Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Susan Mitchell sees herself as an ordinary soccer mom, until she’s pulled through a portal into another world, where a nation grappling for its soul waits for a promised Restorer to save their people.
She has always longed to do something important for God, but can she fill this role?
While she struggles to adapt to a foreign culture, she tackles an enemy that is poisoning the minds of the people, uncovers a corrupt ruling Council, and learns that God can use even her floundering attempts at service in surprising ways.
This new expanded edition of The Restorer includes an in-depth devotion guide for readers who want to dig into the spiritual themes of the book, bonus scenes providing glimpses of the story through a variety of characters, and fun extras including links to songs and recipes.
"I love it when what’s typical gets twisted around, and Sharon Hinck has done that again…Brilliant…Highly Recommended." Christian Fiction Review
"What a ride! Hang on to your speculative seats!"
Then I noticed the guy who came into the coffee shop panting, a backpack slung over his gray sweatshirt that was ripped at the shoulder and soaked, his pants tattered at the cuff. He grabbed the free water, sweat dripping from his forehead, and hunched over just a bit…obviously overheated. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. He downed the water, filled his cup again, and set his backpack by the computer, telling the barrista he’d order something…but in a bit. I wondered…who is this guy? What’s his story?
He looked out of place in a yuppy coffee shop, but ordered a frozen drink. Was he homeless? I didn’t think a homeless person would spend $5 on a drink. Down on his luck? Maybe. Running from an axe murderer? Probably not. So why was he there? Where had he just come from? And why was he wearing a sweat shirt on a 100 degree day?
This is the second time in two weeks in two different coffee shops that I’ve witnessed an out of place, larger-than-real-life character that made me stop and ask, “What’s his story?”
In “Writing the Break Out Novel,” Donald Maass talks about larger-than-life character qualities. He says, “A larger-than-life character is someone who says, does, and thinks things that we would like to but never dare. This does not necessarily mean turning your characters into wise-crackers or pulp clichés. It does mean pushing them out of their own bounds, whatever those might be.”
It also means putting them in out of the ordinary situations.
Those are the kind of characters and stories people like to read about and those are the characters we need to write. The affectionate couple in the corner were ordinary. I gave them a once over, then moved on.
I. Moved. On.
To something more interesting. Someone more interesting.
How do you create larger-than-life characters so your readers can’t move on, but are compelled to ask “What’s his story?”
Gina Conroy, a.k.a. "the other Gina," is a new monthly contributor to Novel Rocket. She's the founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, releases from Barbour Publishing in January 2012.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
But the wedding turns out quite differently than Sam expects. A chance encounter leads to a reunion with Carson Brylie, a fellow teacher and the man who once broke her heart, and Lien, a young Amerasian girl who desperately needs Sam and Carson's help.
But working with Carson might put Sam's tender heart at risk once again. Is she willing to forgive the past and take another chance on love?
When you’re constantly receiving rejection letters from publishers or agents, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is publicizing a novel you can’t even seem to sell.
Before I continue, let me stop a moment and give this very loud and clear disclosure: nothing, nothing, NOTHING, matters more than writing a killer book. Spend 99 percent of your writing time perfecting your craft and fashioning a story that will change the lives of those who read it, or at least entertain the heck out of them.
But with the other one percent of your time, even if you’re just starting out, start building yourself a PR folder. You’ll thank yourself later.
My debut novel, Crossing Oceans, released May 2010 with Tyndale House Publishers. Though it was the first to earn a publishing contract, it was actually the fifth novel I’ve written. I started my marketing folder back on book two because I was sure it would be published. Although book two still collects dust, as does three and four, I’m lucky to have gotten that head start.
The thing with publicity is if you wait until your book is releasing or even about to release, you’re almost too late.
Once you sell your first novel, you often are under contract for a second, and possibly third. I was contracted for a second novel which was due the end of the month my first novel released.
