I will be attending Word Fest 2019 at Teas A&M Corpus Christi today from 9-3. I will be giving those who attend a chance to sign up for a free eBook copy of my January-February Devotional series. I will also have a drawing from those who sign up today for a full set of the devotionals in Paperback. If you would like to be a part of that list that gets a free eBook and be in the drawing for the full set of devotionals, sign up today!
I’ve been sporadic in writing the last couple of months. I took August off and didn’t write anything other than my devotionals for the whole month. One of the major reasons was that I seem to be encountering a lot of Repetitive Stress Injury problems with my wrists. The month off from other writing was beneficial. I still have to be careful, though, since I’ll be stressing my wrists out a lot come November and NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month has a goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.) As I’ve thought during this time, I’ve realized that I need to become more proficient in the business and the craft side of this industry if I’m ever going to make the money back that I’ve spent on writing, editing, marketing, etc. (I’m not even worried about making a profit, now!) And so, I’ve embarked on a plan that will take a while, but it’s designed to help me grow as a writer.
One of the first things I’ll keep doing is writing short stories. They help me learn get to the point quickly. Surprisingly to me, I’ve enjoyed writing short stories. I’ve written for William Mays and his two Corpus Christi Writers Anthologies. The release of this year’s anthology will be in November. The first anthology can be found in the link at the bottom of this article. I’ve also had the opportunity to have written for and included in two anthologies released by Fiction-Atlas Press run by C.L. Cannon. Cannon’s anthologies have a theme which make them a challenge to write for. The first one was a time travel anthology called Counterclockwise and the second one was a super hero anthology called Behind the Mask. (Again, links will be found at the bottom of this article.) I had fun with the first one, and the second one I wrote something that scared me to death, because I expected people to tell me that a man shouldn’t write that story. Seriously. I wondered why I had the right to write that one. Interestingly, in one of the reviews it was mentioned as being a good story. Because of Cannon’s themes, I tend to stretch myself and go beyond my limits. She has a new anthology coming out in October called “Unknown Realms” which is a portal anthology. My submission for this anthology created a lot of angst for me because the subject matter included slavery. I originally tried to write in a dialect that might have been used by slaves, but changed it because I wasn’t comfortable and was worried that people would think I was putting slaves down. I did more research to get names of places, family members, and slaves down exactly right. Well, to make a long story short, it wasn’t accepted for the anthology – and I’m comfortable with that. I learned a lot working on that story. I’m proud of it, and I’ll use it in other situations. But that also means I think this anthology will be pretty strong. Special kudos go to my South Texas writing buddy Devorah Fox for being included in the group.
When it comes to the business side of writing, I’m completely clueless. I don’t even have a mailing list. I’m making that my first priority for business, so I’m reading a book on mailing lists by Tammi LaBrecque who comes highly recommended by some people I respect. I’ll probably end up reading it again after I get the newsletter set up so that I cut down on the mistakes I’ll make. I’ll be looking for other ways to promote and market my work. If you have any suggestions on things I can do to learn this business or for newsletter companies, please feel free to let me know in the comments.
Finally, I’m studying and working on writing as a craft. I’ve started attending the workshops at The Writers Studio in Corpus Christi which are held monthly. I’ve also begun alternating my business study with craft study during the week. I’m not much of a video watcher, but I’ll stick it out for this. I’m also going to be looking at my writing craft books that I bought long ago and still haven’t made it past my TBR list. My ultimate goal is to improve my craft even at my advanced age. Please feel free to make suggestions by giving me ideas of books on writing, telling me what’s helped you, or critiquing my writing and posts.
Beyond the Mask (This is a charity anthology supporting Alex’s Lemonade Stand)
This is a repost of my blog on my devotional page: Daily Enduring Truth. The devotionals I write daily, re-starting tomorrow, July 1, will appear there. I just wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned here, also.
The end is near! No, that’s not an apocalyptic statement, that’s a commentary on my self-granted three-month sabbatical. I stopped the daily devotional writing to do some self-reflection, to think about the process of writing the devotionals, and to think about their worth. What did I learn in three months?
The first thing I learned is that I need to write these devotionals every day to hold myself accountable for reading God’s word daily. There were many times in the last three months when I let my daily Bible reading slide because I got involved in doing other things. Usually, those things were non-productive. In the past week, I’ve played a lot of catch-up on my daily reading because of the number of times I’d let the day pass me by instead of giving God control of the day from the beginning. When I re-start tomorrow, it’s with the goal of making sure that I don’t fritter time away on unimportant stuff because I start each day by reading and reacting to God’s word.
I need to write these devotionals in the morning. I started off the year trying to write devotionals for the evening time – for people coming home from work. This brought about some of the same problems of letting things slide and then rushing to do a less than quality job, in my opinion. My character and writing style don’t suit an evening devotional (only) style. I may do research in coming months and years and try something like that again, but it would be an additional thought each day, not my only writing. While the idea excited me at the beginning of the year, it never succeeded in my mind because I wasn’t ready to do that just yet.
