Thursday, May 30, 2013

Elise Marie

As a point of personal privilege, as blog owner, I take time today to post pictures of my first granddaughter, Elise Marie Schneberger.
about a week old, from the official studio pictures

I kept pushing for eyes-open pictures, and Elise (a.k.a. E3) finally complied.

First time I held her.

E2 with his little sister, around May 30, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Understanding Thomas Carlyle being tired of his own books

As I've mentioned on this blog before—many times, actually—I'm a fan of the writing of Thomas Carlyle, especially his letters. Two themes come through these over and over. One, despite his writing thousands of letters, he thought himself a delinquent correspondent and apologized in seemingly every letter about how slow he was in responding. He must have learned more ways of saying "sorry I didn't reply sooner" than any other writer.

Second, Carlyle frequently writes how tired he is of working on his own books. It seems to have been that way on every one of them. Sometimes it began at the research phase, sometimes partly through the writing, but always by the time he get to checking galley proofs. Here's a sample.
In fact you must know, Sir, that one month is going to satisfy me here: the people, particularly the Lady, seem still more tired of the place than I am; they are going down to Edinr about the first of Feby to stay there for a month—meaning to return again, and then set out for London in April. I do not return. Meister must begin printing whenever I arrive, and I must push it thro' as fast as possible. Woe to this Schiller! I have absolutely taken up a horror at it. Would you believe that I but began it three nights ago, and am not yet half thro' the first copy of it. My mind absolutely will not fasten on it...

Meister refers to Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, which Carlyle translated to English and published. "This Schiller" refers to the Schiller's Life and Writings, the work Carlyle was currently engaged with. However, this wasn't a book from scratch. Rather, it was taking his own articles on Schiller and his writing that had already appeared in The London Magazine and reworking them a little, with some expansions, and putting them in book form. In other words, he was mainly editing them. And three days into the process he was already tired of it.

As I say, Carlyle seems to have felt that was on each book—at least so far as my reading of his letters can detect. I find that I'm a little like that too. On Thursday last I finished revision three of my current novel, originally titled China Tour but finally titled Operation Lotus Sunday. I say it was finished because I added the last scene to it, a scene suggested by my prior readings. On Friday I went through my wife's suggested edits, made decisions on each, and added them to my copy. On Saturday I typed them all, officially declaring Rev 3 as done and ready for printing.

Why print it? Because I had enough changes from Rev 2 to Rev 3 that I think I need to read it one more time, reading it quickly, as a reader hopefully would, and see if the story really hangs together well, and if there's any repetition I haven't noticed before. In truth, I'm almost tired of reading it. I think I can get through it in two days of dedicated reading. But I've read it through about three times already. I don't know that I particularly want to read it a fourth time, at least not right now.

But read it I must, and hope that my mind will fasten on it. I'll start that either tonight or tomorrow, and see where it takes me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Through with Not A Fan

Our sermon-based lesson series based on the book Not A Fan is finished. We had the last sermon and last lesson yesterday. This went for six weeks. Unfortunately I missed two of them, for trips to Oklahoma City for a grandson's birthday and to see new grand-daughter for the first time.

This was a good study. When I first received the book from the church office I immediately went to Amazon to check the reviews. And, as is my habit, I checked the 1-star reviews first. Out of a couple of hundred reviews less than 10 were 1-star. The concern of these reviewers was that, if the program promoted by the book is take to its logical conclusion, it leads to legalism and exclusivity—that is, if you aren't practicing Christianity the way I'm practicing it then you are saved and going to heaven. This was a concern, but so few were saying that that I felt good about starting the study.

Now that it's done, I have to say that I don't see anything in it as was said in those reviews. I haven't finished the book yet. In fact I'm only 40 percent through it. Who knows what I'll think when I get through it (which I will). But as far as the DVD series that went along with the book, and which we used in the study, there was nothing at all that I could see that came even close to the concerned voiced in those 1-star reviews.

On the contrary, the message of the study was that merely doing ministry does not fulfill the call of Christ. It is rather being sold out and doing all that we do out of love that fulfils the call. I have a hard time seeing this as exclusivity. It is consistent with the general evangelical message. It seems to me to be mainstream Christianity. At least mainstream for those who want to merely exist, and limp into heaven having just barely made it. I have several lessons I take away from this, which I'll get into in future posts.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thinking of Mom

This mother's day I should be thinking about the living mothers in my life: my wife, my daughter (who just blessed us with our third grandchild and first granddaughter), and my mother-in-law. But my thoughts are drifting to my mom, now dead for 48 years. Normally my strongest memories come forth on August 19, the anniversary of her death, or on September 30, which was her birthday. I posted a long story about her here, and a shorter remembrance here.

I don't think I have a whole lot more to add to those posts. I wanted to put a photo of Mom with this post, but I guess the few I had digitized are on the computer one table over, mostly dead. I don't think I'll try to retrieve them. I'll try to add one or two later, but I think I'll post this now.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Failure to Communicate? Or to Understand?

When you only read a few blogs, and a controversy on one blog spills over to another, it makes for an exciting few days of blog reading.

That’s what happened Monday when Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent whose opinions I listen to, posted about restrictive non-compete clauses insisted upon by publishers that will prevent contracted authors from simultaneously self-publishing. You can read about it here. As you will see from the comments, many people objected to what she wrote, including her title, “Will My Publisher Let Me Self-Publish Too?”

Over at The Passive Voice blog, the Passive Guy chose to excerpt Rachelle’s post and follow it with some apt comments. You can see his post and the comments here. The discussion was lively, mostly negative to Rachelle’s position. TPV is generally favorable to self-publishing and negative to trade publishing, though I’ve found the blog owner to be more fair in his assessments than some other self-publishing gurus.

