Category Archives: family

“I dedicate this book to…”

Yes, I read the dedication page in every novel I read. And, yes, I think about what I’ll put on the dedication page of my debut novel (when that day comes). There’s a special kind of emotional energy spelled out in that small section of thanks and appreciation. And I’m willing to bet that many writers put a ton of thought and effort into the words they use there–at least on their first few books.

So I was thinking…since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I wanted to share an idea with you. If I had the great privilege of turning in a dedication page for my first novel, and it needed to submitted today, it would read like this:

Loving. Supportive. Sacrificial. Honest. Patient. My Beloved. All these words describe the person to whom I dedicate this book: my wife, Kristal. Your understanding and encouragement has made this writer’s journey possible. My dear, I count my life blessed because you are in it. And I look forward to the new chapters that God has yet to write in our life together.

If you were preparing a dedication page today, what would it say?

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody.

 

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“What if…?”

I’m warped.

And before someone shouts, “And all God’s children said…”, let me say that if you’re a writer, you’re warped also. Yes. You. Are.

Here’s the problem we have: I can’t look at life without wondering “what if?” It happens all the time. Like last night during the super bowl…and I wasn’t even watching it! I saw a tweet from someone who said that there’d been a power outage at the dome. Immediately I wondered, ‘What if…?”

  • What if it was a complex plan to harm the NFL commissioner?
  • What if a group of crazed music teachers did it so they could grab Beyoncé and teach her how to sing?
  • What if it happened because some fanatics wanted to prolong the NFL season due to the fact that once it’s over all they’d have left is the baseball season, and since they’re from Kansas City that means that the Royals are all they have to look forward to…and that would drive any human being to the verge of insanity?
  • What if it was Bush’s fault?
  • What if a distraught man was going to hold the crowd hostage until one million Twinkies are sent to an offshore bank?
  • What if a rogue herd of cattle did it as a protest over footballs being called “pigskin” but actually being made of leather?
  • What if? What if? What if?

Maybe I’m not able to look at life through the same set of lenses that “normal” people use, but I that’s just fine with me. There’s a whole group of “not-so-normal” people who I’m honored to know…they’re called “writers.” And they’re not afraid to ask “what if?” and great stories are born!

 

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The Baby King (part 1)

Joseph collapsed inside, no longer seeing a future that included Mary. Her words stung his thoughts. Joseph, I’m going to have a baby. And Joseph knew that it wasn’t his. It was as though his heart had been pierced by a sword. Moreover, a sword held by the one he had loved more than life itself.

He swiped at the tears on his cheek. His choices were as obvious as the bulge under Mary’s clothing. Promises, hearts, and the laws of God…all broken. Joseph’s stomach churned. He couldn’t stand the thought of making their disgrace a public spectacle. And how could he allow the other men to end Mary’s life by stoning? Even though the law allowed such a gruesome result for her actions, Joseph would not let her and…her baby…to die that way.

“I will send her away privately,” he whispered. Divorce her. Let her run away. Defiled but alive.

A few minutes later Joseph stumbled into his house, and then collapsed on his bed. Sleep came suddenly.

And so did the angel.

Moments later Joseph’s slammed his eyes open, and searched the silent darkness. He jumped to his feet, his mind replaying the angel’s message as he charged out the door. By the time he reached the home of Mary’s parents sweat was streaming down his forehead. He stopped in the courtyard, trying to catch his breath. But the sight of Mary standing in the doorway stole it away again.

He hurried to her, and squeezed her hands in his. “Mary,” he said, gazing into her warm brown eyes, “an angel came to me in a dream. He told me we would have–”

“A son,” Mary whispered, tears pooling in the corners of her eyes.

They laughed. Joseph nodded his head.

Mary closed her eyes. “And we are to name him–”

“Jesus!” Joseph smiled.

Mary’s eyes widened. They both spoke at the same time, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

 

***Part two of the story will be posted on Monday (Christmas Eve).

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Lest We Forget

“I’m getting you that for Christmas,” announced my daughter, Jayne, as she pointed to something on a store shelf.

“Honey,” I said, “if you want to surprise me, you shouldn’t show me the present three weeks before Christmas, because now I know what it is.” My goal was to help my young daughter understand the joy of surprising someone with an unexpected gift.

It seemed to be a real hallmark moment…until she added, “I’m not worried, Dad. You’ll forget by Christmas.”

Out of the mouths of babes, huh?

One thing I’ve discovered about writing Christian fiction is that there’s nothing new under the sun. I’m not charged with discovering new truths to write about. However my task is nearly as hard (maybe harder). I’m called to reintroduce readers to truths that they’ve already seen before. And I’m expected to do it in a way that penetrates the walls of complacency surrounding their hearts and minds. I’m asking them to reconsider an old truth because I presenting it to them in a new way…wrapped in a story that captures their attention from both sides of their brain. And I’ve only got a few chapters…or pages…or paragraphs to do so.

