Sunday, February 25, 2024

Moving the flywheel, a little at a time

This week I've been working a ton on three different projects related to writing. 

1. Wait for the Lightning. We asked a handful of people to be beta readers a month or so ago, and this week we started collecting feedback from those readers. Lots of affirmation and some important tweaks are happening in this project. We're on track to launch the Kickstarter for this book on March 6. (Sign up here if you haven't already. By signing up for the prelaunch page, you're sure not to miss the campaign, and it also helps get more exposure as Kickstarter realizes that people are eager to support this book.) Lisa has been deep into this project the last few days, having conversations, evaluating feedback, and holding the project in her head. She's an amazing partner in this work. 

2. The sequel to Death on Disappointment Mountain. I'm working hard to finish the first draft of this novel. The most frequent question I've had from readers has been, "Will you write a sequel?" The answer is an enthusiastic YES. Yesterday I passed the 60K word mark. That means the book is coming into the home stretch. I'll probably write about 90K words before I'm done, and then edit it back to around 80K. I'm excited about this story. Goal is to finish the first draft sometime in late March or early April. My guess is that the book itself will be available early this summer. 

3. Working on an updated website. One of my daughters has been helping with this. The new website should go public in a week or so. It will still include blog posts for those of you who've followed me in this way. You'll also be able to buy books direct from us on the new website, sign up for email lists, communicate directly with me via email, and more. 

Of course there are other things happening as well. We took the horses out for a delightful ride yesterday and got a bunch of barn cleaning done. This week we firmed up agreements with a few contractors for our house move that is scheduled to happen in May. 

I hope it comes through in these blog posts just how much I'm enjoying myself these days. God is so good, and I'm so grateful for the people he has placed in my life. Of course there are challenges. Life can be brutal sometimes. But joy is available if you set your heart that direction and live with a gratitude mindset. The fact that you are reading this blog post is one of the things that brings me great joy. Thanks for being here! 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Timelines and flywheels

 I want to think with you a bit about starting new ventures, and what it's really like. 

My own journey toward being a writer is what I have in mind, but you may be thinking about something else. 

Here's a very rough timeline for me:

In 2009, I published my first book (an earlier version of From Slavery to Freedom) through a traditional publishing house. In one sense it was the realization of a long-held dream for me. In other ways it was deeply disappointing. I did not pursue other books through traditional publishing.

That same year, I started a blog. Long story, but that became the main outlet for my writing for several years. 

In 2017, my personal and professional life went through a major upheaval. In the wake of that chaos I went back and reassessed a lot of my own goals. One of the major goals that resurfaced during that time was that I wanted to be a writer. I wasn't so much concerned about income at that point, I just felt the drive to create books. I started educating myself, joined a few online writing groups, dusted off a bunch of old ideas and manuscripts that had been mouldering in the recesses. One key is that I started listening to podcasts by other authors. I learned a ton about how the world of publishing was changing. If you're interested in writing, I highly recommend Joanna Penn's podcast, The Creative Penn. If you sign up for her email list (I recommend) she'll send you a free book she calls her "Author Blueprint." That's a good summary of what it takes these days to be a writer. Very helpful.

In 2019 I independently published a commentary on Luke's gospel called New Wineskins. Hard on the heels of that project, in 2020 I published a second, expanded edition of From Slavery to Freedom. (I had requested and received the copyright back from the traditional publisher a few years before.) Neither of these books sold much beyond a few copies among friends and acquaintances. 

In the fall of 2020 I bought some land (the farm where Lisa and I now live) and shortly after that lost my job. 2021 saw me adjusting to a new career and trying to make this farm a livable place. (That included all the civilized accoutrements like a well, septic system, and oh, a house of sorts.) The necessaries of life were all-consuming for a couple years. 

I had continued to write in my spare moments. I polished a fantasy novel I'd started back in college. I finished a modern day novel that had been rolling around in my thoughts for a couple decades. But I wasn't pursuing publishing. 

In 2023 I published that modern day novel as Death on Disappointment Mountain. It sold enough copies (so far) to cover the costs of publication, and a little more. THAT was an amazing feeling. I also figured out (with the help of my daughters, and a few others) how to do things like publish e-books, design covers, and the like. 

Also in 2023 Lisa and I got married. To my great joy, Lisa has been an enthusiastic partner in this writing venture. We talked about it a lot during 2023 and agreed that I should pursue writing not only as a source of self-expression but eventually as a source of income. (We're talking about a five year plan.)

