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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Winner of Susan May Warren's Basket of Books is...

Linda White! Congratulations. You dind't leave an email address, so you have 48 hours from this posting to contact us with your mailing address. Look under Ground Control and contact me, Ane Mulligan. If you miss the deadline, another winner will be chosen.

Four Must Haves for a Book Launch ~ Jennifer Slattery

Four Must Haves for a Book Launch 
(Keeping the Launch Spooks Away) 

by Jennifer Slattery

Making it through final edits, with all the insecurities that come with them, is hard enough. Surviving a book launch while managing a substantive-edit deadline? That calls for an extreme amount of chocolate, tissue, ever-flowing caffeine and lots of duct tape. Bonus need -- a Gumby man able to withstand all of one’s frustrations. (Please note, a Gumby that bounces is immensely more satisfying, able to stave off frequent bouts of hysterics, especially if it bounces off one’s well-intentioned spouse who, in an effort to encourage said writer, suggests she try spell check. Don’t ask.)

During my first ever book launch, having teetered dangerously close to insanity on more than one occasion, I decided to make note of a few things I—and my poor, slightly-terrified family—would need to survive my second launch. 

I’ve already mentioned the first and most important item, but it is of such importance, redundancy is warranted.


To achieve the proper stores, you’ll want to begin shopping for this item at least six months in advanced. If you’re living on a writer’s salary and therefore must budget for every food item, I suggest you add on an additional three months. Of course, take into account the pre-launch daily nibbles and gorges. 

On second thought, you may want to open a direct account to your local chocolate factory. Make sure to thoroughly explain your impeding emergency. You may wish to visit them personally with a map to  your residence. One can never be too prepared.

Make sure to have plenty of tissue paper handy. You’ll want to purchase this in bulk.

Because unless your Karen Kingsbury, you’re going to get an unpleasant, maybe even hateful, review. And though you’ve tried to prepare for it, with post-it note affirmations stuck on every surface in your home, the mascara-streaking tears are bound to come. Especially when a reader sends you an email listing every mistake they discovered while reading your novel and you begin to wonder if you have more typos than pages. Actually, there’s no need to wonder.  You know you do, but there’s absolutely nothing you can do about that now. Except cry, grab another hunk of chocolate, and your most potent cup of Jo.

This leads me to necessary item number three: coffee, preferably available through intravenous drip. 

You do know sleep and book launches don’t coexist, right? Although it is true some unusual and exceptionally gifted authors are able to set and meet daily goals, allowing them, in theory, to catch a few hours of sleep each night. But even those rare and nauseating breeds aren’t immune to the night tremors that come once they realize people will soon actually be reading the drivel they created. 

And asking questions.

Like, “Your main character wears a pair of faded green shoes. Who from your past do these shoes represent? What inner longing do these loafers reveal?”

This of course initiates numerous nightmares that begin the moment your heavy eyes slam shut, nightmares that awaken you with family-scaring shrieks able to turn the most patient of husbands into sleep-deprived monsters.

Monsters who soon decide to enter into your editing attempts (if only to help you finish in this century so they, too, can begin to catch up on their sleep. These conniving beasts begin offering all sorts of strange advice like:

"Maybe if you printed the document out, you’d be able to stay focused—and off Facebook—for more than ten minutes at a time. Surely Words With Friends is not the most effective dictionary option available to you." 

"You should really cut back on the caffeine.  You’re beginning to twitch. And while you’re at it, do you think it’s time you jump into the shower? I’ve begun to notice a strange smell."

"Can one person really eat that much chocolate? How about I get you a salad? You’ll write better."

Remember when I said you’d need duct tape? 

This will come in handy whenever you need to silence those oh-so-helpful family members and friends. If that doesn’t work, you can always use this wonderful tool as earplugs, or you could tape yourself to your chair to keep from doing something you regret. 

Considering my launch and edits (for my second novel, releasing this winter) are still underway, my must-have list is continuing to grow. Do you know of any other items I should add? How do you maintain your—and your family’s—sanity during a book launch? Please share your ideas here, because I’m in desperate need! 

Jennifer Slattery writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for a great price! You can find it here: 
Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here:
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Susan May Warren, Giveaways, and Sky Diving! Oh, My!

Susan May Warren is the Christy, RITA and Carol award-winning author of over forty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press. Two-time Christy winner, RITA winner, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the book, Conversations with a Writing Coach. She is also the founder of, a craft and coaching community for novelists.
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You have written a lot of novels. You also co-own the successful My Book Therapy for writers. How do you keep it all together?

