Sunday, June 29, 2014

Damascus Road

Today in Life Group we continued our study of how the Resurrection changes everything. We looked at Paul's life. Or, rather, we looked at his early life (what little we can learn of it in the Bible), and of how he was on his way to Damascus with the intent to round up and imprison any Christians there, when he had his conversion experience on the road close to the city.

Or was he converted? Did that happen on the road, or three days later in the tanner's house on Straight Street, when Ananias came, laid hands on him, prayed with him, and baptized him? Possibly it's not an important distinction, but I think it is, and I think it happened on the Damascus Road.

Why do I think that? When Paul (still known as Saul at that point) described what happened to him then, as recorded by Luke in Acts chapter 22, Paul first asks "Who are you, Lord?" The one in the vision he is seeing says he is Jesus, whom Saul is opposing. Saul then says, "Lord, what should I do?"

Now, it is the followers of Jesus that Paul is out to oppress. He has letters of authority from the high priest to do so, and to bring them back to Jerusalem. Why, if he hates what the followers of Jesus so much, would he say, "Lord [Jesus], what should I do?" We would rather expect him to lash out verbally at Jesus, telling him what he thinks of him. Instead, he seeks instructions from the very Man he is opposing. Is that not evidence of conversion?

What could have cause such a radical, instantaneous change in Paul's attitude? In other places Paul is described as leaving Jerusalem breathing murderous threats against Christians. Suddenly he's seeking instructions from the One they call their Lord. Why does Paul change so fast?

First off, we don't really know how fast it was. The light hit, the thunder sounded, the voice spoke, Paul spoke, and the voice spoke again. How long was it before Paul asked for instructions? Seconds? A few minutes? Possibly he had time to think. So perhaps it wasn't quite instantaneous. But it sure was fast.

Second, what exactly did Paul see? Did he see a vision, or did he see Jesus himself, not a vision of Jesus? In 1st Corinthians Paul says that Jesus appeared to Paul last of all, as to one unnaturally born. That says to me that this was no mere vision. It was Jesus, in the flesh, in the bright light directed at Paul in such a way that his traveling companions couldn't see Him, and couldn't hear his distinct words.

So Paul is confronted with the need to make a decision. Jesus was executed. Paul lived in Jerusalem, and was probably around when Jesus hung on the cross. His disciples had been claiming, probably for between two and four years, that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. As a Pharisee, Paul would have believed resurrection to be possible. But he would have rejected that Jesus had been resurrected. Otherwise he would have embraced the new teaching. But suddenly he is confronted with the resurrected Jesus. What does he quickly conclude? That Jesus is alive. Which means he was resurrected, because he obviously had been dead. And that if he is resurrected, he is One to be followed. The next logical step is for Paul to ask him "What should I do?" Do you ask that of someone you oppose? No, so Paul is converted, believes in the resurrected Christ, and is suddenly determined to follow Him.

It's as dramatic a conversion as we can imagine, an example for everyone about the power of the resurrection. No other religion has it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Genre Focus Disorder - is it real?

I've said it before: I have Genre Focus Disorder (GFD). I called it by another name before, but GFD seems more appropriate. The experts in the publishing business say you should stick to one genre. Make a name for yourself in it, carve out a niche, become known, build an audience, and you'll do better. If you write in multiple genres, fans from one genre most likely won't follow you into another genre, and you will have to build separate audiences, carve out multiple niches.

On the other hand, some publishing veterans say experimenting with different genres during your pre-published time is acceptable. Once you sell something, however, use all your efforts to concentrate on that. This is said more from a trade publishing perspective than a self-publishing perspective, but it somewhat applies to the latter as well.

For me, however, I've found I have to write whatever I have inspiration for. I have mapped out books and short stories into the future that will probably consume all my writing time till old age claims it. I write sort of how water, when released from a container or hits land during precipitation, runs downhill or seeks its own level. That's good for productivity, but probably not so good for audience building and sales. Since I'm self-publishing, when I complete something, I publish. The 16 items I've self-published so far are in ten different genres. Of course, genre definition is difficult to pin down. Another person reading all my pieces may say they are in only eight genres.

Only eight?

