves). Another nonfiction. It surprises some of my readers and fellow writers to learn that I write book-length nonfiction. After all, most of my books are novels. My first published book was a novel and a bunch more followed. So why write nonfiction? Why would a novelist wander the mean streets of the nonfiction neighborhoods?

That’s a little difficult to answer. Writing is a series of personal decisions. Those who have heard my “writing testimony” know that when I set out to be a writer I first assumed that I would write articles and nonfiction books. Novel writing appealed to me and I messed around with some short stories (which went nowhere).  I had a few articles accepted but nothing of consequence. I was still splashing in the shallow end of the writing pool.

Then, as a young pastor, I was called to Children’s Hospital in San Diego where one of the children who attended my church was being treated. The toddler had fallen from a moving car. Turns out, all was fine, just a few bruises and scrapes. Still, I had to walk through Children’s Hospital and that can be grueling. I glanced through a few open doors and saw enough pain to make me shift my focus to the shiny floor. I wished for the gift of healing and that got me to thinking about what might happen if a healer strolled the halls of a major hospital—my first real storyline. That idea became By My Hands (which I recently re-released). From that came over 30 other novels.

Still, the old urge to pen a nonfiction book stayed with me. Over my two decades of professional writing I’ve written 9 book-length nonfiction books and co-wrote 2 others. I have plans to write more.

So I ask again: What’s a novelist doing in the nonfiction neighborhood? Well, I’m fulfilling my mission of making my readers think. When someone asks, “What do you do for a living?” my brain seizes. Writer. Editor. Consultant. Novelist. Blogger. Podcaster. Teacher. Public speaker. How to respond? I’m tempted to say, “I’m a communicator,” but that just causes confusion.

Let’s face it: We writers have voices in our heads. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed the arts and sciences were inspired by the Muses. Some have more than one muse, that is, more than one field that interests them. On a good day I feel my mind is a multifaceted diamond; other days I’m pretty sure it’s just fragmented glass.

I view novels as exploration; nonfiction as explanation. I want my ideas, my books, to communicate as well as entertain. I want readers to think and learn and for some ideas I can only do that through nonfiction. 30 Events That Shaped the Church would be difficult to do as a novel. Yet, the material is important, especially in a world where much of church history is forgotten, overlooked, or undervalued. Because of that, most Christians have no idea what the church endured to become what it is today.

Nonfiction stretches me too. Writing nonfiction is very different from writing fiction, but I don’t think I could do it without all that I learned from writing novels.

I’ve always have been troubled by categories. I’ve also admired those who can focus on one thing and make it a life’s work. For me, however, writing is writing, and as long as it does something enduring, then it has great value.

Turns out, I like both neighborhoods.

Alton Gansky writes novels and nonfiction. He is the host of Writer's Talk and the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. When not writing, editing, blogging, podcasting, and the such things he likes to eat and sleep. To get the real down-low on Al visit www.altongansky.com


Monday, January 26, 2015

Why I Decided to Write for the General Market

I entered into the field of writing by way of Christians and the Christian market. At the time (2005), this seemed like the natural thing to do for me. I'd become a believer in 1980, pastored a church for a period of time, and was spiritually restless, wanting to find new avenues for creativity and spiritual growth. When the Christian magazine I subscribed to held a short story contest, I decided to enter and earned an honorable mention. A spark was struck. From there, I joined a Christian writers group. This led to the publication of other short stories and a growing familiarity with the Christian market. Eventually, I wrote a novel aimed at this market, acquired an agent, and was signed to a two book contract with a Christian publishing house. 

However, over the years, I've wrestled a lot with the Christian market and have never felt quite at home there. 

To be clear, I'm not one of those who labels all Christian fiction as mediocre, preachy, and poorly crafted junk. Over the last decade, I've read many terrific works published as Christian fiction and met many gifted, hard-working Christian writers. The caricatures of Christian fiction as being shallow and crappy are mostly unfair. There are legitimate reasons to write for Christians and remaining in the Christian market can be a smart endeavor for some. I don't slight those who choose to write in that genre. Furthermore, my experience in Christian publishing circles, the writers and readers I've met, the agents and editors I've met and worked with, have been wonderful. All to say, my experience as a Christian fiction author is mostly good. 

So why move to the general market? 

