Novel Rocket

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Who’s Your Hero?

By Alton Gansky

Athletes have heroes. Business execs have heroes. Christians have spiritual heroes. So it’s no surprise that writers have heroes. But what makes someone a hero to a writer? Sure, there are successful writers we admire, but are they heroes? There are wordsmiths whose prose is so smooth, emotive, and powerful that any serious writer would be impressed. Does success or skill a writing hero make? 

I suggest not.

The champions have in mind might not even be writers. Many of us, perhaps all of us, have at least one person who helped us down the road of publication. Perhaps the person encouraged us, or pushed us, or educated us, or (as in my case) put a boot to our fanny.

I’ve told the story many times. It’s a story that never fails to move me. I had written a novel but had no idea what I was doing. I got one rejection from a pay-to-read-agent (I said I didn’t know what I was doing) and shelved the project. I shelved it for five years. Half a decade!

Then the great Jack Cavanaugh called. We had a friendly competition going on. I won round one when a small magazine published a little article I wrote. He won the contest when he scored a multi-novel contract. The American Family Portrait Series would expand to eight volumes. Other books 
would follow. Yep, he won in a big way. He kept trying when I had given up.

Then he did something. We chatted on the phone for a while and I was truly happy for him. Not so pleased with myself, but happy for him. He asked, “So, what are you working on?” I begged off by mentioning my pressing ministry work. When he asked again I mentioned family needs. He said he understood then asked again, “So what are you working on?” It was clear he wasn’t going to let me hang up, not until I picked up my pen again.

I did.

After reworking my first novel, I placed it with Victor Books. I’m now over twenty years and about fifty works—fiction and nonfiction—down the road. All because a hero called me on the phone.

I’ve been teaching at writers conferences for over fifteen years. There I meet wannabe writers, so of whom have real talent. I have also met those on the brink of quitting. Writing is difficult, challenging, learned over time, full of rejection, and, at times, able to cramp the little gray cells. Over the years, I’ve had a few people contact me to tell me they had been ready to chuck it all but stayed with it because someone said the right thing to keep them in the game.

I’m betting you have someone like that in your writing life. I’d like to hear the story. Did someone talk you out of giving up? Provided tricks of the trade that turned you into a real author? Did someone inspire you by their life story? Did someone tell you that you had the “chops” to be a writer even though you were sure you were just a hack? If so, then you have a hero.

The reminder here is that we all needed heroes and now we need to be heroes to those just outside the gate.

So, who moved you? Changed you? Empowered you? Kicked you in the fanny? Who helped push you down the path to publication?

Alton Gansky is a writer and podcaster and, hopefully, an occasional hero.

Monday, August 22, 2016

How To Do Radio Interviews Right

by James L. Rubart

FYI: This is a re-post of a column from two years back so a few of the details about where I'm at in my publishing history are outdated. 


My second novel in the Well Spring series (Memory’s Door) is about to release so I have a bunch of radio interviews lined up over the next month or so. It’s a great time to remind myself (and you) how to interview in a way that sells more books.

Long ago, and not so far away, I was on air at a radio station where I interviewed guests. So the modicum of wisdom I have to offer comes from having been on both sides of the microphone. 

And yeah, you’ve probably heard most of these before, but it never hurts to go over the fundamentals.

  • The Interview is NOT About You This is an easy mistake to make, since you’re the focus of the show. But you’re not the focus of the show. Or at least you shouldn’t be. Who is the star of the interview? The host. It’s their show. They are always the star. Make them look good. Give them the respect they deserve. Follow their lead. If they want to do the Tango, and all you know is the Waltz, don’t stop. Keep dancing and do your utmost to with their flow. Or said more succinctly: You better be ready to go with their style, not expect them to match yours. Mirror, mirror, mirror.
  • The Interview is NOT About You Part II The only other person the interview is about is the listener. Which leads us to the third point:
  • Don’t Bore Them or Their Audience Whether it’s Howard Stern on one side or Rush Limbaugh on the other, good radio show hosts understand they are providing entertainment to their listeners more than anything else. So they want guests who can entertain. Here are some specifics on how to be intriguing to listeners: 
    • Vary the volume of your voice
    • Vary your pacing
    • Vary your sentences length. (Some of you are saying, “Just like I do in my novels?” Yes, that’s exactly what it’s like) 
    • Have some fun, interesting, stories ready to be told
    • Be controversial
    • Be funny
    • Inspire them!
  • Practice! A bad radio interview is far worse than no radio interview at all. I was about to do an interview a number of years ago and there was an author on just before me. She talked in a soft monotone voice and didn’t say anything remotely interesting.  I felt for her because it was obvious she’d never been coached on how to be on air. People would listen to her and figure if her books were as boring as she was, they weren’t worth picking up. My guess is most of you have first readers, or critique groups for your writing … you need one for your radio interviews too. Ask them to listen and tell you what worked and what didn’t. Get a friend and role play. Go wild (this will be difficult at first) and record yourself in a mock interview. Listen back and do a self-critique. This alone will take your interviewing skills miles ahead. 
  • Elevator Pitches Aren’t Just for Pitching Editors and Agents If you’re doing a ten minute interview, there’s no time to ramble on for two or three minutes each time you answer a question. There isn’t even time for thirty seconds. You have to learn to answer in quick sound bites.   Remember that 25 word pitch for your latest book? Think 25 words for every answer. Now don’t misunderstand. This is a GUIDELINE, not a rule. Sometimes you need a longer amount of time to give a coherent answer. But I hear far more authors go on too long than answer with responses   that are too short.  Hosts appreciate a concise answer. I did one pre-recorded interview where my longest response wasn’t more than fifteen seconds. When we were through, the host said, “Wow, thank you much! It’s rare that we get an author that keeps from talking in long run on sentences and it makes it so hard to cut up the interview.
  • Have Fun I know, you’re saying, “after all the To Dos you just gave, we’re supposed to have fun?” Yep. Because in the end, most people won’t remember a lot of what you said, but they’ll remember if you had fun, if you laughed, if you were passionate, if you made them think. And if they remember those things, they’ll probably be sold on you. Which leads to being sold on buying your book.
Is that it? 
No, there's a few other points we should talk about. But we’ll save them for another column down the road because I’ve already gone on too long. And I know you're just dying to start practicing. 