So what has happened this year in my GFD? In March I published Thomas Carlyle's Edinburgh Encyclopedia Articles. This was not for sales, though I've sold three copies. It was for practice at editing, formatting, cover creation, all things publishing, and it helped fulfill my fasciation with this Victorian behemoth. It was good practice. But what happened afterwards? Ideas for four different follow-ups to it came to mind, one of them book-length. That one wouldn't let me go. For three weeks I worked feverishly at it: researching the subject, contacting people, obtaining copies of documents old and new, and putting a bunch of stuff in a MS Word document. At the end of the three weeks time I had a book diary with many entries, and a file that is probably 70 percent of the eventual book, though subject to formatting. At that point I said "This is madness" and went back to other projects. But by that time the GFD attack had run its course.

So I completed three other projects. One was my novel, a sequel to In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I had been working on it since October (I think), so it was good to get it out of the way. Then I did the work of formatting The Gutter Chronicles for print and publishing it. That was okay as it was always on the schedule. The next thing on my publishing schedule was to add "It Happened At The Burger Joint" to my items for sale, which I did. My schedule then was a little imprecise. I could pick up the novel sequel, Headshots, and edit it. I could work on the next short story in the Danny Tompkins series, or the next short story in the Sharon Williams series. Those were on the to-do list, and made sense. I knocked out the Tompkins story, and published it this past Monday. Even made my own cover.

But then, GFD reared. Actually it reared even before I had finished the short story, "Saturday Haircuts, Tuesday Funeral". I was in Little Rock last week for a two day conference, and was in the hotel room in the evenings without much to do. I had brought a number of things with me to fill my time, as I always do, not knowing for sure what I'll want to work on. One of them was a volume of the Annals of America series. I used this series to find source material for my book Documenting America. When I published that in 2011 I saw it as the start to a possible series. I thought the next one would be from the civil war era, and the one after that would be from the pre-constitution era, focusing on the development of the constitution. But I had no hurry in doing either. Well, I suppose the civil war one could be considered subject to a deadline, since we are in the period of the civil war sesquicentennial and books about it might do better if released then.

But really, it wasn't necessary to work on this. I had my completed novel manuscript with me, and could begin editing in the quiet of the hotel. But the civil war book wouldn't let me go. I spent the first evening scanning documents in the Annals, and figuring out which ones to use as source material. I know how long I want the book, how long I want each chapter to be, thus how many chapters I need, and, knowing a fair amount of civil war history, know what subjects are needed. In one long evening, including getting to bed much too late (but who can sleep when GFD is at its strongest), I had the whole book planned, all but six or seven of the source documents identified, and even some specific parts of some source documents marked for extraction. I thought, Ah, GFD has now run its course. Back to my publishing schedule.

Not so. Monday and Tuesday of this week I was prohibited from working outside (I have much yard work to do) due to a combination of rain and a fall resulting in minor injuries. So what did I do? Instead of picking up and editing the novel, I worked on finding more source documents for the civil war book! And this morning I created the Word file. It is now officially a writing project. The pull of this book has become very great over the last week. What's going to happen for the rest of the week?

I really need to get back to my novel. I'd like to have that published in July, and need to give it two full rounds of edits before doing so, maybe even three rounds. I'm hoping to begin editing it this weekend, maybe by reading it aloud with my wife. So that gives me only a couple of days to allow GFD to run wild. I can handle that. Perhaps it will burn out. Then, when the civil war book comes up in the publishing schedule, which is maybe in October, I'll have a nice start to it and be able to build on. GFD flare-up concluded.

Except, I may have found a cover illustrator for my poetry book, Father Daughter Day. Which means I'll have work to do on it. Argh! Is there no end to it?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Philip the Evangelist: God's Man in God's Time

I will be brief today. It has been a full day. First was putting the finishing touches on my lesson to teach to our Life Group, then getting ready for church, then church and Life Group, followed by an after-church Life Group pot luck dinner at the home of one of our couples. They are heading out on a two month trip, and wanted to host this for the class.

That put us at home around 3:30 p.m. I came straight to The Dungeon, and began working on a cover for my latest short story. Titled "Saturday Haircuts, Tuesday Funeral", it is the fourth in my series about Danny Tompkins, exploring the grief in a teenager's life at the loss of a parent. Since the covers for #1 and #2 were done my my son, on a certain theme, and since I continued that theme with the cover I did for #3, the theme was already set, and I had no problem with it. It took me a while to get all the elements in place, but once I did it came together nicely. I don't claim it to be all that artistic, but hopefully it does the job.

