Speaking of Habits…

Here’s a bad habit we haven’t talked about yet:  not reviewing books we read.

I confess that I seldom do this, for these reasons:

  • If the book’s been around for a while and already has a gazillion reviews, I don’t figure it needs one more.
  • If I don’t particularly care for the book, I feel compelled by professional courtesy to keep quiet about it. This is true for authors I don’t know as well as those I do.
  • If I do like it, it probably already has enough reviews and doesn’t need one from a nobody like me.
  • Laziness. If I’m reading for pleasure, I don’t want to add the work of writing a review afterward. What, am I in school or something?

Occasionally someone will ask for a review. When that happens, I’ll usually comply, but not always. A couple of times I declined because, well… my mother always taught me if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. On one occasion, the book was so bad I couldn’t even read it.

All in all, I’m not usually eager to write reviews. But shame on me! As an author, I know how important reviews are. No, Stephen King doesn’t need my help, but small-potatoes authors like me need all the reviews we can get. Many promotional services won’t accept a title that doesn’t have a certain number of Amazon reviews. Larger numbers of reviews help improve a book’s Amazon ranking, making it more visible. And bookstores are more likely to stock a book with a higher ranking and many reviews. So you see, we authors don’t crave reviews just to stoke our egos; they’re absolutely necessary for a book’s success.

If reviewing books intimidates you, rest easy. It doesn’t have to be difficult! In most cases, there’s to required format, and reviews don’t have to be long and involved. Take Ane Mulligan’s Amazon review of Stillwaters, for example:

Where should you post your reviews? Amazon, certainly, and also Goodreads. Those are the biggies. But if you feel inclined, you can post reviews to Barnes & Noble, Booktopia, other places online where books are sold, or your own blog. But Amazon is primo.

Am I writing this post for the purpose of begging for reviews? Yes. Absolutely. I need reviews!

But I’m also resolving to start reviewing books more often myself. In fact, I recently posted a review of a nice little book I ran across not long ago, Faith Unexpected: Real stories of people who found what they never imagined.  It is exactly as the title describes, and I won’t elaborate other than to say I enjoyed the book. If you look for it on Amazon, you’ll see my review.

It’s the sort of book that would be good to give as a gift to someone who’s “on the fence” as far as following Christ is concerned. A person who’s antagonistic toward the gospel wouldn’t appreciate it, but someone who’s curious probably would.

I don’t read as much as I’d like to, but I hereby resolve to make more of an effort to review the ones I read. At least, new books. I don’t think I’ll bother reviewing old classics.

Do you post reviews on Amazon? If you haven’t yet, would you please review mine (if you’ve read any)?

Yes, I’m begging—with apologies for the lack of dignity.

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More About Habits

Enough with the nuns’ habits joke already!

Okay. In our last exciting adventure, I posed some questions and promised to provide my own answers in the next post. Because I try to make it a habit to keep my promises, here goes:

Question 1: What unhealthy habits would you like to break?

I have two related ones: Overeating, and lack of exercise. Of course my sister had to go and beat me to the punch in her comment, but that’s okay. It’s nice to know I’m in good company.

Many years ago, I joked that my mother-in-law had been on the same diet since I’d known her—it was the “Starting on Monday” diet. I’ve been on a similar one in recent years: the “Should Eat Less” diet. I love food, and many of the foods I enjoy are good for me. I seldom eat fast food, my taste for sweets has dwindled over the years, and I eat a healthy diet. I just eat too much of it! If I could form the habit of taking smaller portions and stopping before I feel full, I think it would be good for me.

Lack of exercise? I have a ready supply of worn-out excuses for that. I used to walk 3 – 5 miles a day, five days a week. But in the past few months, I fell out of the habit—until three days ago, when I discovered Rising Park.

