Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Charge Conference Report

Interesting . . . this is my 500th blog for "Between Pages" and also my annual charge conference report. This year, I just had to submit this sonnet for my "report". If anyone is offended, I apologize (well . . . maybe).

My Charge Conference Report Sonnet

Here’s a little ditty now, a charge
To keep I have: this report that I
Again must tally-forth, though it’s so large
That many now should pause to question, “Why?”

It’s been the same old tale since yesterday
When last I filled this out. At Calvary
We’ve grown, we’ve paid . . . who reads this anyway?
It’s just more fodder for the file, you see?

If someone needs to know what I or others
Here have done, we might have conversation
Over coffee, lunch or tea. It’s what our mothers
Would have done (and with some elation).

Don’t get me wrong, I love the church enough
To say, “God’s here.” But this is useless stuff.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ya'll Come Back Now . . . Ya Hear!

In case you don't recognize the title quote from The Beverly Hillbillies theme song . . . God bless you anyway.

But please rejoin me on November 1, when I return to this blog with my charge conference sonnet. I'll follow that up with three or four poems that I've written over the past week, all of which reveal some other aspect of my odd way of thinking.

See you then. Weeeeedoggggieees!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My "Unread" Pile

This Saturday Becky and I are leaving for a short get-away to sunny California. Of course, whenever I take a trip like this, I've got to plan my reading. I'll need, for example, a book for the airplane ride west, a book to read in the rental car, a book to read at night (what else will Becky and I be doing but reading at night?) and a book for the return flight east.

Over the past three months, I've mounded up a sizable stack of unread material (all of which I intend to read) . . . but I've narrowed my field down to the following top twelve choices:

The Great Bridge, by David McCullough—a massive tome about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
My Life With the Saints, by James Martin—one man’s pursuit of trying to follow saintly examples of piety.
The Life of Greece, by Will Durant—a 600 page history of ancient Greek culture and art.
The Wizard of Menlo Park, by Randall Stross—an award-winning biography of Thomas Edison.
Have a Little Faith, by Mitch Albom—latest best-selling non-fiction book by noted author.
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett—best-selling novel about a rich white family and their African-American servants.
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, by Joanna Weaver—treatise on the story of Mary and Martha in the gospels.
The Case for God, by Karen Armstrong—latest book by this best-selling world religion writer.
Terrorist, by John Updike—my favorite author’s 2003 novel about a young terrorist.
Life Among the Lutherans, by Garrison Keillor—favorite author’s story collection about Lutherans of Lake Wobegon.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown—classic history of America from a Native American perspective.
Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life, by Kathleen Dalton—biography of Rough-Rider Teddy.

Well, what should I read? Only so much time and so many books. Too much to learn and so little time. Or something like that . . . .

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Resume

One of the magazines I receive via mail is The Christian Century. And in the back of each issue, there are various "wanted" ads from pastors and congregations.

I've always found these ads to be, at best, questionable--both from the vantage point of pastors trying to find a pulpit, and from congregations who are touting their many advantages. For example, what would a pastor make of a church ad that is "seeking experienced senior pastor to lead two-thousand member mission-oriented congregation in new direction and growth. Person must have gifts and willingness to lead large, motivated staff as well as leadership teams. Person must have exceptional communication abilities and be able to relate to all persons. Salary and benefits commensurate with experience." (?)

Now, at the risk of sounding cynical, I've satirized these ads dozens of times in The Wittenburg Door and other magazines, and I've written quite a few satirical clergy ads, too. Neither congregation or pastor ever lives up the ad . . . these things are sort of like a cheap, but deal exclusively with flawed ideas and concepts of ministry and people.