That's done, and I proofread and tweaked the story. Tomorrow I'll look at it once more, and either tomorrow night or Tuesday I'll publish it. On now to the next task.

About Life Group: It was my week to teach, the fourth of five weeks in our series on how the Resurrection changed everything. This week was about Philip. Not Philip the apostle, but the other Philip, the one called "Philip the Evangelist" in Acts 21:8. He was one of the seven chosen to improve the distribution of food to the Greek speaking widows in the Jerusalem church. Then he was among those who were scattered by the murderous threats of Saul. He came to Samaria and began an effective ministry of preaching, driving out demons, and healing. Even the town sorcerer was saved under his ministry. Then he went to the desert road by Gaza and helped an Ethiopian learn how to be saved, and baptized him.

We then lose sight of him, as the Acts narrative moves on to activities by Paul and Peter. Philip next appears in Acts 21:8, where he hosts Christian travelers in his home, and where we learn he has four unmarried daughters who prophesied. I interpret this to mean that after some fruitful years of ministry, we find that he was able to positively impact his family for Jesus.

I think that's a remarkable achievement. His ministry changed according to the need at the time. And through it he didn't lose his family. Well done, Philip. I wish I had done as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Definition of Insanity: Iraq

I try not to get political on this blog. My other blog is about my writing career. This blog is about other aspects of my life: my activities, ideas, and opinions. Yet, I try to leave politics and controversial current events out of it. But I feel that I have to weigh in on the current situation in Iraq.

An al Qaeda offshoot, a Sunni Moslem group, is undertaking military-style operations in Iraq, working their way down from the north of the country toward Baghdad, conquering towns and cities and territory. Reports are that the Iraqi army, which is an arm of the current Shiite majority government, is laying down its arms, ditching its weapons, and going home—not putting up a fight at all. I'm at the point where I don't know that I want to believe news reports. But assuming this is true, the pundits are saying that the USA needs to step in and stop this insurgency from taking over Iraq.

I can't help but think back over Iraqi history. The modern nation of Iraq was formed around 1922, when British and French leaders, in the aftermath of World War 1, carved up the Middle East into modern style nation states without much consideration of ethnic, racial, national, or political considerations. I think the Iraq and Iran borders were formed mainly based on oil interests. They did the same thing in Europe, if you remember. World War 2 was fought in part because of those decisions. The civil war in Yugoslavia and the action in Kosovo were also to rectify some of those decisions. It has taken a little longer for the Arabs and Persians and other nationalities in the Middle East to seek to rectify things.

Iraq was a hodgepodge of ethnic/religious groups. Kurds in the northeast, Sunnis in the west, Shiites in the east, marsh Arabs in the south who actually belonged to none of the above. The Shiites were in the majority. Yet, it was the Sunni dominated Baathist party who took control of Iraq in the 1960s (I think; or was it the 50s?). Sadam Hussein came to power as a Baathist in 1979, and in 1980 plunged Iraq into war with Iran. Since then, Iraq has been constantly at war, with a year here and there of peace. That's 34 years of warfare. Sadam was deposed. Immediately the pressure to break up the nation began. Kurds wanted their own state. Shiites wanted their majority to be in control. Sunnis were afraid that after their 30 or more years of oppressive minority control that they would be dealt out of the new government, or worse, executed (religiously cleansed) by the Shiites.

The problem with an independent Kurdistan is that much of eastern Turkey is majority Kurds, as is northwest Iran. If you carve Kurdistan out of Iraq, how long before you have civil wars in the other two countries? Yes, in 1922 there should have been an independent Kurdistan formed, yet another mistake of the British and French idiots who thought they knew better than the rest of the world.

