Publishing Stress?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been possessive of my time. I felt like my time actually belonged to me and I had the freedom to avoid anything that interfered with my concept of how my time should be used.

Unrealistic, huh? Undoubtedly.

One reason I quit teaching school was the impossibility of avoiding taking work home and having to use my personal time. Then there was the time I convinced myself I was doing the right thing leaving work at quitting time while everyone else was still working hard at what I apparently considered less important; I got in big trouble over that.

Retirement promised to give me plenty of free time to do only the things I consider important. Like writing full-time. However, I soon discovered that “writing full-time” and “spending all of my time writing” were not the same, and I couldn’t spend every hour of every day writing. I had to be open to other uses of some of my time.

I’ve continued to carefully evaluate any request for the use of my time, however, and I’ve had to convince myself that relaxing and doing nothing is justifiable–even necessary–some of the time. But I feel guilty if I spend too much time being non-productive.

My life seems pretty well balanced now–especially regarding time-related projects; if I don’t think I can finish something well before time, I’ll probably avoid doing it at all.

Last week, however, I started to wonder. I received email from the publisher of seven of my twelve novels: “Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve ventured into self-publishing. Do you want the rights back to the books I have or shall I keep them?”

At that stage, I’d independently published (used to be called “self-published”) ROSA NO-NAME and my three most recent teen novels. I’d thoroughly enjoyed doing the teen book cover designs, hopefully getting better with each one but definitely learning as I went. I even enjoyed working out the formatting of the content files.

Because marketing falls largely on the author’s shoulders and I haven’t been very good at it–yes, I think my time issue is part of the problem–I’ve felt guilty about not helping my two publishers see more of a profit from having me in their folds.

So taking on the re-publishing of seven novels would free me from that guilt and give me a chance to do something I really enjoyed by doing what was necessary to release those seven books myself. In such a timely way they wouldn’t temporarily be out of print.

My wife and I prayed and talked and we talked and we prayed. Sometimes God doesn’t seem to say yes or no, and this was one of those times. So, for the reasons given in the previous paragraph, we decided to proceed.

My publisher and I agreed she wouldn’t unpublish those books until the end of September. That meant I had a little over three weeks to do everything.

One little problem, though. We have an eight-day vacation between now and the end of the month. Yes, I’ll be taking my laptop, but the idea of having to work on this project then was not very appealing.

So I got right to work, spending a number of hours daily on this project.

The book cover designs were a challenge, but they ultimately didn’t take as much time as I’d feared, and I’m pleased with the results.

My publisher gave me her copy of the formatted content files, which was really great. I thought finishing up would be a breeze. Ha!

I soon realized I wanted certain things changed, and doing that in such a way KDP (Kindle Direct Processing) would accept and make look the way I expected turned out to be really tricky.  Not to mention more time consuming–I spent numerous hours getting rid of blank pages–than expected.

Because of vacation, I’ve really pushed to get everything done. I’ve just ordered proof copies of all seven books.  Unless they arrive before vacation, we’ll only have a couple of days to look over them before the end of the month.

I’ve barely started work on the Kindle versions, but that’s far less of a concern.

Was I wrong to be concerned about the possibility of those seven books being unavailable on Amazon at the very beginning of October? Especially considering how few people know about them or would be apt to buy any during a short blackout period.

Maybe I didn’t need to push so hard, but doing everything I could this far ahead of time is a real relief. And now I can focus on something else without stressing about whether I could get those books ready in time. Not to mention a publishing-free vacation.

(If you’re interested, compare the covers on the two graphics below.)

What about you? Are you sometimes involved in projects that you tend to stress about because of the time factor? How about sharing in a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

     

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A Closeness I Can’t Relate To

Our pastor and his two adult children have built houses almost within spitting distance of one another, and that seems to work well for them. My daughter’s in-laws are living with them, and I assume that’s working out okay. I can think of several couples who’ve moved to be closer to their grown children, and they’re undoubtedly thrilled at being that close.

I definitely don’t mean to sound critical of any of those situations. I’m simply admitting that I don’t understand that kind of family closeness because I can’t relate to it.

I grew up an only child, and my parents reared me to be fiercely independent. They soon realized they’d exceeded their expectations. After college, I lived about two hundred miles from my parents for sixteen years, and I didn’t move to Richmond to be near them, but because that’s where I’d finally found the kind of job I wanted at the place where I’d long wanted to work–the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I didn’t normally see them more than once every couple of weeks and rarely talked to them on the phone. We loved one another, of course, but they had their lives and my wife and I had ours.

