Category Archives: Steel Chronicles
The emergency room doctor had become a thorn in my side. He was demanding. He was demeaning. He was defensive. It was obvious to me he had suffered a painful experience with radiologists in his past practice. Pleasing the man was almost impossible. Every interpretation I gave him was insufficient. I was taking too long to report his ER cases. I was too vague in my reports. I was wrong with my diagnoses. You name it, he never appreciated my hard work.
As a radiologist, I was used to this kind of treatment. I’ve been in the business for almost 40 years and recall how poorly we were regarded at the beginning of my practice. Times have changed and radiologists are integral partners in patient diagnosis and treatment and we are accepted as equals by our colleagues in other specialities.
But that was not the case years ago with this emergency room physician. He sat in my office while I was going over the findings of a CAT scan of a patient’s abdomen and pelvis. He told me he was leaving our hospital for another practice. I was ecstatic but didn’t show it. In a rare moment of honesty he looked at me and said, “You know, I practiced in a military hospital before I came here. The radiologist there was not that proficient. That’s not a commentary on the military. Just a commentary on the person. Your group has done a good job while I’ve been here and I wanted to thank you before I left.”
I was stunned and he shook my hand. He stood up and before he walked out the door he said, “You’re the best of the shadow merchants in your group.”
“Shadow merchants?” I asked.
“Yeah. That’s what we call radiologists in the military. Shadow merchants. You live in the shadows and make a living by interpreting shadows on your films. Shadow merchants.” He walked out.
There is a suggestion for authors, write what you know.Read the rest of this entry
Now, here is where I am currently with my writing. Becoming an independent publisher is astonishingly easy. But, there are two very different pathways to follow. Technically, one pathway is not necessarily that of an independent publisher although you would be acting in that capacity. The second pathway requires you to establish yourself as an independent publisher. And, it’s not that hard!
First, I set up an LLC many years ago. This is not that expensive and it gives you protection from lawsuits. Your LLC can be sued but your personal assets cannot be touched, in theory. I recommend this first step to protect yourself. You can find out how to do this at multiple sites on the internet.
Second, I had to decided which one of those two directions to take. You can publish directly through Amazon and their publishing program. You can read all about it on Amazon. It is relatively simple process once you understand it. The downside is your book will be ebook format only unless you choose to pay extra for producing print copies.
The other format is Ingramspark (https://www.ingramspark.com). Ingram is the largest book distributor in the world. Setting yourself up as an independent publisher with this entity is simple. Just go to their site and watch their tutorial. It costs nothing to set yourself up. The cost comes when uploading a book. Also, you can make your books returnable, which means a book store can order your print books and if they don’t sell, return them for their cost. As the publisher, you are given the choice of having those books then shipped to you at your cost or destroyed (at a cost). Either way, returnable books can be placed in brick and mortar stores if they choose. These stores will NEVER take a POD, strictly, print on demand, book that becomes THEIRS once it is printed. The Ingramspark model is still POD, but the books can be returned. No warehouse fees involved!
CAVEAT: ISBN numbers. They are essential for your books. Amazon will offer to supply you with an ISBN for a cost. Ingramspark will ask you to get these numbers before uploading a book for distribution. Go to myidentifiers.com to purchase ISBN numbers (I recommend in bulk as you will need a separate ISBN for your ebook and your print book).Read the rest of this entry
Maybe I was pretty harsh on self publishing companies. Maybe you’ve had a good experience and if so, write about it on the internet. Go to their website and give them a positive review. I’m sure there has to be some good companies out there. And, there are many such entities that promise to help you with all of the in-between steps and not necessarily take you for a hug sum of money. Again, do your research and read unbiased reviews of any company before you use it.
Now, what about:
Well, has this industry changed, or what?
When digital books took the world by storm, most publishing companies were caught with their printing presses down. I know. I was there in the midst of it trying to get published.