Well, there's no one single reason. Rather, it's a confluence of different feelings and impressions. Here's a few: 
  • I've grown tired of the narrow theological strictures that dominate and define Christian fiction. More than once my stories have been parsed for doctrinal integrity and found wanting. This is frustrating because I consider myself fairly orthodox. I believe in the innerancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, etc. Nevertheless, today's Christian fiction readers demand fairly strict adherence to a set of doctrinal parameters in their fiction. (This is especially problematic as a speculative fiction writer; being free to actually SPECULATE while still being held to strict theological parameters is quite difficult!) 
  • I've wearied of the argument that Christian fiction must be "clean." Having trafficked in "the real world" most of my life, I'm used to people acting and speaking in ways that aren't always pretty. Or conducive to my faith or personal values. Which is probably why I write characters who act similarly. Christians like to say that God accepts us as we are. Apparently, they do not extend similar grace to the characters in their novels. Thus, Christian fiction has come to be defined as the absence of profanity, sex, and excessive violence. Elsewhere, I've described this as a sort of "white magic" -- the belief that keeping certain words and images out of my story makes it intrinsically less worldly and more holy. 
  • Christian fiction potentially nurtures and perpetuates a dangerously narrow, unhealthy subculture. As I've written before, contemporary Evangelical fiction is tethered to Fundamentalist roots. Much of the Christian art industry — Christian film / fiction / music — is a reaction against secularism. This posture can be traced back to early Fundamentalism’s withdraw from many American institutions like politics and entertainment. Holiness, for Fundamentalists, came to be defined in terms of “negatives” — no smoking, no drinking, no movies, no makeup, no dancing, etc., etc. Much of the evangelical counter culture was rooted in this cultural separation. Likewise, Christian fiction appeals to and nurtures this idea of "separation." Our fiction is different than other fiction. So while being "salt and light" means interacting with the "bland and light-less," the Christian fiction market theoretically avoids all such "worldly" spoilage, preaches to the choir, and potentially isolates us from the marketplaces of ideas. 
  • The demographics of the Christian market are not "speculative fiction" friendly. I've written a lot about this subject (like THIS) and won't cover that ground again here. Suffice to say, with 80-some percent of Christian fiction titles being Amish, romance, and women's fiction, speculative fiction writers and fans have managed little traction in the Christian market and have found a shortage of spec titles offered. 
  • I simply want to reach a larger, more "spec savvy," audience. As a fan of Dean Koontz, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, Neil Gaiman, Lovecraft, and Stephen King, I want to engage similar readers. Interestingly enough, many of these fans are Christians (or, at the least, not averse to a Christian worldview). However, these fans are not limited to the "Christian fiction" aisle. Nor is their reading confined to "clean," theologically tight, fictional fare. Hardcore spec readers graze in larger pastures than the current Christian market cultivates. And that's where I'd like to be. 
Needless to say, moving from the Christian market to the general market will probably be a bit of a balancing act. 

On one hand will be the issue of balancing spiritual content to a "secular" audience. Christian writers will often say that their stories are too religious for the general market and too gritty or unorthodox for the Christian market. That's part of the problem -- if that IS a problem -- I'm getting at here. I want my general market stories to contain spiritual content. This doesn't mean that all my stories will contain an overt religious theme or strong Christian character. But no writer can completely divorce their worldview from their stories. So while I'm not writing to preach to my readers, I'm not afraid to admit I have a worldview and beliefs that, with some excavation, can be uncovered in my general market novels. Will this turn some readers off? Maybe. 

On the other hand will be my attempt to balance an existing platform developed in the Christian market with a broader, less "religious" audience. So this is the opposite issue -- trying to maintain enough spiritual / religious themes to engage Christian readers. Sure, a savvy Christian reader does not require all their doctrinal i's dotted and t's crossed. Nevertheless, as one with a huge interest in theology and philosophy, I respect that readers seek stories that resonate with the Truth. A potential difficulty will be engaging readers who have bought my books because of the "Christian" elements, while not scaring them off with the more fanciful, gritty, unorthodox elements. 

Bottom line: I want to write stories that contain spiritual themes and religious content but are free to noodle around with weird science, un-orthodox ideas, unholy characters, who sometimes think bad thoughts and use bad language Risky? Perhaps. Either way, for the first time in ten years I have published a novel that is not tagged as "Christian fiction." It's titled The Ghost Box. There's monsters, ghosts, angels, pseudo-science, and profanity. It took me a while to get here, but frankly, it was worth the journey.

* * *

Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The Ghost Box, The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

LIKE COLOR IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

by Cynthia Ruchti

I visited friends in Texas this January, grateful to see them and almost as grateful to exit the snow and ice covered bitter cold of Wisconsin for those few days.

During an especially warm stretch, my friend and I took long walks, both in the countryside and around her neighborhood. I stopped often to take photos of what might have seemed common to her but registered as remarkable to me, the one weary of the bleak midwinter.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing Comparisons—Key Differences Between Success and Failure

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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Success Vs. Failure

As writers, we’re warned early on to avoid the trap of comparison. Each of us has a different path to success—and a different path to publication. These varying ways of living life as a writer aren’t good and bad or even better and best—they’re just different.

Today I want to encourage you to do just the opposite.

While we shouldn’t judge our value as writers by looking at one another. There are some comparisons that can make a difference between fulfilling our dreams or losing heart and quitting when success is just around the corner. These are some key differences between successful and unsuccessful writers.

1. Goals vs. Wishes
A successful writer sets goals.
An unsuccessful writer makes wishes.

2. Striving vs. Complacency
A successful writer finds others who are further along on the writing journey and strives to catch up.
An unsuccessful writer finds others who are further behind on the writing journey and relishes being ahead.

3. Taking Responsibility vs. Whining
A successful writer takes responsibility for making the dream happen.
An unsuccessful writer whines about all the reasons the dream will never happen.

