I had meant to write up this entry last night, on New Year's Eve, but we had a baby goat emergency that occupied a good part of the evening, and by the time I got the house settled and sat down at the PC for a bit, I was so tired I don't think a blog post would have turned out coherent, much less something people would actually want to read. (Said baby goat isn't doing very well; we did our best but I don't think she's gonna make it!) It's customary at the end of the year to reflect on the achievements of the previous year and set goals for the year ahead. 2018 was an interesting year in my life, with a lot of positive developments towards my goal of becoming a successful novelist, as well as an interesting year in my professional life as an educator.
Last year, at this time, I was a bi-vocational pastor struggling to maintain a small rural church and help it grow, working as a full time history teacher at Greenville Christian School, as well as teaching one night a week at the local community college, raising goats, sharing with my family the care of my 89 year old mother-in-law, and trying to launch a career as a novelist. In short, I was juggling way too many balls all at once, and trying to keep them all in the air was affecting my health. I weighed 280 pounds, my blood pressure was creeping up, and I was more irritable than usual.
Something had to go, and after a great deal of prayer and soul-searching, I made the decision to resign from my responsibilities at the church. I was much more of a preacher than a pastor anyway, and they deserved someone who could devote more time to them than I could. So on the last Sunday of April, 2018, I stepped down as pastor. My wife and I began a new stage in life as professional church-hoppers, and we've had the joy of visiting over 20 different churches since April. Several of them have invited me to share my testimony and talk about my books, something I have greatly enjoyed.
On the writing front, it's been a very exciting year. May saw my fifth novel, THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY, released. I love this story a great deal and it's been fun getting out and sharing it with the public. My Amazon sales haven't been what I'd hoped, but it's topped all my other titles at most of my book signings this year, and I sold out my initial order of 150 copies within a few months. Readers have been overwhelmingly positive in their reviews, and let me say right now, if you haven't read this story yet, you are missing a real treat!
But there were several other exciting developments in my writing career during 2018. In January I met a professional publicist who volunteered to design and print some very professional brochures for me; before all was said and done, Dan had also set up a brand new website for me, with links to order all my books directly from my publisher, a page to list coming events, and a nice bio contributed by my long time friend and beta reader, Ellie R. of Ohio. Then in July, I met up with local filmmaker Holly Rice, who began collaborating with me on a screenplay for THE TESTIMONIUM and also set up my YouTube Channel, which premiered in August and has now posted eight episodes with a ninth scheduled to release this week.
Book signings are an exciting and fun part of any author's schedule, and 2018 was full of them! I branched out in several new directions this year, and did signing events in Austin, Fort Worth, and Houston, as well as multiple events in my native Dallas/Fort Worth area. I was excited to see a new bookstore open in my hometown of Greenville - a small shop known as The Wind, The Willow. The owner, Mary Grace Rodriguez, has been kind enough to host me several times, and I know I will be making return visits this year.
One positive step my wife and I took together was a decision to lose weight. In June we started a new diet called Whole 30, and by Thanksgiving Day I had lost a total of 48 pounds and she had dropped nearly 30! The holidays have put a little of that back on, but both of us are committed to losing more weight this coming year - my goal is another 20 pounds, and hers is another 15. We feel better, look better, and my blood pressure was back down to 120/66 the last time I measured it. The other day I was buying dog food and picked up a 40 pound sack, and as I lifted it into the buggy, I thought "Wow! This is how much weight I have lost this year!"
Professionally, it's been a fun year of teaching. This year's senior class are a wonderful bunch, and to my delight and astonishment they have invited me to join them on their senior trip this year. We'll be going to Washington DC, where I haven't been since I was 12, and then to New York City, where I have never been (except for an 8 hour layover in 2016 on my way to Israel, when I never got to leave the airport). GCS is a great place to teach, and I have a wonderful, crazy, eclectic bunch of teenagers who keep me on my toes and keep me smiling most of the time!
At home, life is still busy; we still care for my mother in law and Patty and I both still teach full time. My daughters are both engaged and I have a feeling that there may be some wedding bells sounding in our near future, maybe this summer. We are facing the prospect of retirement - scary thought, I still feel like I am way too young and WAAAAAYYYYYYY too broke to even think about retiring - sometime in the next decade or so. What does the future hold? Hard to say. But 2019 is here, and the future is now!
Say, if you'd like to help me meet that goal of retiring in the next decade, there's nothing that would help more than your buying my books! If you've already read them, buy a copy to give to a friend, or to donate to your local library or church or nursing home. If you haven't read them yet - well, you're in for a real treat! Here is the link: