Novel Rocket

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Gift Given



 by Marcia Lee Laycock


“Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it.” (Marilynne Robinson, The Paris Review 2008)

When I read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson I remember thinking it was so simple, so plain, so amazing. And there’s the key to be grasped. Great writing is simple, plain, dealing with the ordinary, yet it draws us to the extraordinary, the Divine within.

My brother used to collect odd pieces of wood to carve into shapes of animals and birds. I often walked with him along the north shore of Lake Huron, searching for driftwood. Once I offered him a length of freshly cut two by four. He rejected it. “Look for something with scars,” he’d said, ”something with twists and turns.” He wanted ordinary driftwood marked by its own unique journey through life. Those are the pieces that became lovely when the knife cut into them, shaped them and revealed what had been hidden. Those are the pieces I remember.

And the pieces of writing I remember are those that do the same - take characters who are ordinary, scarred, characters whose lives have taken many twists and turns, and fold them into stories that give us moments frozen in time, frozen into pictures of the Divine. Like the moment in Les Miserables when the priest hands the candlesticks to Jean Valjean - an ordinary man, a convict, grasps the mercy that has been granted him and his life is forever changed. It is so simple, so plain, so amazing that we stand in awe.

And that is the gift given to writers of faith – that we are driven to search out and grasp those moments poured into us from God’s own heart, then use words to reveal them, and Him, to others. It is then that we bring the Divine to those ordinary moments, for ourselves and for our readers. Together we pause, catch our breath, because we all have glimpsed the Divine, have seen beyond the ordinary to a more true reality.

It is a most holy pursuit, one that teaches us as we teach, reveals beauty and truth to us as we reveal it to others. The pursuit is part of our ordinary journey, one that will take us down many twists and turns and sometimes leave us scarred. But it is a task ordained, a gift given in love. 

Merry Christmas. one and all. 
****

Marcia will be celebrating Christmas with her family in central Alberta Canada. To learn more about her writing/speaking ministry visit her website

It's not too late to order these ebooks for Christmas -

Missing Christmas - Stuck in a small northern town. Baah Humbug!

An Earthly Treasure - Christmas Future- Will there still be faith? Will there still be miracles?


An Unexpected Glory - A Christmas Pageant that seemed all wrong

The Twelve Days of Christmas -12 Short Stories to bring you close to the true meaning of Christmas

Saturday, December 20, 2014

7 Things I've Learned Since Getting Published

author Jill Williamson
Posted by Michelle Griep for JILL WILLIAMSON

1. I need time to write a great book. 
I’m a pleaser, so when I got my first chance to sell books off a proposal, I agreed to tight deadlines, wanting to make my publisher happy. I had to write faster to meet those deadlines, and I believe the books suffered for it. I now know that it’s okay to ask for the time I need to write a book. And it’s also okay to say no to selling off proposals. Some authors thrive by selling off proposals. But I’d rather write the book first, then sell it. I need a certain amount of time to do my best work.

2. I’m not the next J.K. Rowling. 
When I started writing, I wanted so badly to be the next J.K. Rowling. But after years of rejections, then years of mid-list authoring, I’ve learned that I’m not her. (Duh.) I’ve also learned that there is already one J.K. Rowling. The world does not need two. There is also only one Jill Williamson. And I have lived a pretty cool life, thus far. If I spend all my efforts trying to be someone else, who will be me? No one. And I will be leaving a void in God’s creation. I have a purpose that only I can achieve. So I must stay true to me, my life, and the stories I have to tell. I must be the best me I can be.

3. Word-of-mouth is what sells books. 
I can pour all my effort and money into marketing and promotion, but in the end, my bestselling books are the ones people talk about. They’re the ones that “avid” readers read, “sometimes” readers read, and the “I never read” readers read. People often say that controversy sells. But that hasn’t been true for my books. I’ve learned that there is no formula to get people talking about my books except to write the very best book I can write.

4. I’ve got a slow start. 
These days, readers are easily bored. They want instant entertainment. And if you spend too much time setting up your story, you might lose readers. I’m guilty of this in my books. I’ve always liked the “zoom in” beginning, where the “camera” shows my character living his life before the inciting incident upsets everything. But I’ve learned this isn’t the best way to grip readers, especially if they decide not to hang around long enough to get to the good part or give me a second chance. So I’m working on trying new things to hook readers. It’s important to always be learning.