Actually, I knew it was there, but I only just now made the effort to check it out. The trail to the top of Mt. Pleasant is a super-short trail, and it’s not much of a mountain by Maryland standards*, but it’s a better aerobic workout than doing nothing. And, you can do more walking than just up to the top and back. Three days ago I resolved to visit Rising Park at least 5 days a week to get my heart rate up on a regular basis, and I’ve done it now for three days straight. I hope to make a habit of it.

*see this three-year-old post about that

Question 2: Do you find it a continual struggle to maintain healthy habits?

Not too much. It’s a struggle to form a healthy habit, but once it’s ingrained, a minimum of effort is required to maintain it. That’s the case for simple habits, like brushing my teeth before going to bed. How that applies to taking that little uphill trail every day, though, remains to be seen. I’m still in the process of forming that habit.

Question 3: What habits enable you to fly?

It took many years to develop it, but my habit of spending time every morning in prayer and Bible study keeps me buoyant the rest of the day. (I’ll bet you thought I was kidding when I asked that question, didn’t you?)

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No, not that kind of habit!

Yes. That’s what I’m talking about.

As you may observe, I’ve fallen into the habit of neglecting my blog. Whether that’s a good habit or a bad, I think I’ve finally straightened out the technical difficulties that have been plaguing me, so maybe I’ll break the neglecting habit and start posting every now and then.

I’ve been thinking about habits recently, so that’s why I’ve chose to write about them today.

I’ve long observed that good habits take diligence and determination to form, whereas bad habits can get started with just one repetition. But bad habits, though easily acquired, are difficult to break, while it’s ridiculously easy to fall out of good habits. Why is that?

I won’t venture an opinion. I’m just making the observation.

Sometimes, it’s hard to say which category a habit falls into. Several months ago, I kicked the caffeine habit. Is caffeine bad for you? That seems to depend on who you talk to. I can’t say that I suffered any ill effects from caffeine consumption, but it bothered me that I was dependent on it—and there’s no question that I was. I was a bona fide* caffeine addict.

*I just now learned that bona fideis two words. Interesting tidbit!

Where was I? Oh, yeah… I was addicted to caffeine for many years. Now I’m not. I’d say that’s a good thing, in that I no longer require my morning coffee in order to feel well. But neither am I anti-caffeine. About once or twice a week, I’ll indulge in a little—a cup of coffee here, a Coke there, the occasional bite of chocolate.  So I guess it’s good. No addiction, no obsession the other way. It’s quite freeing, actually.

It seems breaking a bad habit takes as much or more effort as forming a good habit. It’s kind of the same thing, when you look at it. Forming a good habit in place of a bad one is the same as breaking a bad habit.

What make a habit “good” or “bad”? Today’s society doesn’t like to speak in those terms. Maybe I should talk about “healthy” and “unhealthy” habits instead, because it seems to be bad these days to say anything is bad.

Because I’m paying rent on this server, I might as well make use of my blog. So, for the sake of fiscal responsibility, I’m going to work on developing the habit of blogging more regularly. You can expect to see posts more frequently, but don’t expect them to be very meaty. I’m not quite ready to form the habit of keeping my efforts focused.

What unhealthy habits would you like to break? What healthy habits have you formed after much effort? Do you find it a continual struggle to maintain the healthy ones? What habits enable you to fly?

In order to encourage myself to keep up with this blog, I’ll provide my own answers to those questions in my next post. But if you’re willing to share  your thoughts in the comments, I’d be happy to hear them!

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The Theory of Everything

I’m not sure why, but it’s like pulling teeth to get me to update my blog.

Which reminds me… I had a bit of a dental drama last month, which finally resolved with my having a tooth extracted — a back molar, so I don’t have a visible gap. Whether I eventually get an implant, I haven’t decided. For now, the pain is gone, and I’m happy with the situation. But the best part is, I’ll spare you all the gory details — which I’m sure you appreciate!

Now I’ve gone and lost my train of thought… oh, yes. Updating my blog. I’ve been wanting to share this for a while now, but am just now sitting myself down and sternly commanding that I may not get up until I’ve written a post about it.