I had more than a year to write this novel, so I didn’t stress. Until that deadline snuck up on me and I wasn't even close to being finished. What happened? Well, I had some personal things that set my writing back. I got married to an amazing man who distracts me just by walking by. Major life changes, no matter how good have a way of slowing the literary flow—for me at least.
After what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, I finally turned my sample chapters in for approval… they weren’t approved. The story I'd planned and plotted was too different in tone from the first. I was asked, for my own career good, to hold off on this one and try something else. Both my agent and publisher were in agreement, and after a little consideration, so was I.
I found myself with just a few months to publicize my all important, debut novel, and write my all important sophomore novel.
I also had children, a day job and Novel Rocket to tend to. Guess what? I was certainly stressed, but not as stressed as I would have been had I not started preparing for that moment years in advance. I’d like to share some of what has helped me.
What can you do now to get ahead of the eight ball?1. Buy your website URL and begin to build it. You can go very expensive and pay thousands for a professional site, or you could start small and do something like godaddy, where you build your own site. I took a third route and hired someone to make me a template and then set it up like a blog, so that I could tweak and update it easily.
2. Get professional headshots. I hired a friend whose work I admired but who is still considered an amateur. For fifty dollars and my husband agreeing to baby-sit for an afternoon, I got a few really great and professional looking pictures. Don’t let anyone convince you that a good headshot is a waste of money for a novelist. On Novel Journey we post lots of author photos, many of which look like candid shots that other people are cut out of. Remember how important perception is. I look at a substandard picture and I subconsciously think this author is no perfectionist, and am less likely to want to read their work. Spend the money and get a good promo picture of yourself.
3. Keep a file filled with the names of magazines you come across that fit your writing. For example, if you write Victorian era historicals, Victorian magazines might later be interested in an article written by you. Jot down the names of them and any other publications you come across that might be a fit. This will save you a lot of research time later on.
4. Keep a folder of book reviewers you’ve come across that seem to enjoy the type of stories you write. I send myself emails with the reviewer’s name, books they’ve reviewed and liked, their email address and, if I know them, how I know them. While it’s true that they might not still be reviewing when your book finally releases, it won’t hurt to try.
5. Start reading marketing/publicity books now and take notes. My personal favorite is the simply titled Publicize Your Book. If you can only afford one book on marketing/publicity, I highly recommend you make it that one.
6. Read The Tipping Point. It will explain some very important concepts on what makes things popular. It’s an easy and surprisingly entertaining read.
7. Read How to Make Friends and Influence People. The book has been around forever for good reason.
8. Keep a list of natural influencers. You’ll call upon these folks later for help in getting the word out about your book.
9. Help anyone you can. For one, it’s just the right thing to do, for two, what goes around comes around.
10. Start building your platform now. Write articles, create a blog with excellent and frequently updated content, volunteer to teach classes on what you’re an expert in, or for whatever committees in ACFW, or other writing organizations you belong. People are much more likely to be interested in your book if they feel like they know you and you’ve shown interest in them.
In conclusion, Crossing Oceans, my debut novel went on to hit CBA, ECPA and PW's bestseller's lists. Did my platform and diligent efforts pay off? I tried to do everything right—to write an excellent story, to build a platform, network, help others, and everything humanly possible to publicize my book.
That’s the kicker, maybe yes, maybe no. The thing with publicity is that no one really knows what works. All we can do is write the best book we’re capable of, not let any chance pass that will help get the word out about it, and say our prayers.
With my sophomore novel, Dry as Rain in stores now, I get to ride the up and downs with as much wonder as the first go around. It's still every bit a mystery as it always was, but I'm doing what I can once again to help my book's chances of finding readers. . . and not letting book three's deadline catch me off guard this time.
Behind every broken vow lies a broken heart.