5. I need to get better at pitching books. 
 When people ask me about my books, I tend to stumble my way through the answer. I’m never prepared. And I always feel like I’m bragging and want to change the subject. And if they ask more questions, I end up babbling through my old story pitch that was never the greatest. This is no way to sell books! I have been working on developing a simple way to explain what I write and a short high concept statement/logline for each of my books/series. I’m an introvert and pitching doesn’t come easy, but if I’m prepared, I can do my best.

6. Don’t read reviews. 
This is different for every author, but because of my personality, reading my book reviews does one of two things. 1) I either become happy because the review was good, or I 2) become depressed because the review was negative. This is a pride issue for me. I want everyone to love me and my books. I’m happiest when I am liked by others. And I have a difficult time separating my books from who I am as a person. So a negative review feels personal, even though it isn’t. It’s better for me to focus on writing and ignore reviews. I can learn my weaknesses in other ways—from beta readers, editors, and my agent. I don’t need to walk into trouble on purpose. It’s best to steer clear.

7. Things will go wrong, but that’s okay. 
I’ve had typos in final books (some that were my fault, some that were made in typesetting). I’ve had wrong covers. I’ve had edits done on the wrong versions of my books. I’ve had spoilers posted in online store descriptions. And I’ve had books printed with the wrong stories inside. In the beginning I panicked. I felt as if these things would ruin my career. I now know better. Mistakes happen. Always. I’ve never had a book go perfectly from start to bookstore sale. Yet people keep buying my books and leaving positive reviews. Readers continue to email me kind messages. All is well, even with a mistake here and there. So when mistakes happen, I try to stay calm and remind myself that it will get fixed and forgotten.

Bonus: Here's Michelle Griep's review of Jill's latest, REBELS . . .

Ahhh. Hear that? It's a satisfied sigh. Rebels ties up all the loose ends into a tidy little bow on a gift of a story. There are a few plot twists and turns I didn't see coming, but thankfully no characters that I adored were killed in the process. If you know of a teen or young adult who loves dystopian, I recommend this trilogy.





Friday, December 19, 2014

Tis the Season to Collaborate

How Story Collaboration Works

Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin, authors of Where Treetops Glisten

Sometimes being an author is a lonely existence. Fictional characters fill my (Sarah’s) mind. They fight, they laugh, they talk, they fall in love ... and for most of the time I’m the only one who knows what’s happening with them. That is until I enter their world, and their words and experiences land on the page to eventually be sent to my editor’s desk. Still it’s my computer and me, lonely partners in the world of creating stories.

This isn’t the case for collaboration projects. Tricia’s written a number of them from Love Finds You novels with her friend Ocieanna Fleiss and two World War II spy novels with Mike Yorkey. Cara’s collaborated on two novella collections for Barbour. Now the three of us have partnered for a World War II Christmas novella collection, Where Treetops Glisten.

Because the writing process is so different when writing novella collections, we have a few recommendations for those considering a collaborative collection.

1. Understand the strengths and the weaknesses of your collaborators. No one person writes a novel in the same way. Tricia is a write-by-the-seats-of-her-pants type of author, Sarah runs off of spreadsheets, and Cara was the connecter and lead researcher for us all. Through a few calls and many emails we figured out a system that worked. We leaned on each other, depending on each other’s strengths to create a unique collection.

2. When collaborating, look for the elements readers expect from each of you, and focus on combining them. We had all agreed we wanted to work together, but then we had to decide how. We started with a conference call where we specifically discussed what we believe each of our readers like in our books. Fortunately, we could weave those together into a collection tied by location, family, and home front careers plus a sister who goes overseas.

3. Look for a theme and other elements that can tie the series together. Our initial theme was Christmas carols. So many wonderful carols were penned and released during World War II, songs that we cherish today. Then we decided that our story would center on siblings and their experiences during the war – each in a different year. After that we decided their wise grandmother would hold the collection together through a prologue and epilogue in her point of view, as well as her presence in each of the novellas. She became the voice of wisdom to each grandchild at the moment they needed it. She also became a fun, feisty lady who added spark and sass to the pages.