In 2012 I attended the International Christian Retail Show which featured all the upcoming books, music, and merchandise for Christian book stores and gift shops. Everyone was in a turmoil over the effect of Kindle and Apple Books (and the Nook) on publishing. Barnes and Nobles “brick and mortar” stores had closed nationwide in record numbers. And, by 2019 all Lifeway stores would close. The publishing world was turned upside down.
I recall one statistic quoted at the meeting that 75% of all book sales were now digital. That was in 2012! How was a brick and mortar book store to stay open?
Once upon a time, the process of getting published by a traditional publisher went something like this:
A new author has an idea for a book.
Author researches how to put together a really effective book proposal.
Author researches which publishers will consider new authors (Writer’s Digest Marketing Guide and Christian Writer’s Marketing Guide).
Author chooses ten publishers to send book proposals.
Author waits some more.
Rejection letters trickle in.
Author either persists and keeps trying or author goes back to day job which they should never abandon anyway!
Author has an agent.Read the rest of this entry
What do you want most for Christmas? I don’t mean a tangible thing you can hold in your hands. I mean, what do you really want deep down inside?
Freedom from bondage?
We’re drawing near to the end of 2021. This was supposed to be the good year; the year after the terrible 2020. It wasn’t the good year. It was worse in many ways. COVID is still with us and still rampaging across the world with new variants. Political unrest continues throughout the world. No peace at home. Racial tensions continue. Our leaders continue to show just how frail and human we really are. There are no superheroes in the real world to save us from the Thanos’s of the universe.
So why is it that Christmas seems to bring so much hope? What is it about Christmas that almost redeems the rest of this year?
We can try our best to focus on magical beings like Santa and his reindeers. We can romanticize our relationships on the Hallmark channel. We can lift our glasses filled with the beverages of forgetfulness and retreat for a moment from reality. We can drown ourselves in consumerism and the latest physical thing. We can even try our best to be a part of some kind of family. But there is something transcendent and metaphysical about this season.
In ancient Europe, the evergreen tree was viewed as a source of this magical feeling of life, persistence, hope. During the harsh winters, the evergreen tree branches with their green leaves stood out against the cold, harsh white wash of winter. Bringing them into the house brought a sense of hope that spring would come and this cold, deadly embrace of icy winter would one day come to an end. And, hopefully the present day struggles would also come to an end.
The evergreen tree stood for a stubbornness against the reality of cold, ending death. It was no wonder that the tradition of the evergreen wreath and branches would one day become the Christmas tree. A tree. A thing of wood and leaves and sap whose roots reached deep into the earth for sustenance and whose leaves and limbs were designed to be narrow and hard to withstand the frozen grip of winter. It wasn’t long until that tree became a reminder of another “tree” on which a very famous man was crucified and the legacy of his life to all mankind.Read the rest of this entry
This is the second chapter of my book, “Our Darkness, His Light: Ordinary People in the Extraordinary Story of Christ.” Josiah is a character who “bookends” the story that starts at the manger and ends at the empty tomb.
In my fictional account of the nativity, Josiah is the owner of the manger where Jesus was born. He now lives with his own son in Bethlehem and Joseph and Mary have moved into a house down the street.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)
“Where are you going?” Rachel asked.
I shrugged into my outer cloak and grabbed the walking stick. “I promised Joseph I would help him finish something in his workshop.” I couldn’t tell her it was a chair I was making especially for her.
My son, Joseph, burbled and cooed in his mother’s arms. “But, it’s after sunset.”
“Yes, and much cooler. Joseph’s workshop on his roof will be much more tolerable now.” I kissed my son’s forehead. His dark, unruly hair smelled of scented oil. “You know, it’s been two years.” I tousled Joseph’s hair and he grabbed my finger with his strong grip.
“Since the birth of Yeshua. Yes, I remember, Josiah. Also, that was the night we had our, uh, disagreement.”
I reached past Joseph and patted Rachel’s stomach. “And, this child will be our daughter, Rachel. Yahweh has told me as much.”
Rachel’s smile was brighter than the star I had seen that night. “Well, I will be putting our Joseph down for the night so be careful on your journey to Joseph’s house.” She leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek.
