Why I Wrote: The Devil and Pastor Gus

I was recently challenged to share why I’ve written several of my novels. I’m taking up that challenge today to give you some background on The Devil and Pastor Gus. I’ll talk about Rosa No-Name next week.

My minister father was almost a rabid fan of C. S. Lewis. Although he failed to introduce me to the Chronicles of Narnia, which I discovered quite accidentally while browsing the bookcases of a family I was spending the weekend with in Maine as an adult, he did mention the Screwtape Letters. Probably in a sermon. Even so, I never got to read it until eight or ten years ago.

My father must have mentioned the fact that the Screwtape Letters is a satire about the Devil (Screwtape), who is sending letters of advice to his nephew Wormwood,  who keeps failing to win the enemy (a Christian). I must’ve tucked those few facts somewhere in my head, because I ended up writing a short play, “B.L.Z.,” during the 1970s; it was published in a local, free magazine in 1977.

The Devil, B.L.Z. (B.L.ZeBubb)–named after a very troublesome car my parents used to own–is getting ready to retire, but he’s afraid to turn the reins of his evil kingdom over to his son, Junior, who never ceases to do good when he’s supposed to be doing bad. So he gives Junior one last chance to prove himself.  I won’t give away the ending, though. If you’re interested in reading the play for free, go here.

Writing that play and having it published were fun, but–like so many other things I’ve written–I tucked it away for safekeeping and all but forgot about it.

Ten or eleven years ago I wrote my first novel. And then a second and a third. I envy novelists who seem to have an unlimited supply of story ideas. I didn’t, and I still don’t.

But something–I prefer to think of it as God’s inspiration–made me reread “B.L.Z.” Yes, the language was dated in a couple of places, but the basic idea was sound and I loved what almost happened to Junior at the end.

Ideas began percolating, but was this truly a novel-worthy story?

Once I started writing, I decided it was. I kept B.L.ZeBubb as the antagonist, but relegated Junior to a reference rather than an actual character. And what almost happened to Junior at the end of “B.L.Z.” almost happens to B.L.ZeBubb in the novel. I kept the selling of the soul to the Devil idea, but made Pastor Gus Gospello decidedly more of a protagonist in the novel than he had been in the play. And I tried to retain the satirical quality of the play as well.

One thing I enjoyed in writing The Devil and Pastor Gus was having Gus battle typical problems in writing a first novel. Much of that had to be edited out in the published version, though. My publisher thought those details would be of less interest to most readers (other novelists would be the exception). Plus we needed to cut the length of the book by a number of thousand words.

If you’ve read both the play and the novel, you can easily see the similarities and the differences. If you haven’t–and if you’re curious–it won’t hurt my feelings if you buy a copy of The Devil and Pastor Gus.

Have I said anything you’d like to comment about? Please do!

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Best regards,
Roger

On Judging a Book by its Cover

There’s something to be said for the old cliche, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” It would be impossible to determine or even just  guess how many excellent books have the least appealing covers or how many of the absolutely worst books have covers that not only gain a potential purchaser’s second look, but are largely responsible for their ultimate purchase.

I suspect we’ve all avoided at least one excellent book and settled for one of the worst instead. Not that we’re apt to admit it, of course.

The longer I’m in my post-retirement career as a novelist, the more I’ve come to appreciate how important the cover is. And I’ve changed a lot in how I evaluate a cover.

I admit it. I want to see some kind of resemblance between the cover and what the book is about. But it doesn’t always work that way.

I was allowed to give input for my three traditionally published novels, and I had very specific ideas. What I didn’t realize at the time is that publishers have various sources they check for stock photos and use a model only as a last reserve. Undoubtedly a more expensive move for them.

My wife and I really liked the covers Barbour Publishing came up with for Found in Translation and Lost in Dreams. The Kim Hartlinger depicted on the first book is appropriately shown with a suitcase.  But Kim in the book was petite and looked almost Latina. Not so on the cover. It was still a good cover, though. One readers could connect with it, and that was the important thing.

Barbour very intelligently used the same girl on the cover of Lost in Dreams.  That in and of itself was appealing, and it helped to tie those two books together. Kim’s wistful look was perfect for a story that started out extremely seriously.