Part of what I was doing during this time was working on marketing. I did a few things to drive people to my books. I offered the July-August eBook version of the devotionals as a free giveaway on bookfunnel. I advertised. While I gave away a few free eBooks, and I sold a few more books than normal, I can tell you that three years ago when I retired, I thought I’d make enough to supplement my income in a small way. This is definitely not happening. To be honest, I’m not sure how to market devotional books. Someone asked me about doing an autograph and meet the author table and I told him I didn’t really see something like that. How do you autograph devotional books when the idea is to get people to focus on what God is or can be doing in their lives? I’ll put the bookfunnel link at the end of this post I case you need it.
One thing I started long ago was doing what I could to help other authors share links or comments about their books. I celebrated their successes and recommended books and/or authors through my social media. While I didn’t have anything for them to share at the time, I made a few comments about how I expected similar considerations in the future. Apparently, what I thought was a quid pro quo kind of marketing was more of a quid pro no situation. Perhaps these friends didn’t see my posts on social media, but for the most part, with a few exceptions, those I supported in the past were conspicuous by their lack of support for me. I understand that many of my author friends are not Christians, but they could have said something like, “If you’re a Christian, you may want to check out these devotional books by a friend of mine.” The lack of support and the lack of response from people I might expect to download a free book was disheartening. That being said, I’ll need to find better ways to spread the word about these books.
Why do I want to spread the word about these devotional books? One of the things I realized is that these books are my ministry. The call that I am answering through these books (the devotional series) and through my daily articles is to build up the body of Christ. I should have realized that at the beginning of the year in an exciting way. A pastor with great integrity contacted me and asked about using these devotionals for his church this year. He could easily have just put them up on his church site and I would never have been the wiser; instead, he contacted me and asked what it would cost to do that. In these days where lack of integrity runs rampant, I honored his integrity by giving him the rights to publish them on his website at no cost, because it would allow me to fulfill my ministry of building up the body of Christ. I take this ministry and this writing seriously, and I’m grateful for those who respect the work I do, hopefully under God’s guidance.
I’ve run into friends and people I’ve supported who haven’t seen this as a ministry. They’ve rejected my offers to speak about the need for spiritual growth. They’ve blown me off when I suggested that what I had to say might be important to the people that they work with. These are not strangers who’ve done this, these are friends: people that I’ve known and supported for years. One of my goals in the days and years to come is to help people understand that the work that I do as I write to build up the body of Christ is an important part of helping the body of Christ to grow.
What will devotionals look like starting tomorrow? I don’t know right now. I’m trying to find ways to be more succinct in my writing, but, as might be obvious, I tend to go on. All I know is that I will continue to share what God teaches me daily for anyone who wants to read. I may add a few wrinkles to the way I do things, but I will try to keep things substantive. If you still haven’t downloaded the July-August eBook version yet, you can download it without costing you a thing by going to this link:
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!
So today, there won’t be any bird pictures. If you came here looking for them, I apologize, but Sunday is a busy day. Last week I tried to get some pictures in, but right now, there aren’t enough birds flying around to make it worthwhile. What takes so much time on Sunday? We leave the house around 7:45 to go to church. I usually have duties at church that require me to be there from 8:00 AM (or earlier) until our second service lets out around noon. Of course, we talk to our church family until about 12:30 before we head out. Today, my duties included photography for a special commitment service. I used the church’s camera, so I don’t have any of those pictures to share.
When we got home, I fixed a quick lunch and did a few things before leaving again about 1:40 to go to a retirement center where I lead a Bible Study. I do that for half an hour, and then head back home where I have to do family things and write my devotional, except today, I had a rough time putting my thoughts together. Then, it’s time to prepare supper and at this time of year, it gets dark early enough that I can’t go out and take pictures.
My devotional, by the way, is called Daily Enduring Truth, and is available every day at the link in the text. I share one of the things that I learn from my personal Bible reading. This year, I’m doing something different by making the devotional an evening devotional with the idea of having people reflect on their day and see how they can learn and grow from the issues of their day. It’s a new concept for me, but I began thinking about this late last year when I thought about how the Bible describes a day. Each time, it begins in the evening. “It was evening and it was morning, the first day.” or “Evening, morning, and at noon will I pray.” My first set of devotional books is based on the same Bible readings, but meant for the morning. The possibility exists that thee will be a second set, but I have other writings to work on.
Now, one last bit of news. A short story I wrote has been accepted for a charity anthology. We will be supporting Alex’s lemonade stand. So, in addition to Bird Brain Chronicle posts showing up here, I’ll even be including some other bits and pieces of my writing and promoting the books that I have short stories in. I may even have some excerpts from the story of the journey my wife and I took as she battled breast cancer. Thanks for reading here and following here.