Okay, so, a couple of months ago, I read Who Made God? Searching For a Theory of Everything, a surprisingly readable book written by the very-brainy Dr. Edgar Andrews (whose biography on the back cover lists no less than six degrees following his name, some of which I’ve never heard of before: BSc, PhD, DSc, FinstP, FIMMM, CEng, and CPhys). He’s no dummy, in other words.

In terms that I could kind of mostly understand, almost, he told of scientists’ dream “to develop a ‘theory of everything’ — a scientific theory that will encompass all the workings of the physical universe in a single self-consistent formulation.” (His words, page 12.) Just when science seems to have found it, they discover something new that doesn’t fit, so then they have to come up with another theory of how all the scientific disciplines work together.

He also notes that there are a number of non-material entities as well, the existence of which we all accept despite lack of physical evidences (love, beauty, faith, justice, etc.); and it would be nice if these, too, could be included into this “theory of everything,” so we can see how all things that exist, in whatever form, have one origin and work together in perfect harmony.

I’m not sure how many scientists share that desire, because I don’t know that many scientists. Usually, I think they’re more concerned with how every material thing works; many might be content with merely enjoying love and friendship and beauty without worrying about how all that meshes with physics and biochemistry.

In any case, I read that book a while back — long before my tooth troubles. Then a couple of weeks ago, I read another one that also mentioned this Theory of Everything: a short nonfiction, The Kingdom of Speech, by novelist Tom Wolfe (author of more than a dozen books, including Bonfire of the Vanities, The Right Stuff, and A Man in Full).

It might seem odd that a successful novelist would suddenly write a nonfiction book, but as I understand it, he started out as a journalist, so I guess it’s not that much of a stretch. And, it makes sense that Wolfe’s wordsmithing career may have given him a fascination with words and language. What he’s turned out here is a snarky and enjoyable history of the theory of evolution in general and the evolution of language in particular.

Wolfe gives numerous reasons why language cannot possibly have evolved, Darwin-stylereasons I won’t list here, but if you’re interested, read the book. In sum, he quotes a scholarly, 10,000-word paper published in 2014 by eight brilliant scientists, led by renowned linguist and evolutionist Noam Chomsky, called “The Mystery of Language Evolution.” In that paper, these eminent scholars declared that, after extensive research, they were able to find “essentially no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved.” (Quoted on page 156.)

Wolfe states there is only one logical conclusion to which we can come on the subject: language is not an evolved trait, but is an artifact (something man created). Not only that, but it was mankind’s first artifact, and the one that has enabled all others thereafter.

Interesting theory. And who am I to argue with someone as educated and intelligent as Tom Wolfe? I won’t argue, but I will submit that there is another possibility that he’s overlooked — one that I, personally, find more likely, and one that fits not merely the physical evidence, but the scriptural as well.

Think about this:

  1. Man was created in God’s own image, Genesis 1:26-27.
  2. God created all things with words. (“Let there be light,” Genesis 1:3, and so on.)
  3. One Person of the triune God is “the Word,” John 1:1-3.

I firmly believe that each of those statements sheds light on far more than language development; there are depths to all three not touched on in this discussion. But, isn’t it possible —isn’t it probable — that language is neither a trait carried over from some supposed evolutionary ancestor, nor an artifact that early man came up with, but rather, one aspect of God’s “image” that He gave us from the beginning?

From God’s mouth to ours, Genesis 2:7

I think we should look at all the evidence, don’t you?

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An Unexpected Turn

I returned Sunday evening from the ACFW Conference in Dallas, where I had a wonderful time, as always. I got to hang out with some of my writer friends, met some new people, and learned a number of practical things about indie publishing (which was one of my primary goals). None of that was unexpected.

Just before I left, I published the first three books in the Gateway to Gannah series through IngramSpark. I just now checked on Booktopia, which is Australia’s largest online bookseller, and all three are available there. Or at least, they will be after the release date of October 1. At present, the covers don’t show up—not sure why that is—but you can read the blurbs and other information about the books, and you can also preorder them prior to their official release.

