Saddling A Rocket

By John Gilstrap

“So, John, what’s new in your life since we last chatted?”

Well, let’s see. Blue Fire launched yesterday. It’s the second book in my Victoria Emerson series, and at the risk of sounding immodest, it’s really friggin’ good.

Two days after my last KZB post, we moved two moving vans worth of worldly goods from the storage bay where its been held for the past 7 months into our brand new shiny home in the woods. A week ago, we moved the worldly goods from the apartment where we’ve been squatting, into the new house as well.

And I started a new company for my writing.

Meet Kimber. She’s a Caviston–Cavalier King Charles Spaniel + Boston Terrier. A 3-pound bundle of love.

And we got a new puppy.

As you read this, we may or may not have an internet connection robust enough to support all the Zoom events attendant to the book launch, so I may be Zooming from an empty apartment.

Nowhere in here should you see even the hint of a complaint. None of these life change units are anything but terrific. In fact, they represent dreams coming true. I’m just a little surprised that they all came true in the same 10-day period. It’s a little like saddling a rocket. It’s an unforgettable experience, but you’d best hold on tight.

A Bit About Writing . . .

I’ve been doing quite a few interviews ahead of the release of Blue FireIn many of these cases, the interviews take the form of written questions to which I write my responses. Some questions are more engaging than others, and one in particular got my attention. It was quite a long interview, and at the end, after I’d talked about my career in general and Blue Fire in particular, I read this:

“Are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?”

Well, of course I am, and of course it was. But the structure of the question bothered me. The interviewer put effort and accomplishment on a collision course, as if outcome is the only measure of hard work. Here’s how I responded:

I’ll answer your question in the opposite order. Was it worth the effort?


The effort itself is the only thing to be proud of. My books have been successful and have made me a lot of money, but that’s never been why I write. I write to entertain, whether it was my mom when I was little, or the fans who read my work now.

I’m proud of the fact that I have stared down the blinking cursor on an empty Page One over two dozen times, and I’ve stayed with each of those stories even when the plot wasn’t working and the words wouldn’t come. Folks, it never gets easier.

I’m proud that time after time, for decades, I scribbled out stories that never had a chance of publication, and never will. Without that effort—without those “wasted” hours (which were anything but wasted)—none of my work would ever have been published.

This is a frustrating endeavor. Rejection is baked deeply into the cake, and success–defined however you wish–is capricious, driven largely by factors over which individual authors have little control.

What we do have control over is our commitment to the craft. If we write solely for the purpose of getting published and making money, we’re doomed because we’re aiming at the wrong target. We write because we love writing–most of the time. We write because we want to make a point or we want to entertain. Maybe we want to entertain by making a point.

The effort is all there is. We should all be proud of it.

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About John Gilstrap

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of Lethal Game, Blue Fire, Stealth Attack, Crimson Phoenix, Hellfire, Total Mayhem, Scorpion Strike, Final Target, Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies, End Game, Soft Targets, High Treason, Damage Control, Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan’s Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom. Four of his books have been purchased or optioned for the Big Screen. In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris. A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution. Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, weapons systems, hazardous materials, and fire behavior. John lives in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

31 thoughts on “Saddling A Rocket

  1. Congratulations on your new home, your new release, your new puppy, and all your accomplishments of effort, John. I’m impressed. Hopefully we’ll clink Scotch glasses one day soon.

  2. Congratulations on all fronts, John. It’s nice to see you enjoying the fruits of your labors.

    “The effort itself is the only thing to be proud of.” That sentence should be posted in every classroom in the country.

    If you decide you don’t want that puppy, let me know.

  3. John, isn’t that the way life goes. A lot of good fortune comes simultaneously, not giving you time to savor any one aspect to the fullest. But I’ll hazard a guess about which life-changing aspect you’ll enjoy the most and her tail is probably wiggling right now.

    Big congratulations on all fronts! And thanks for reminding us to stay grounded in the work.

  4. Thanks for the reminder, John, “We write because we love writing.” A labor of love.

    And congratulations on your success, your new book launch, your new company, your new domicile, and Kimber.

    Living in the woods is wonderful. We moved into my childhood home in the “enchanted forest” four years ago. This morning we watched through the front window as a group of deer chomped on landscaping for their morning salad and frolicked in a pool of rain water. Enjoy!

    • The only downside to get used to: EVERYTHING is at least twenty minutes away. And in those twenty minutes it would be odd to see more than two other cars. (That’s a good thing.)

  5. As Steve mentioned, there’s nothing quite like living in the woods. It’s magical. I spend about an hour each morning feeding all my furry and feathered friends. Rain, snow, sleet, or hail, I’m out there at 8 a.m. sharp. The reward is immeasurable. As soon as I step on the back deck with my basket full of goodies, the yard explodes in cheer, squirrels playing chase around tree trunks, bluejays and cardinals singing, and my beloved crows and ravens swooping and soaring in an outstanding aerial display. Chuck (woodchuck) won’t pop his head out till I’m far enough away, but when he does I swear he’s smiling. It’s a great way to start the day.

    Congrats on your dreams coming true, John. I’m so happy for you! And Kimber is too cute! I miss puppy breath, the best smell in the world. 🙂

  6. Congratulations, John, on all of the good news in your life, and best wishes for many years ahead to enjoy them.

    Your article was so full of quotable lines, I had a hard time picking one out, but here’s my favorite: “What we do have control over is our commitment to the craft.” A great reminder for us all.

    That Kimber is one cute puppy. I have to ask: where does the name come from?

  7. “Blue Fire launched yesterday. It’s the second book in my Victoria Emerson series, and at the risk of sounding immodest, it’s really friggin’ good.”

    Made me smile. Doesn’t sound immodest, merely honest. Congratulations!

  8. Congratulations on your latest release, the new house, and the new puppy! I agree 100% about what we have control over: our commitment to our craft and the writing itself. That’s all we truly own.

    Just yesterday I was tallying up the five novels and countless short stories I wrote over many years before finally getting to the point where my fiction clicked.

  9. Congrats on all the changes in your life. Just one would have exhausted most of us. I need a nap after just reading about it.

    You have paid what kids on the Internet call “the pet tax.” Any post that mentions a pet must have that pet’s picture. A very cute puppy!

  10. Congrats on all fronts. And kudos on the plans to add a Lab to your menagerie. They are my favorite. And being 20 minutes away from stuff may feel slightly inconvenient to our “I want it now” mode of thinking but seeing maybe only 2 cars on your travels sounds like heaven! Enjoy!

  11. Sounds like my little town as well, John. Coming from southern California, it was a shock the first time I heard somebody complaining about the traffic because there were three cars ahead of us in the left turn lane… But I love it. I loved it then, and I love it now, that small town feel. I was cranky when we got our second stoplight.

    Enjoy, and thank you for the heartfelt post that really struck a chord with me, even after thirty years in this crazy business.

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