Nevertheless, I have been writing my own "ad", just in case my services are no longer needed in my current charge. Surely to goodness there's a congregation out there who would find my bio compelling:

Pastor Seeking Pulpit!
Old dude with diminishing-level of testosterone seeking unsuspecting congregation loaded with estrogen. This pastor enjoys writing, speaking and blogging, as well as eating a handful of cashews every night. By 2011, the congregation will not need to provide parsonage for a family, which will also mean this pastor can concentrate on writing inspiring sermons with titles like "There's a Little Jesus in All of Us" and "Everything I Needed to Know About Preaching I Learned in Seminary from Dr. Lischer". Pastor's wife also ignores him, which is a plus in the evenings so he can concentrate on attending church meetings. Let's Twitter and see if we can't work something out. Believe me, you'll want my services if you know quality or have windshield wipers that need changing on that old church van. Will also work for food or a couple of cans of Pork'n Beans. Call, write, or send FAX to Dunkin' Donuts headquarters. I'll be waiting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Broken Computer

For a writer like me, who has hundreds of floppy disks loaded with novels, essays and book proposals, who has a twelve-year-old computer with a hard drive loaded with same, a computer breakdown is devastating. That's what happened to me this weekend. My computer, Old Sparky, couldn't read my floppy drive. It was making all sorts of crazy sounds.

So, on Monday I carried it into a repair shop. The young man who was going to work on this dinosaur took one look at my computer and started laughing. "Are you freakin' kiddin' me?!" he said.

"No kidding," I answered. I got down on my knees and pleaded with him to save my progeny. "For the love of God," I said, "have mercy. My life is inside this machine!"

The kid told me I could watch him work. He placed my computer on an operating table, removed a screwdriver from his hip pocket, unscrewed a few little nuts, and the popped the cranium open like a pistachio. "Oh, yeah," he said, "this is interesting!"

"What? Is it cancer?" I asked.

"No, no . . . ." He reached inside the floppy drive with his two inch-long fingernails and pulled out an assortment of tiny particles (wire, plastic, the head off of a floppy disk). "You're not going to need a new floppy, I'll bet. Let's plug it back in and and see if it works."

We did. And it did.

"You know," he told me afterwards while I was recovering by drinking a glass of orange juice and eating a cookie, "these old machines are built much better than the new ones. If you take care of this, it should last you another ten years."

"I'm counting on it," I said. "Just like I'm counting on another ten years from my wife. But after that, all bets are off. I'll get a newer, younger model."

"As long as the fans hold up, it will last," he told me. "Heat is what kills the computer."

I didn't have the heart to tell him that my wife was suffering from heat-related issues. Going through the change, I had to wonder . . . how long would she hold up?

Monday, October 19, 2009


Over the weekend I began reading Garrison Keillor's new little volume of poetry: 77 Love Sonnets. Quite a blend here: from lovely, to erotic, to zany. But Keillor always entertains and he's not a bad poet, especially of light verse.

His sonnet on John Updike was revealing, and I enjoyed even the crazy sonnets, where Keillor strayed outside the mainstream of the iambic pentameter and the abab rhyme scheme of the Shakespearean and ventured into his own odd territories of half-rhyme and meter.

Reading Keillor's sonnets made me look forward to November 1, when I get to post my charge conference report on this blog. My report this year is a sonnet, of course.

I can only hope the bishop reads it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I am now officially thinking about Christmas. How so, you ask?

Well, on Friday I spent the better part of the day working on two memoirs and a story that I am using for my Advent and Christmas Eve messages this year. They ain't bad. One is, I think, hilarious, and the other two are rather introspective.

I also expect to receive delivery of a Christmas CD I "cut" in studio some months ago. I should be finding that box of CDs on my porch any day now.

And, finally, I've been telling Becky that we need to start making our gift list for the family, seeing as how I order a great many gifts online and some of these can take weeks/months to deliver.

Anyway, I'm planning ahead. You? Forget about it. We're not even at Halloween yet, and I haven't got a single piece of candy for the kiddies.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quoting Me?

Recently I've discovered portions of my writing showing up in other books. Odd really, these quotes. Who would want to quote anything I've written? I can't recall a single thing I've ever said.