Now today, Rachelle felt the need to clarify what she wrote. You can see that here. Today she posted that her previous post was not a “this is what I believe” post but a “here’s how publishers think and behave” post. Understanding how publishers think and behave will make you a better negotiator of the author-publisher contract, she says. That was actually how I took her original post. While a few phrases in the original post could have been construed as favorable to the publishers’ position, e.g. “Publishers are rightfully concerned” (to the detriment of the author), those familiar with Rachelle’s larger body of posts would know that she is a faithful advocate for her writer clients.

But what is mostly missing from either of Rachelle’s posts but is mentioned in TPV comments is that the publishers are way out of touch with how readers find and buy content today. People find an author they like and stick with that person. If they could buy a book from an author every two months they would like to do that. Trade publishers would put out one book a year for the author. Readers will find someone else in the meantime. The days when an author published a book a year and her publisher had a mailing list of 75,000 who were fine waiting for the annual notice that a new volume was available are over.

One of the mantras of the self-publishing crowd is the best promotion for your book(s) is to write and publish another book. Rather than spend time on promoting already published books, write the next book and get it polished and published as quickly as you can. Six a year are better than four a year are better than three are better than two are better than one. So far this isn’t working for me, but my severe case of Genre Identity Disorder is most likely what’s causing that. Or maybe there just aren’t millions of people out there who like the same kind of books I like. But the anecdotal evidence that this method works is almost substantial enough to be statistical. So I’ll keep doing it and hope my GID works itself out over time.

If trade publishers were savvy about all this, and understood the changing nature of the book purchasing market, rather than restricting authors with non-compete clauses they would encourage their authors to also self-publish. They would say, “Because of production schedules and limitations, we can only publish one of your books a year. But because we know more books are better, feel free to publish a couple of other books in between the ones you publish with us. We will all profit more from you doing that.”

So why don’t the trade publishers do that? As I said, I think it’s because they don’t truly understand their market. But it’s also possible that they don’t want their authors learning just how easy self-publishing is and how much greater return there will be from it. That might lead some authors to say “Why do I even need a publisher?” If that’s what they’re thinking, it would be a scary scenario to them.

The divide in the writing-publishing community seems, in my observation, to be growing greater between trade publishing and self-publishing. I don’t really see it closing any time soon.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Still Dreaming

Of better times, when I have plenty of time to write, and not stealing time from other necessities just to get another 500 words down the road.

Of book sales. My dreams have changed. Once they were of numbers with many zeroes after them. Now they are in the range of double digits a month—for all books, not per book.

Of hoards of fans who are waiting for my next book, anxiously following blog posts and Facebook author page posts to know the progress of my work and when the next item will be available.

Of time to read that is measured in hours per day, not minutes.

Of acquiring the skills needed, artistic and graphic design, to be able to do my own covers, thus not having to beg and borrow them from people. Or, when I have enough money to just hire them done.

Of having poetry come to me again.

Of finding enough hours in the day, day after day, where I can see truth in Emerson's adage, "There is time enough for all that I must do."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

She's Alive

We are officially on grand baby watch. My wife is in Oklahoma City, helping out with grandsons Ephraim and Ezra while waiting on E3 to be born. She will be our first granddaughter. Since Ezra (E2) was three weeks early, our daughter was hoping E3 would be too. Her official due date is May 18, so obviously she won't be three weeks early. We'll see. It was about 10 days ago that the baby dropped.

So here is E3 (who might be named Elise—not sure if the final decision has been made yet), calmly gestating in her amniotic fluid. Well, our daughter will say it's been anything but calm. This tomboy has been kicking and squirming from very early in the pregnancy. She's anxious to get out. We're anxious that she be to term and I know our daughter, despite of the tiredness of being very pregnant, wants her to be to term as well.

I'm heading to OKC this weekend, for E1's 5th birthday celebration. Possibly it could be for the birth as well. I'm kind of hoping it is. I'm kind of hoping I get the call today.

E3 (with Mommy) at 37 weeks
I'm thinking of what I said a couple of paragraphs ago. E3 is kicking and squirming. She's alive! She's a child who is even now doing all the functions a child is supposed to do except breathing and eating by mouth. She's probably sucking her thumb. She could see if all that fluid weren't in her eyes. I'm fairly sure she can hear what's going on outside her comfy berth. She's probably having times of sleep and dreaming, and her learning has already begun. Someday soon she'll add those three functions and take the world by storm. I'm sure she'll charm her two brothers into becoming gentlemen. I'm sure she'll have her two granddads wrapped around her little finger in no time.

She's in the world—not independently so, but she's here. And I love her already. I loved her the moment our daughter announced she was alive. I don't know that I could love her any more once she becomes a breathing girl, or later a talking, walking, running, jumping, rope-skipping, laughing, crying, reading, thinking girl.

Some of my Facebook friends, family and non-family, make posts about political and social causes. Two of these are abortion and abuse of animals, mainly dogs. The latter is a horrible scourge on our society. The uninformed breed dogs like crazy, they can't find homes, and are abused or abandoned. I'd like that to stop.

But the same people (sometimes the same, sometimes others), have no problem with killing a baby within the womb. I don't get it. I just don't get it. How can your heart ache for an abused dog but not for an aborted child? A million or more babies a year killed, most for convenience of the parents.

Yes, I suppose an expecting mother has a right of privacy and that translates into her being allowed to do what she wants with her body. But that helpless baby growing inside her, it seems he or she has rights too. When rights clash, should not a humane society say the rights of the weaker party supersede those of the stronger party? It seems we have it just the opposite.

Those of us who believe abortion is a moral evil do not have a war on women. We just believe in protecting the life of the weakest among us.