4. Evaluate what you’re willing to give up for the good of the project. In our case we were able to pull everything together…but you have to be willing to give as well for the good of the story. That means asking others for input on their characters to make sure they are consistent from story to story and that you’re willing to acknowledge when you need help.

5. Organize your information. Since our stories followed one family from 1941 to 1945, many details flowed through each story. Cara drew up a floor plan of the home we used for the Turner family. Sarah kept a master timeline listing dates of births, deaths, weddings, graduations, military training, and pertinent WWII events. Likewise, a character chart tracked physical traits, quirks, nicknames, etc. Our editors also found those documents useful.

6. Communication. Not only did we communicate in the brainstorming and proposal-writing phases, but during writing and editing, and now doing publicity. We sent lots of emails: “Who would Abigail want in her wedding party?” “What would Pete be doing now?” “What would Merry be feeling?” “Is there a garage on the property? If not, where do they park the car?” Not only was communication vital for story flow, but it built our friendships and our appreciation for each other.

Collaboration is a wonderful addition to the writing experience. If you can find the right concept and the right friends to write with, then we highly recommend it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cara C. Putman, the award-winning author of 19 books, graduated high school at 16, college at 20, and completed her law degree at 27. FIRST for Women magazine called Shadowed by Grace “captivating” and a “novel with ‘the works.’” Cara is active at her church and a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. Putman is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at Krannert. She serves on the executive board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an organization she has served in various roles since 2007. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.

Sarah Sundin is the author of six historical novels, including In Perfect Time (Revell, August 2014), plus a novella in Where Treetops Glisten (WaterBrook, September 2014). Her novel On Distant Shores was a double finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. In 2011, Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children, and she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. You can find her at

USA Today best-selling author Tricia Goyer is the author of 45 books, including the three-book Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series. She has written over 500 articles for national publications and blogs for high traffic sites like TheBetterMom.com and MomLifeToday.com. Tricia and her husband John live in Little Rock, Arkansas. They have six amazing children, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and two adorable grandchildren.

Learn more about the authors!

Cara Putman
Sarah Sundin
Tricia Goyer

Pinterestcebook: authortriciagoyer

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Indie Author and Audiobook Narrator, Becky Doughty, & a Christmas E-Book Giveaway!

This interviewee is so close to my heart! Becky Doughty is not only my critique partner, but my friend, my supporter, my sounding-board...and one of the few who encouraged me that I COULD go indie and succeed. I thank God upon every remembrance of her!

Today I wanted to chat with Becky, whose readers haven't ceased begging for more books with her Elderberry Croft protagonist, Willow Goodhope. Accordingly, Becky just released a holiday sequel, Elderberry Days: A Season of Joy.

Honestly, Becky is quite simply one of the most productive authors I know and a true Renaissance Woman. Not only does she have nine indie novels and novellas out, she has also narrated nineteen audiobooks through Audible (one of those is my God's Daughter). You can find her books here and BraveHeart audiobook samples here. ~Heather Day Gilbert

Becky Doughty, Author
Becky Doughty is the author of the best-selling Elderberry Croft series and the voice behind BraveHeart Audiobooks. 

Becky is married to her champion of more than 25 years, Kevin. They have three children, two of whom are grown and starting families of their own, and they all live within a few miles of each other in Southern California.

Author Website: BeckyDoughty.com
BraveHeart Audiobooks Website: BraveheartAudiobooks.com
Email: becky(at)beckydoughty(dot)com
Twitter: @BeckySDoughty
Google Plus+BeckyDoughty
Pinterest: BeckySDoughty

Interview with Becky Doughty, 

Indie Author & Audiobook Narrator



HG: Welcome, my friend! Let's go back in time...say, two years ago. What did your writing career look like then? What led you to go indie?

BD: Heather, thank you so much for inviting me here today! And thank you, Novel Rocket readers, for having me!

Actually, my indie journey began about 4 years ago, although I didn't quite realize that's what I was doing! Like so many authors I know, I've been writing stories, primarily for fun (and therapy!) since I was old enough to string sentences together. I've often considered “getting serious” about my writing, but put marriage and family and my day jobs first...so my writing was just a hobby, just “for me” projects. 