4. Acting vs. Talking
A successful writer invests time, energy and money in learning how to write better.
An unsuccessful writer talks about writing better.

5. Belief vs. Unbelief
A successful writer believes in her dream.
An unsuccessful writer believes it will never happen to her.

6. Positive Companions vs. Negative Companions
A successful writer surrounds himself with others who are willing to pay the price for success.
An unsuccessful writer hangs out with others who make excuses for not attaining their dreams.

7. Talks About Ideas vs. Talks About People
A successful writer talks about ideas.
An unsuccessful writer talks about other writers.

8. Takes Responsibility vs. Places Blame
A successful writer takes responsibilities for failures.
An unsuccessful writer looks for others to blame for failure.

9. Rejoices in the Success of Others vs. Rejoices in the Failure of Others
A successful writer takes joy in the success of others.
An unsuccessful writer takes joy in the failure of others.

10. Embraces Change vs. Avoids Change
A successful writer looks for ways to embrace change.
An unsuccessful writer looks for ways to avoid change.

11. Afraid of Mistakes vs. Afraid of Trying
A successful writer isn’t afraid to try something difficult and make mistakes.
An unsuccessful writer believes that not making a mistake is better than ever trying at all.

And ultimately... 

12. Keeps Trying vs. Gives Up
A successful writer never gives up.
An unsuccessful writer quits.


This is my list. What would you add?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Don't Start Your Story Unless You Know These 5 Things

What? Five things?

"Rachel, I'm a pantser, I don't like to plan."

I hear you! I'm not asking you to plan. I'm asking you to know 5 things

Even for the plotters, these 5 Things will make a difference in your story. 

So let's get to it.

A story has to be about someone ordinary doing something extraordinary. 

I can't design scenes, develop characters or even answer, "What's the story about?" without knowing WHO I'm dealing with -- internally.

I design my character with these 5 critical elements:

Dark wound of the past.
The Lie he believes.
The greatest fear.
The secret desire.
What can they do in the end they couldn't do in the beginning?

Once I know the answer to these five elements, I can answer, "What's the story about?"

Granted, these elements are fluid. They should adjust and deepen as you write BUT putting these stepping stones in place before you write the first line will aid help your journey.

Think of it like this: You're going to at least look at the road map before pulling out of the drive.

There's still plenty of time to take a side road and veer off the beaten path to keep things interesting.

But knowing the wound --> lie --> fear will keep you focused. 

We use this structure over on My Book Therapy to help struggling authors get to the next level.

Let's break it down a bit:

The Dark Wound. Something from the past that will be dealt with and healed during the story. The epiphany derives from this dark wound. Be specific. If your protagonist grew up in a rough household, design an event that told him, "Life is hard and love is not worth it." 

The dark wound forms a Lie. This is the lie the protagonist believes about himself, God, others. The more detailed the better. And the more personal, the better. If the protagonist dark wound is his parents harrowing divorce, then the lie he believes is that marriage doesn't work, love is painful and not worth the effort. Even more specific, our hero might have been told that when he was born the family fell apart. He was one kid too many. So he believes he's not wanted. 

See how it works?

On to the fear. 

Growing up our hero's lie becomes a Fear. He fears he'll never be wanted. That whatever he touches is destroyed. The more specific you are about the wound, the more specific you can be about the lie and fear. But remember almost all fears come from the lies we believe. 

Your story is about overcoming the fear, replacing the lie with truth and healing the dark wound. 

What makes the protagonist face these issues? What gives him the courage. 

The Secret Desire. This desire contrast the fear.  It tells the hero, "I am worth something. I'm really good at teaching. I'd be a great teacher. I can help kids." Or, "Love is worth pursuing." 

The secret desire is always about overcoming the fear. The desire cannot be separate from the wound --> lie --> fear equation. 

Once I have this sketched out, I asked, "So, what will he be able to do in the end he couldn't do int he beginning?"

Perhaps forgive his parents. Maybe quit his job and go back to school. Fall in love. Whatever the case, it must come from healing the wound, embracing truth and conquering fear! 

This becomes my story spine to which the plot and all other aspects will connect. If the plot or story lines are not ultimately about healing the protagonist and getting them to a grand epiphany, I realign where I'm going.

The scenes in the middle of the book are about confronting the lie, facing the fear, and eventually winning. ;) 

Stories are about a slice of life where the protagonist is launched on a specific journey by external events that reach the internal fears and dreams. 

Make sense? 

From the movie, The Patriot:


Benjamin Martin's dark wound is his past war crimes. His fear is going to war again. When war comes to his front yard, and takes his sons, must decide if he’s going to fight. But the lie he believes is that he's barbaric  not honorable. If he goes to war, will it be Ft. Wilderness all over again? 

But when Gabriel is taken, Benjamin must fight. He must retrieve his son. Protecting his family is his desire... I think how intently he feels about them is somewhat of a secret desire. I also think he wants to redeem himself in his own mind about the kind of man he is.

He's launched on the journey of healing -- the inciting incident -- when he goes after his son. 

What can he do in the end he couldn't do in the beginning? Fight with honor. Believe in himself. 

Now, go write something brilliant!