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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Calliope Nerve Interview Series: Keith Pascal

Keith, tell us about your book Coin Snatching: The Reputation Builder? Why is it important?

It covers two topics and appeals to two audiences: Coin Snatching teaches, of course, how to snatch and switch one coin for another in a participant's hand, but it also explores subtle ways of building one's reputation. If you have ever wanted to shine in your "group," this is the way to do it without bragging. You won't even come across as a showoff.

The book appeals to magicians (jugglers and bartenders, too), and it also helps martial artists and fighters. There are chapters on how to speed your punches (through coin snatching and other drills), and also a chapter or two on how to eliminate "telegraphing." A telegraph is an extra movement that tells your opponent what you are about to do.

I'd say that's pretty important, wouldn't you? :-)

(Sorry for the pitch.)

You're an experienced magician and martial artist. Can you tell us about both?

I have other hobbies, but these turned into professions, at various points in my life. In each case, I had some pretty fantastic mentors ... an original Bruce Lee student, one of the top ten card magicians in the world in the 1970s, and others.

Now, as a writer in both genres, I get to rub elbows with the best martial artists (practical-application fighters) and the most skilled magicians.

What inspires you to write?

I could take the easy way out and just say that I have always wanted to be a published author of books, which is true, but it's not the whole picture:

Actually, nowadays, it's more about my desire to teach. I was a high school teacher for 12 years, and a very successful one, if I might be so bold as to opine. Unfortunately, teaching conditions kept getting worse; at one point, I had 237 students.

Note: In one of my classes, there were 51 students, but only 36 desks. The principal came in to watch the class, at my request. He said I was doing a great job teaching foreign language. I felt more like a babysitter. And at home, spending just 2 minutes per student paper would keep me up until 1 am, nightly. I'm not complaining, but it was grueling, and I had a toddler that I wanted to interact with, more than teaching would allow.

After writing my first book, while still teaching, I realized that I could teach in a much larger "classroom" with books. It became an opportunity to reach many more than the 237 that I dealt with almost daily.

How did you become an author? How many books have you written?

I tend to write about what I know: I started there. I understand martial arts, and I understand magic. In both genres, I feel that I have something unique to offer.

Once I started hunt-and-pecking the keyboard, I never looked back.

How many books have I written? Difficult question.

Some are out of print, like Wrist Locks in hardcover (collector's edition, now ... not worth what it sells for on Amazon), and The Punch Papers. And I have a ton of smaller ebooklets ... and maybe 1700 articles, overall.

Here's a small blurb that I included with a recent query to a literary agent:

In print, I have Control Your Fear: A Guide For Martial Artists (soft cover, 2010), Wrist Locks: From Protecting Yourself to Becoming an Expert -- Revised and Updated (soft cover, 2008), Tiptoeing to Tranquility: The Parable for Finding Safety and Comfort in Dangerous Times (soft cover, 2006), and Coin Snatching: The Reputation Builder (hardcover, 2005).

I am also the author of several ebooks -- End the Fight with One Hit (2009), The Punch eCourse (Five Volumes, 2007), Secrets of Teaching Martial Arts More Effectively, (2005). Other current self-defense titles and a list of published magic projects are available on request.

I have built platforms in both the worlds of magic and martial arts. I write and edit one of the longest-running, martial-arts newsletters online (Martial Arts Mastery). There are over 43,000 subscribers to my martial-arts and magicians lists.

Also, you’ll find hundreds of my articles published all over the Net. For example,, arguably the most influential article directory, has posted over 300 of my articles. Some have been published in off-line magazines, too.

What techniques do you use to market yourself and your books?

I market mostly to my lists; so, I spend a lot of time list building. I write articles, and also post little how-to videos on Youtube and other video sites. I also distribute free ebooklets that have occasionally gone viral. These martial-arts "teasers" have links pointing to my sales pages.

I also spend a little time with Search Engine Optimization, and even less time posting to discussion fora.

I should do more ... getting better at it, every day.

What tips do you have for those wanting to be full time authors, etc?

