Bagging leaves, and a book is born!

This afternoon I raked and bagged eight bags of autumn leaves—using biodegradable bags, of course. I stopped with eight, because eight is all the curb can contain—and that’s two rows of four bags, no less. Besides, eight bags was about as much as my lower back and my allergies would tolerate.

Mrs. Dim makes my job a little easier. When she clears her yard of leaves, she also blows the leaves in my yard several feet away from the property line. As a result, I hardly need to rake at all; I can just scoop the leaves into the bags, and the job is quickly done.

When I had finished the eight bags, I went inside, cleaned up, changed clothes, and submitted a book to Kindle and Amazon. From their point of view, it’s my latest book, but I actually wrote it in 2002. Because it is satire, I’ve been reluctant to put it out there. When I first wrote it, I had a few copies made at the local printer and shared them with family and friends. I even brought one to a writing workshop in 2003. A pastor who was there read it and giggled over every page. “You have to get this published, J.,” he told me. Well, finally, after all these years, I have followed his advice.

The premise of the book is that a congregation, called FirstChurch, was trying to figure out why they were not as successful as the other churches whose advice they were following. They noticed one difference: the successful congregations had pastors who had written books about the church. So they asked their pastor to write a book. Desperate for material, he gathered material from the various organizations in FirstChurch and sent them to be published, reasoning that showing how to do it is as helpful as telling how to do it.

Here is my blurb for the book cover: “This is not just another book telling you how to make your church grow. Instead of telling, this book shows you what to do. With the help of Salvageable, Pastor Scribble has collected reports and letters and minutes from various organizations in FirstChurch. Together, they tell the story of a place where, as their motto says, ‘The Church comes first.’ Not everyone appreciates satire. This book might not be for you. But if you want a few chuckles over the quirks and oddities in the life of a typical American congregation, this book might be exactly what you are seeking.”

The point of the satire is not to mock any Christians I have known. Instead, the book portrays a mindset of a congregation, one that other bloggers have labeled Churchian. “The Church comes first” says it all. Obsessed with organizational structure and knowing that they need to bring in new members, the leaders of FirstChurch have lost sight of why the Church exists and why they have a mission to bring in new members.

Here is a sample of what the book contains:

NOTICE TO ALL FIRSTCHURCH MEMBERS:

It has come to our attention that some of our members are parking in the three spaces clearly labeled “Visitor Parking.” Because some of our members have recently joined FirstChurch, we are willing to consider this an “honest mistake” for now. Please remember that these three spaces are meant for visitors to the congregation, not for our members. After all, we want to be known throughout the community as a friendly congregation. If members continue to park in these spaces on Sunday morning, action will be taken to remove them from the congregation. Thank you very much.

Your friends at FirstChurch

The Kindle version, when available, will cost three dollars; the print version will cost six dollars. I recommend the print version for two reasons: I was able to use a different font for each organization, something that Kindle does not allow; and I was able to add a running joke regarding, “This page is intentionally left blank,” which would not have made sense on Kindle. I will add links to this post when the book is available. J.

 

A novel

Seven years ago, I wrote a novel. It sounds so easy said that way. In fact, the plot and characters had been growing in my head for several years when I finally started writing. And it took a few returns over the past seven years to tweak the words and sentences so they seemed right to me.

This is the description on the back of the book:

“On Christmas Eve, Mark Pendleton’s wife and daughters were killed in a traffic accident. Now he was left with only his job, his house, and his books.

On Easter, Amy O’Reilly’s boyfriend emptied his apartment of her possessions and locked her out. Now she was left with only her fast food job, her clothes, and her dance classes.

Soon they would each have more. They would have each other.

Their story is told in their own words. But it is more than a he said-she said confrontation. For he was born at the beginning of the Baby Boom, and she was born at the end of the Baby Boom. Now, in the mid-1980s, they are a generation apart from one another. Living and working in Little Rock, Arkansas, they have far less in common than anyone might have guessed. They must learn to share their lives in the face of their many differences.

More than a love story, I Remember Amy is an account of two individuals, both growing, both learning, and both coming to terms with relationships, with forgiveness, and with acceptance.”