I told Becky about this a few nights ago. "Some guy quoted me in his book on marriage," I told her. "He lifted a few lines out of Before You Say "I Do" and thought they were profound."

"Profound? You? Like what?"

"You know . . . uh, stuff about the importance of a wife making love to her man three times a day (especially as he gets older), cooking great chili, putting oil additives into the station wagon. Stuff like that."

"You're making this up!"

"No. No. I wrote that!"

"Nobody writes that. It's ridiculous."

"Even the making love three times a day thing?"

"We don't see each other that often. We don't even see each other three times a month! Heck, make that a year."

"But it's a great theory. And I've got other quotes, too!"

"Like what?"

"Hey, kids! Don't make me get off this couch! . . . that was one of mine. Or: Like your donut, lady? Or: Why would anyone want to get married? . . . that was one of mine, too."

"You're not quotable," Becky said. "In fact, you're barely usable."

Okay, she had me there. But still . . . she didn't have to say it like that!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boxed Up

Last night, during a lapse of sanity, I sorted through a closet-shelf stacked with old manuscripts, publications, and research files. God-a-mighty . . . didn't know I had kept half this stuff.

I discovered, for example:

Contributors copies of all the magazines I have written for over the past twenty years, including:

* My bridal magazine columns on love, sex, and marriage (Becky's gotta read these!)

* Other magazines as diverse as The Wittenburg Door (religious satire); American Fitness; YouthNet; Group Magazine, Jr. High Magazine, and The Ohio Writer (the Ohio writer? Yeah, I'm in there . . . an article on Mark Twain)

* A book proposal on men's spirituality; a children' YA novel entitled Captain Computer; two other novels I wrote when I was in my late twenties and had a moustache; a huge file on Andy Griffith (for a biography?); essays, stories, photocopies of other columns and early writing.

I boxed all of this junk up again (though neater) and stashed it away as part of my children's inheritance. They'll discover this box, among others, in the basement next to the golf clubs and the stuffed weasel when I am eighty-nine and Chelsey will ask, "What the heck is this junk?" Logan will say, "Let's burn it."

Amazing thing how a life's work can go up in smoke, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kindled Into "Print"

A few days back I noted that Amazon has been keeping one of my titles "in print". Candles in the Dark is "out of print", but for some reason Amazon decided to offer it as a Kindle book. I have no idea if anyone has actually "kindled" it.

Certainly, electronic media offers some interesting new horizons for publishers and authors, but no one really knows where it is leading. People still buy print media, even while the digital media grows. But I have a feeling much of the changes are yet to come in the next decade.

I just hope my candle doesn't burn out in the mean time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Witch Hunt Hottie

I'm nearing completion of a very fascinating book: Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall, by Eve Laplante. What's fascinating about this book is simply this . . . it informs me of a little-known episode following a very famous episode in American history.

Essentially, following the Salem Witch trials of the 1600's, after which 20 people (predominantly women) were condemned to die a witch's death, the presiding judge in the cases, Samuel Sewall, a devout Puritan, publicly repented of his role in the deaths of these innocent people and completely changed his life. Sewall became one of the first advocates, for example, speaking out for the equality of native Americans during a time when tensions between Puritans and Native Americans was leaning toward the King Philip's War (still the bloodiest campaign on American soil on a per/capita basis).

Sewall also advocated against the slave trade, was one of the first to lobby for the equality of women in the Puritan churches, and, essentially, saw the light of reason in a time when religious persuasions darkened even the best of minds and stirred the fears of the masses.

I actually ended up liking this guy.

But I'm still reminded of the old joke even after reading this book. "What is a Puritan?"

Answer: A Puritan was a person who was extremely bothered by the very thought that someone, somewhere, might be having a good time.

Those Puritans loved to sing, but other than that, they were a rather droll bunch who couldn't tolerate any other beliefs or practices other than their own. That's really our American religious heritage in a nutshell. Puritans/Pilgrims, Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Quakers--none of these people in early American life could tolerate the others, and they would just as soon have killed each other to be forced to live next to someone of a different persuasion. Our early history is rife with these hatreds (not tolerance) but Old Samuel Sewall was way ahead of his time.