Keep it all together? Ack! What does that look like, really? If it means I’m supposed to be OUT of my pajamas before noon, have pre-thought-out crockpot meals on the table, laundry that is not rotting in the washer and a made bed…well…you’ll have to catch me between novels, or MBT projects. Because I’m sort of an all-or-nuthin’ gal.

When I write, I’m all in, huddled under what my children call my “thought” blanket. I claim no responsibility for my words to the outside world while under this shroud. And when I’m working on MBT, I’m all in, helping writers craft amazing stories. (probably too all in, because working with me can sometimes be like getting a blast from a fire-hose, but I’m working on that.) Here’s what I think: You gotta do what you love, be passionate about that, and if you have to, hire a cleaning lady (and let your hubby cook)!

Tell our readers about the Christensen Family series.

The Christiansens! Oh, how I love them. They’re a crazy, love big and live life outloud family who *might* be a little like my family. They live in the north woods of Minnesota, run a resort and try to figure out faith while living life (that often goes wrong). They make mistakes, but they love each other through them. Right now, I just finished book #5, The Wonder of You, and am working on plotting book #6, the final book. It’s a little touch of Lake Wobegon—all the men are good-looking, all the women heroic.

And it has the overtones of small town Cheers, where everyone knows your name. Which means that when you get into trouble, the entire town knows about it! The series follows each one of the adult children through their trials and triumphs of falling in love and finding their way in the world. (And oh, I feel sorry for Ingrid, their mother!) The next book hits the shelves in February 2015—Always on My Mind, a story about Casper, brother #2, who just can’t get the wrong girl off his mind...

I recently took a great class from you about branding, that it’s not just your tag line, but the commonality readers will find in all your works. I loved that, because it carries a writer into farther fields. Can you elaborate for our readers?

Sure—as a novelist, your brand is YOU. Or at least, your voice, your stories, your truths that you put on the page. When someone picks up your novel, they are relying on you to fulfil the promise you made in every other book they’ve read by you (and for first time readers, you are cementing that promise in their minds). It’s more than just place, or characters, it’s the FEELING you leave in your reader’s mind. Just like John Grisham leaves a different feeling than Nora Roberts –but both keep the promises (justice. Romance.)

Think about what feelings you want to leave for your reader. I came up with words—Family. Romance. Fun. Connectedness

All my stories have some element of these pieces. This is my brand—when you pick up a Susan May Warren novel, you’ll get a story about family, a strong romance, a lot of fun story elements and a sense of connectedness to each other, the world, and even God. So, if you’re a reader, ask yourself—how do your favorite authors make you feel as you put the book down. Does that feeling make you want to pass the book along, and go back for more? (Probably!) If you’re a writer, ask yourself the same question, and then figure out what feeling would make someone pass YOUR book along. 

Leave a comments to be entered
I learned some very fun and little-known facts about you from your publisher, that I know our readers will love. Will you tell us more about these? Especially the football letter and the skydiving!

>>Susan May Warren takes her research very seriously—from riding a mechanical bull, to skydiving, to surfing and parasailing, to recently enduring one of the coldest-ever Minnesota winters just to get the details correct for her upcoming Christiansen Family novel, Always on My Mind. But her proudest achievement is the varsity letter she earned . . . in football.>>

Well, I really did earn a letter in football. Sadly, not for my amazing skills on the field, but OFF the field as the manager for our state-winning team. But, since I was the manager that year, I got a letter also, which is SO fun when I mention to my sons that BOTH their parents were on state-winning football teams (my hubby’s team won state also), and earned letters in football. So, they have a double football legacy. 

As for skydiving—well, I wanted to write a sky-diving scene in a book, and sometimes you just have to do something crazy. I am afraid of heights, but this was different, almost like flying. Absolutely breathtaking. I highly recommend the experience!

My newest book is about a crab fisherman in Alaska, on one of those Deadliest Catch boats…I’m thinking I need some hands-on research…

Leave a comment for Susie and be entered in a drawing for a basketful of Susan May Warren’s The Christiansen Family series.

Journey to the remote Minnesota lodge of Evergreen Resort and see where faith and family meet real life in Take a Chance on Me, It Had to Be You, When I Fall in Love, and Evergreen.

An empty nest has Ingrid Christiansen dreading the upcoming holidays, but her husband, John, couldn’t be more excited about this new season of life. He even has a surprise trip abroad planned. He’s sure she’ll love it. What’s more romantic than Christmas in Paris?

