A lot of times, people take stock of where they are spiritually at the beginning of the year. They make resolutions to do different things that will help them draw closer to God throughout the year. Have you ever stopped in the middle of the year to evaluate how well you’re doing in meeting that goal? That’s an easy goal to let go of and forget because there are so many distractions. If you made that kind of goal at the beginning of the year and you’ve fallen behind, take heart. Our God gives second and third and fiftieth and one hundredth chances. If you want to begin to work on that again, let me introduce you to my devotional book series. I’d like to offer you a free eBook where you can spend five to ten minutes a day reading and contemplating God’s presence in your life. This site won’t even collect an email address! If you don’t know how to send a book to your Kindle, I can help you do that. Gain a habit that will enrich your every day life.
There is a spark! Over the last few months, while I’ve done some kind of writing or another, it felt like I was going through the motions. I’m in a writing challenge where I have to write four hundred words a day, and I was trying to find ways to get to four hundred. If I was writing part of a story and I hit four hundred, I’d finish my thought and stop rather than letting the writing flow. For those of you who read them, I stopped writing my devotionals. They were losing their freshness and I needed to step away from them for a time. I’ll explain what I’ve learned about myself in this time on the day before I return to writing them.
There was no life, no spark, to my writing. I wasn’t enjoying it and I did it because I had to. That’s not all bad, because there’s something to be said for perseverance in times like that. I have saved everything I’ve done during this dry period because one of my rules about writing is that there’s no such thing as good writing; there’s only good re-writing.
I got a chuckle out of seeing my books on that pirate site because, well, let’s face it – I’m not much of a marketer and my books haven’t sold many copies. That can be a bit discouraging. That’s another reason for the lack of emotion in my writing recently. Not only have sales been non-existant, I just started this book funnel program and haven’t been able to give my book away. I’ve had two downloads so far – and one of them was me testing the process. The lack of sales can lead to a lot of self-doubt. The only one who seemed to enjoy the devotionals was my mom and, well, she’s my mom. When she died, I had no fans of the writing and no one encouraging me.
This isn’t meant to be a pity party, I’m just telling you where I am, rather where I was, on my writing. Today, though, I found a project that excites me. Someone described a common trope in writing and suggested a twist. I smiled as I thought about it. Then, as I thought more about it, I realized that the twist that got people excited had already been written before – in the Bible. As I enjoyed that revelation, I began thinking about how to revamp the story, it would be the Moses story, in a modern setting. As the ideas fell into place, I began plotting out the story. Let me repeat that: I began plotting out the story! If you’re wondering what makes that such a big deal, let me explain.
There are three approaches to writing novels: the plotter, the pantser, and the plantser. The plotter approach is to outline the story, usually in great detail. Characters ae fleshed out before the writing begins. Plot lines are developed. A good plotter could start writing the story at chapter three, or chapter ten with no problem because they already know the rest of the flow of the story. The pantser on the other hand has a vague idea of what he/she wants to write about. They may have a few character names. They may have a vague idea of how the story will end. The pantser writes things on the fly and will often learn about their characters during the story. This is how I tend to write. The plantser is a combination of the two other approaches. They may have an outline of where they’re going, but a character may surprise them and do something they didn’t expect. Sometimes plantsers make it through their outlines, sometimes they make it through the first chapter of their outline before everything blows up and they either go with the flow of their new story or they stop and re-outline.
The fact that I began plotting today is so out of character for me, but it happened because I fell in love with the concept. I know I haven’t told you much about the story, and I won’t just yet, but if I’m doing research, you have to know I’m excited about the story. I’ll probably share excerpts in days to come as I work on this story, but I finally have a spark to write again!
This story began with another warning about a web piracy site. One of the advantages to eBooks is that they’re so much cheaper to produce and make available to the public. The disadvantage is that scammers/book pirates can find ways to make money by getting a copy of your book, and then offering it for free on a pirate site. These sites look professionally done and appear to be a great way to get books for free – after all, isn’t EVERYTHING free on the internet somehow? The problem is the authors who have poured their hearts into their books, have spent lots of money on editing their writing and creating covers, and have worked to market their books so they can make a living from the work they’ve done, don’t profit from these sites. The owner of the site steals their work and makes their money through advertising on the site.
