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The First Domino Falls!

Be careful what you ask for.

I was wandering through Barnes & Noble about four weeks ago. I stood in the Christian fiction section and recalled a time when my first two books sat on the shelf along with books by authors such as Tosca Lee and Ted Dekker. For a moment, I imagined myself as a bestselling author whose books would stay on the shelf for more than a few weeks before they would wind up in the $3 pile at Half Price Books. I was pretty down. Depressed. Discouraged. I wrote about this in my last post and made a decision to back off from writing.

Something happened that day. Something that would change everything for me. But, first, let me take a moment to share one of my personal philosophies. My inspiration for writing comes from God. Period. No contest. No argument. And, I have discovered that I can very easily wander off the path God has chosen for me and get all wrapped up in the dream of being Ted Dekker or Tosca Lee or any of my favorite Christian writers.

And, then, God humbles me. Over. And over. And over. And, in the humbling I stop and remind myself what I have chosen to ask God every morning when I wake up. It is simply, “God, what is the one thing you want me to do today as part of your work for my life. Let me know what that thing is and not waver from the purpose you have for my life.” Wandering away from God’s purpose for my life is what got me into so much trouble 20 years ago when I descended into a horrific and paralyzing depression. (See conqueringdepression.com for more on that!).

Back to the book store. I have always maintained there is no experience you can reproduce online that rivals that of wandering through a bookstore. Surrounded by the look, the feel, and, yes, the smell of books can’t be replicated on the keyboard and screen. It’s impossible to wander aimlessly through Amazon’s almost infinite collection of “books”. And that is why, in my dreary mood that day, I paid a visit to my local bookstore chain. It was the first time in months and now I stood forlorn and depressed in the section where my four fiction books should have been featured along with others written by Christian authors who have a story to tell to the world. And, I asked myself if it had all been an empty dream; a squandered opportunity because I wanted to be published for my own satisfaction, not to fulfill God’s work in my life.

I turned away from the fiction and glanced at a small, turquoise book on the top shelf behind me. “Switch On Your Brain” by Caroline Leaf. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I see a book there is a quality, an instantaneous attraction to it that defies human explanation. I glanced away and then looked at it again. It called to me. I picked up the book and read the back. Something about it clicked. I now know this was a divine appointment. I didn’t see it at the time. I added it to my small pile of books and checked out. I placed the book on my desk along with three other books I had purchased on improving my writing.

During the next week or so, I opened one of those writing books on Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke. The opening few pages asked a very important question. “Why do you want to be published?” His answer was simple. Fame. Money. Glory. Immortality. I have an entire lecture on the three types of writers: those who can’t not write; those who want to be published; and those for whom writing is a “job”. And, all three are vastly different. When you sign that contract with a publisher, your writing moves beyond a hobby to a business. And, then the job becomes work! I had to stop and really ask myself why I wanted to continue to write and be published. The answer, I had to remind myself, lay in the paragraphs above. If God did not honor my writing, then I was wasting His time and mine doing the wrong thing! And so, I prayed once again for direction. “God, if you want me to continue to write, help me know what you want me to write and show me your will.”

This past weekend, while on call for my radiology practice, I picked up the “Switch on Your Brain” book and decided to read the first chapter. An hour later, I was halfway through the book. What happened that afternoon was like someone pushing over the first domino. You see, about a dozen things happened in one week that had nothing to do with each other when viewed separately. But, putting them together I began to see an undeniable push toward a complete rewrite of “The 9th Demon: A Wicked Numinosity”. Suddenly, information and ideas fell into my lap. Ideas circling in my brain actually gelled. And, three different separate conversations with people about totally unrelated subjects suddenly converged into the final conclusion that I HAD to write this book!

Monday night of this past week, I shared all of this with my wife, Sherry. She is my anchor, my reality check. After I laid out all of the “coincidences” of the past month, she nodded in agreement. “Yes, you need to write again.” Today, I started over with the book and it is coming fast and furious. And, the central theme of this book is so timely! I hope to share more with you in the coming weeks. But, right now, I have to write! Here I go!

So, I have an idea. Here in the ArkLaTex about six years ago we had an event featuring local authors. I’d like to consider something like that again. If you are a local Christian writer, would you like to have a weekend event where we get together and have some presentations about publishing, marketing, editing, etc.? Would you like to have a venue where you could feature and sell your books? It’s just an idea, right now. But, if you are interested or if you know someone who might be interested, drop me an email or a comment.

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Down, But Not Out!

I am frustrated.

 

I haven’t been posting this summer because of family issues with my daughter’s health. But, she is doing very, very well and it is time for me to re-engage the creative side of my brain.

 

I haven’t been negligent of my writing. I am finishing up the final edit for “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” and it will be available hopefully by late October. It will not be available in the usual traditional sense but you will be able to purchase it through bookstores, Amazone, B&N, etc. Now that I am no longer beholden to my previous publisher, I have much more freedom to tell the story the way I want to.

 

For instance, my previous two books suffered from the word limit demon (pardon the pun). I had to constrain my story to fit 75000 words. That required cutting major story elements and, in some cases, entire characters to fit the required word limit. While I don’t plan on going all Harry Potter on my readers and make the next books 700+ words, I have extended the upcoming book from 75000 to 90000 words.