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man's body. He thinks he's still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they'll remember months after they finish one of his stories. His novel, The Five Times I Met Myself won the Christy Award 2016 BOOK of the YEAR and his latest novel, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, just released (which both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal gave a starred review). During the day he runs his branding and marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make much more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Poem for a Writer's Heart

Available on Amazon

I receive poems from the wonderful British poet, Malcolm Guite every week and they always stir my soul. This week the poem he sent also stirred my writer’s heart. They are such good words to ponder as a writer or artist of any kind so I thought I would share them with you today. Be blessed, Marcia Lee Laycock

As If  
by Malcolm Guite

Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 

The Giver of all gifts asks me to give!
The Fountain from which every good thing flows,
The Life who spends himself that all might live,
The Root whence every bud and blossom grows,
Calls me, as if I knew no limitation,
As if I focused all his hidden force,
To be creative with his new creation,
To find my flow in him, my living source,
To live as if I had no fear of losing,
To spend as if I had no need to earn,
To turn my cheek as if it felt no bruising,
To lend as if I needed no return,
As if my debts and sins were all forgiven,
As if I too could body forth his Heaven.
Of himself, Malcolm says -
I am a poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but I often travel round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings. This autumn I will be speaking in London, Salisbury, Winchester, and Needham Market. For more details of these and other engagements go to my Events Page. You can read more about who I am and what I do on the Interviews Page

Visit Malcom's Blog

An exciting recent project with Canadian musician Steve Bell:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What I Learned From Self Publilshing

post by Michelle Griep
You know those TV shows that feature some daredevil lighting his underwear on fire as he hops on a motorcycle and jumps over five semi-trucks and a baby, all while some scrolling type at the bottom of the screen warns you not to attempt this at home? Yeah. I feel like there should be some kind of warning to those considering self publishing because it's really not as easy as it looks. Leastwise not if you want to put out a quality book.

So here is my attempt at enlightening those who think they'll just slap up some type on Createspace and rake in a million bucks.

**pretend the following is scrolling across the screen . . . I'm not technologically savvy enough to do that and there's no teenager around for me to collar**

1. Covers are a pain in the patootie. Who knew there'd be so many decision to make? Color. Style. Artwork. Wording. Layout. Font. Sizing. Transparency. Bleed. And that's just in the first consultation.

2. No matter how many times you go through a manuscript, you can always find something else to change.

3. A good editor is worth her weight in chai. I didn't actually have the money up front to pay for a manuscript edit so I bartered for a lifetime supply of chai. So far it's worked out pretty good. Of course, if she lives to be one hundred, I may be in trouble. Nah. I'll be dead first. Hahahaha! Joke's on her. . . wait a minute. Maybe not.

4. If you put your book up for pre-order on Amazon, they give you a deadline set in stone to upload your final copy. If you're late, oops! Your name is written on the Amazon naughty list and you don't get to put up any more pre-orders for over a year.

5. There's way more that goes into producing a book than simply good writing, though that is a must. There's book size, paper color, paper weight, ISBN nonsense, Library of Congress shtuff, a bajillion different kind of ebook conversions, yada, yada. Seriously, I had no idea.

It was an adventure putting out my self-pubbed book, Writer Off the Leash, but one that's been a good education. Would I do it again? Probably. Will I leave the realm of traditional publishing behind? Nope. Each venue has their pros and cons.


WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.


Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.