In Iraq, the Shiites won elections and formed the government, but included in it the Sunnis and Kurds. Once the USA pulled the last of its troops out, the Shiites removed the Sunnis and Kurds from the government. Now the Sunnis, working through this ISIS group, are trying to take control by conquest where they have failed by the ballot. And now people want the USA to stop the ISIS conquest. So far the president has put a few hundred military "advisors" into the country. Maybe they're truly advising, or maybe they're protecting the US embassy. But supposedly he's thinking about other options, including drones and manned air strikes. After that carnage takes place, who knows what else? For some reason, this sounds a lot like the US sending military advisors to South Vietnam. Heck, forget Vietnam; it sounds a lot like our previous excursions into Iraq.

We went to war with Iraq in 1990 to liberate Kuwait, and we did so. We kept Iraq under tight control for the next 11 years. We went to war with Iraq in 2003 over possibly skewed intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction. We deposed Sadam Hussein, helped the Iraqis form a democracy, helped to stabilize the country, and split. Now, a mere three years after we left, the religious groups in the country are at each others' throats again. Surprise surprise.

It's been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 1990. 2003. 2014. Do you see a pattern? You might say each time is slightly different conditions, and that's true. But it's the same nation (that never should have been), the same people, the same religion(s), the same western country interjecting themselves into the affairs of that country. And we expect a different result? No, there won't be a different result. We will kick ISIS out. We will have to stabilize Iraq all over again with a multi-year military occupation combined with a huge humanitarian aid package. Then we'll leave and three years after we do the majority will again deal the minorities out of the government, oppress them economically, and they will again be engaged in a civil war. The very definition of insanity.

America, stay out of Iraq! Whatever our interests are there, or perceived interests, we cannot achieve them. Get out now. Stay out. No planes, no people, no aid. Stop the insanity.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Day Late - Studying Stephen

Yesterday was my scheduled day to make a blog post. As regular readers know, on Sunday on this blog I discuss something with a Christian theme, typically what we studied in our Life Group (a.k.a. adult Sunday School class) that morning. Thursday I discuss some other topic of interest to me. It might be something related to my writing, or to the news of the day, or even life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But yesterday I was busy with a number of things, and didn't get my post written and published.

The things I did were good things. After church we went to eat with my mother-in-law at her independent living dining facility. It was a great lunch, as always. When we got home after lunch I went for a 5K walk. On the hills around our house, pushing it fairly hard, I completed the course in 51:17, my best time of the year by far. When I got home I cooled down a little, then went to The Dungeon and typed a handful of edits on The Gutter Chronicles. Lynda and I had read this aloud on Saturday (she enjoyed it, even not being an engineer). As in every published books it had typos, and a couple of places where the text could have been clearer. We marked those places, and yesterday I typed the edits. This morning I updated the corrected version to CreateSpace. The corrected version will go live tomorrow. Tonight I'll finish correcting the Kindle version and re-publish it, and tomorrow, hopefully, the Smashwords edition.

Then I went to Wal-Mart to pick up a prescription and get a few groceries. Then it was home, watch some World Cup soccer, fix a salad for supper, read various things, read Sherlock Holmes aloud, watch a couple of stock trading videos. It was then 11:00 p.m. I took some time to check out some of the trading procedures mentioned in the videos, and it was time for bed.

In our Life Group yesterday my co-teacher continued in our series on This Changes Everything, how the lives of the disciples were changed by the resurrection. Yesterday we looked at Stephen, the first martyr. He was one of seven chosen to provide improved administration of the daily food distribution in response to the first crisis in the church. If you know the book of Acts you know the story. As the church grew, they did not have an organizational structure. They were involved in compassionate ministries, particularly distributing food to widows. The Aramaic speaking widows were being served just fine, but the Greek speaking widows weren't. In response to the complaint the apostles met and told the congregation to appoint people who could do this. Stephen was one of those chosen.

The story is familiar. The church continued to grow in response to this better run ministry. Stephen was particularly effective, not only in the compassionate ministry, but also as an advocate for the new Christian faith. The Jews didn't like that, and some members of a certain synagogue brought him up on charges before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body. The charges were that he was trying to subvert the Jewish religion and change age-old practices. The Sanhedrin asked him to defend himself.

He did so, giving the Cliff Notes version of Jewish history, but then saying that the Jews were stiff-necked, and had killed God's chosen one, Jesus Christ. At this the council and the crowd, to use a modern term, went ape. They took Stephen out and stoned him to death. Standing by, approving and participating by guarding the clothing of those who cast the stones, was Saul. Through his murder, Stephen's conduct was exemplary: keeping his wits, displaying his faith, praying for his attackers.