Although the way LPC depicted Gus on the original cover of The Devil and Pastor Gus was whimsical and clever–I can just hear Gus thinking, “Is this plan to defeat the Devil going to work?”–the cartoon-ish depiction of a stereotypical devil on the upper right not only didn’t fit the book’s depiction of B.L.ZeBubb, we know of people who were afraid to buy the book because of the cover. Not good.

LPC realized the need to try again, and the new cover is immensely more satisfactory. Although I’m not sure exactly what this night-time view of the church represents, it’s intriguing without being scary,  and I’m satisfied. I think the addition of those two lines of text at the top helps.

For Rosa No-Name, the prequel to Found in Translation, a novel I’m independently publishing, I knew I would need a professional cover. Not something I could do myself. So I got in touch with graphic artist Ken Raney, who’s done a number of excellent book covers, including some of his wife’s (popular women’s lit novelist Deb Raney).

My wife and I sent him a list of very specific suggestions. Although Ken couldn’t fit those ideas to any stock photos he could find, he sent us four or five photos to consider. We fell in love with two of them. Picking the right one was tough.

But since Rosa No-Name is a fictitious memoir about Rosa from age sixteen to twenty-nine, we thought the more mature Rosa would be the better choice. She looks like she’s actually thinking about her past, and we love that.

Everyone we’ve talked to loves Ken’s cover . We hope it will make people take a second look and hopefully read the description. And then buy it if it appeals to them. We want them to judge Rosa No-Name–initially at least–by its cover.

How do you feel about book covers? Do they make a difference in your buying…or at least in your considering buying? How about leaving a comment?

By the way, please note the form below you can use to sign up for my quarterly newsletters. I’d love to have you as a subscriber.

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Best regards,
Roger

Priorities: His and Hers

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If I were to start today’s post by saying, “Boy! Are men and women different!” you’d probably shake your head, say “What’s new?,” and quit reading. I wonder how many books and articles have been written on the subject of differences between the genders. More than I could afford, even if I had the desire to buy or read them.

Besides that, I–like you–already have a pretty adequate idea about gender differences. In fact, the only thing I’ve learned in recent years came from a book called Love and Respect, which points out that women are more desperately in need of love, whereas men feel a greater need for respect.

I say “the only thing,” but the past few months I’ve become aware of something else just from being married to my wonderful wife. Men and women are apt to have very different priorities. It’s no wonder so many couples fight about money.

Fortunately, Kathleen and I don’t. And a while back we decided to put an allowance for each of us in the family budget. We could spend it without feeling the need to justify our purchases. That’s been great.

Interestingly, though, both of us have ended up saving most of our allowance for larger purchases. Over time I was able to add several new components to our stereo system–something we both benefit from–and a few extra gadgets for my home recording studio.

More recently, I started saving for incidental expenses in “indy (independently) publishing” my soon-to-be-released novel, Rosa No-Name. Little things like a professional cover and proper editing. Since Kathleen loves Rosa No-Name more than my other three published novels or the eight unpublished ones, she benefits from this project, too.

A few weeks ago Kathleen told me how much she’d saved of her allowance over no telling how many months. And she announced she was saving for a new refrigerator. She had very specific criteria in mind: a pull  out freezer drawer at the bottom instead of a standard top door freezer, glass or plastic shelves rather than wire racks, see-through drawers, and a traditional door rather than the currently popular French door.

Ice maker and water dispenser weren’t necessities. Something slightly bigger than our old nineteen-square-foot fridge would be desirable, but of course it would still have to fit in the available space.

This was her project, so–even though I thought it was silly to want to replace the old fridge when I’d only had it fifteen years and it was still working well–I let her do the searching. I won’t bore you with details, but I finally got in on the hunt, and we found what looked perfect except there appeared to be no more than a quarter of an inch gap between the height of the one we wanted and the bottom of the cabinet over it. Should we take the chance?

As the one who’s sometimes more practical, Kathleen arranged to have a coworker who’s good with his hands come over and cut off the bottom-front piece of the cabinet. She called the store that had offered the lowest price–a local store, not a big chain store–and arranged delivery this past Thursday.

This was a purchase we are both benefiting from. Perhaps the difference in priorities between Kathleen and me works out to our advantage more often than we’d realized before.