Before he can stop her, however, Ingrid agrees to spearhead a major church project. Then their faithful dog, Butterscotch, needs emergency surgery, draining their savings. And then—because disasters strike in threes—an unexpected guest arrives, dredging up old hurts.

As a beautiful blanket of snow transforms the north woods into a winter wonderland, a deep chill settles over John and Ingrid’s marriage. With the holidays fast approaching, their only hope of keeping their love evergreen depends on turning the page on the past and embracing a new chapter of their future.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What I Wish I’d Known When My First Novel Came Out

By Lisa Wingate

Writing is the ultimate learn-on-the-job career. It’s challenging. It’s demanding. It’s busy. It can be unforgiving and maddening. It can also be unbelievably rewarding and filled with moments of story and human connection that are nothing short of bliss. With my twenty-third book, The Story Keeper, hitting shelves, I can honestly say that my career has been filled with surprises. That’s probably because I knew almost nothing about the business when I started out. If I could, I’d go back and tell myself a few things:

Wingate Book Signing
1. Write because you love it.  I know everyone says that, but it’s true.  If you really want to have a long career, you must figure out how to produce book, after book, while managing promotion, production edits, multiple forms of communication, and life in general. Set a manageable daily page quota or daily writing hours, and hold yourself to it.  One of the hardest things about writing is time management. 

2. Finish your first manuscript and write another.  It’s almost impossible to sell on a partial in fiction if you’re unpublished.  Polish your manuscript and send it out, because as much as we’d like them to, editors won’t come looking in your desk drawer.  While you’re waiting for news, write another book.  If the first one sells, you’ll be set for a two-book deal.  If the first one doesn’t sell, you will have eggs in another basket.  Be tenacious, be a thick-skinned as possible, keep writing while you wait for news.  

3. Rejection stinks, but it happens. Rejection isn’t anything personal; it’s just part of the business, and it’s to be expected.  Your project isn’t bad just because it gets rejected.  It may not be that editor’s (or agent’s) cup of tea, the house might not be buying right then, they may have another author under contract whose work is similar to yours, and so on.  There are so many reasons a book can be rejected, and the real trick is to look at the rejections as a tool and then move on.  Don’t make sweeping changes based on one opinion unless there’s an imminent sale involved.  Conversely, if you receive the same criticism from several editors (or agents), consider pulling out the red pen and getting to work

4. You probably won’t hit the NYT immediately. In fact, few writers ever reach this coveted level. Be careful how you measure success. Setting lofty goals is a good thing… right up until you feel like a failure for not achieving them. Myriad factors determine which books get the “perfect storm” of great cover, great market timing, and heavy publisher promotion. Some of it is just luck. Write the very best book you can. Do what you can to promote. Stop obsessing. Write another book.

5. Find your creative tribe. On any given road, you’re never the only traveler.  Others walk in shoes like your own and shoes that are different.  Find them. Critique one another’s work, brainstorm together, give creative criticism, take creative criticism, and learn from one another. Give back more than you get.

6. Cheer for other people. One of the best promotional avenues available to writers today, yesterday, and tomorrow remains cooperative promotion. Find authors whose work is similar to yours. Cross-promote with one another. Cheer one another’s successes, awards, and new releases. Your readers will thank you for the tips and you’ll feel good about doing something positive for someone else. You’ll also have that warm feeling when others do the same for you.

Above all, while you’re walking the writer-road, be aware, be in the moment, don’t close your eyes even for an instant.  You never know when you’re going to turn a corner and find, right in the middle of an ordinary day, the idea for a story. Wherever you go in life, there are always nuggets of story along the trail.  Sometimes you see them coming; sometimes you stumble over them.  Pause long enough to pick them up and examine them.  Your writer's mind can take it from there. A nugget can become an entire goldmine.  That's where the joy is, that's when the magic happens, and there is no magic like the magic of story.

Lisa Wingate
Selected among BOOKLIST'S Top 10 of 2012 and Top 10 of 2013, Lisa Wingate skillfully weaves lyrical writing and unforgettable Southern settings with elements of women's fiction, history, and mystery to create stories that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and ForeWord Magazine refers to as "Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, and the author of over over twenty novels and countless magazine pieces. 