A day or two ago, I completed the process for the fourth book in the series, The Last Toqeph, so it should be available on Booktopia soon. I think it takes about a week.

Here are the links for the first three:

The Story in the Stars
Words in the Wind
Ransom in the Rock

I also found them on the Book Depository site, with Words in the Wind and Ransom in the Rock both 10% off until the release date of October 1. So if you’re in Australia and would like to order them in print, now’s the time to do it! (They’ve always been available on Amazon.com.au in ebook, if that’s the format you prefer.)

And speaking of Australia… yeah. That’s the turn of events I mentioned before. Turns out I’m not going after all. It’s simply not working out the way we’d planned.

Though I’m disappointed, there’s no question it was the right decision to cancel, and I’m good with it. I’ll just try not to think too much about what I’ll be missing…

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to October here in Ohio. We’ve been having severely summerlike temperatures lately, and it will be delightful when it cools off and starts acting like fall!

I hope to get to my son and daughter-in-law’s house to make some applesauce in a couple of weeks, as she’s champing at the bit to dive into that project. And I have some other fun things in mind to do hereabouts as well.


But if I post any pictures from Tasmania, they’ll have to come from some source other than my own camera.

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If Practice Makes Perfect…

…how long do we have to practice before we get it down pat?

Here’s the story:

Quite some time ago, I thought it would be fun to send my Tasmanian friend a copy of The Story in the Stars. Rather than paying to ship it from here in the US, I figured I’d just order it from Amazon.au and have them send it directly to her. Simple, right? Well, imagine my surprise to discover that in Australia, my books are only available on Kindle, not in print.

Turns out CreateSpace has no printing facilities in that part of the world. To have it printed elsewhere and shipped there would be cost-prohibitive, so they don’t offer their print titles in Australia.

This caused me considerable consternation. When we discussed the possibility of helping my friend self-publish her book, we were talking about doing it through CreateSpace. However, it would make no sense to publish on a platform that doesn’t have the ability to print books in the country where she lives.

After making some inquiries, I learned that IngramSpark does have printing facilities in Australia. As I looked into it further, I decided that of all the various self-publishing options out there, that seems to be the best for our situation.

So, once I finished the manuscript for the JS Freeman project and while waiting for the covers to be completed, I decided to do a practice run (or four) with IngramSpark by publishing the Gannah series with them.

Starting with The Story in the Stars, I reviewed the CreateSpace manuscript, looking for errors and little things I wanted to tweak. I assigned it an ASIN and reformatted it for IngramSpark. I created a bar code for the cover and inserted it in the appropriate place. I uploaded the whole thing, it was accepted, and I received an electronic proof.

I didn’t look at the e-proof very closely, though, because I preferred to review it in print. So I ordered a print proof. It didn’t come… it didn’t come… it didn’t come… Finally I looked to see what the hold-up was and discovered I hadn’t completed the process of ordering it. Ah, that explained it… So I ordered a copy of the print proof and did it right, and when it finally arrived, I went through it with a fine-toothed comb.

My description of all this sounds pretty cut-and-dried, but it’s not. I’m not very techy. Through all the process, I ran into various complications, confusions, and frustrations. And I was very glad I’d ordered a print proof, because I found a number of rather substantial things I wanted to change.

Which I did. And then I uploaded the new-and-improved manuscript, only to discover that the cover needs to be changed, because the spine width was no longer sufficient for the number of pages. Argh!

I contacted the cover designer and asked if he’d be able to make that change for me—and while he’s at it, could he add the Gannah’s Gate logo? (That’s the name of the publishing company I established for these purposes.) Sure, he says, no problem – except he couldn’t use the logo in any of the formats I provided him.

Back back and forth with the company that designed the logo – finally got that wrinkle ironed out. But while we’re doing the cover for Stars, I’d better see how many pages the new-and-improved manuscripts will be for the other books in the series, so I can get all the covers appropriately revised. That meant going through each of the other three books carefully and making revisions and adaptations for the IngramSpark platform, then giving the cover designer the page count and spine width requirements for each.