Clearly, this kind of behavior would not happen for a dead savior. If Jesus had died, and not been resurrected, I don't believe we would see Stephen going to his grave because he supported that dead man. But, if Christ is risen, that changes everything. Then there is a power in all that their rabbi taught them and commanded them to do, to go into all the world and preach the gospel, making disciples of all nations.

What a change in Stephen. We can be pretty sure from acts that he was a disciple before Jesus' crucifixion. Most likely he was one of those in the upper room at Pentecost, even could have been one of those "behind locked doors" on resurrection day. Remember, the scripture says the "disciples" were there, not the "apostles." We can't be sure of that, but it seems probable to me.

So yes, I believe the resurrection changes everything. We see it in the life of Stephen, as we saw it in the lives of Thomas and Peter. I hope the world sees it in my life as well.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

So Much News

We babysat grandsons at our house, beginning last Saturday through yesterday. Ephraim is 6 and Ezra is 3. They seemed to have a good time. Grandpa and Grandma seemed to have a good time. On Tuesday Lynda had them pick up a lot of the toys they had out, which was a good thing. That made Wednesday morning easier to get ready to go. We drove to Tulsa; their mommy drove there from Oklahoma City, where we made the transfer at a Wendy's restaurant. Great-grandma made the drive with us. That capped off five enjoyable days. I took vacation days Monday and Wednesday, and had lots of fun with the boys.

Before bringing the boys to northwest Arkansas, Lynda had been a week in Oklahoma City to help the kids out with things. She had the three grandchildren alone for about 54 hours. So for her this was a ten day stretch with the kids. Last night, as soon as we were back at the house, she turned on the television to get some news. Later, just before bed, she said she needed a good night's sleep and then tackle her work hard tomorrow.

As the news reports came on, we were surprised at some of the things that had occurred. The Bergdahl story had been much in the news before the kids were here, so I knew something of it, but she hadn't got much of that in Oklahoma City. New information had come available in the days the kids were here, such as his journal or other writings, but we didn't turn on the news so didn't know about it. There were stories of Hillary Clinton, or the Veterans Administration scandal, of Eric Kantor being defeated in a primary (though we did get that news on Tuesday, it having preempted everything else during the brief time we had the television on), of children illegally streaming across our southern border, of the government doing nothing about any of it and stonewalling in providing information, and other news of seemingly equal importance.

Here we were, enjoying the grandkids, oblivious to a world that was raging with controversy. Ezra and I, at his bedtime, were blissfully playing roll-over blanket, then praying, unaware of all this important stuff going on. The radio played the easy listening music as background noise for him, giving us three minutes of headlines, including a 24 hour weather report, at the top of each hour. Clearly we were sinking into ignorance of world events.

My grandmother used to say, "Ignorance is bliss; it's folly to be wise," which I always thought was a tongue-in-cheek saying. During the days of grandkids we were tired at the end of the day. The evening after the grandkids were gone we were wiser, but also angrier because of what we knew.

I'm not saying I preferred the ignorance to being informed. Being hit with so much news at once was the problem, not the news itself. But I can sure see how a large amount of the US population and electorate knows next to nothing about our current events, the issues of the day, and whether their government is doing a good job or now. It's no wonder we continue to make a host of questionable choices with our elected officials.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Boldness - Where does it come from?

Our Life Group lesson today was on Peter, and how he became bold after the resurrection. It was my turn to teach. We have no lesson material to go on, so I had to develop something on my own. Fortunately Peter is an easy person to study and build a lesson around.

I started by asking them to tell me the last view of Peter in the gospels. Someone said it was Peter's denial of Jesus. While that wasn't the last view of him, I was going to work back to that. The last view was in Galilee, after the fishing, where Jesus thrice asked him, "Peter, do you love me?" Each time Jesus asked it in a different way, softening the question, while Peter never did really rise to answer it in the right way. Then he deflected the question by asking questions about John, and what his end would be. It wasn't a flattering scene.