When Eric and Kyra Yoshida first met, they thought their love would last forever. But like many marriages, theirs has gradually crumbled, one thoughtless comment and misunderstanding at a time, until the ultimate betrayal pushes them beyond reconciliation. Though Eric longs to reunite with Kyra, the only woman he has truly loved, he has no idea how to repair the damage that’s been done.
Then a car accident erases part of Kyra’s memory—including her separation from Eric—and a glimmer of hope rises from the wreckage. Is this a precious opportunity for the fresh start Eric has longed for? Does he even deserve the chance to find forgiveness and win back Kyra’s heart . . . or will the truth blow up in his face, shattering their last hope for happiness? A richly engaging story of betrayal and redemption, Dry as Rainilluminates with striking emotional intensity the surprising truth of what it means to forgive.
Through October, buy any Rocket Pages listing, sidebar ad or book trailer placement, get another ad or listing of equal or less value free!
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Novel Rocket is one of the best places to get seen by those who like to write and read. We are read by 2,000 DAILY.
Contact us HERE.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
These are words commonly associated with the genre. But does “Inspiration” rightly portray the essence of the Christian Gospel?
At the outset of our current recession, one columnist noted that Christian fiction thrives during economic crisis:
Local Christian publishers who launched or expanded their fiction lines in recent years are enjoying the fruits of their labors thanks to an unlikely source — the flagging economy.
While sales of Christian nonfiction have stalled during the recent economic crisis, sales of Christian fiction remain strong.
Karen Ball, executive editor at Southern Baptist-owned B&H Publishing Group [Ball is no longer with B&H] , said that people are looking for a way to escape from the bad news of layoffs and plummeting stocks. “When reality gets ugly, fiction takes off,” she said.
Along with escape, Christian novels specialize in Christian hope.
“There’s some wonderful secular fiction out there, but it’s not offering any hope,” Ball said. “If anything it’s discouraging. In Christian fiction, there’s hope in the midst of trouble.” (Emphasis mine)
This portrayal of Christian fiction as an agent of hope is common, and I think it captures the essence of what many readers expect from the genre. They want something uplifting, inspirational, encouraging, and/or ultimately optimistic.
So is this why the genre exists, to evoke or inspire hope in those who despair? Is this why readers seek out Christian fiction, to recharge their Inspirational battery? If so, I think that’s a problem. Let me offer three reasons why the term Inspirational Fiction can be dangerous for both writers and readers.
LITERARY PREDICTABILITY: If readers buy Christian fiction primarily to feel good and extract hope, then no matter how bleak a storyline, they should always expect a somewhat uplifting resolution. This is a common charge against Christian fiction. Not only does this expectation hurt the genre (i.e., people know what to expect), it also hamstrings Christian fiction writers into more predictable plot-lines. Things have to work out, or else it’s not… inspirational.
SUPERFICIALITY: Another problem with defining Christian fiction in terms of Inspiration is that it potentially glosses over the “darker” elements of life and faith (i.e., that humans are depraved, do depraved things, reject God, and can ultimately spend eternity in hell) and opts for convenience (happy ending) rather than complexity. Stories that move predictably toward uplifting resolutions often sacrifice deeper issues (and biblical clarity) for superficial resolutions.
AN INCOMPLETE GOSPEL: It’s been said, The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. Before the Gospel “frees,” it makes us “miserable.” While the Holy Spirit infuses God’s children with love, joy, and peace, He also convicts world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8). The Gospel damns before it releases. Much Inspirational Fiction misses this “miserable” part of the Gospel. It conditions us to see God as The Fixer and our stories as Pep Pills for troubled times. The ultimate message is, “Come to Jesus and everything will work out.” But is that the essence of the Gospel?
This last point is the most important, and potentially the most charged. Does Inspirational Fiction (or, at least, our expectations of it) trivialize the Gospel, turn it into a bandaid for all our ills? Does the genre substitute theological depth for feel-good fluff? I think it can. Sadly, many Christians have replaced theological “steak and eggs” with a Chicken Soup for the Soul mentality. And Inspirational Fiction potentially caters to that mentality.