I posted in an author site that I belong to about the problem after looking up a couple of books and finding friends in that group had been victimized by the pirate. I almost posted something about no one wanting to steal my books, because, you know – devotional books. Then, on a lark, I went to check my books. I was amazed to discover that four of the six books in the series were listed on the site. I decided that I must have really made it as an author if somebody thought it was worthwhile to steal the hours of labor writing and editing those books to promote their site. I also thought it ironic that people would steal a devotional book, designed to help them grow closer to God.
When I mentioned that I must have “made it” as an author because my work was on a pirate site to my siblings, they responded with sincere sympathy. “Even pirates like to read.” “Way to go, Bob! Nice to expand your reading audience.” “Do they pay in gold?” “Do you get to wear an eye patch?” and finally “Aaaarrrggg!!! Pirate booty gold, but you must find it with my treasure map.” Ok, maybe more joking than sympathy. That’s ok for family, I guess. I don’t depend on writing income to eat – which is a good thing because I probably couldn’t pay for a glass of water, let alone the coffee I drink while I’m writing, from my earnings. But I have friends whose living is based on their writing. Looking at my royalty schedule and the number of times that this site claimed that my book was read/downloaded, this pirate site kept me from about $6000 in earnings based on about $1 profit per sale of each book. (But, see my proviso later.) Imagine if I wasn’t retired and married to an amazing wife who makes good money. What if writing were my sole source of income, and instead of four books, I had ten, or twenty. That could be lost revenue of between $10,000 – 30,000.
The best argument against my financial figures is that we don’t know if people would have seen or bought this work if they couldn’t have stolen, er, gotten it free. I’ll admit that. I also doubt that their figures on read/downloaded are completely accurate, or I would really be a best seller if people actually bought the books. Based on one of the authors whose books I checked to see if they were on the site, it may be a phishing site looking to profit from your info. You have to set up an account. Your account includes credit card info. Something is rotten in Denmark as another writer once said. All I know is that my books were being used in a scam and all joking about “making it” aside, I don’t like it one bit. I’ll be sending a takedown notification, probably tomorrow. But it’s sick that we have to go through all those formal procedures instead of just being able to notify someone with the power to enforce that law.
If you’ve used those sites in the past because you didn’t realize that they were stealing from the authors, then please stop using them. If you continue using them now that you know, shame on you. Most authors tend to run sales or even giveaways on their books at different times of the year. I’m doing one right now until the end of June where you can go to my Bookfunnel link and get a free copy of my July – August devotional eBook. I’ll be upfront with you about it: my goal is that you will find it so helpful to you that you’ll buy the other books in the series. (Every two months.) I think they run $2.99 in eBook format. Is that two expensive? I don’t think so, otherwise I’d price it lower. Seriously, though, if you’re drinking a cup of coffee for a dollar from a chain or buying five buck specialty coffee while you’re reading each day’s devotional, the book part doesn’t seem like the expensive part of the day. Support the authors who give you hours of enjoyment by buying their books. Those authors are trying to earn a living.
These last few months have moved too quickly, and too slowly at the same time. A little over a month ago, the four siblings divided up the estate. The hardest part was dealing with the memories attached to items. I mentioned something about that earlier in my post about Grammy’s chair. My parents had lots of nice stuff, but the one thing that I really wanted, I didn’t get. I figure that since I’ve lived these last 45 years without it, though, I can keep living without it, view it in my mind, and still keep the good memories.
As we divided up one set of memorable items, I was number four in a three person round. Later, one of my siblings asked if I really wanted one of those three things. They represented an important part of my childhood, but I honestly couldn’t think of a good way to use or display them. I told her that as cool as that thing might have been, I didn’t really see a way I could use it. She had mentioned a cool plan that I thought would be a much better use for it than anything I could do.
My elder sister is the executor of the estate and she’s worked hard to make sure that everything was distributed as fairly as possible. She’s also had the job of cleaning up the condo, arranging to ship items to my other sister and I. That’s what brought this to mind today: she sent me the bill of lading for the shipment of memories coming in. As we talked about some of the things that were coming, she had mentioned that while some things might look nice, they’ probably wouldn’t be too valuable. I don’t think there’s anything that I’d be willing to sell though. There wasn’t enough furniture to fulfill my grandmother’s comment, but the sentiment is true: “Hemingways don’t buy furniture, they inherit it.”