He just said, "Screw the establishment. I'm going to admit my sins, see others as children of God, regardless of their belief, origin, race or kindred, and I'm going to live in the public square touting my tolerance and protection of others, even if they are much different than I am."

Way ahead of his time, Old Sam. He just grew weary of the hatreds and religious bigotry of his time and he said, "I'm getting off the merry-go-round."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Following Sales

Tonight I took a little tour through Amazon sales rankings and noted that of my books that are still in print, my best-seller on Amazon is $5 Youth Ministry. Perhaps the book speaks to the time in which we now live, but evidently there are youth leaders out there who either like the title or who are intrigued by the idea of doing youth work on a $5 budget. Many can attest to this.

Perhaps I should write a series of these books. Titles that come to mind:

$5 Automobiles: How to keep a fat piece of Ford & GM crap running on bailing wire and duct tape.

$5 Wedding Anniversary: How to make your wife think you're spending big bucks when you're actually spending your anniversary money on 40-lb bags of salt for the water softener and other household staples.

$5 Teenagers: How to get more out of your teenager in terms of household chores, lawn mowing, and freezer defrosting without losing your sanity.

$5 Food Bill: How you can use Slim Jims, Jiffy Cornbread Mix, and a $1 box of macaroni to prepare fourteen meals for your family each week.

$5 Entertainment: How to use DVD rentals, bubble gum, and black licorice whips for all of your entertainment needs AND LOSE ten pounds per week while watching 20+ hours of TV per day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reading Chess . . . Again

Somewhere around 1970 I began to have a serious interest in chess. I played chess every day at school and several of my friends and I formed a chess club. Then I began reading books about chess and was seriously inspired by the great match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spasky.

A few days ago I discovered two old books on my shelves. Both were chess books from the 1970s, and one, All About Chess, is inscribed: "Happy 13th Birthday, From Paula". This would have been October 12, 1973, and Paula is my cousin. Funny to think about it, but I had not yet met Becky at this point in my life (I was still in grade school) and these chess books occupied me for hours (while now, Becky occupies me for hours).

I've also read a fair number of other chess books in the past two years, but mostly historical and philosophical stuff: Bobby Fischer Goes to War is a book that comes to mind and I enjoyed reading it, and also How Life Imitates Chess, by Garry Kasparov.

I used to trade chess books as a kid, or give them away, and I still enjoy giving books as gifts right off the shelves. A few weeks ago, when some old high school friends visited, my best friend, Bryan, noticed the Bobby Fischer book on my shelves. Bryan beat me in our grade school chess championship and was the valedictorian of our high school class. Thanks to him, I graduated. But we used to play chess for hours on end.

"If you want the book, take it," I told him, "It's a great read."

"You sure?"

"Yes," I said, "I'm too old for chess anymore. Now all I can do is read about it. And once my eyes go, I'm really screwed."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Writing Tools

I read a most fascinating essay yesterday about a writer's "toolbox" and what this should contain. The author was making the point that a writer should have an ample supply of high-quality pencils and pens, sufficient paper (lined and for typing), erasers, paper clips, stapler, and, of course, a nice computer.

I don't doubt this writer's sincerity and old-world nostalgia about the writing trade, but let's face it, writing has changed over time. Yes, there was a day (and not too long ago) when a writer might actually write with a pencil or pen on paper, and then revise and transcribe on the typewriter for a final version to send to an editor. But by and large those days are over. There are a few dinosaurs out there who still write this way, but that methodology won't work except for the very best writers who are older, already have an established reputation, and have a long-standing relationship with some old editor in New York who will suffer the typewritten page.