Yes. The Gospel offers inspiration and hope. It is good news! But real biblical hope is based on a sense of hopelessness, not humanistic, formulaic, emotional quick-fixes. We can’t save ourselves, we need a Savior. And following Him means carrying our cross along a very narrow road. That road is often rocky, strewn with unpredictability and hardship. Multitudes have died seeing their hopes and promises left unfulfilled.
Mike is a monthly contributor to Novel Journey. He is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. Mike's debut novel, "The Resurrection," is in stores now and his novella, "Winterland," will be available in e-book October 2011. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Last week Athol Dickson started a discussion on this blog that touched on what typical Christian readers want from novels. Mike Duran followed up with the suggestion that reading too much message-driven fiction might dumb readers down. If all we eat is baby food, will our teeth fall out, leaving us with no way to chew meat when it's served to us?
This is worth pondering.
First, is it true that the typical Christian fiction reader wants all her questions answered and she wants the answers to include a moral message? Is it true that the readers who want a clear message are usually the ones who don't like thinking much about a novel?
The Charlatan's Boy, by Jonathan Rogers. The reviewer gave the book a one-star rating. I'm sorry, but Rogers couldn't produce a one-star book even if he were in a coma. He'd have to be all the way dead to write a one-star book. So what did the reviewer dislike so much? The title of the review was "No spiritual content" and the reviewer told us that:
"Grady is searching for truth, but doesn't ever make any kind of choice to stop deception, just finds what satisfies him and then the story ends."I'm reading the review and thinking...searching for the truth...finds what satisfies him. Isn't that a picture of spiritual struggle and salvation?
I read Grady's story, empathizing with the little orphan boy. He was being raised by a liar who told him his parents had given him up because he was too ugly to love. This is exactly what Satan told me for a long time: Your sin makes you so ugly that your Father can't love you. Happily, I learned that this is only half the story. The Father is seeking his children and he goes to great lengths to find them and bring them home. So I read Grady's story, hoping his parents would find him. I think others did as well.
That one-star review was buried under a page full of four and five-star reviews, many of which mention the spiritual elements in the book. (One reviewer says this book gives "possibly the most accurate representation of the character of God of any since C. S. Lewis." Whew!) Still, Rogers probably isn't selling as many books as some authors who are giving readers novels with messages writ large.
So does that prove that typical Christian fiction readers want gospel flooding over them like mighty oceans and doctrine slapping them as waves slap the shore--noisily and at regular intervals?
I like to believe I'm typical. I look like the women who buy Christian novels--I'm a white, middle-classed, (past) middle-aged, evangelical woman. I'm also a reader who likes answers more than questions, and I love to find the gospel tucked away in books. OK I'll admit it: I even enjoy finding the gospel strutting right out in the open, especially if it's got shiny new shoes on its feet.
What is it that bothers me in a book, then? The lack of answers? The lack of four spiritual laws and an altar call? Am I turned off by novels that make me think? Do I just want to be entertained?
I like to think. I listen to sermons, I read nonfiction books, and I read blogs, all because I like to think and interact with the ideas of others. I bet the same is true for you. I bet that's why you are reading this blog post, in fact. I like to think when I read fiction, too, but with fiction I like to feel more than think. To put it simplistically, I think and feel when I read both fiction and nonfiction, but nonfiction more often engages my brain while fiction engages my heart.
When I read a novel, I want to love the main character. The best characters become dear friends. I empathize with them. My favorite characters often make me laugh and they are almost always generous in nature and given to honesty.
Because my emotions are so involved in fiction, when a character I love acts in a way I can't tolerate it makes me dislike the book. We all choose friends we can get along with. If a character I love becomes increasingly selfish or falls away from the faith or is in any way worse off morally at the end of the book than at the beginning, I'm going feel that the friendship was a waste of my time. If the protagonist I've loved and rooted for has struggled through the hardships in the book only to lose ground morally, I feel cheated. I've slogged along with him and I want to get some gain for my pain. I'm probably not going to buy more books by that author, because it cost me emotionally to love her character and then lose the friendship.