One of the responsibilities we’ll have is making a list of where this furniture, especially, will go when we die. That will happen! We don’t want there to be any confusion after we leave this earth. We have our wills for a general look at the distribution of the estate, but with this new influx of memories coming in, we’ll have to look at things again.
Another reason these thoughts have come to mind is that a friend asked us to hold a copy of their wills in case anything happens to them. They wanted to make sure that the wills would be readily available in that instance.
So, my question for you is, are you prepared for the end of life? Do you have wills made? Do you have any kind of distribution list for furniture or special items? Have you avoided making your will because you were worried that you might have to use it as soon as you made it? (I’ve heard people say things like, “As soon as I make a will, you know I’m gonna die.”) What are some suggestions you might have to make sure that your wants and wishes are known when the end of this life comes? Let me know in the comments.
Just some random thoughts that have come to mind as I thought about recent events.
True Confession. I am an old fuddy duddy. We don’t do a lot of celebrating in our family. I have a few ideas how we got to that point, but I’m at the point where I don’t look forward to birthdays. When family asked why, I told them that the reason is that I reflect on all that I’ve accomplished in life and realize how far it is from what I’ve planned to have accomplished. My sibings have taken me to the woodshed for this comment, as has my wife. As I thought more about it, I realized that another reasons birthdays are not high on my list is that there’s not a lot special because we don’t really do anything special on birthdays. We go out to eat. We go out to eat at other times, so that isn’t a big deal anymore. It’s anti-climactic and disappointing.
I’m one of those people that thought graduating from Kindergarten was no big deal. I’d roll my eyes when people talked about their child graduating from Kinder. Big deal, right? Today, I attended the Kinder graduation of a student I mentor. I have seen the light. This celebration opened my eyes because I saw how excited the kids were as they talked about getting ready for first grade. They were excited about what they’d accomplished and were excited about going to first grade. When you think about where kids start in Kinder and how much they grow and learn in the first year of school, it’s an amazing accomplishment! I realized then that we need to do more celebrating of education rather than less. Based on our school set up, we ought to celebrate PK, K, 5, 8, and 12th grade gaduations. Each of them is an important milestone and passage. Maybe if we celebrated those more, we’d see more kids staying excited about their education.
As I’m writing this, another celebration is in planning: my 40th anniversary and my wife’s doctoral graduation. I’ll be posting this after the celebration because, as far as I know, this is going to be a surprise for my wife. What’s even more interesting is that, being used to people not showing up to parties or things like that when we tried to hold them in the past, people are wanting to show up and seem to be excited about this celebration. We won’t have a lot of entertainment. My son in law and daughter will be helping to do a few fun things. We’ll have food – although I’ll tell that story later. The most important thing for us is being with friends. We’re looking forward to a good time. At least I am. I hope my wife will enjoy this. I hope she’ll stay with me for another year after this.
UPDATE: I thought it only fair to tell you that I lied to and deceived my wife. She thought she was going to one of my former student’s graduation parties. I panicked when I saw that we were parking next to a familiar truck. She didn’t notice. I heard someone say “they’re coming” as we walked past the windows. We opened the door and Lucy was fully, totally, and completely surprised! We had a lot of fun as we shared anecdotes from other weddings, talked about favorite teachers, and offered advice for newlyweds – or relayed advice we found helpful. Most interesting wedding story: the lady whose hair caught on fire! The usher noticed it so quickly, and put it out so fast that even she didn’t know it had happened. (Back in a ‘big hair’ era.) I don’t know if it was the best advice, but the most interesting advice came from a 12 year old girl: “Stay single.”
As to the food story, my daughter almost used this same place to cater her wedding. We had friends who were vegetarians, though, and she thought that a taco bar might be a bit better since you could do a lot with a vegetarian taco. She told me this would be a good place for a party to celebrate her mom’s doctorate. So, we ended up at the Bottomless Pit BBQ place. The food was good an it was a good place to be.