Monday, September 30, 2013

Next Book Up

Now available on Amazon:  The Ten Things Every Breast Cancer Husband Needs to Know.  A digital book.  Any man who is helping a woman through breast cancer would find it helpful. 

Yes, that's me and Becky on the cover.  (Photography by Jeff Hayes.)

So I already have a copy downloaded on my Kindle.  This book was in the clouds until I pressed the "accept" button.

I have no idea how these things work but it's a new age.

Go digital!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Banned Book

In honor of National Banned Book Week, I took a trip down memory lane and wondered:  Were any of my books ever banned?

Turns out that I actually did have one.

Here's the story.

Way back in 1999, some months into the publication of the original edition of The Best Things in Life Are Free, I received a photocopy of a book review that the Florida publisher sent to my attention.  The review was not glowing.  In fact, it was downright mean.

Turns out it was a review that the publisher had picked up from a church newsletter, wherein the church librarian had reviewed my book and closed with the comment:  "This one won't be making its way to the shelves here."  Evidently this particular church librarian found something in the book that rankled her feathers and she was taking a stand against books that only mentioned Jesus twice in 250 pages.  She was not going to allow other eyes to see it.

Well, so my book was necessarily banned.  Just dismissed. 

But I did get a kick out of being on one person's banned list and then made it a point to go out to the library that week and buy a few banned books.  Anything that is banned is bound to be a better read that a book that can slip through the wide cracks of the Freedom of the Press.  Thank God there are people out there watching out for the rest of us, saving us from reading bad books.

But I must be doing something wrong.  I haven't written a banned book since.  

I thought surely, by now, I would have written something that someone--other than my wife--would want to burn. 


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Now on Video

Just in time for the book's release:  a 30+ second video about the book, complete with mis-pronounciation of the author's name.  Everyone should have one.

Publishing, most of all, is a humbling experience.  Announcing the latest to my wife, and showing her a first copy, she replied, "That's nice, dear."  (Cue book going back into the box where it will remain unread, but perhaps used some decades from now to prop up one leg of the casket at my funeral.)

Announcement to son:  "Wanna see my new book?"
Son's reply:  "You write books?"

Announcement to daughter:  "You want one of my new books?"
Daughter's reply:  "Why?"

Stay humble, my friends.


Monday, September 16, 2013

What's New?

Published September 1, For the Love of God (HCI Press) is my latest book. I enjoyed serving as editor of these essays selected from all walks of life--some humorous, some painful, some practical, some inspirational.  But all-in-all a nice collection that could be the basis for a small group study, book group, or just individual devotion.

The cover is beautiful, too.

Not much else to say about a new book except hope you read it . . .    

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Writing in the Dark

Not long ago I completed an essay entitled, "Writing in the Dark."  It's a personal piece, rather introspective and honest, about my long-standing, now-nearly-forty-year-old-practice of writing in the darkness.

The reasons for writing this one?  It occurred to me a few weeks ago that the bulk of my work has been produced at night (either early morning, or late night, and on some days--both ends).  I've carried on as a 60-hour-a-week pastor who essentially does God's work in the light, but who writes in darkness.

As I have reflected upon how the darkness has impacted my writing, I've come to some fascinating conclusions.  Darkness--especially early morning darkness--is eerily silent.  On those days when I begin writing at four or five a.m., for example, I discover, even surrounded by sleeping family, a sense of isolation and utter seclusion.  So much so, in fact, that every time I hear a toilet flush or a shower nozzle spraying I am suddenly startled by the fact that I am not alone.  Sometimes I am relieved.  And oddly, at other times I feel a tinge of anger, as if someone has encroached upon something sacred or profound. 

I have written in the dark for nearly forty years now out of a sense of necessity, however, rather than preference.  Indeed, I love to write in the light.  I cherish those days--now very few--when I can write from the sunshine of the back deck or looking out of the vantage point of my high office window across the creek.  But this is rare, and most of my words are produced in the stark contrast of moonlight or, at times when the clock scrolls past midnight, in the near-total-exhaustion of a day lived and the fast-moving tick of yet another deadline.  And sometimes at midnight I know that I will soon rise to begin writing where I left off.  The darkness, even in the dead of winter, is very brief.  Especially if one does not sleep through it, but writes in it.

In some respects, I write in the darkness so that others can enjoy the light.  Writing in the darkness does mean that I will have few, if any, interruptions.  Writing in the darkness can also mean that I am able to communicate with some editors who live on the other side of the world, such as England or Australia, those lucky few living inside their halo of illumination where I can dream of the light, too . . . enjoying the sunshine when all about me is night.

I write in the darkness, read in the darkness, make outlines for new books and whole chapters in the darkness.  Sometimes I take another vitamin.  Sometimes I fall asleep.  Sometimes I wake to the perfect sentence, or entire poems dreamed whole, or I pace back and forth like a caged animal in my underwear, searching for pages to devour, awaiting any shaft of light, any hand, that might be tossing a bone my way.  I have written, by now, millions of words in the dark.  Millions.  And shall write more. In the dark.

I will write in the darkness until the light comes.

What kind of work have I produced in the dark?  Not sure.  More work than anyone has been able to publish, though.  But perhaps it's a winnowing process.  Sifting the light from the darkness. 

I see the light.  But usually the darkness stands.  That's where I write, after all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Finding the Upper Hand

In my sermon Sunday I noted one of my recent pieces of advice to aspiring writers:  If you want to be certain to gain the attention of an editor, write a handwritten note.

That's why I keep plenty of stationery on hand (I have my own professionally produced so it looks like I know what I'm doing). 

No doubt the art of the handwritten letter has suffered in these past decades.  Now everything is email, text and twitter . . . or worse.  But what could be worse?   Misspelling half of the words in a tweet, I suppose.