I stepped out of our house into the cool night air. The sky was clear and filled with blazing stars. One star in particular seemed to lie low on the horizon. For two years now, the star had filled the night sky visible even with a full moon! Now, it seemed brighter and closer than ever! As I turned toward Joseph’s house, I noticed the star seemed to hover over the street where he lived! How was this possible? Surely just an illusion.Read the rest of this entry
Today is the 80th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
1994 — Four elderly men stood before me. They had asked to talk to me, and I was very, very nervous. One of them was shaking with emotion and all I could think of was somehow I had offended them with something I had written in the play they had just seen.
Let me explain.
In 1994 I wrote and directed a play entitled “The Night Gift” about a “family” of workers in a Christian greeting card company trapped together in their penthouse office on Christmas Eve. My good friend and our best actor, Larry Robison, asked me to write him a bit part as an old curmudgeonly gentlemen. Larry would play the elderly Mr. Collinbird and at a pivotal point in the play, I wanted to change the mood from humorous to serious. Up to that moment, Mr. Collinbird had been hilarious and frankly, senile. The members of the office began to share their most memorable Christmases. When it came to Mr. Collinbird, everyone was expecting another silly story. Instead, he began to tell a very moving story about his childhood.
Mr. Collinbird told the story of Christmas,1941 when his father did not return from Pearl Harbor. The young boy went out into the woods and cut down the family Christmas tree on his own. During the tale, Larry “became” the young Collinbird and I came out on the stage dressed as his father with blood on my chest. I told my “son” he was now the man of the house, and I would not be coming home for Christmas.
It was a simple five-minute scene meant to change the tone of the play and to catch the audience off guard. They would be expecting Collinbird to be silly but instead they got a very poignant, moving story of the child who became the man. After the first night’s play, Larry came up to me and said there were four men who wanted to talk to the author of the play. These were the four men who now stood before me.
The trembling man wiped at his eyes and this is what he said:
“I wanted to thank you for honoring the men who fought in World War II. We are World War II veterans and I was at Pearl Harbor. Thank you for honoring us on Veteran’s Day.”
I was stunned! It suddenly hit me that this was Friday, November 11th, the original date for Veteran’s Day! I never intended to honor WWII veterans, but God had different plans. God knew who would be there that night and God knew they needed to be honored by the simple scene in this play. The play was performed for two nights only and as impressive and shocking as the first night’s response was, I was not prepared for what happened the second night.
After the second night’s play, Larry escorted an elderly woman up to me and introduced us. She also wanted to meet the author of the play. This is what she said:
“My brother died at Pearl Harbor, and I have been mad at him and mad at God ever since. Tonight, you helped me to say goodbye to my brother and to find peace with my Maker. Thank you!”
How do you respond to such a statement? I was truly humbled!
It would be eleven years before I wrote and produced “The Homecoming Tree”, a play telling the story of the young Mr. Collinbird, now Daniel Collinsworth. The story was based on my parents’ lives during WWII. They lived in a boarding house atmosphere and their relatives came to stay with them as the war unfolded.
To prepare for that play, I sat my parents down along with my brother. This was in 1999 (all three have now passed on) in front of an old-fashioned slide projector with photos from their lives. I recorded two hours of them talking about their lives growing up during the Great Depression and living through the second world war. What a precious, priceless treasure trove of wisdom! Those stories became the basis for the play.
In 2018 I released a novelization of the play. In the novel, a modern-day businessman finds himself suffering from amnesia and sent back in time to 1941. His elderly boss is a young boy in 1941 and “Ray” is taken in by the kindly owners of the boarding house. In a scene from the book, Ray knows that something terrible is going to happen on Sunday, December 7th but can’t remember. When the news arrives on the radio, he has an unusual experience where he is both in the present and in the past, seeing not only the young boy whose father is at Pearl Harbor but the old man who remembers what that day brought to his family. Here an excerpt from the novel:
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy,” A different voice now. Wasn’t that President Roosevelt? Darkness swam into cloudy light, and an old man sat next to him on a couch. Blood trickled from a wound on the old man’s temple. His pale blue eyes were opened, and he stared off into space. It was as if the old man was talking in his sleep. Who was he? Why did he have a wound on his temple? Where was Mikey when you needed him? Mikey? Who was Mikey? Hadn’t he stopped the mugger? But not before the man had shot him. Ray swam in clouds of confusion as the old man continued to talk.
“I remember it all. How could I forget? The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was complete. The attack came in two waves. The first hit its target at 7:53 Hawaii time, the second at 8:55. By 9:55, it was all over. Behind them, they left chaos: 2403 dead, 188 destroyed planes and a crippled Pacific fleet that included eight damaged and destroyed battleships. It is rumored that a Japanese commander made the statement ‘I fear all we have done is awakened a sleeping giant.’ My family listened to the reports of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio. We saw the news footage at the newsreels at the movie theater. I imagined my Daddy as one of the brave pilots who actually made it into the air to attack the enemy. But, the truth was he was probably on the ground at Hickman Field and never made it into the air. In the days to come, we would wait anxiously for news from my father. But in the confusion and chaos after Pearl Harbor, the government was more concerned about entering the war against Japan and Germany. They didn’t have time to track down one missing soldier. With only days left until Christmas, my mother, sister and I cared nothing about putting up Christmas decorations. We just wanted my Daddy to come home.”
Ray saw smoke billow; flames consume shattered airplanes, wings, and fuselages with the red dot of the rising sun moving through the bright sky. The world shuddered and contracted around him as evil and death warred for supremacy in his life and the world. The image of a woman with blonde hair floated in front of his eyes. She reminded him of Peggy Lou, but she wasn’t quite the same woman. A young boy ran across his vision chasing a small dog. The same old man who had been speaking floated across his mind. His face was swollen and bruised. Was the old man dying? They were all dying. The world was dying, drowning beneath a flood of blood. Ray swallowed and tried to cry out in horror.
“No! Don’t let it be so! Stop it! God, stop it!” He pleaded, but the world continued to swirl around him nonstop. The old man’s eyes opened, and he mouthed something Ray could not hear. Then, his features changed and smoothed and became the face of a young man and he was back in 1941.
The novel is set in 2001 at the beginning in a country reeling from the terrorist attack of September 11. Many adults remember that day and the horror and terror we felt at the sight of the World Trade Center collapsing in real time on our television screens. We also reeled under the report of the other downed airplanes, one crashing into the Pentagon.
Today, eighty years after the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor, we live in a world that is once again on the brink of chaos. Pandemic, Chinese aggression, Russian invasions, inflation, and the most egregious, hatred and division across our land on so many issues. The attack on Pearl Harbor united our country against an evil enemy and pulled us together in the cause of the effort of good to defeat evil.
I salute the families whose loved ones died at Pearl Harbor. I am thankful for every person who has ever served in our military to defend our nation against evil aggression. It is no longer fashionable to be patriotic, but we must remember what our country stands for as written in the opening words of the document that would change the world: The Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
So important those words: truth, created, equal, Creator, life, liberty, happiness. But most important inalienable. That means simply something that can never be taken away by human effort; something truly transcendent.
Today, my prayer is that we will recognize these words as a reflection of the Creator God who made us all equal in His image. If we truly recognize this, then the words of Paul in the book Galatians take on a fuller and more foundational meaning:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28
We are all one, united, equal regardless of ethnicity, gender, social standing, and the list goes on. Christ united us in one body, adopted into His unity. Notice how important is the first part of those verses: “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”. We have abandoned faith in that transcendent source and have made ourselves gods and goddesses. Be careful. This disconnect from a Creator God is exactly what drove the despots and dictators of the past to elevate themselves to a level of godhood. And we see clearly how those situations turned out.
Today as we thank those who sacrificed their lives in the purpose of defending a country determined to honor “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” let us realize that such a sacrifice means nothing if we do not honor the transcendent Source of all truth and love!
“The Homecoming Tree” is available at all online book stores in both print and ebook format.