Four dollars for the electronic version on Kindle, or thirteen dollars for a traditional book from amazon.com

When I first imagined the story, Mark was to have been injured in the wreck that killed the rest of his family, unable to stand or walk for the rest of his life. Amy was a gymnast before she became a dancer. She would have been on the brink of greatness, expecting Olympic medals and fame and fortune, but untimely injuries kept her from competing at key events. So she returned to her small town, unsung and uncelebrated, with no future ahead of her. Her only employment was cleaning houses. She would have ended up being a caretaker for Mark, and the story would have developed from there.

By the time I was writing, Mark was no longer confined to a wheelchair, and Amy was a college student, fast food worker, and dancer. One key plot twist—which I am not revealing on WordPress—gave me the incentive finally to create the entire story.

It’s set in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1985. Mark has a job in the state government. While I was writing, I did a lot of factchecking to be authentic about the weather, about events happening in town, and even about which restaurants and motels existed then.

For the last two or three weeks, I have been carefully reading through the work one final time. Last night I finished the reading and sent the work to Kindle for publication. It’s already available; I’m excited to see how it will do. J.iremember

A funny thing happened on the way to the publisher….

As I reported in a post earlier this summer, I’ve been having trouble getting my latest book self-published. I have been using amazon.com’s CreateSpace with reasonable success. Not overwhelming sales, mind you, but the product has met with my approval. But when I began to submit my latest book, I discovered that CreateSpace no longer helped an author make a cover; all they had was a place to submit a cover.

Over time I figured out how I wanted the cover of my book to look and assembled the needed parts: title, subtitle, photograph, text for the back cover. But when I returned to CreateSpace to try to submit my cover, I saw that they had slightly changed the way they were operating. Now they had a template to supply the parameters of the book cover, and submissions had to match their template. I tried using it and got no good results, so I printed the instructions (which I clearly did not understand) and decided to keep on trying until I got it right.

Those instructions sat by the computer for a week or two.

Finally this week I took the instructions to work to ask for assistance. The person I wanted to talk to wasn’t there on Friday, but I returned this morning and found that she was scheduled to work all day today. I asked her to help me with the project; she looked at the instructions and right away said, “Oh, that’s Photoshop.” She then revealed that she has a side business involving designing. (I knew this already.) She offered to create the book cover I wanted. I asked her how much she charges for a book cover and she said she would do mine for nothing.

Happy about this offer, when I came home I started working with CreateSpace to verify all the information she would need to assist me. I was even going to tell her my password! But as I clicked through the system, I saw that the programming for creating a cover has been restored. With great joy I proceeded to build my book cover, and I’m excited to say that My Best Friend’s Rotten Wife will be available through amazon.com in a day or two.

I gather other users of CreateSpace must have complained about the change, and that they complained enough to change the mind of whoever runs the company. I was not one of those who complained to the company, but now I wish that I had.

Meanwhile, I will tell my coworker on Monday what happened and thank her for her help. She will, of course, tell me that she did nothing to help. But this is now the second time that I reported a glitch to her and it fixed itself quickly thereafter. (The first was work-related.) In fact, I may threaten to start bringing all my problems to her, since they go away once she knows about them. J.

Coming soon: Seven Mysteries of the Christian Faith

Several years ago I started writing a book to be called Seven Mysteries of the Christian Faith. My notes for that book are probably in a box somewhere in the house, although any actual writing I accomplished was on a computer that no longer works.

This summer I decided to make a fresh start on Seven Mysteries, and on Saturday I typed the last word of the first draft. Obviously, like any book, this one will need several corrections and revisions before it is ready to be published. I have decided, though, as I do the initial clean-up of the work, to post Seven Mysteries in several installments during the next four weeks. I would appreciate any reactions and suggestions. I’m not inviting endless debates on the theological statements in the book, with which you may or may not agree. But if something I wrote needs additional clarification or support, or if something is confusing to you and needs to be rewritten, by all means make a comment and let me know what needs to be improved.

I have not decided yet whether I will take this to a publisher, use a self-publishing resource, or just set it aside on a new WordPress blog. Whichever I do, some of the following statements need to be made, and for this second-draft version I am making them here:

• Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

• No republication of any section of Seven Mysteries of the Christian Church in any form is permitted without express permission from the author.

• Any reader is free to disagree with any statement in this book, provided that such disagreement, if expressed, is worded in courteous and gentle language.

• Your mileage may vary.

• Offer good only on weekdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

• No names have been changed, because only One is innocent. (Credit to Isaac Air Freight for that one.)

• Not available in stores.

J.