That changes the learning curve. 

In 2024 I'm launching a Kickstarter campaign around Wait for the Lightning, which is a look at the first few chapters of Genesis. For the first time I'm working with KDP on the ebook, while still publishing paperback through Ingram Spark. I'm also doing a hardcover for the first time, and investing a few dollars in commercially produced artwork for the cover and marketing materials. I'm continuing to promote Disappointment Mountain. That's teaching me a ton about marketing. I'm about halfway through writing the first draft of the sequel, and I hope to have it out this summer. I've also committed to writing a book about the biblical book of Revelation. There are several other projects waiting in the wings. 

I'm learning a ton about websites (major upgrade coming soon!), marketing, time management, writing well, and the business of publishing. It's very challenging, and very fun. And sometimes very frustrating.

From the outside, little in my life has changed. I'm still working the same job, living in the same house, driving the same pickup. Lisa and I are enjoying life together. We still worship with our home church and get together with friends and family members. 

Little by little, though, I'm putting more weight on this business of not only writing, but publishing my writings and promoting them into the world. I've decided I not only want to be a writer, but I actually want people to read what I've written. It's a slow process, and a humbling one. Lisa and I often talk about an illustration we heard in a podcast along the way. It's like the flywheel on an engine. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get that flywheel to turn. That's what we're doing, day after day. We're turning the flywheel one little tick each day. But as we keep applying effort, it turns a bit faster and a bit faster. Eventually the idea of a flywheel is that it has a momentum of its own that keeps the engine running when things get challenging. 

If you are considering a new venture, or perhaps in the middle of one, be encouraged. It might seem like a slow process. Yesterday, addressing my momentary discouragement, Lisa quoted to me the Old Testament prophet who said, "Do not despise the day of small beginnings." It's good advice. 

Looking back, it looks like we've come a long way. Because we have. And I'm eager to see where things go from here.  It's a long road, but an exciting one.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Kickstarter Pre-launch page is available now!

 Exciting news! Here's the link to my Kickstarter pre-launch page:

You can sign up now (create a Kickstarter account if you don't have one) so when we launch, you'll be notified and won't miss out!

I am putting this out on Facebook today as well. I'm hopeful that if we are successful with this Kickstarter campaign, we can begin to change the conversation around Genesis. What if it's not about what happened in the past, but rather about what God is up to here and now, in your life and mine? 

Feel free to share this page and encourage your friends to sign up as well. Thanks for being on the team!

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Old dogs and new tricks

 Lisa and I went to the movies last night. Specifically, we went to see the first three episodes of The Chosen, season 4. Three and a half hours, three episodes, one theater. Massive amounts of popcorn and Diet Dr. Pepper. It was so good. 

It got me thinking how the world has changed. I've never been to a movie like that before. We've watched the first three seasons on DVD, because we don't have the capacity to stream video on our remote little farm. But we do have a DVD player. We've really enjoyed the series. It's a great way for a whole new generation to get to know Jesus better. 

At one point during the intro, the creators of The Chosen posted a QR code on the screen and encouraged us to take a photo of it. So I did, and I followed the links on my phone and filled out the info. And this morning, I received via email a special add-on scene and a couple other special offers. 

It got me thinking about how the world of writing has changed. A few decades ago when I was first trying to get a book published, the only legitimate way to do so was to convince an established publisher to take a chance on me. Then the print book would come out through their services, and that creative work would essentially belong to the publisher. That's just the way it worked. 

I went that route. It was a frustrating, disappointing experience for me. I began exploring other ways of doing things, and discovered that there was a growing world of alternative publishing out there. In the last five years I've published three books through these alternative means. I've learned to handle the creative side of publication and to work with experts in cover design, electronic formatting, print-on-demand technology, and more. 

This spring I'll be publishing a fourth book. It will initially be coming out through Kickstarter, which is a whole new way of launching a book. I'm learning a lot. (When we have a firm launch date and the campaign is finalized, you will certainly find the links to our pre-launch page here. Watch for it!) 

Sometimes it seems like all this changing tech is scary. I have to admit I was a little surprised when they told us to pull out our phones in the movie theater last night. I'd just silenced mine and put it away. But indie publishing, and Kickstarter, and QR codes, and print-on-demand... it's all just new ways to get books out to people and connect in a more personal way with readers. 

So this old dog is trying to learn some new tricks. And having a lot of fun along the way.