Sure, I have my pencils and pens at the ready in my office, but these don't serve the same purpose as they once did. And as for the computer, I am still a dinosaur, even, in that regard. My computer is nearly thirteen years old now and I'm still writing on it, still stuffing its guts full of digitalized text. I just brought home another box of floppies last night and I'll have these stuffed full in another 12 months. Old stuff now. Dated. Dinosaur technology. At last count, I had something like 400+ of these floppies. But the days are coming when I'm going to lose all of these, just like I lost my 8-track tapes, if I don't switch over.

But, just in case this other writer needs to know what else I have on hand, here's my writers inventory as I glance around the office this morning:

Fifteen pencils (half unsharpened)
Ink pens of various varieties, most leftover from Becky's pharmaceutical sales days, bearing the names of various medications.
One scotch tape dispenser with no tape in it
A stapler with no staples in it
100 new floppies ready to format
Post it notes
A small file box where I keep record of all of my submissions on index cards (way outdated!)
3 thesauruses (thesauri?)
2 dictionaries
1 Bible
1 Concordance
Scissors (never carry them with the point facing your body!)
1- 13 year old HP laser printer (still my bread and butter, thanks HP)
2 reams of paper
Paper clips (various sizes)
Coffee mug (now empty)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stuffing George in An Envelope

Yesterday, after a church meeting that ended around 8 p.m., I changed into something comfortable, put on my slippers, and settled down for a night of correspondence. And this morning I'm up early licking stamps (although it's really "sticking" stamps now).

Over the past few months I've written a fair number of essays that I have honed, shaped and emblazoned with my final seal-of-approval . . . and now it is time to test the waters. So, I'm sending out a fresh batch of manuscripts, and have taken out a new home mortgage to pay for the postage required to mail this mound of paperwork. But here's what I'm sending "out there" for all of those unsuspecting editors.

I've written:
* An essay on George Washington and his fear of being buried alive.
* An essay on the unlikely friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and some of their final correspondence with each other before both died on July 4, 1826.
* An essay on James Madison and the writing of the U.S. Constitution
* An essay on the final hours of Gerald R. Ford
* A creative memoir that I wrote about my summer sightings of a pileated woodpecker
* A critical essay on publishing and profit
* A very old book proposal (a children's book) that I have revived and revised
* A story about a New York performance artist who leaps from tall buildings (fiction)

Most of these essays/memoirs/stories took me months, even years to produce, but I'm glad to finally get them out of my life and onto the road, hopefully, toward publication. We'll see. Once I finish loading the pickup truck with this mailing and dump all of this at the post office I'll be back home late tonight, writing more editors out there, begging them to give me a place in their publications.

Sure, I feel like a prostitute . . . but being used is just part of the process.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bridging the Gap

Somewhere in the vicinity of 1995 I was surprised by a phone call from an editor who wanted me to write a "portion" of a book for persons with mental retardation entitled, Bridges. I accepted, and learned much from this experience, including that "persons with mental retardation" is the accepted term used by all mental health organizations rather than the "politically correct" terms like "mentally challenged."

But I also learned much about myself in this experience, including some lessons that were instrumental in my confidence as a writer. Let me explain.

When I received the call to write "a portion" of the book, I agreed, and set out to write something helpful, practical and highly useful. Much to my surprise, this editor loved what I had written.

Then a few weeks later, I received another phone call from this same editor. She was hysterical. "My primary writer just called to tell me she can't meet the deadline for this book and she hasn't even started on the project. I need help! Is there any way you could write the rest of this book for me?"

"Sure," I said. "When do you need the manuscript?"

"Tomorrow by noon," she said.

Holy, Toledo! I was stunned. But I found myself agreeing to this hair brained scheme. How could I have the audacity to promise this editor a book-length manuscript in fifteen hours? But I did promise, and I did deliver. She loved it.

A few days later, she called again. "There are two other volumes in this series," she said, "and my other writers have fallen down again. Can you write an essay for these other two books to get things jumpstarted?"

Now, here I interjected one of the most warped and self-centered lines of my life: "Why don't you just fire those other bozos and let me write the entire three book series myself?" I asked. "Forget these other writers and just let me write the whole series!"