Well, one of the fun projects I took on was writing a series of Bible study stories for our church's women's monthly brunch. The series was well received, and the women requested I compile them into a collection so they could have a copy, and gift copies to friends and family. So I did a little research into the most efficient and cost-effective means to printing this collection, and discovered it was cheaper for me to publish it using a “print-on-demand” system than it would be for me to have a local print shop do them for me...and I wouldn't have to stock the books either! 

So I learned how to format, how to create a cover with the help of a friend who was proficient at PhotoShop, and how to set up my own publishing house (BraveHearts Press), and distributed the book, Life Letters: The Fruit of the Spirit, to the major online booksellers. It truly was the simplest way to create the product this group of women asked for. I had no real intention of doing more indie publishing, nor did I consider this a major milestone in my career.

However, the positive response I received to my writing encouraged me to pick up my pen more seriously, so over the next 18 months, I wrote like a maniac and landed a wonderful agent with my fiction. It was during this time that I met Heather, too!

As my books were being shopped around, I started paying close attention to what was going on in the indie publishing world. I decided to proactively pursue BOTH indie publishing and traditional publishing, and in January of 2013, I began self-publishing a serial novel, Elderberry Croft, first through my website in monthly episodes, then in volumes at the major online booksellers. I then compiled Elderberry Croft: The Complete Collection and published that in January 2014. Over the last two years, the response to Elderberry Croft has grown in leaps and bounds, and because of its success, I opted to indie publish some of my other fiction. As a result of that decision, my agent and I parted ways amicably, but I still consider traditional publishing as a viable option for me and hope to pursue that again in the near future.

HG: Why did you choose to publish your novel, Elderberry Croft, as a serial novel on your blog? How did you go about that? And what was the response to it?

BD: I started writing Elderberry Croft, a serial novel in monthly episodes, as a way to give readers a taste of my story voice. I posted it for free on my website the whole year of 2013, then pulled it in 2014 and published the series as a complete collection. The series is by far my best seller, and I think much of that is due to the steady production, the fact that I wasn't initially looking at this project as a book to SELL, but as a book on which to build a readership, (Click to Tweet!) and therefore, I basically gave it away for a full year. Volume 1, the first 3 episodes of the series, is still FREE. This has been a long term investment project, and I'm beginning to see long term results.

Elderberry Croft: The Complete Collection on Amazon
The response has been very positive and many have asked for more, so last month I published a holiday sequel novella, Elderberry Days:Season of Joy!

Elderberry Days: Season of Joy on Amazon
***And to say “Thank you” and “Merry Christmas” from me to you, I'm giving away digital copies of both Elderberry Croft: The Complete Collection and Elderberry Days: Season of Joy to ALL WHO COMMENT HERE from now until December 25th! (Click to Tweet!) Please be sure to leave your email address and the format you prefer: pdf, mobi for Kindle, or epub.***

HG: Our critique process is crucial for me and I don't feel comfortable publishing a book without your input. You tell me when a story is unworkable and heading the wrong way, when I misspell words I was sure I knew how to spell, or when characters aren't coming across the right way. What do you think is the key thing to look for in a critique partner? I would recommend someone whose writing you respect; someone whose judgment you trust; and someone who brings elements to the table that balance your writing style.

BD: Oh goodness. I always know I can count on you, Heather. Having a critique partner, someone you can trust to read your story without trying to make it sound like their voice is paramount to producing a quality product. And that IS what we're doing. We're not just writing stories. As indie publishers, we're producing a product in its entirety

We want the story to be sound and relevant, the cover to be professional, the editing to be quality, the presentation as a whole to be stellar. This is not about comparing indie to traditional, but about creating the best product possible, period. A critique partner must be of the same mindset. I don't want someone who will let things slide because we're buds. I want someone who will hold me to the highest standard BECAUSE we're buds and because she wants the best for me, just as I want the best for her. That's why I feel so confident in this partnership, Heather.

HG: Thank you and I feel the same way! You have several novels out: Elderberry Croft; Elderberry Days: Season of Joy; Waters Fall; and Juliette and the Monday ManDates. I believe next on your publication agenda is Renata and the Fall from Grace (you know I'm anxiously waiting to read that one!). Can you tell us a little about the four sisters in The Gustafson Girls series and Renata in particular?