What books have you read recently that caused you to think more about truths you already knew, but perhaps had forgotten about, or taken for granted?

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Little Writer On The Prairie

One day we had trouble with our DVD player. The prospect of it not being usable bothered my then nine-year-old daughter. Trying to be helpful, I said, “I didn’t have a DVD player when I was your age. They weren’t invented yet.” Then, as if the floodgates of repressed memories opened, I added, “And we didn’t have VCRs or personal computers.” For some reason I stopped short of telling her that when I was growing up we only had black-and-white television, and could get three channels…maybe four if the weather was just right. I chose not to mention thatI never had ANY video games…until PONG came along. And that hardly counts. I even resisted the and I had to walk to school every day–through knee-deep snow…uphill…both ways!

And never once did I seriously entertain the notion of telling her that the only time we had electricity when I was growing up was when lightning hit the outhouse. A tad too dramatic. Not to mention factually inaccurate.

What I DID mention was effective enough. She was sufficiently horrified by the thought of growing up without computers and videos. She looked at me, sad eyes filled with pity, probably thinking that the reason our family owns several seasons of Little House On The Prairie (On DVD) was because the Ingalls were my next door neighbors. Which, by the way, they weren’t.

But I didn’t have access to the technology that kids today are raised with. And when it comes to writing, sometimes that’s awkward. I’ve had to learn how to email manuscripts, deal with track changes, and create proposals in digital form. And don’t get me started on the whole formatting my WIP thing! Indent here…don’t indent there…double spacing every where, except here, here, and over there…no spacing…ittalics okay…ittalics not okay…NO semi-colons…ever…under any circumstances…and Word this…Mac that…Manomanoman! To be honest, it’s not been easy for me. But it’s just part of the writer’s life now.

What’s been the most challenging part for you as a writer?

By the way, did I mention that when I was a kid, the only time we had electricity was when…oh, never mind.

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Taking advantage of my son’s nightmares

For the last two nights, my four-year-old son, Josiah, has woke up crying or otherwise agitated because “there are snakes under my pillow!” Understand that his “room” is actually a 5 x 6 foot area that’s attached to our bedroom. It’s like a large walk-in closet really. My point is that if the snakes where really in his room, they’d have also been in ours.

And that’s a problem. Because I’m terrified of snakes. I’m talking the I’d-trample-an-elderly-person-to-get-away-from-the-slimy-devils kind of fear. When I worked for the city of Florence, Kansas a long time ago, one of my jobs was to be the cemetery caretaker. (The real term was “sexton” but I can’t say that with a straight face. But I digress). Anyway, one time I was weed-eating around some stones and hit a snake. The snake landed on my shoe. To this day I have no idea where the weed-eater landed or how I made it back to town.

Now, back to my upset toddler:  he claimed there were snakes in his room…directly under his pillow. So I asked his mother if she was going to just lay there or go do something about it. Here’s another difference between me and my wife: she’s not a writer…I am. Which means that while she’s going to comfort our snake-threatened youngin’, my writer’s brain was asking, “What if?”

I mean, we were up. I might as well be using the time wisely. I don’t know if it will ever work it’s way into a story, but time will tell. And if there ever are real snakes in our room, I’ll be writing that story from the camper.

I’m just sayin’.

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The Fog

Some call it “being in a funk”, but the more I’ve thought about it, I think it feels more like driving in a fog. I’m still doing things as a writer, but as I bang out the words to this post I simply can’t see very far down the road. I stare ahead, trying to stay alert so I don’t miss anything. This is how I feel right now as I’m pushing ahead on my writing journey. I’m in a fog.

I’m still brainstorming some ideas for my next book, and I’m trying to get up the emotional energy to send out proposals on my last one. In fact, my last book is one that I am very excited about…if I can just get it in the hands of readers. And while I enjoyed the many blessings of the writer’s convention I attended in September, a discouraging fog has settled in around me.

No…I’m not ready to quit. I am just being real with you: if you want to be a writer, expect to have to fight your way through the fog every so often. The way you deal with the fog may be different than how another writers tackles it. Some drink enormous amounts of coffee (I’ll leave the drink of choice as coffee since I’m talking about Christian Fiction), others go on retreats and attempt to ignite their creativity, some master solitaire, and others go shopping. And some of us blog. Whatever works.