I suppose my lack of understanding of the situations I described above is based in part on thoughts about the summer when my first wife and I realized the sales job I’d just gotten wasn’t going to work out. We ended up driving nine hundred miles to spend the rest of the summer with her family.

I’m not sure that feeling the need to do that bothered me consciously at the time, but I realize now how I sacrificed my independence for the sake of expediency. At least it was only temporary.

Don’t get me wrong. As the grandfather of two little boys and the step-grandfather of another, all of whom live quite some distance away, I regret not being able to see them more frequently. But those two sets of parents have their own lives, and we’re careful not to interfere.

That would be more difficult if we lived extremely close to one another.

I’m always tickled at the thought of couples moving to be closer to family only to have their family move elsewhere shortly after that. I can’t say I’ve known of that actually happening, but it could–and it probably has.

When God said a man should leave his mother and father and cling to his wife–I’ve always believed that to be equally true of wives–I think He really hit the God-sized nail on the head. Husband and wife must come first. That seems to be true in the cases I mentioned earlier.

What about you? What are your thoughts on this? How about leaving a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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What If…

Do you know anyone who seems to be living a “what if” life? What if this horrible thing happens–or something even worse? How can he or she ever deal with it?

That doesn’t sound like a desirable way to live, does it?

A certain amount of “what if-ing” is probably normal, however. Maybe even desirable.

If we don’t say, “What if I come down with a serious illness?” we might not make sure we have medical insurance, get regular checkups, eat healthy foods, and get the right amount of sleep and exercise.

If we don’t say, “What if I lose my job–or some major expense comes up?” we might fail to set aside money to build an adequate emergency fund.

If we don’t say, “What if the cat knocks the lighted candle over while I’m out and burns the house down,” we might not bother to blow out the flame before we leave.

“What if-ing” that leads us to do smart things makes sense. The same goes for avoiding things that might be dangerous or harmful.

But what about folks who’re burdened by phobias of different kinds? Aren’t they victims of a different kind of “what if”?

If fear of flying makes a person travel an unnecessarily long distance by car or train when a fairly short flight would be more practical, isn’t he a “what if” victim?

And what about victims of agoraphobia–a fear of being in a public place? Their “what ifs” keep them from going out and enjoying much of life.

During early childhood, I apparently had a frightening experience while taking swimming lessons. I’ve suppressed that memory for more than sixty years–so deeply I have no idea what happened. My “what if” about being in the water made me put off being baptized for a number of years because I was so terrified of “what if.”

Those “what ifs”–and dozens of similar ones–seem pretty irrational, don’t they? But they’re real to the sufferer. And, ironically, living in fear of the “what if” may actually make someone more miserable than anything that might happen as the result of doing what the sufferer is so frightened of.

Too often, people don’t take the important “what ifs” of life seriously enough. If they did, no one would drink and drive. No one would die of a tobacco-related disease. No one would commit crime to support a drug habit–or die of an overdose. Accidents that aren’t really accidental would decrease.

No one would ever “need” to have an abortion.

And people who reject Christianity would give it a serious second thought.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Is There Anything God Can’t Do?

Although most people have some concept of God–or at least one of a god, even if they don’t believe in him–nobody knows everything about Him. The Bible leaves many questions unanswered. I’m still just as confused about the Trinity–God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit all being part of one entity–as if I’d never heard dozens of explanations that made sense until I tried to explain them to someone else.

I have so many questions that will never be answered this side of Heaven. And probably not there, either. I’ll be too overwhelmed at being in God’s presence to feel the need to ask.

No need to ask God why He doesn’t prevent bad things from happening to good people. We live in a fallen world, one that was perfect until our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, messed it up. If they hadn’t, someone else would have.

Neither do I bother to question how a loving God can send people to Hell. God is the epitome of love and goodness. None of us is as good as He is. Hell is something all of us deserve. But Jesus’s death and resurrection make us–those of us who believe in Jesus and accept His gift of eternal life–acceptable to God.

I don’t have any questions about creation, either. I believe God created the world. Whether He did it in six twenty-four-hour days or six periods of time is irrelevant. And I cannot believe the world as we know it originated from nothing–on its own. How can nothing explode and turn into something?

Nor do I question God’s creation of life in its various forms–plant, animal, and human. Adapting to environmental conditions is much different from, and tremendously more logical, than evolution.

God has done so many amazing things I can’t even wrap my head around the possibilities.

