Friday, June 26, 2015

Neat Moments From a Book Signing

Last Saturday I did a signing down in Waco, TX at the Hastings Store there.

I was scheduled to go from 1 to 5, but I drove down the night before (Waco's a little over two hours from me) to visit a friend who was in the hospital there, and so the next morning I went ahead and showed up when the book manager arrived at 10 AM, and by 11 AM everything was ready, so I sat down and started signing. After a slow start, I had a very successful day, selling 15 copies of THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE and 8 copies of THE TESTIMONIUM.  It is always fun to interact with people as they come into the store.  I had brought a few antiquities with me - a small Riker frame full of Roman coins, rings, and a bronze brooch I purchased not long ago in the shape of a legionary.  I also have an oil lamp that was dug in Jerusalem which dates to the first century.  Top that off with a dish of candy, and lots of folks will stop just to look at the props, and stay to check out your books!

   Favorite moments:  One older black gentleman in a suit and tie carefully looked at my titles, talked with me about my books, and then purchased a copy of each because he liked the idea of a Christian message presented in a work of fiction.  He said a little prayer for God to bless me with a good day as he moved on.
   Another fellow picked up a copy of REDEMPTION, looked at the title and the cover art, and said "I'll take it!" without ever flipping it over to read the back or asking me a single question about the story.  That's what good cover art can do for you!
   I always greet folks as they come in the door by saying "Good morning/afternoon.  Would you like to check out my new book while you are here?"  Over half the folks will simply say no and walk on, but one lady came back a few minutes later and told me:  "I am so sorry, I was in a hurry and did not mean to be so rude to you.  Would you please tell me what your books are about?"  I assured her she had not been rude at all, but we had a nice conversation about both my books and when it was done she bought a copy of THE TESTIMONIUM.  She was one of the nicest people I talked to all day!
   Another young woman came in with her boyfriend and asked me about the books.  When I described THE TESTIMONIUM as "a Biblical archeology thriller" she looked at him and said "I want this!"  She went on to explain how archeology is one of her passions in life.

   Overall, I have discovered a few simple things that make for a successful book signing. Here are my tips for all authors and aspiring authors:

   1.  Grow a thick skin.  The majority of people who walk through the door are not going to buy your book.
   2.  Be assertive!  Don't just sit there and smile and wait for people to talk to you.  Talk to them and hustle yourself and your works!
   3.  Great cover art really sells a book.  REDEMPTION's initial proposed cover art just didn't really pop, and my publisher and I went back and forth a couple of times over how it should look.  I was absolutely thrilled with the final result, and it definitely catches the eye and makes people want to see what the book is about.
   4.  Learn to summarize quickly.  People don't want a 15 minute lecture, they want a quick, simple explanation of your book.  Give just enough plot to make them want more!
   5.  Props and visual hooks work!  As a collector of antiquities, I always have some stuff I can bring to make the table more visually appealing, but even if you don't have a collection of stuff related to your book, buy a few things that might tie into the story and put them on your table.
   6.  People like candy.  If you give the little kids candy, it gives their mothers a couple of minutes to check out your book.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Author's Lament