I was shocked. She agreed. And I did write the trio. Three books in three months--but these are not books I have ever counted in my "total" since my name is not on the cover of any of them. However, afterwards, this editor told me many things about my writing and about ME which I have never forgotten:

1. I am not the best writer she has worked with...but I am the most dependable. I get things done. I accomplish. My word is my bond and I follow through.
2. She had never met a writer who could write decently with such speed. "How did you write this book in fifteen hours?" she asked. "I stayed up all night," I told her, "and I typed like hellfire."
3. I have had many other editors who have called me as a last resort. I am not the best writer, they tell me (ouch!), but when the chips are down, who you gonna call?

Any other editors out there need it by yesterday?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My VBS Experience

I believe it was the summer of 1994 when I was invited by Cokesbury (our curriculum publishing arm of The United Methodist Church) to join a crack-team of writers in Nashville, Tennessee for a week-long, think-tank, writing-academy to create the Vacation Bible School curriculum for 1996.

Now, here's the thing. I am old now. My memory ain't what it use to be. And I honestly can't recall what the theme was for the VBS that year, nor the names of any of the people who joined me in Nashville that summer. Although I do recall that I was reunited with Ron Foster, an old friend from Duke Div school, who was living in Maryland at the time.

But to make a long story short, in a week we created the VBS curriculum for The United Methodist Church. All of us writers were paid for this work, though I certainly can't recall how much filthy lucre I took home (but it wasn't much, hombre). I was called to Nashville because I had been writing much of the high school SS curriculum for Cokesbury around that time (and I mean, a LOT OF IT).

However, that summer in Nashville, I don't remember much except laughing hysterically, having some nice meals each night, and living out of a tiny cubicle in a woman's dormitory (no women, however, darn it!). And, surprisingly, although I don't remember people, I remember the books I was reading at the time. Instead of socializing with people most nights, I returned to my tiny cubicle to read Bernard Malamud's novel, The Assistant. And, although I don't remember the VBS theme, people, or situations around creating that curriculum, I still recall rather lengthy sections of Malamud's novel.

So, in case you are wondering about my sanity, and what my mind comprehends and retains, now you know.

I think like a book.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My [Other] Books

The other day I was reading another author's bio and happened to note that it read something like, "Author of five books who has also contributed to more than a dozen other titles."

Well, now, if we're going to talk about "contributions" to other books as "books", then I've got to rework my whole bio. But it did get me to thinking: Just how many books HAVE I contributed to? What other titles out there include one of my essays, articles or stories?

Holy Moley . . . let me think. Here's the short list (in no particular order), and I'm sure there are others.

Training Youth For Dynamic Leadership (Group)
Object Lessons for Youth Ministry (Group)
Worship Ideas for Youth Ministry (Group)
Jumpstarters for Discussions (Group)
Sunday School Attendance Boosters (Group)
Games for All Ages (Group)
Gigantic Book of Games, Vol 1 (Group)
Gigantic Book of Games, Vol 2 (Group)
Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul (HCI)
Daily Inspirations for the Recovering Soul (HCI)
The Ultimate Teacher (HCI)
The Ultimate Mom (HCI)
The Ultimate Christmas (HCI)
The Youth Bible (Group)

What is that? Fourteen? And that's just the ones I found on my shelves. I also recall writing one of our Cokesbury Vacation Bible School kits (I'll have to write about that next blog), and I also wrote a series of three books for persons with mental retardation (that was way back, and I'll have to write a blog on this, too). And I'm sure I have a couple of books not on my shelves, which would probably bring the total to something like . . . oh, twenty or so books I've contributed to.

Mama Mia, that's a lot of writing that I've forgotten about. Do I get to say I've written or contributed to forty books, then, in my next bio? Nah. If it ain't got my name on the cover, it don't count, honey.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Talkin' About My Conversation

Not long ago I visited a Half Priced Bookstore where, after thirty minutes of browsing, I staggered to the front with an impressive armload of books. Included in this stack were several presidential biographies and a couple of thick novels.