At last, I think all that’s completed, and I think I’m ready to begin the uploading process, followed by examining the proofs, and then taking the plunge and making them available on IngramSpark.

Every step of the way, I feel like I shouldn’t have to struggle with it so much. I’ve self-published books before, right? I’ve done formatting before. I shouldn’t have to work up such a sweat over it. But yet, I do.

I hope by the time I’m ready to go through all this over again with the JS Freeman series (which I plan to do on both IngramSpark and CreateSpace), and eventually my friend’s book, I’ll be more comfortable with it.

They say practice makes perfect, and I’m practicing! I really am! But I don’t anticipate the end result to be perfection. Only God is perfect. I’m just shooting for acceptable.

I’ll keep you apprised as to developments.

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We’re nearing the end of summer when the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are cooling just a bit, and the kids are going back to school.

That last item doesn’t affect me personally, as I have no school-age kids. But my oldest daughter is a college instructor, and my second daughter has five young’uns in school. And, of course, this is the time of year to stock up on office/school supplies, because they’re on sale everywhere! I always feel drawn to look at them even though I don’t need anything.

In an e-conversation with said eldest last week, I commented that the smell of fresh asphalt is, to me, the fragrance of the first day of school, as I associate it with the freshly resurfaced playground at my old elementary school. I used to like school in those days. I outgrew it, but early on, the first day of school was fun and exciting, so even today, the scent of fresh blacktop makes me smile.

Living in a temperate region as I do, I enjoy four seasons each year. And when I say “enjoy,” that’s exactly what I mean; all four are my favorites. There are some aspects of each that I love and some parts I’m less thrilled with. But before I’m tired of one season, the next moves in to take its place, so I sometimes say my favorite season of the year is one we’re just moving into.

Grandparenthood is a WONDERFUL season!

Life, too, has various seasons. In a way, these tend to be more of a progression than a cycle, because you only experience one fresh spring in your life, one prime of summer, one lovely autumn, and one final winter. But life offers other seasons too, which do repeat: seasons of challenge, of achievement, of rest, and preparation for the next round of challenges.

I entered a new season earlier this year, but I wasn’t sure what it was at first. Eventually I decided it must be a time of preparation. I don’t know what I’m preparing for, but in the last few months, I’ve felt compelled to spend more time in prayer and Bible study than ever before, so I figure there must be a reason for it.

I’ve also been reading a very interesting book that my friend in Tasmania recommended: Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge. Though I’ve been working my way through it for months now, I’m only halfway through, because I read a chapter and then contemplate it for some time before moving on.

Chapter 17 is “The Secret of Retreats,” and as I contemplated that topic some time back, I decided this season of my life must be a retreat of sorts. Though I’m not totally isolated, I’m home alone a good bit (which I love, by the way!), and being in an apartment, my housework is limited. Most mornings, therefore, I spend a few hours “in retreat” with the Lord, and it’s a delight.

But this time next month, I’ll have begun my season of traveling. First comes the ACFW conference in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20 – 24. Then I’ll leave again on the 30th for a three-week trip to Tasmania. I mentioned all this in my last blog post over a month ago, but the countdown is still ticking—and I’m still trying not to get so excited that I can’t think straight!

I’ll leave here at the beginning of autumn and visit the other side of the world where it will be spring. When I return home, all the leaves will have fallen, and everything will be dreary and brown and cold and damp. I’ll feel like I’ve been on a different planet. Sometimes it’s difficult to adjust to the changing seasons–especially when they change so abruptly.

I plan to post regularly during my travels because I’ll have plenty to talk about! In the meantime, though, I want to get in the habit of posting a little more often, so neither you my readers, nor I, go into shock at the sudden change. In order to do that, though, I’ll have to come up with some topics to write about. Hmm…

I’m not good at thinking. Any suggestions?

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