BD: Absolutely! The Gustafson Girls is a series about 4 sisters whose parents were killed fifteen years earlier by a drunk driver. Although raised by loving grandparents, it’s the G-FOURce—the Gustafson Four Sisters Club—that binds them together when their differences would tear them apart. All grown up now, Juliette has become the quintessential doormat, Renata, the self-appointed matriarchal figure. Phoebe is, at least according to Renata, borderline narcissistic, and Gia is on the verge of a major identity crisis.

Then there’s Angela Clinton, the senior class darling who drove her cherry black 1970 el Camino into the side of their parents’ car on the night of Juliette’s high school graduation. Angela’s prison sentence is winding down; soon she’ll be eligible for parole and moving back to town. Will the G-FOURce be strong enough to hold them together as they step into the eye of the storm that’s been brewing for the last fifteen years? Will they finally be able to let go of the past and embrace the future, no matter what it holds?

Cover Art for the Gustafson Girls Series
Juliette's story is already available on Amazon (Juliette and the Monday ManDates), and will go to other online booksellers the first of the year. Renata is the second sister, and the only one who is married. She feels responsible for “keeping the other girls in line,” much to everyone else's chagrin. But Renata's own life is about to spin out of her tight-fisted control and no amount of careful planning, pride, or will power is going to save her. Her faith in God, the bonds of her marriage, her role in the G-FOURce, even her black and white ideas of right and wrong, will all be tested.

Renata and the Fall from Grace is scheduled for release in early Spring, around the first of February. Books 3 and 4, Phoebe and the Rock of Ages and Gia the Blast from the Past, will  also be released later in 2015.

HG: How did you decide to go into audiobook narration? How laborious of a process was it to get everything set up for that?

Becky in her audiobook studio
BD: This was actually a huge part of my decision to venture fully into indie publishing last year. I realized that if I was going to be a full time author/publisher, I'd need to diversify and find other income streams within the industry. 

As much as I enjoy editing, after a really difficult experience, I realized it was not a service I could comfortably offer. Although I enjoy creating my own covers, I knew I didn't have the patience or know-how or programs to do them for others. I'm not a consistent blogger, so turning my blog into a source of income stream wasn't a good fit, either. 

But I've spent my whole life reading stories out loud – to my siblings, to the kids on the school bus (usually my own serial novels before I knew they were called that! I'd write a new chapter each night and read it on the way to school the next day), then to my children, and hopefully, one day soon, to my grandchildren. I'm also quite comfortable behind a microphone, being a member of a very musical family (we have a family band, aptly named “The Rowdy Doughtys), and we already had much of the equipment I'd need to narrate from my home.

So my husband and I converted a closet in my office into a sound booth, purchased a few pieces of equipment and software as we could afford it, and now, almost a year later, I just completed my 19th audiobook. I've had some wonderfully patient authors who have ridden the learning curve with me, and I'm really beginning to find my groove with the audiobooks. It's a fairly simple thing to get into, but it requires a lot of work to make the business successful, and a willingness to constantly look for ways to produce better sound, better working relationships, better standards, better voices, better interpretations.

I'm also learning to be selective about material I narrate, not just based on content rating (I've labeled myself as a “Clean Reads” narrator, something that is remarkably subjective in this industry), but also based on the story itself, whether or not it's something I enjoy reading personally. My husband works alongside me in this business, and he can tell when my heart isn't in a project. He's a good filter for me.

As the proverbial shoemaker whose children go barefoot, I have yet to narrate one of my own books, but that's a project I'm looking forward to at the beginning of the year, starting with Elderberry Croft and Elderberry Days.

Thank you, again, Heather, and all the Novel Rocket gang, for having me here today. I've learned so much from what others share on this website. Don't forget! I'm gifting e-book copies of Elderberry Croft and Elderberry Days to all who comment here from now until December 25th! Be sure and leave your email address and the format you prefer: pdf, mobi for Kindle, or epub. Merry Christmas, friends!

HG: Thank you so much, Becky, and your giveaway just shows your heart of giving to others. Thank you for all the time and encouragement you've given to me! And be sure to comment with your email to receive your e-book copies of Becky's books!