So I'm not looking for a big bowl of message handed to me not only skinned and roasted, but also all blended up into baby food. I'm looking for characters I can live with and grow with. I want characters who will grow in virtues I find attractive in people. I like them to learn to be honest and self-sacrificing and humble.
Am I that far from typical? What about you? Are you looking for message? What turns you off to a novel? Are bestselling Christian novels knee-deep with messages?
When Sally Apokedak was eight, she fell in love with reading. The books she loved best had messages buried at different depths, but she never read novels intent upon improving her mind. She read for the joy of meeting new friends who often lived in fascinating worlds and did dangerous things.
Sally writes novels set in worlds she wants to visit and filled with characters she likes to hang out with. Her short works have been published in various magazines, including Highlights for Children, and her YA novel The Button Girl is currently being reviewed by publishers. She is represented by Reclaim Management. She blogs about young adult novels at sally-apokedak.com.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Christopher Bollen is a writer who lives in New York City. He has contributed to many publications including New York Times Magazine, Vice Magazine, Fantastic Man, and V Magazine. His interview series at V Magazine includes literary and cultural luminaries the likes of Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Brett Easton Ellis, Patti Smith, Roman Polanski, and Brad Pitt. He is currently the Editor at Large at Interview Magazine. Lightning People is his first novel. For more info on Christopher Bollen, visit http://www.
I live a blessed life. No, really. I do.
Lately I’ve been realizing just how blessed, as I’ve coordinated several large-team projects.
These projects have increased my coordination skills, but they have also taught me about human relations—which means I’m learning things that will eventually inform my character development.
Being part of something bigger
News flash: Writers are sort of solitary creatures. But give them a cause they believe in—say the promotion of Christian fiction or the education of neophyte authors—and it can be hard to turn off their enthusiasm.
But it’s not just enthusiasm. Writers and editors are evangelists for writing and editing. In the Christian arena, I’ve yet to meet one who isn’t willing to share his or her experiences in order to help another writer overcome a challenge or take the next logical step.
Contests and conferences
For instance, the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest recently closed for this year. At the bell, we had received 118 entries.
The next day I parceled out those entries to our volunteer judges—all working (and successful) writers and editors. I can’t name them, because judging is anonymous, but to a person they were excited to have the opportunity to offer guidance and feedback to those 118 unpublished authors—one of whom will no longer be unpublished at the end of the contest.
I am also the editor-in-chief for the American Christian Fiction Writers ezine, Afictionado. For the month of October we’re producing two special editions of the ezine:
- ACFW Carol Awards issue: For this project, 35+ book reviewers joined forces to provide reviews of 45 books in 15 categories. The fact that almost every reviewer met deadline—and many came in early—was icing on the cake. The cake was the enthusiasm with which all the reviewers participated. Check out their work on Oct. 1, 2011, at www.acfw.com/ezine.
- ACFW Conference issue: Here more than 40 reporters and 8 editors volunteered their time and talents to report on every session, keynote address, and Early Bird workshop. What makes is so sweet is that each year about half of the crew are new participants and half are returning for another helping. This edition of the ezine will publish on Oct. 15, 2011, at the same URL.
Making a difference
None of this would be possible without the volunteers who make it happen. If you’re involved in any of these three projects, I hope you know you have my thanks.
But, even if you’re not involved, I hope you can see the importance of coming together as a group to make a difference in people’s lives—of being a part of something bigger.
As Christians, that’s what we’re called to—to community. To mutual support. To, as Michael Card once wrote, “day after day…take up the basin and towel.”
Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the editor of Afictionado, the ezine for American Christian Fiction Writers.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011