Before that, working backwards, we see Peter in the upper room, behind locked doors for fear of the Jews, when Jesus appeared to them. This was the second time, for a week before, on Resurrection day, they were in the same position, under the same fears, and Jesus appeared to them (with Thomas missing). During that time the apostles reported to the two who had seen Jesus in Emmaus that Jesus had appeared to Peter (though the gospels don't describe this encounter). Before that it was Peter rushing to the empty tomb on Mary's report, and of his going in. Before that it was Peter's denial of Christ on the prior Thursday night.

Of interest is a couple of places we don't see Peter, most notable of which is during the crucifixion and the death watch and after. We don't know for sure everyone who was there, but Peter's name isn't mentioned. Quite possibly he was off cowering somewhere, or thinking he had failed Jesus so badly that he didn't want to show his face around him. We presume he was present at the time when Jesus gave the Great Commission, and at the Ascension, though none of the apostles are mentioned by name.

Fast forward to after the Ascension. Peter is the one who stands up and says that Judas must be replaced. He had boldness for leadership among the 120 followers of Christ.

Skipping for a moment to Chapter 3, we see Peter and John going up to the temple to pray. They encounter the crippled man and heal him. Peter preaches a sermon to those who gather to see the healed man. So we see Peter with boldness to heal and to preach. Then, in Chapter 4, Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin and questioned. Peter preaches to them as when. Then, when this body of elders tells them to preach no more in Jesus' name, Peter and John make there famous statement: Whether it is right to obey God or man you be the judge, but we cannot help but obey God. We see, at that moment, that Peter had the boldness to take a stand.

Of course two things occur within these events that are key to understanding Peter's progression. We have this progression to consider:

  • Peter denies Christ
  • Jesus dies
  • Jesus is resurrected
  • Peter goes to the empty tomb but is somewhat confused
  • Peter sees the risen Lord
  • Peter is behind locked door for fear of the Jews when Jesus appears to them
  • A week later Peter is again behind locked doors when Jesus appears to them
  • Peter is fishing in Galilee when Jesus appears to them
  • Peter is sort of reinstated by Jesus, though it's not a "ringing endorsement"
  • Jesus ascends
  • Peter takes leadership among the 120
  • The great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and Peter's effective sermon on that day
  • The healing of the cripple in the temple
  • The sermon in the temple
  • Peter takes a stand against the Jewish rulers

The two items highlighted are key. After the resurrection and until Jesus ascended, it was somewhat business as usual. Jesus had died but was back. They would go back to following him around. He would be their itinerant rabbi and they would follow him. But suddenly Jesus is gone. The disciples will have to make their way on their own.

Then came the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. From that moment forward, Peter is a changed man. Yes, the resurrection changed him, but not as fully as was needed. Peter had received the Holy Spirit on the evening of resurrection day, when Jesus had breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." But somehow it wasn't full and complete. It took Pentecost for it to be so. He had boldness to lead, to heal, to preach, and to take a stand.

Today the physical presence of Jesus is not a factor. We know He's coming back, and live in expectation of that, but it's not something we put everything else aside to live for. The fullness of the Spirit is something else available to us, if only we ask. But do we ask? Do we fear that if we ask for this, our lives will be so changed that we fear what we would become?

It's something to think about.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Writing Energizes Me, Publishing Tires Me

I usually write my writing posts at my writing blog and save this blog for various life, liberty, and pursuit of whatever type posts, but possibly this is one that's relevant to both.

Last Saturday I wrote "the end" on my latest novel. Headshots is a sequel to my baseball novel, In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I thought Headshots would be around 80,000 words; it ended up being around 87,400. So I wasn't too far off. The last 20,000 words came out fairly quickly, at a rate of over 1,000 per hour when I was working on it. Some of those scenes I had played out in my mind many times. It was just a matter of figuring out how to get the right characters at the right place at the right time. That seemed to go well.

Of course, editing is still ahead of me. I've read through it, in its incomplete form, twice. The first time was when I was around 50,000 words in, and struggling with the sagging middle. I was unsure of the timeline, unsure about several subplots, unsure about which character had done which thing. So I read it carefully and made an outline and timeline. The second reading was when I was about 70,000 words in. I wanted to make sure those things added after the first reading made sense, and had plugged the holes I'd found. After completing the text I went through the mark-up from the second reading and typed those edits. I finished that last Sunday.

Now, Headshots is sitting for a week or two, while I'm taking a break from it. While all my writing time went to the novel, various other publishing tasks went by the wayside. Now is the time to pick them up and complete them. For the last three evenings I've been working on the print edition of The Gutter Chronicles, my workplace humor novella. Hmm, it's about 43,000 words. Is it a novel or a novella? Monday night I formatted the interior. That's actually not that hard to do. I do it in words. Since the chapters have titles, I wanted to use the right hand page header as the chapter title, while the left had page header remained the book title, with page numbers at the bottom. Word lets you do this without too much trouble, though making sure blank pages are really blank, without headers and footers, is something to watch for.

Then I created a table of contents with the page numbers supplied by Word. Then I chose the page size (I use 5.5x8.5 for most of my paperbacks), then set the margins. That brought me to a page by page review, making sure the margins looked good, the page breaks looked good, indents were correct, etc. I found one place where I had to change indents. That took all the time I had to spend on Monday evening.

Tuesday I went to work on the cover. I already had an e-book cover. So next was to create a canvas of the right size in G.I.M.P., put the e-book cover in, add a back cover, add a spine, make sure they were all sized correctly and put in the right place. Without going into too much detail, I had much trouble with it on Tuesday night. The front and back covers came together okay, but I couldn't get the text for the spine to work properly. Couldn't rotate it and place it where it needed to be. I had managed to do this when I made the print cover for my Thomas Carlyle book, but that happened almost by accident rather than by design, and I couldn't replicate it. So I went to PowerPoint and created the spine, saved it as a graphic image, and loaded into the G.I.M.P. cover, resized and placed. Easy peasy.

I did that Wednesday, and uploaded the interior and cover to CreateSpace, did all the metadata type stuff, and submitted. Today I learned it meets all CS's technical specifications, and I can order prints. So yea! I've done well learning the technical requirements for a print book.

But what I find is that those publishing type tasks really sap my energy. I come upstairs from The Dungeon and find I have little energy to do anything else. This is different from when I'm writing, or editing. After three hours doing that I'm pumped up, ready to go on to the next task. After three hours of publishing work I'm ready to collapse in a chair and do nothing. I suppose that shows I'm more suited to be a writer than a publisher. Interior formatting I don't mind; that's an exciting challenge. But covers and the whole submittal process is what does me in.

I suppose many endeavors in life are like that. Some are energizing, some sapping. My day job tends to be energizing. In it I do a lot of things I like, and feel energized upon completion. I also have to do some things I don't enjoy so much, and these sap the energy out of me. On the whole there's more that I like than that I don't.

They say if you love your job it's not really work. I love civil engineering in the type of job I have now. I love writing. I do publishing tasks because I don't have money to subcontract them out, so I have to do them myself. Possibly these tasks will become more enjoyable over time, and I'll find them energizing. That's beginning to happen at work, as after teaching training classes I don't feel quite as drained as I used to. I won't say I'm energized, but my response is definitely moving toward the energized end of the spectrum. Will it ever get that way with publishing tasks? I'll have to do it a bunch more times before I'll know.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Many 40th Anniversaries

I'm coming up upon a number of 40th anniversaries in my life. If I chronicled them all here, I'd quickly bore you. For now I'll just list the major ones.
  • June 2 graduated from college
  • June 10 headed west, driving from Rhode Island for my job in Kansas City
  • June 17 began my career as a civil engineer
Tucked in around those dates are other, smaller events, that are memorable to me but which wouldn't go in a resume. For example, the week before graduation (so that would be 40 years ago this week, perhaps even today) was the senior trip to Block Island. It was mainly a drinking party at whatever facility the university rented for us. We went by ferry from Galilee, to New Harbor. I was with a good friend from Newport, Marty Gollis. Along the way we teamed up with another friend, Gail Whitney. The three of us planned to go, after the ferry returned us to the mainland, to a rock and roll revival concert at the Providence Civic Center that night, so it was kind of natural for us to hang out together.