What about you? Is there a member of the opposite gender in your life whose priorities differ from yours? Do your differences cause problems or have you learned to work around one another’s priorities and preferences? How about leaving a comment?

 

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Roger

Which One Is Your Favorite Child?

So, those of you who have children, which one is your favorite?

Wow! What a loaded question…and a ridiculous one. Obviously asked by someone like me who has a single child, one who by default will always be my favorite without regard to any of her wonderful qualities or even of her less desirable ones.

But I do have eyes and ears, and I’m apt to have my favorites among the offspring of families who have multiple kids. Maybe it’s because one always speaks pleasantly to me whereas another doesn’t seem to notice me, even when I speak to him. Or maybe one has a talent I especially admire and enjoy, but the abilities of her siblings don’t t hold any special interest to me.

Maybe I even prefer one child over another because she’s safely made it through the worst part of adolescence and the other kids are either still just children or younger teens I’d be willing to loan the parents a cage for.  And I’ll admit it: a cute kid warms my heart more easily than an average-looking one.

I don’t see anything wrong with my having preferences among other people’s kids. The important thing is I recognize that most parents either don’t like one of their own kids better than another or wouldn’t admit it even under oath.

Believe it or not, I CAN relate to that fact. Especially if I change the question to this:

Roger, of the books and songs you’ve written, which is your favorite?

Hmm. My favorite of the over two hundred songs I’ve written during the last fifty-some years?  And the favorite of my twelve novels, four of which have been or are about to be published?

Wait! Those are my children you’re talking about! How can you expect me to have a favorite? Each one was my favorite–or at least the most important one–at the time of its “birth.”

Sure, I keep a separate binder of the songs I don’t have any interest in anymore but don’t want to forget about totally. And several of my novel manuscripts just don’t seem to be what publishers are currently looking for; so I can pretend to forget about them.

But they’re still my children. All of them.

My wife knits and crochets.  A friend makes the most amazing things out of wood. Could they name the one project they would be willing to label their absolute, all-time favorite? I seriously doubt it.

And what about you? If you have a creative skill, would you be able to say that one particular creation was not just your favorite, but will probably always be your favorite? How about leaving a comment?

Oh, and I promised last week to give the answer this week about what those little gadgets I was writing about are called:

Plastic Toggle Spring Stop Single Hole String Cord Locks

At least that’s what some of the ones on Amazon were called. My wife and I were shopping at Hobby Lobby yesterday and found a package of them totally unexpectedly. And the package was labeled more simply:  Cord Stop Plastic. What a hoot!

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

rosagus

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Best regards,
Roger

A Little Thing that Seemed Big

If you’re like me, you often take little things for granted. But this little tale–do you believe I’m capable of posting something short?–is about about something small that proved to be both elusive and fascinating. What you’ll think of it remains to be seen.

My wife knits and crochets, and she’s made three sweaters for me and two vests. All of them are really super.

But the vests didn’t have anything to connect them in front, and my tummy was getting chilly. So she bought some frogs. Not the green hoppity kind, but the kind that makes the  join my vests needed. She sewed them on.

Great! Wonderful. Uh, except the loop sometimes slipped off.

So we went to Michael’s. I knew just what I needed, but neither of us knew what they’re called. It didn’t matter. They didn’t have any. So we bought a bag of beads, since a bead could slide over one part of the frog and usually hold it shut. Of course, it could slip off while hanging in the closet.

That worked pretty well, but I hated to give up on what I really wanted–a spring-loaded mechanism you push the end button down on while moving it where it needs to go. When you release the button, the spring holds the mechanism in place. Does that sound familiar?

As hard as I tried to find it on Amazon, I couldn’t come up with the right words for a match. Fortunately, my wonderful son-in-law responded to my Facebook request for help. He’d not only found the name, he posted an Amazon link for a package of them. Less than $3.00, if I recall correctly.

I was elated. But when I went to that link, I found other products of the same kind. And one was not only under $1.50, it had good reviews and came with free shipping. So I went with that one.

Interesting how long it takes something like that to arrive from China!  The gadgets were just what I’d expected, though. Very sturdy so far.

This was one little thing that meant a lot to me, no matter how insignificant it would be to most normal people.