It's just about a pound of paper and print,
With a brightly toned cover and a chunk of my soul in't.
It started as a thought that sprang into my head,
Amid so many ideas that I long gave up for dead.
This one struggled to be born, Swirling through my brain;
Then pouring out onto my screen, Ideas, words, sentences in train.
Each character so lovingly created Their lives unfolding like flowers,
Some to live, some to die, Some to discover their true powers.
Then finally, one autumn night, I typed two words - "the end."
And I shared my newborn novel with just a few close friends.
Their words emboldened me to take that next big step,
To find my self an agent who would offer me their help.
Agents, agents, everywhere, but none would rep my works.
Some gave me nice polite rejections. Others said nothing (jerks!)
Was there perhaps somewhere out there, a generous publishing firm,
That took unsolicited novels without demanding and expensive terms?
Yes! I finally found them!  A small company that liked my story;
Willing to front the money and effort to help me attain literary glory.
Then one day - how blessed I felt - I held it in my hands!
My first book truly seemed to glow, and made me want to do handstands.
The hardest part was done, I thought!  Now all that's left to do,
Is sit back and wait while critics swoon and I finally get my due.
Book signings - what fun they are!  Sitting and smiling at strangers;
"Would you like to see my new book?" And they scurry as if from awful danger!
"I don't read books!" The saddest words an author ever hears.
"This sounds cool! I'll take one!" Inside my head are happy cheers.
But I check my Amazon ranking - I'm in three millionth place!
Why don't they know?  Why don't they buy? I feel I have lost face.
But still I promote, I plug, I beg (some might say I pimp)
And now and then I sit and write until my hands are limp.
Authoring is an addiction, and hooked to it I am.
Fame and money would still be nice, but it's not about the glam.
It's about the story, the people, the adventure, the heart of every tale
And as long as you write to the very end, no novel truly fails.
So when you see me hinting - for about the hundredth time -
That I'd sure like to sell you a book, Go ahead and spend that dime!

(Or twenty.  Whatever!)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Self-Worship: An Epidemic of Deadly Theology

  I was reading in my Bible in preparation for next week's sermon, and was irresistibly drawn to this passage from I Timothy 3: "For men will be lovers of self, lovers of  money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power."
  I look around at American society today and see self enthroned in place of God everywhere I go.  Self-esteem is valued above actual accomplishment, profit is the greatest motivator,  rules were made for other people, not us!  No one watches what they say, self-control - especially with regard to sex - is a punchline rather than a virtue, and ultimately, the highest possible pursuit is to achieve the greatest pleasure rather than to do the greatest good.  People want the comfort of religion without having to meet God's requirements of righteousness.  Responsibility is eschewed in favor of "personal fulfillment," and if someone gets in the way of those things, then they are to be discarded because they are "holding you back."
   Thus we have a nation of children being raised by single mothers because their biological fathers got what they wanted - a moment of sexual pleasure - and are too busy now seeking it from someone else to worry about parenting the child they brought into the world.  Thus we are obsessed with the comings and goings of celebrities whose lifestyles, for the most part, are nothing but pure hedonism mixed with pop-culture political stances that are boringly predictable and largely anti-Scriptural.  Now we see a 65-year old father and husband abandon his responsibilities to his ex-spouses and children in order to pursue his dream of being surgically transformed into a synthetic woman, and hailed as a paragon of courage for doing so!
   Anyone who holds to Scriptural standards of human behavior, especially in the realm of sexuality, is almost uniformly condemned as a hateful, mean-spirited, puritanical bigot - no matter how lovingly they express their disapproval, no matter how many caveats they might add about the fallen nature of mankind and their own struggles with sin.  To disagree is to hate, to disapprove is to be a bigot.
  As for free speech?  Forget it.  College campuses nationwide have branded almost any opposition to the sacred causes of the Left as "hate speech" and those who refuse to be cowed into silence are frequently threatened with expulsion, or so bullied by the activists of whatever cause they dared question that they leave for their own safety.
   The worship of self holds so many dangers, theologically and psychologically, that it defies the limits of this blog to enumerate them. If there is nothing higher or better than ourselves, then we become our own God.  When we replace God with ourselves, we dictate our own rules. It's only a short stop from narcissism to pure sociopathy.  Worst of all, this generation of pleasure-seeking pink robots, programmed by Hollywood and liberal academia, will amuse themselves straight to the gates of hell if God's church doesn't do something to stop them.
   So what does all this mean?  For one thing, it demonstrates yet again the prophetic accuracy of God's word.  It's all unfolding exactly as Paul foretold it would.  It also shows how desperately our world today needs people - especially young men and women - to boldly stand up for Biblical truth in a culture that is being misinformed and misled spiritually at every turn.  Today's young Christians are a generation of Daniels, shining God's light in a world that does not want or appreciate them, but desperately needs them.