It was quite a pleasant day. My memory says that most of the people I talked with at the party had never been to Block Island before. I had, thought it was fourteen years before on a family vacation. My step-grandfather's sister lived on Block Island and we stayed with her. Her house was called "Cozy Cottage." I remembered that Old Harbor was, well, old and quaint and had things to see and do. I suggested we walk there, just a mile away. Marty and Gail agreed, so we headed out, maybe just the three of us, maybe with a few other people. We went to Deadeye Dick's, a bar, had a drink, walked around the village, possibly stopped in a couple of shops, and walked back. It was a pleasant diversion from the revelers back at New Harbor. As to the rest of that day—the concert and the drive back to Barrington and Newport—I'll put that in a memoir someday.

Another item from that week, on the couple of days before the Block Island trip, was a sailing adventure in Narragansett Bay. One of our friends from our university days, Paul Sorrentino, had access to his father's sailboat, and invited us to sail the bay with him. It was a decent sized boat with sleeping berths, but by no means a yacht. More than one person should probably try to handle, but easy enough for two.

We sailed out of Barrington, Paul, Gary, Joe, Chuck, and me. I recall the wind was fresh that first day, and we had some great runs, cutting through the chop. We anchored that night in cove at Prudence Island, and slept comfortably. The next morning we made a quick run to Newport, picked up Marty, and had another great day of sailing with good winds. We spent that night in Newport Harbor. It turned out the boat could sleep five with no problem, but the sixth person was a bit much. Marty slept on the floor of the cabin, slept poorly, and was dead tired next morning. That's when he and I left the boat and headed for Marty's house, then across the bay on the bridges and on to Galilee for the Block Island trip, while the others sailed back to Barrington. Gary snapped the photo that shows the other five of us on the second day.

All of which is of interest only to me and a few others. But it's what I wanted to write about today. Expect a few more posts like this as these anniversaries unfold.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Something New in Something Oft Read

Last week I thought I had the perfect solution for what we should study next in Life Group. Our pastor had just finished a sermon series on the resurrection, titled "This Changes Everything." He had us by a book of the same title, and gave us reading assignments to go along with the sermon series. I must confess that I didn't do the assignments. I suggested to the class that we go through this book as a series of Life Group lessons. They agreed it would be a good idea.

Then, sometime this week, I actually read the first five chapters of this 33 chapter book. They are short chapters and it's not a long book. To my horror I found that this isn't a book from which you can easily draw Life Group lessons. What to do? My co-teacher and I are out of ideas as to what to study next.

It was his week to teach, and he pulled together a lesson on Thomas, and how he needed physical proof of a risen Christ to believe in the resurrection. He did a good job. He and I spoke and agreed that we could do five lessons, the next ones to be on Peter, Philip, Stephen, and Paul, and how everything changed for them because of the resurrection.

As we were going through the lesson today, mainly from the gospel of John, chapter 20, something came to notice from this very familiar passage of scripture. On the evening of Resurrection Sunday, the disciples were together "with the doors locked for fear of the Jews." Jesus appeared, convinced them he wasn't a ghost but had a resurrected body (he did this by eating in front of them, as Luke tells us), breathed the Holy Spirit on them, and departed. Thomas was absent for some reason. Then we read that a week later they were together in the same circumstances, except Thomas was with them this time. Jesus once again appeared to them "though the doors were locked...."

Think of that. The whole idea of the book This Changes Everything is an oft repeated maxim that it is only because of the resurrection that we can have Christian boldness and live victorious lives while evangelizing the world. But, where was the boldness of the disciples? They had received the Holy Spirit, yet seven days later they are still behind locked doors, apparently still afraid of the Jews. Where's the boldness?

Now, we know that on the day of Pentecost Peter and the other disciples showed a lot of boldness. And shortly after that Peter and John were bold enough to defy the Sanhedrin and preach according to what they understood as God's calling. But it seems it wasn't a one-step process: Believe in the resurrection and sit back and watch the boldness pull you forward. No. There were several steps involved. Seeing Jesus; testing the physical evidence of His claims; receiving the Holy Spirit; seeing him again, perhaps several times over a forty day period; seeing him ascend to heaven, with the understanding that this is it, He's not coming back; and having the Holy Spirit come as a rushing, mighty wind. Boldness came through several steps, not a one-step process.

I need to ponder this, roll it around for a while, and perhaps pull some notes together, more extensive than just this blog post. I think this will be a fun endeavor.