 

I am back in the world of self-publishing and it is much different from the first time I self-published back in 2006. Self-publishing has gained in reputation since then. To give you an example, I ran my dilemma by Michael Hyatt back in February. If you don’t know who Michael Hyatt is, go to his website. He was former CEO of Thomas Nelson and has launched his own brand teaching authors how to communicate and how to build a platform for their work. I met him at the first annual Platform conference. Michael took one look at my previous two books in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles and quickly, confidently without hesitation told me to self-publish. This came from a man who was once the CEO of one of the largest Christian publishers in the world!

 

For a while, I pursued traditional publishing for the third book and met with half-hearted response. I don’t want to disparage my previous traditional publisher, but I think today’s tp’s don’t know how to effectively market Christian speculative fiction. Michael Hyatt made the comment this is the fastest growing sub-genre in Christian publishing. I have discussed problems with this genre in previous posts, the least being that bookstores don’t know where to put these books — Christian publishing or secular publishing areas.

 

So, it is up to those of us who write such books to decide if we cave in to the poor sales and poor marketing and little recognition or do we press on and continue to write the books God has placed on our hearts and minds. Authors such as Greg Mitchell, Mike Duran, Mike Dellosso, Marc Schooley, Linda Rios Brook, and Conlan Brown write speculative fiction and their works are fantastic, awe inspiring, moving, and wildly imaginative. Their books should be flying off the shelves. Instead, like me, they are struggling with balancing day jobs and writing supernatural thrilling stories that are trying to break their way out of our brains onto the written page.

 

Here is my plea. Check out the Christian speculative fiction market. But some books. Buy lots of books. Support your favorite Christian speculative fiction author and I’m not just talking about the giants such as Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti or Tosca Lee. Look for us little guys and gals who are struggling and promise to give you a good story — a great read that is wildly imaginative, thrilling, and yet, ultimately redemptive.

 

Give us a chance!

 

Buy one of our books as summer comes to a close and then post a review on Amazon or on your blog or your website. Help us flood American readers with the kind of thrilling supernatural stories the world is craving but with a different twist — a Christian worldview. Do that, and we will go a long way to changing the world’s attitudes — changing the world’s perception of reality — and showing the world the light and love of Christ!

CBA/ICRS — Tosca, Ted, and Charles, oh my! The Afternoon Part 2

Now, after lunch, the fun began!

I ran into Debbie Strang at the Charisma Media booth and she took me over to a shelf and showed me a mockup of my upcoming book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”. I cannot begin to tell anyone what it is like to hold your next book in your hands! It was awesome as you can see by my smile in this picture.

 

Then, Atalie, part of the Charisma team, told me that Matthew West was signing copies of his CD single RIGHT NOW! So, having just heard Matthew, I followed Atalie and got in line. She had to leave to go meet with the next author for his book signing and asked me to get her an autographed copy. It was interesting standing in line for a short while with her and a team member from Tyndale and listen to their “inside scoops” of prominent authors such as James Scott and lots of romance writers whose names you would instantly recognize. Then Atalie was off and I was standing in front of Matthew West. I told him how much his song meant to me and how I appreciate his desire to tell the stories all around us. He then looked at the card with my book cover on it (12th demon) and asked all about my book. He took a card and said he would read it when it came out. We’ll see!

 

I then took Atalie her CD and headed over to the FaithWords booth to get in line to see Tosca Lee and Ted Dekker — the biggest names right now in Speculative Christian Fiction.

 

Now, several weeks ago, I wrote a review of “Thunder and Rain” by Charles Martin. He is, without a doubt, one of my favorite top 5 authors. As I walked up to the booth, I spied a pile of “Thunder and Rain” books. I was stunned! Was Charles Martin here? I asked the man piling up the books and he pointed right behind me. There was Charles Martin talking to his wife. I had just missed his book signing. But, being an opportunist, I grabbed a book and, like a trembling fanboy, asked Charles to sign my book. He was gracious and funny and signed my book while I hemmed and hawed and tittered and giggled. I finally got control over myself and we had a nice conversation about his writing, his books, and the fact I was an author.

 

Then, heart pounding, I got in line for Tosca Lee and Ted Dekker. I handed Tosca my card with my book cover on it because I had written my name and my wife’s name on the back. At my book signings, I always have people write down the name they want the book dedicated to. This avoids any misspellings. Now, while in line, I spied “The Sanctuary”, Ted Dekker’s newest solo book and the front cover was suspiciously similar to the cover of “The 12th Demon” with an arched doorway just as my book had. I spoke with Tosca and Ted both about my book and when Tosca turned the card over, Ted’s mouth fell open. He jerked the card out of her hand and stared at MY cover. Tosca said something about how much it looked like his newest book cover. Ted looked up at me.

 

“Who did this cover?”

“The awesome graphic designers at Charisma Media.” I replied.

“This is better than my cover!”

 

So, here is a shout out to the graphic designers at Charisma. Ted Dekker loves the cover design for MY book! Way to go! I walked away proud to be an author for Charisma!!!

And, at that point, I had to leave and go pick up my daughter at the airport. But, it was an incredibly, unbelievable, fulfilling day at ICRS. And, tomorrow will be better!

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