  Shine on, my young friends.  Shine on.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Whatever Happened To Disapproval?

I am very active on FB, and while I tend to lean to the conservative side of things, many of my friends and family members are much more socially and politically liberal than I am.  That's actually kind of cool - I enjoy being exposed to different ideas from all sides of the issues, and I love a good healthy debate.  However, during the flood of images and opinions about the whole Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner thing, something emerged that I have seen before, and it really bothers me.

   Our culture is perhaps more obsessed with sexual and gender issues than it ever has been before.  "Coming out" as a closet homosexual, transsexual, bisexual, or whatever other deviation from the norm that was once kept concealed from the world is suddenly hailed as the highest form or courage there is. I have a bit of an issue with that.

 I'm  51 years old.  I come from the home town of the legendary Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of World War II (Never heard of him?  Google his name and read about some of the incredible valor that this son of Hunt County displayed on the battlefield.  You will be amazed! But I digress.).  Another of our hometown heroes was Monty Stratton, a professional baseball player who lost his leg in a hunting accident and came back and pitched in the major leagues on a wooden leg back in the 1940's.  To me, those two men showed true courage - along with traditional heroes like George Washington, who fought an 8 year war against the most powerful nation on earth and accepted no salary for doing so; and Abraham Lincoln, who came from the humblest of origins and wound up saving the American union and crushing slavery in the process.  These were men of courage, and they are my heroes. 

  As for the current social trends of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, hailing those who publicly reveal their sexual preferences in the media as paragons of virtue, and middle aged men who have had wives, fathered children, and lived as males for decades and then suddenly decide to have themselves surgically altered into another gender - well, I disapprove.
   And that is all.  I don't hate anyone, I don't want to kill anyone, I don't want to see gays lynched or Bruce Jenner's Olympic medals revoked (that's just plain silly!).  But I don't really approve of men having their genitalia removed, I don't approve of redefining the world's oldest and most successful social institution, and I don't approve of sexual deviancies being paraded in public every time you turn on the TV.

  The thing is, because I disapprove of some of these things, there are many who would label me as either A.  a "hatemonger", or B. "intolerant."  As I said, I don't hate anyone (OK, I'll admit, those fanatical jihadists that call themselves ISIS really do their best to make me hate them, but I still try not to hate them as individuals, even though I do hate their bloodthirsty creed and horrible actions).  Many of my best friends and some of my relatives are the biggest cheerleaders for Bruce Jenner's transformation and for the political cause of "marriage equality", and while we have some lively discussions about these things, they are my friends.  They are my family.  I love them.  Equating disapproval with hatred is perhaps the biggest problem I have with many of the younger generation today.  You don't have to approve someone's decisions in order to love them and respect them as a fellow child of God.

  Now, as for "intolerant" - the definition of "tolerance" is to put up with something you don't necessarily like or approve.  To be intolerant is to refuse to do so.  I put up with all kinds of things I disapprove of.  I have friends who are gay, friends who have radically different social and political views from me.  I tolerate them all.  The problem is that, for many activists, whether it be on LGBT issues or political issues or global warming or whatever, when they say "tolerance" what they really mean is approval.  To them, if you do not give them fist-pumping, high-fiving approval of their words, actions, and political sentiments, then you are no better than the Klansmen who murdered civil rights workers and bombed black churches in the South in the 1960's.  Equating tolerance with approval, and disapproval with intolerance, is the second great error I see spread across social media.

   Disapproval is just that.  It means that I do not personally find an action or thought process to be commendable or worthy of enthusiasm.  Disagreement is just that.  It means that my opinion, on the issue at hand, is different from yours.  The right to disapprove and disagree is one of the most sacred tenets of a free society, and no one should be falsely labeled as an apostle of hate for exercising them.