At any rate, that's my advice to anyone who wants to get a reading:  write a letter.  Letters are rare these days . . . as rare as a baseball player not taking steroids, as rare as Paula Dean getting a new endorsement, as a rare as a politician who makes sense.

If you are like me, your handwriting has suffered from so much texting, but you can recover the dexterity with a bit of Ben-Gay and a few push ups. 

So, if you want to write, you might try writing.  Actual writing.  Editors don't see writing very often.  But they'll know it when they see it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Upon Further Review . . .

The books are piling up.  For review, that is.

But now, there's a new catch.  Evidently, as books are coming in from a variety of publishers and topics--including spirituality, preaching, academic, adolescent, as well as memoirs and novels--I am being offered options.  My most recent list included nearly forty books, and I selected the titles best suited to my schedule, interests and bailiwick.

But I always have to answer for these things.

Over a two day period, as I crated four large and heavy boxes into my office for unpacking (including a shipment of first-edition titles bearing my name on the cover), I had to answer to my wife.

"What are these boxes doing in the middle of the floor?" she asked.

"That's under review," I said (she hates puns).

"Do they have to stay here?  Can't you get rid of them?"  (My wife seems concerned about appearances since we just completed a kitchen remodel and full-scale painting of the interior of the house.) 

"It's all work," I explained.  "This is what gets me up at 3 a.m."

"Well," she asked, "How quickly can you read these?"

"I'm reading them even as you speak," I said.  "And as soon as I write my reviews for the magazines, I'll pass these books along to someone who has a life."

"Tell me you're getting paid for this."

"I am," I said.  "And I'll even buy you a White Castle burger and Dilly Bar to prove it.  We'll shoot the works."

But under further review, I do wonder about my attitude.  Being a book-reviewer doesn't land me much sleep.  And after twenty-nine years of marriage I keep looking for that box of books that will contain the perfect marriage manual.  I can't wait to review it.  Somebody out there has to have the answers.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

By the Byline

This morning I had one of those rare experiences when a young lady asked me, "Hey, didn't I see your byline on a fishing article recently?"  And before I could answer, another lady chimed in, "Yeah, I read it, too."

Now, this may not sound so odd if my name were Stephen King, but the fact is this was an obscure piece of writing tucked inside an outdoor magazine and published only last week.  So what are the odds?  

But here's another oddity.  I don't fish.  Used to.  And I don't go outdoors much anymore except to pee in the woods.  (I find this keeps the skunks at bay.)  But over the past two years I've written several stories for the magazine including one about fly fishing and another about the Indiana beaver population.

So when a person tells me, "I saw your article on fishing in Michigan," I gotta think there are forces at play that are beyond the kith of mortal man.  I would get just as many lightening strikes if I were to walk down the street and ask perfect strangers, "Hey, buddy, have you read my recent essay on the parables of the Desert Fathers?"

You see what I mean?

And here's another thing . . . who reads a name?  I mean, I've read hundreds--no--make that thousands of articles where I've never bothered to check the byline.  Heck, what am I saying . . . I've read entire books where I couldn't tell you the name of the author afterwards.  I'm doing that now, writing book reviews as fast as I can tread water.  Having written ten book reviews in twelve days, I couldn't pass the Jeopardy Quiz if Alex Tribek said, "And the answer is . . . this author's sophomore novel was just read by you this morning at five a.m. where, by lamplight, you wrote a tired and lackluster review using what you believed were cute puns."

Yeah, I actually did this at five a.m. this morning, but I don't know the author's name now.  Hours have passed, and I've eaten a heavy lunch and kept it down.  That book is now read, shelved, and stowed away in a cardboard box and I'm reading another book whose author I won't remember as soon as I finish this blog . . . .

But go figure.  Remembered by a byline . . . .

Makes a guy wonder.  Perhaps I should be writing under another name.  Like Cornileus McGillickudy.  Now that's memorable.    


Monday, September 2, 2013

Defining Myself

In the past week I've received several author copies of published work:
* An article I wrote on Charter Fishing for an outdoor magazine
* An ekphrastic poem (verse describing artwork . . . and in this case American Gothic by Grant Wood)
* A magazine containing one of my columns
* A magazine containing some of my book reviews

But here's the rub . . . in most of these magazines my bio read something like:

The guy who wrote this article also writes a daily humor blog.

Well, but I've been remiss of late in writing this blog.  And it's probably not been too funny, either.  Lots of excuses I could offer here--including having too little time to do much else but breathe.  I could also tell the truth and admit that I have to write three to four hours every morning (and then repeat this procedure every night) in order to keep up with the many and varied deadlines I'm still meeting for columns, assigned essays, book reviews, and books. 

I have a list hanging from my writing desk detailing what I must write . . . and when I must have each work compete.  The list is LONG, and getting LONGER.

All of this to say that I'll do my best to keep this blog fresh. 

Perhaps readers might also like to know that even writing this blog is costing me valuable time with a wife who even today (on labor day) chastised me for being too stressed from too many deadlines.  Her advice was:  Stop writing so many books

But here's the humor--most of these books I'll be dedicating to my wife.  I mean, who else am I gonna dedicate them to?  Lord knows my kids don't care to see their names in any more of daddy's books.  My parents are getting too old to read.  And I feel like my wife has earned some recognition out front.

My next few dedications will likely read:

To Becky, who was there all along telling me I should stop, but I didn't.
To Becky, who gave up another dinner so I could write this ******* book.
To Becky, who goes to bed before I do and always asks: Aren't you done working yet?
To Becky, whose love and patience is all over these pages . . . but who will never read a single word of this book, so enjoy it on her behalf.