Saturday, September 26, 2009

A New Respect for Chipmunks

People climb mountains for many reasons. I doubt among them is the idea of being humiliated by chipmunks.

Last week, after attending the ACFW Writer's Conference in Denver, my wife Cindi and I decided to stay on a few days to see the Rocky Mountains. Neither of us had ever been to Colorado, and who knows if we'd ever get another opportunity. We had the most remarkable time, but we also learned a few things about ourselves.

One of them is...we both prefer to take pictures of mountains from the valley, looking up; not from the mountaintop looking down. But we came to this realization only after making it to the top of a very high mountain (over 10,000 feet - see first picture). We didn't climb this mountain, mind you, we drove there. Other people who aren't afraid of being so high worked very hard to create a nice smooth road, so that other people could get to the top in the comfort of their cars. With the heat turned on, listening to music, drinking Starbucks lattes.

We started our journey (okay...our drive) both very excited at the prospect of the view we were about to experience. If it looks this beautiful from down here, what must it be like from way up there. I'll tell you what it's's terrifying.

We did fine for the first 8,500 feet. The road was nice. We both enjoyed looking out the window. Scenes worthy of an artist's brush around every curve. But then we rounded this one hairpin turn and the road seemed to narrow. We kept climbing up and up and up. Every turn was a hairpin turn. No railings. Just outside Cindi's window the pavement ended, a foot beyond that rocky cliffs and steep dropoffs.

Beckoning to us. Come, take your eyes off the road, for just a moment, and join us.

Are we enjoying the scene? No. I'm staring at one thing: the centerline of the road, holding the steering wheel with a white-knuckled grip; all the while trying to project strength and calm to my poor wife. Is she enjoying the scene. No, I look at her and she's leaning in away from the window, holding up her hands so that her eyes don't accidentally shift to the right and see the perils below.

Neither of us talk. Why would we, we are within inches of imminent doom. When will these stinking turns stop? When will this road finally end?

Finally, we reach the top. As I pull into the parking space, I push the brake pedal to the floor, so that the car doesn't sail off the edge into oblivion. How nice. They have provided restrooms. We both find the courage to venture out to use them. We need to use them.

It's freezing outside. The wind is roaring. It is no man's land. We decide we must at least spend a few moments taking in the view. Snap a picture or two to prove we had survived this moment. Standing several yards from the rocky ledge, we begin snapping the camera.

I look down and running about my feet, dancing up and down around this rocky ledge, I see chipmunks. A whole chipmunk family. Cute as can be. (see 2nd picture, click on it and he'll get real big). They are there with us at the very precipice of the mountain but, unlike us, they have no fear. They are as contented to be there as in any grassy field or shady tree. They were literally running and hopping right there at the edge, occasionally it seemed they were even playing little chipmunk games.

We stood amazed a moment more, snapped a few more pictures, then ran back to the car to get out of the cold. Both resolving that from now on, we will take our pictures in the valley below.

But now with a new, profound respect for these brave little creatures. There is the lion, and the bear, the elephant and the crocodile. But there is also...the chipmunk.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Check one more thing off my Bucket List

Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman were in a movie last year called The Bucket List (things they hoped to do before they "kicked the bucket").

Regarding my writing, I guess I've got a list like this. I'm getting a little nervous, though. Several of my items have been getting checked off in fairly rapid fashion. Obviously, one was to have a novel published. Check. Another was to have a novel published by a major publishing house. Check (same novel). A third was to have a novel published in hardback. Check (again, same novel).

On Sunday, as we prepared to leave Denver for the mountains, we stopped off at a local grocery store to pick up a few things. The half-n-half was way in the back (Cindi must have coffee and coffee must have half-n-half). I randomly picked an aisle to go down, must have been twenty. It was the magazine/book aisle. As I walked I was reminded of a bucket list thought: "Wouldn't it be cool someday to see one of my books in a grocery store like this?" I've only seen it in bookstores (which is still amazing), but I know grocery stores only carry a few books compared to the thousands in bookstores.

I was shocked (as you can see on my face) to find my book, right there on the shelf. They only had about 5 fiction titles mingled with a wide variety of subjects.

So kind of God to make this happen, somehow getting the book on a grocery store shelf all the way out here in Denver, and having me walk right past it (Cindi thinks her love of half-n-half should get some credit).

Updates from the ACFW Conference

I'm writing this, a little bit snowed in, at a cabin in Estes Park, Colorado. My wife and I stayed a few days after the conference, hoping to see the Rockies. Instead, we're here for their first snowfall of the September. But then, God's ways are always best. I'm actually getting to do something as a writer I've always dreamed of doing...writing in a mountain cabin surrounded by snow and breathtaking scenery.

We had the best time at the ACFW Conference. Learned a lot. Got to meet and chat with a number of people I've been emailing for the last year or so.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Had my first book signing (pic to the left). I was a little nervous at first, but things went smoothly. Actually got to sign quite a few.
  • Got to meet my agent, Karen Solem, for the first time. We've been emailing and phone calling for 2 years. She had just finished reading my 3rd novel, The Deepest Waters, and loved it. She can't wait to send it to the publisher.
  • Got to meet and chat with 2 author friends I've gotten to know this past year, Colleen Coble and Deborah Raney (click on their names to see their websites).
  • Cindi and I spent Friday evening touring downtown Denver with Julie Lessman, her husband and a number of other authors and spouses. Julie is another Revell author. Her novel won "Debut Novel of the Year" at the conference.
  • Went by the conference bookstore just as the conference ended. Only 1 copy of my book left. Several people at the conference came up to me and said they'd already started reading it there. One very kind lady told me she couldn't stop reading it and had already finished it before the conference was over.
The best part of it all...I got to experience all this with Cindi, my wife and friend for life.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

ACFW Writer's Conference in Denver

I'm writing this from Denver. My wife Cindi and I are attending the ACFW Writer's Conference between now and Sunday. We're staying at the Denver Marriot Tech Center Hotel (picture we took on a walk not thirty minutes ago). Meeting all kinds of writers, editors and agents. Many I've only chatted with by email over the last year or so. Tonight the main session will feature bestselling author Debbie MacComber (over 100 million books in print...hard to fathom). This is a very different slice of life for me, but I'm really enjoying it.

Hope to put some more pictures up with people in it over the next few days.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book Signings

I've confirmed 2 book signings in Florida and working on a third. Also working on confirming one in Fort Worth, TX in November. The first is at the Barnes & Noble at the Altamonte Mall near I-4 on October 17th, from 3-5pm (see the picture below). The second is also at a Barnes & Noble in my hometown of Daytona Beach across from the International Speedway (where they run the Daytona 500), on Saturday, Nov 7th, from 2-4pm. If the one in TX works out it would be either Nov 21st or 22nd.

I'll actually be doing my first book signing ever in Denver next week at the ACFW Writer's Conference. Over 500 writers are coming together and on the last day, they're having a huge book signing with about 75 authors involved.

I have never done any of this before, and I have no idea what to expect. I'm thinking of hiring 30-40 people at each location to come by the table, in staggered rotations of 2-3 minutes each.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Nice to be with a Good Publisher

Even though my book, The Unfinished Gift, came out "halfway" two weeks ago, this past week was the official release date (Sept 1st). I've been very happy, even impressed, with the amount of support my publisher has given the book. And there's much more to come. This week provided another example. The picture here is an email postcard they sent out to over 2,500 people they referred to as "friends of Revell."

They sent me an email version I could use. If anyone would like to send this as an email postcard to anyone, click HERE. This will take you to my website contact page. Send me an email and write: "Send me The Unfinished Gift postcard" in the Subject line. I'll forward you a copy.