What are these things called? Ha! It wasn’t a simple name, and–frankly–I can’t remember it. Why don’t you tell me what YOU think they’re called.  I’ll post the answer next week. All comments are gratefully accepted.


 

 

Still available:                   Coming soon:   kindle-cover

Join the Facebook group Rosa No-Name Tribe to learn the latest about its upcoming release


NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

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Best regards,
Roger

More on When Compromise Isn’t Possible

Back when the Tea Party movement was in the limelight, I thought it was pretty cool. America had gone so far downhill I couldn’t blame other nations for hating us, and any movement to restore us to what we used to stand for was worth supporting enthusiastically.

Except…

The more I read about the Tea Party, the more convinced I was that their thinking had one major flaw. They were totally unwilling to compromise. It had to be their way–even though I approved of their way–or else. They didn’t seem to recognize that major changes take time. And often they can only be accomplished by taking baby steps in the right direction.

While I wasn’t certain what I thought of Mr. Trump during the early days of his gaining popular support, I’ve come to appreciate him more and more. While his actions thus far may seem a bit drastic at times, he’s only doing what he’s promised to do. Therefore we elected him to do those things–to do what it takes to make America great again–and I’m counting on Congress to make sure he does that sensibly.

Is Mr. Trump a man who’s open to compromise? I have to smile at the very thought. He seems to have strong convictions and doesn’t plan to deviate from them. I can’t fault him for that. But does that make it easy to get things done? Obviously not.

Because there are the people on the far left who have equally strong convictions. And theirs couldn’t be further from Mr. Trump’s. I’m not sure they even believe America needs fixing, and they certainly seem incapable of seeing the damage Mr. Obama did during his presidency. So those people are afraid of what Mr. Trump is trying to do.

Compromise between the right and the left? Do moderates stand a chance? Alas, it doesn’t seem possible. Not unless the media chooses the middle road: truth.

Please join me in praying that what is best for America will be done in whatever way and at whatever time God desires. How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


rosagus

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

Best regards,
Roger

When Compromise Isn’t Possible

We all have to compromise at times, don’t we? I don’t know anyone who gets his or her way all the time, anyhow.

And nobody is right all the time, either. Right?

Probably. But with one extremely important exception. We may not always understand God’s ways–why He allows certain things to take place, including the martyring of so many of His children–but if we believe in Him, we believe He’s always right. He doesn’t make mistakes, and He doesn’t compromise.

And that fact sometimes seems pretty extreme to non-believers. After all, aren’t there many roads to God? Don’t they all lead to the same place? Aren’t Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and all the other world religions equally valid?

Not if you believe the Bible. Especially where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It’s not us “intolerant Christians” who came up with the idea that other religions are worthless; we’re just quoting the man we believe to be the Son of God. The one who died for our sins and rose from death to give us eternal life.

If we study the Bible, we can’t miss some of the issues there’s no room for compromising over. The one at the top is there is no God except Jehovah. Allah isn’t the God of the Bible, regardless of what countless sincere Muslims (and a host of non-Muslims) believe.

Another issue is homosexuality. Of course, the Bible also takes a strong stand against other forms of immorality–any type of promiscuity, including sex outside of marriage. But regardless of how some Christians act–and consequently what many people mistakenly believe–the Bible doesn’t tell us to hate homosexuals. Indeed, even if we considered them “enemies,” which we shouldn’t do, Jesus told us to love our enemies.

Even though the Bible doesn’t speak about abortion as such, it speaks of people as being created in God’s image. It talks about keeping the body a proper dwelling place for God’s holy spirit. It tells about the way God knows the most intricate parts of our beings, including our formation in our mothers’ wombs.

No wonder we take “Do not kill” as a no-compromise issue regarding abortion.

I realize that not everyone reading this post is a Christian, and some of you may strongly–vehemently–disagree with some or all of what I’ve written. Feel free to leave a comment. But keep in mind that even though I must compromise about some areas of life, the things I’ve talked about today are not things I can compromise about.


kindle-coverRosa No-Name is the coming-of-age prequel to Roger’s first young adult novel, Found in Translation. It will be releasing sometime within the next couple of months. If you want to learn more about it, check Roger’s website or join the Rosa No-Name Tribe group on Facebook. That may qualify you to receive a free ARC (advanced review copy).

 


NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

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

Best regards,
Roger