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 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 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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The Tassie Story

After my last post, I was asked if my upcoming trip to Tasmania will be for a writers conference, to visit a fellow writer, or what. The short answer: To visit a fellow writer. But that’s not quite accurate. So in this post, I’ll answer a bit more completely.

How many years has it been since I was the contest coordinator for the Novel Rocket blog? I don’t remember, exactly, but that’s where this story starts. I believe it was the third year of Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad contest that we added a nonfiction category, by way of experiment. We didn’t have many entries, and we never included nonfiction again. We only tried it out the one year.

One of the submissions in that category was not as polished as some, but the content was amazing, the sort of thing that makes you literally sit up and take notice, gasping, “Oh, my!” The writer’s story was riveting and had a broad appeal—which makes it marketable. I was one of the two judges, and neither of us had any doubt which of the entries should be the winner.

As contest coordinator, I contacted the contest participants to let them know if they won and to give them the judges’ critiques. When I contacted the winner of our nonfiction category, I told her that both judges thought the book had wonderful potential but was a little rough, and I recommended she try to find an editor or someone knowledgeable who could help her smooth it out.

She responded that she would love to do that, but didn’t really know anyone. However, she particularly liked the critique by one of the contest judges, and she asked if I would inquire if that judge would be interested in working with her.

That judge just happened to be me, and so I answered yes. I’d love to help you with this book!

And speaking of “just happened,” let me tell you about how she “just happened” to enter the contest in the first place:

She is the first to tell you, she is not a writer, but for quite some time, the Lord had been compelling her to write about her experiences. Originally it was all in journal form, but eventually she began to compile some of her journal entries into a book. It was a struggle for her, though, and she sought help along the way.

At one time she had contacted a writer in the US, but nothing had been decided between them as to whether or not, or how, they would work together on the project. She tells me that one evening, feeling compelled to get moving on it, she tried to find this writer’s email address but couldn’t locate it, so she did an online search for her.

Among the search results was an interview this writer had done on the Novel Rocket blog. My friend read the post but didn’t see anything there about how to contact her (which is surprising, because the Novel Rocket guests always provided that kind of information), and was just about to leave the page when the Contest tab at the top caught her eye.

Contest? What kind of contest? She clicked on it. Oh, look, there’s a nonfiction category! Let me see if I qualify. Oh, yes, my book sounds like just what they’re looking for. Now, how do I enter? Hmmm… Oh, my! The submission deadline is midnight tomorrow! So she hurried up and submitted her entry.

And that’s how this dear lady Down Under “just happened” to meet up with little old me on the other side of the planet. In the several years since all that transpired, we’ve been in frequent contact, both through emails and Skype. We’ve often talked about getting together in person, and now at last, everything’s coming together for that to happen.

And, in case you wondered, we’re still working on that book of hers. At a writer’s conference last summer, I spoke with some editors and agents about it, and they all suggested that it might be too short. Why? Because from a publisher’s point of view, it costs as much to produce a short book as it does a long one. You’ve got to pay editors, designers and formatters, etc., and you have all the same overhead as you do for a larger book. Yes, there’s a little less paper and ink in a short book, but overall, the costs amount to almost the same. However, consumers don’t like to pay the same amount for a skinny book as a thicker one. If a publisher prices a short book lower, they’ll lose money even if it sells; but if they price it higher, people won’t buy it. So publishers tend to be leery of contracting for short books.

When I told my friend that, she said she could easily expand it. And that’s what she’s been working on since then. I haven’t seen any of the additions yet, but our plan is get it all put together, polished up, and ready to publish—which I will then undertake to do on her behalf.

But that’s another story. For today, I just wanted to answer the question as to who I’ll be visiting.

So now you know!

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