If I don’t understand everything the Bible says about God, I doubt that I’m the only one. I would definitely steer clear of anyone who claims to have all the answers.

But some people want to confuse the issue and cause doubt by asking other kinds of questions. Specifically, whether there is anything God can’t do. Surely (from their point of view) even He has limitations.

I laugh at the question “Can God make a rock (or a mountain) that’s too big for Him to lift?” (I can’t imagine why He would want to.) Giving into the temptation to prove He could create such a rock would be sinful; it would be contrary to His loving and perfect nature. To me, that settles the rock question.

What about “If God is love, isn’t He big enough to love everyone enough to save us all from Hell, regardless of how we feel about Him?”

According to the Bible, God wants to save all of us. But He wants each of us to love him, and that brings up an important point. Adam and Eve were born sinless and placed in the most perfect dwelling place on earth. They had everything good. And they enjoyed daily fellowship with God Himself. What more could they have asked for?

But God gave them something else–free will. If He hadn’t given them the freedom to hate or disobey Him, their affection for Him wouldn’t have been real love. It would’ve been like the affection we share with our pets–and our pets with us. So God could not create people who would automatically love Him and never deviate from that love. It had to be voluntary to be love.

You know what? My puny thoughts about what God might not be able to do aren’t going to accomplish anything useful. Better to think about what He has done and continues to do in the lives of His children–His highly imperfect children. That’s so mind-blowing it puts me in the mood for worship.

If you have any thoughts on this subject, please leave a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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When Is “Finished” Actually Finished?


Every project has an end in sight: completion. Whether I’m writing a novel or a song or making a walking stick from a piece of dead tree branch, I always have the same goal: making it the best it can be.

But when is “finished” actually finished?

When I start carving the bark off a dead piece of branch, I know I’ll also need to file the nodes as far down as I can. I can only saw them off so close to the branch itself, and sanding them down is tedious and sand paper-consuming.

Then I do some serious sanding with course sandpaper, making sure to round off the edges of the top of the  stick to make it safer. And sometimes having to file or sand the bottom end enough to fit a rubber furniture tip on.

Then comes sanding with fine sand paper. That doesn’t take much work, but if some of the bark proves uncarveable, the sanding can result in loosening some obnoxious “threads” of bark that take forever to get rid of.

A coating of linseed oil brings out the grain, and then two or three coats of polyurethane give it a lustrous shine. Even then, however, just when I think I’ve finished, I’m apt to find places I didn’t sand smoothly enough or “threads” that feel unpleasant to the touch.

So that means more sanding of something that had seemed complete. And redoing the linseed oil and polyurethane.

When is enough enough? Whenever a finished walking stick is finished, I guess. When there’s nothing left for me to do to make it better.

That’s true of my novel writing as well. Beginning novelists think they’ve done something really special when they complete their first draft, and they have. But if they think their books are anywhere close to finished from a publisher’s or reader’s point of view, they’re sadly naive.

It normally takes me twelve to twenty complete times of editing and revising that rough draft before I’m tempted to call it complete. The rule-of-thumb seems to be “don’t do it any more if the improvements are so minor no one can tell the difference.”

Writing novels that will be read by other authors as well as by regular readers is tough. Other authors are pickier readers. I certainly am.

Now that I’ve gotten into indy book publishing , I’ve found there’s even more to the problem of when finished is finished. I had to submit one recent manuscript to CreateSpace three or four times just to get the cover photo to look right. On other books, a reading of the proof copy may reveal a simple mistake or two that I can’t permit to be included in the final edition.

Even in the print version of my latest book, Wherefore Art Thou Ramon, after paying in succession for three proof copies, I discovered one blank page in my intended final copy. As tempted as I was to correct the file and resubmit it, that change might adversely affect some other page. And changing that one might affect another one.

So I bit the bullet. Enough would have to be enough.

Song writing has its own set of problems, because it’s hard to be sure I’ve correctly notated the music in Personal Composer software. But songs also have a different kind of completion problem. I wrote a song in 2010–“God’s Words.”

I made some changes to the words a few years ago, and right now I’m in what I hope are the finishing stages of adding a refrain to the song. It was complete before, but soon it will be even more complete.

I’ve added bridges or refrains to at least four or five completed songs during the past few years. Are they really complete now? Are they really finished?

I sure hope so.

Jesus knew his earthly mission–dying for mankind’s redemption–was complete when  he uttered, “It is finished” from the cross.