Tyndale, 2014
 Her books have held positions on many bestseller lists, both in the U.S. and

internationally. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol award nominee, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, a Christianity Today Book Award nominee, an Inspy Award nominee, a two-time Carol Award winner, a LORIES Best Fiction Award winner, and a Utah Library Award winner. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others, as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. Visit Lisa at her website:

Six Traits Every Writer Must Develop

Alton Gansky is the author of 43 books or so and director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference held each May in North Carolina. There he teaches and mentors and looks for new talent.

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Writing is one of those rare things that is both an art and a craft. Art is applied creativity usually meant to share with others. Craft is the skill used to create the art. A painter must be able to do more than envision the finished work, she must also have developed the necessary technique to move a mental picture to the canvas, or sculpt a three dimensional image. Some are gifted with the ability to conjure up great ideas but lack the craft, the skill necessary to bring the idea to life. Writers must be able to do both.

Here are six traits, six qualities, every writer should possess:

1. Fearless imagination. This is the ability to conceive a plot, recognize an important subject for an article, or discern a much needed topic for a devotion. Fearless imagination means:
  • a. A willingness to ask "what if" questions and then spend sometime thinking about the answer.
  • b. An ability to shut out the negative voices in our head or in our social and family circles.
  • c. A willingness to have more ideas than can be produced by a single author.
  • d. An ability to be honest enough with one's self to say, "On further review, this idea stinks," and toss it aside. If you allow yourself the privilege of having many, many ideas, some of them are bound to be losers. Recognize them. Call them for what they are. Move on to the next idea. Diamond miners move tons of useless rock to discover a few precious gems.

2. Commitment to the process. Writing is a process. Book length work takes time to create. A lot of time. Even short form pieces like articles can be time consuming and research intensive. Commitment to the process means:
  • a. Having the ability to maintain enthusiasm over the long haul.
  • b. An understanding that writing involves other people and it takes time to jump through hoops.
  • c. A willingness to try and try again.
  • d. Knowing that receiving a rejection is not the same as receiving a diagnosis for a terminal disease. By the time you receive a rejection you should be well into your next project.

3. A willingness to fail. No one likes failing, but we all do it. Some of the most successful people are those who have a longer list of failures. To paraphrase (a very loose paraphrase) Teddy Roosevelt, "It is better to fail while attempting something great than be a cold and timid soul who knows neither victory nor defeat. A willingness to fail means:
  • a. Having a baseball mentality. In baseball, the best batters get a hit about 3 times out of every 10 at bats. In other words, as batters they have a 70% failure rate. That doesn't matter. What is important is the three times they get a hit. That's what people remember.
  • b. Knowing that failure is only permanent if you let it be or if it kills you (in which case it no longer matters).

4. A love of the language. There are readers who skim a book; there are readers who savor books. Writers tend to be the latter, pausing over an especially well-crafted sentence, scene description. This is true of fiction and nonfiction. Some of the best prose I've read I found in the pages of a nonfiction book or an article. Read a George Will column sometime. A love of language means:
  • a. Caring about the power of words to move the mind.
  • b. Committing to making your current work the best you've ever created. In the end you might fall short of that goal, but you renew the commitment on the next project.
  • c. Studying writers who have reached the highest pinnacle of the craft.
  • d. Reading to find what was done right, not looking for what the writer did wrong.
  • e. Knowing the learning of art and craft never ceases, and that's a good thing.

5. Knowing that trying and failing is superior to failing to try.

6. Flexibility. Everything changes. Sometimes the change is fast and unexpected; sometimes we see it coming. In either case, the successful writer knows how to bend so as not to break.

What qualities do you think a successful writer should have?

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Changes in the Christian Fiction Industry Mean for Indie Authors

For the longest time, the Christian fiction industry seemed somewhat impervious to changes in publishing and the economy. For instance, back in June 2009, at the front-end of the recession, Christian Retailing reported

Defying current sales trends, Christian fiction continues to grow, offering a bright spot for retailers, publishers and readers in a bleak economy.

But in 2014, reality appears to have finally caught up. Take for example, Publishers Weekly reporting of the most recent ACFW conference which notes up front that 

"...four publishers closed, paused, or slimmed down their fiction lists."

The "slimming down" and "shrinkage" of front list titles is important for an industry with a limited number of big houses. But despite the "winnowing," industry reps framed the changes in an opportunistic light: 

A lot of the buzz this year was about “hybrid” authors, defined fluidly but generally meaning authors publishing via some mix of digital, indie, and traditional means. ACFW offered a session on the indie option. “The biggest challenge in ACFW is trying to serve indie members,” said Colleen Coble, novelist and CEO of the group, which has more than 2,600 members worldwide. “We still are going to be very focused on traditional publishing, but we don’t want to leave behind the indie writers.”