When I dropped the stack next to the cash register, the young lady asked, "Did you find everything you were looking for?"

I said, "Well, when I come in here, I'm not looking for anything. I just grab the books that hit me a certain way."

See looked at my stack and then said, "Well, but you must like to read presidential biographies. You've got some whoppers here."

"Actually," I said, "I'm hoping to write a book some day about the deaths of the presidents, and these looked helpful."

"Oh, so are you a writer?"

"Yes," I said.

"How many books have you written?"

"Twenty," I said.

The woman's mouth dropped open and she looked at me like I was lying between my teeth. "Like twenty? You mean, published and everything? Like, books that are on the shelves?"

"Yes, published and everything,"I said.

"I've never met anyone who has written twenty books," she said. "Who are you?"

I told her my name (actually, I was about to say, "I'm Dan Brown", but I didn't).

"I've heard of you," she said. "People come in her all the time and ask if we have any of your books."

"And do you?"


"Have any of my books."

"Never," she said.

"Figures," I told her. "Most of my books are out of print. But they are WAY OUT! Nobody can find them."

"My gosh," she said. "An honest to goodness author. Right here. Wow. You made my day."

"Thanks," I said. "And how much do I owe you?"

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Walking Through the Amazon

The Amazon jungle is large. So is the Web counterpart.

Last week, I visited Amazon out of curiosity, just to see how some of my newer books were selling (each book is given a ranking #), and I typed in my name. Much to my surprise, my name pulled up over fifty books.

I haven't written that many, but evidently an Amazon name search pulls up references to a name from every conceivable angle. I found, for example, that some of these books were tagged because another author had quoted from one of my books (who quotes ME on anything?). Other books were tagged because one or more of my books was included in a bibliography. And I also found a book where someone had mentioned my name in the acknowledgements (who acknowledges ME for anything?).

I also discovered that many of these books were ones I had contributed to over the years . . . books where I had written an essay, an introduction, or a blub. Many I had forgotten about.

But that's another blog.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Missing Book Dedication: To Aaron & Andrew

It's true: I never read my books after they are published. But I did happen to notice that GROUP screwed up when they published $5 Youth Ministry last month. They left out the dedication page.

Now, normally, I wouldn't be upset by this, but this dedication was special. It was one of my best ever . . . and it's not in the book. Somebody screwed up, cause I sent it in! Sure I could have written a dedication like:

To Mom
I am the sweetest fruit of your womb . . .


To Dad
Who fathered one child too many . . .


To My Brother, Ty
Thanks for taking the blame all these years

But, no, I wanted to dedicate this book to two great guys who have a heart for youth ministry and the Lord's work, two friends, two colleagues, two who (I think) understand my warped sense of humor. So . . . here's the missing DEDICATION PAGE to $5 YOUTH MINISTRY:

Andrew "Website" Attwood
Aaron "Biker Blog" Helman

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Finding Irving

Last night, for some reason, I felt like reading an old book. You know, something that has been sitting on my shelves for a long time, but which I'd overlooked. As so, last night, I began digging just for fun.

I raked through double-stacks of shelved books, opened boxes, perused titles obscured by dust and neglect, and then suddenly I discovered a small paperback book that I'd forgotten about: Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, by John Irving. Irving was, at one time, a writer whom I followed and read with enormous fascination and admiration. I read his novel, The World According to Garp, in a contemporary literature class at Indiana State in the summer of 1981 and was immediately hooked. And afterwards, I purchased every novel Irving published for several years . . . including The Cider House Rules, which was, some years ago, converted into a movie, with Irving picking up an Academy Award for Best Screenplay adaptation, and for adapting from his own novel, at that. I'm not sure that feat has ever been accomplished by a writer.

Last night, and again early this morning, I read some of the short stories and memoirs in Piggy Sneed. And I was thinking: what writer wouldn't like to create a book title like Piggy Sneed?

Or Piggy anything . . . .