That’s the ultimate kind of completion because it doesn’t require anything more.

Do you have anything to add? Please leave a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Where I Wouldn’t Want to Be


Although the whole title of this post is “Where I Wouldn’t Want to Be When I Die,” I was afraid nobody would read it if I didn’t at least get people to read the first sentence before they gave up. Actually, this post is not going to be morbid.

That’s my intention, anyhow.

I dare say that–given a choice–most of us would prefer to die in bed. Of pure old age without any painful or debilitating illnesses leading to our demise. That would be my preference, but it’s not something I pray for. In fact, the only thing I pray for regarding death is that God will continue to keep me mentally active until the time He’s designated for me to die.

Yes, if I can keep writing songs and novels and knowing who I am and who the people around me are, I’ll have a lot to be thankful for. Life–or should I say death?–doesn’t come with any guarantees, however, and I have to trust that God will do whatever He deems best with the rest of my earthly life.

There. This hasn’t been morbid yet. But neither has it been exactly on topic. Let me try again.

Here are some of my preferred places not to die:

  • In the shower. That would be a real hassle for Kathleen to have to deal with.
  • At a nursing home ministry worship service. Those poor patients probably see enough death.
  • Outside cutting the grass. No telling how long my body would burn in the hot sun before I was discovered. Can a dead body get a sunburn? Hmm. At least I wouldn’t feel it.
  • In the woods looking for something to make a new walking stick from. Especially if I was bitten by a poisonous snake.
  • At church during the Christmas musical. I wouldn’t want to take everyone’s attention off of the presentation. Especially when the nurses in the choir quit singing in the middle of a song and came to attend to me.
  • At a restaurant. I wouldn’t want other patrons to wonder if I’d eaten something they should avoid–unless, of course, that was actually the case.
  • On vacation. No matter how much I’m looking forward to Heaven, that would be a real downer for Kathleen.
  • At a writers conference. I still recall when the mother of an author friend actually suffered some kind of health problem that led to her death several days after the conference. I’d rather be remembered for my writing than for my departure.
  • Around little children. I’d hate for their parents to have to explain what had happened to me.
  • Around knowledgeable medical personnel who understood what was wrong but couldn’t do a thing to help. I wouldn’t want them to live with that regret.
  • At somebody else’s funeral. Talk about trying to steal the show…!

I suppose I could come up with more places and situations, but that list will suffice for now. Do you have any places you’d rather not be when you die? How about leaving a comment?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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A New Normal (in One Room, Anyhow)


Last week I talked about waiting, and I mentioned that we were waiting for someone to come give us an estimate on new flooring for the living room, kitchen, and maybe the bedroom.

Our wishes turned out to be a little ambitious.

What we had saved would take care of the living room alone, and–after three or four years (maybe longer) of being totally out of debt–we weren’t about to even do a one-year interest-free arrangement. That would still have meant being obligated to spend money we didn’t have yet.

We also had to compromise on the specific wooden flooring we’d originally wanted. But the laminate we settled on looks great and will serve well. Why spend enough for a floor that would outlive us?

Today’s (this past Tuesday) the big day–a lot sooner than we’d expected–and two quiet Latino men are in the midst of the installation. Fortunately, THEY do the furniture moving. But we still had to move breakables, spillables, and other miscellaneous small stuff. I dread having to put everything back in place later.

        

I must admit I’ve been fascinated watching the men as they work. And just as fascinated at how much Spanish I’ve forgotten since high school and college. But one thing hasn’t changed. I still can’t listen fast enough to comprehend even the Spanish I would recognize if I saw it in writing. Spanish is indeed a beautiful language, but those words seem to connect in what for me are incomprehensible ways.

I envy Kathleen. She got to go to work today while I sit here with my laptop at the end of the counter where I normally sit to eat breakfast. Right now I have one foot draped over the pen we were smart enough to keep when our miniature dachshund, Happy, no longer needed it otherwise. She keeps jumping up and barking (not necessarily in that order), but I think my foot gives her some assurance.

As of this moment, I’d say the guys are more than half done. If it weren’t for corners, heating vents, and a place where the cable comes through the floor, it would undoubtedly be a straight shot.

Nonetheless, the new normal is coming. The six-by-six rug we ordered last weekend–we wanted a splash of color–is due today, and it can’t take but so long to put everything back in place.

I hope.

Here’s the finished job. We’re thrilled!

Do you have a tale of some home improvement you’ve done and had done? Please leave a comment.

~*~

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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