Although the number of fiction slots may be shrinking at traditional publishers, industry veterans saw plenty of opportunities, even if those opportunities look different in a changing business in which agents can be publishers and authors must be social media-savvy marketers. Major established fiction publishers aren’t pulling back, and there is room for the new, small, and nimble as digital becomes the accepted vehicle for risk management and author audition.

(A possibly interesting sidenote: PW appears to have changed its initial headline from "Christian Fiction Writers Meet Amid Shrinkage, Growth" -- see Tweet below -- to "Hybrid Publishing is Hot at Christian Fiction Conference," the article's current title. Feel free to speculate as to the reason for this change.)
A result of this "shrinkage" seems to have whittled the industry down to its core audience: 

As the Christian retail channel continues to contract, general romance readers are an especially attractive market for Christian/inspirational publishers. HCCP has begun exhibiting at the RT Booklovers Convention, where Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley, a debut novel that won two Carol Awards this year, gained readers and traction. Changes in the way Christian readers express their faith--toward greater engagement with the broader culture--have affected book content, Hutton noted. “A different demand is being placed on the books by the readership,” making them more attractive to general readers, she said.

From my perspective, this is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's fantastic to see Christian writers seeking "greater engagement with the broader culture." In this case, that means crossing over into the general market. The downside, again from my perspective, is that "general romance readers are an especially attractive market for Christian/inspirational publishers." So while market / industry changes are causing publishers to look more to the general market with more nuanced "book content," general romance remains the go-to Christian genre

As a hybrid author, it's the industry's changing stance on independent authors which fascinates me. The ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers, the world's largest Christian writers association) recently made significant policy changes by allowing indie authors and publishers potential inclusion into their ranks (see THIS post on the ACFW website as they address policy changes). This coincides with mainstream publishers making "room for the new, small, and nimble as digital becomes the accepted vehicle for risk management and author audition." Of course, it's that caveat -- "risk management and author audition" -- that makes digital publishing through a mainstream house rather unattractive to many indies. Either way, it's easy to see the Christian publishing industry and the ACFW's renewed emphasis on indies as begrudgingly reactionary rather than forward thinking

Whatever your perspective on all this, the changing economy, the morphing book business, and the "shrinkage" in the Christian fiction industry potentially provides a great opportunity for Christian indie authors. Not only is it good to see mainstream industry insiders finally making room for authors outside their approved circle, it concedes important ground to an elusive, but very important demographic: the Christian reader / writer who doesn't like Christian fiction. The affirmation of the "Christian indie author" is important for a number of reasons. Here's five of them: 
  • Christian indie authors potentially broaden the reach of Christian storytelling. If a goal of Christian publishing is to expand the harvest field, empower more Christian artists, and draw more readers to the Light, then having more Christian artists tilling the soil and sowing seeds is a good thing.
  • Christian indie authors force the industry to adapt. Like any industry, the Christian publishing industry can calcify and fossilize. Conceding ground to indie authors forces the industry to rethink its methods, values, systems, goals, and product.
  • Christian indie authors can broaden our conception of what Christian fiction is or can be. The mainstream Christian market, whether intentionally or unintentionally, reinforces a concept of what Christian fiction is. The indie author is not bound by the typical guidelines used to frame the culture's concept of Christian fiction.
  • Christian indie authors are free to cull genres typically ignored and under-represented by Christian publishers. The predominance of certain genres in the Christian market -- women's fiction, Amish, romance, historical -- have forced, or limited, the representation of other popular genres (like horror, crime, sci-fi, steampunk, literary, comedy, space opera, Western, epic fantasy, etc., etc.). The indie author, however, is not bound by such genre restrictions.
  • Christian indie authors can potentially reach audiences who don't like Christian fiction. Mainstream Christian fiction appeals to, and is marketed to, a specific demographic of person. The indie author is free to attempt to reach people who would typically not buy Christian fiction or shop in Christian bookstores.
The changes in the Christian fiction industry potentially provide a great opportunity for Christian indie
authors. Not only does it empower more authors, it enables us to potentially expand our understanding of Christian storytelling and get it into the hands of readers who typically shun mainstream inspirational fiction. The indie and hybrid author could prove to be the most important thing that has happened to Christin fiction in a long time.

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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 TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea. You can visit his website at, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.