Build a platform. Get the audience first. Find out what your readers are hungry for, then give it to them.

Make sure your genre is big enough to support you. For example, writing books only about collectible toys that feature "The Cat in the Hat" might not make you the kind of living you'd want. You might have to expand your expertise to all toys in the Dr. Seuss Theme. And expanding into other toy genres might help in the long run, too.

It's a fine, and fun, line between choosing too narrow of a topic and too broad of one.

Why do you write?

They say to do what you love, and the money will follow. Well, I love to figure out the best ways to teach people "how." It doesn't matter "how-to what." I just want to explore the best way to help others achieve a particular goal.

Writing seems to be the answer.

I also write to entertain. I'd really like to get some fiction published, too. Unfortunately, after over 100 queries, some bites, and one famous agent who never got around to pitching the manuscript to editors, my juvenile fiction is back in the drawer.

Still, I am not one to give up. I'll try with another manuscript ... maybe in the Fall.

Define success.

My first goal was to build an audience of over 10,000 subscribers. Now, I have 43,000.

My next goal was to get more than three books in print — accomplished, and still writing.

My current goal is to earn enough with my writing to get my wife out of teaching. When I accomplish that, I'll have reached my "next level of success."

Then onward and upward.

What's on your recommended reading list?

All my books, of course. Just kidding ... sort of (depending on your interests).

In the world of writing and self publishing, I like Peter Bowerman.

For serious magicians, I like anything Lee Asher. I am also a fan of Aaron Fisher's Paper Engine. Add Michael Ammar and David Regal into the mix and you have a fun set of books to provide hours of practice.

In the area of martial arts, I like some of the books by Loren Christensen and anything edited by or written by John Little.

Actually, I read about four to five books a week, including business books, so it's hard to make specific recommendations without knowing someone's interest.

How do you feel about publishing/reading tech today? (i.e. Blogging, ebooks, LULU, on demand publishing, I-Pad... etc.) How do you feel technology effects readers and publishers? Will e-books replace the real thing?

I haven't jumped on board Kindle or Nook yet, but I have been selling ebooks on CD-ROM through Amazon for years. From my sites, I sell more downloads than printed books, even though I prefer to have real paper in my hot little hands.

If you ask me if I am Team Nook or Team Book, I am definitely Team BOOK ... but I do keep a few ebooks loaded on my ipod.

Blogging? I have a blog ( Truthfully, I think there are a lot of people who have been told to create a blog, but don't really have anything to say. The Internet is a world full of self-proclaimed experts.

Note: I have bowed out of many a group online, because we were all experts. Nobody wanted to learn; they (we) all wanted to lend opinions to others. Ugh.

Why is the small press important?

It keeps me in business.

For example, I couldn't find representation for Tiptoeing to Tranquility: The Parable for Finding Safety and Comfort in Dangerous Times. So, I self published it.

Now, I bet there are a few companies that wish they had the rights ... to pitch it to police department community programs ... to offer instruction to mothers and daughters ... and to provide an inexpensive gift to martial artists who want to give something to help keep their non-martial-arts loved ones safe.

For me, small publishing and self publishing are what keep me afloat.

Do you consider yourself prolific?

Okay. :-)

Believe in writer's block?

Not at all. I'm serious.

I sit down everyday, and I write. It doesn't matter if it's good or crap; it can be edited later.

My mother once berated me, when I said that I wanted to be a writer. I think I was 16 years old. She said, "You don't want to be a writer. Writers write. If you wanted to be a writer, you'd write!"

She was write ... I mean ... "right."

Now, I love it. The act of writing really is an old friend.

What's next for Keith Pascal?

This summer, I am branching out into two genres ... one is dog training, with a twist.
The other is ... a secret. Both will explore mixed media.

I'm also working on more magic books ... one is a parable.

I'm still writing martial arts ... the next one has some "Keith Variations" on three martial-arts principles. I've never seen these variations anywhere else, before.

And I'd like to find an agent for some "bigger audience" scripts I have.

-posted by Nobius 12:37 AM #
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