There are many things I don’t know about this fog–like how long it will last–but there are a few things that I DO know:

  • God is bigger than the fog & that will never change.
  • I’m his child, so He never loses sight of me…not even in the thickest fog.
  • I’m blessed to have a wife and family that believes in me unconditionally.
  • I’m still moving forward…even if I can’t see very far down the road.

Have you ever been in the fog as a writer? How did you handle it? What did you learn?

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Let’s Create A New Holiday

As a minister–one of those clergy type people–I’m always blessed and humbled when October rolls around and my dear congregation at Gracepoint shows an extra measure of appreciation for our ministry together. I didn’t create “Clergy Appreciation Month” and, to be honest, I’m not really sure it’s necessary, but the kind words do affirm and encourage me.

But I’m urging you to join me in calling for a new holiday: a holiday that honors those who support our journey as Christian fiction writers. And don’t say, “Well, we already have Thanksgiving.” (Insert game show buzzer here). I’m not talking about sticking this on the backside of a holiday that already exists. No siree, Bob (or whatever your name is). I think we need to give birth to a brand spankin’ new celebration–maybe even one that lasts a week or an entire month.

The point of this purposeful observance would be to honor those dear people who faithfully, optimistically, and sacrificially support us as writers. People like our spouses, children, extended family, friends, local ACFW chapter members, agents, editors, critique partners….you get the point. (Although I may not include my eleven-year-old daughter, Jayne, who just shot a nerf dart at me while I was typing this post, and scared about 36 months off of my writing career…okay, I’ll forgive her. By the way, she’s a pretty good writer herself.)

Now, as I hunker in my bunker, hoping to escape more incoming nerf projectiles, let me return to the proposal.

I propose that all members of the family known as Christian Writers begin the discussion of creating a special observance during which we honor those who support us in the stewardship of story that God has entrusted to us.

I’m serious about this. I especially call on my fellow members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) to begin considering this proposal. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Share this post everywhere you can.
  2. Make this an agenda item at your next ACFW chapter meeting.
  3. Mention the idea–in your own words–on every social media site you have a presence on.
  4. Discuss it on the ACFW loop.
  5. Begin a contest to see what we could call this time of special observance (Thanksgiving Day is already taken).
  6. Offer suggestions on when to have this special time. Should it be a “universal time” that we all observe in the same month, or can we go State by State?

And let’s not forget to pray. I really believe that God can use this to encourage our encouragers.

I can’t wait to hear your comments! Will YOU help spread the word?

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IT’S HERE!

Okay, as you read this, I’m heading to Dallas for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. Months and months of hard work have gone into preparation for these next few days. I’ve written a book that I’m going to be pitching to agents and editors…and anyone else I can trap in a corner or on an elevator…err, I mean anyone else who wants to hear about a thrilling suspense novel.

Equal to that anticipation, however, is the excitement of seeing old friends. I’m already looking forward to hugs and handshakes, smiles and laughter, and everything that goes with being face-to-face with people I have learned to care about and admire. I’m going rub shoulders with incredibly talented writers, who’ve never heard of me but I’ve sure heard of them. It’s an honor.

But it isn’t all fun and games. This is also a time to dig in and learn how to become a better writer. If I can’t be teachable, then I’m wasting my time. I don’t plan on wasting my time. I plan on growing, on building new friendships, and on doing more listening and less talking.

It’s a wonderful opportunity. And when I get home on Sunday might, I want the Lord to look back over the way I spent my time and energy, and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

And as thrilled as I am to be going to Dallas, I’m more thrilled to be coming home to my wife and children.

Can you imagine what our gathering in heaven is going to be like? Wow! Talk about a homecoming! Are you ready?

 

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Better With Time

Not long ago, my wife and I took our toddler son to get new shoes. We found a pair we liked,  so the sales woman put them on our fidgety son, and then said, “Okay, little fella. Why don’t you walk around with your grandpa and see how those feel.”

I’m sure I actually heard my wife snort.

Okay. I get it. I’m an “older” father. When my son was on infant formula, I should have been on Grecian Formula (cue rim shot). But come on!

I pray that I’m a better father now than when I was many years ago. Fatherhood is a journey that can only be fully absorbed by those who have children. Many people think they know a lot about parenting…until they have children.

What would you say to someone who said, ” I want to be a father, but I just don’t want to have children. It takes time and effort to raise kids.”?

You’d think the person really didn’t understand fatherhood. Right?

Well, it’s that way in writing also. There are lots of people who want to be published authors, but they don’t want to put in the time and effort to sit down and write. Or if they do plop down in front of the keyboard, they suddenly realize that it’s harder than they imagined.

But writers–like fathers–learn as they go. Experience is a great teacher. So stay humble, teachable, and alert. There are many lessons to learn in life if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

How have you grown as a writer?

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