Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Deepest Waters or...what?

"What's in a name?" Juliet asks Romeo. She then answers: "A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet" (slight paraphrase). A fancy way of saying something is what it is, no matter what you call it.

Parents usually spend a great deal of time picking out a name for their child, as well they should. It's something that will stay with them their entire lives. I know a friend who chose "Danger" as his son's middle name. He said he always wanted to say, "Danger is my middle name."

All right then.

My sister Anne named one of her sons "Samuel." Not Sam or Sammy, she told us. We're going to call him Samuel. And she insisted we keep calling him Samuel all his life. Because that was his name. Now, I don't know how long that lasted, but we've all been calling him Sam for as long as I can remember (and so has she).

Even though my second book, The Homecoming, won't be out until June, my publisher recently sent me a lengthy questionaire all about what I want to call my third book and why. That book won't be out until the spring of 2011. Things move very slowly in publishing.

I'm going to fill out this questionnaire all the way through and then turn it in, but it didn't help with my first or my second books. Both of those titles got changed in the process. I really like the name change for book one, The Unfinished Gift. Actually much better than what I'd come up with. But I'm still warming up to the name we picked for the sequel, The Homecoming. It really fits, don't get me wrong. It even connects on several different levels.

But I still like the name I came up with better. I called it, "Meet Me At The Eagle." When you read it, you'll understand why. It also fits and connects on several different levels. Problem is, no one except people who live in Philadelphia would have any idea what this means. I'm told when you become a major bestselling author you can pretty much call a book whatever you please.

We'll see.

I've titled my 3rd book, "The Deepest Waters," and I'm really hoping it sticks. The story takes place in 1857. It's about a young couple separated during a fierce hurricane by a shipwreck on their honeymoon. The title really fits and connects on several different levels. :) I'm going to fill out this questionnaire here and make my best case. Will I succeed with Book Number 3? Will it wind up being called "The Deepest Waters"?

We'll see.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bestseller on Kindle and Crossings Book Club

Guess the "brief shining moment" I mentioned back on Monday has turned into a few good days. I just checked Amazon again and The Unfinished Gift was back at #4 on Kindle's Christmas bestsellers list. Not sure what accounts for this "Kindle surge," but it actually surpassed the hardcover edition, showing up at #14 on the Christmas bestsellers list for all books: hardcover, paper & Ebooks (the hardcover version was back at #30).

The connection between my book and Richard Paul Evans' novel, The Christmas List, got a little boost too. My book moved up as the 3rd book other customers also bought after buying his (#1, #2 and #4 are other books by him).

One last piece of encouraging news (for an author, these are like wonderful little Christmas presents I get to open early). Some of you may recall a post a few months ago, about my novel being picked up by Crossings, the largest Christian book club in the country. I just found out my book is #14 on their Christian fiction bestseller list.

Again...thanks to any and all of you who have bought copies of the book (a special "hats off" to any Kindle buyers).

Merry Christmas to you all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Unfinished Gift # 4 on Kindle!

I know this isn't the New York Times bestseller list, but The Unfinished Gift reached a pretty high place for a brief shining moment this week. A few days ago it was #4 on Amazon's Kindle sales ranking for Christmas books.

It was quite a sight to see it climb up the ranking this way. When I saw it, I clicked on the list to see who else was there and there was my book at #4. Ranking at #1 was Glenn Beck's book, then Mike Huckabee's book, then William Bennett's Christmas book (3 major conservatives on TV all the time). But there was my novel right behind their's at #4.

As of this writing, it's at #6. Two of Melody Carlson's Christmas novels have pulled in front. But this is good news for my publisher also. Both of these novels are also published by Revell.

The hardcover edition of The Unfinished Gift is also doing well, but has a lot more competition since only a small percentage of published books are also available on Kindle. Right now it's at #19 for Christmas books. It's been as high as #13 but seems to bump back and forth between #15-30.

One very encouraging development has been the connection between my book and bestselling author Richard Paul Evan's Christmas book, The Christmas List. My editors at Revell feel my writing and storytelling style resemble his. He has a huge readership. His first novel, The Christmas Box, has sold over 8 million copies and, since then, he's had 12 consecutive New York Times bestsellers. The hope would be that some of his readers would discover my books and that, of course, would be a very good thing.

There's some evidence this may be happening, at least on Amazon. If you click on his book and scroll down to "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought," my book is the 4th book over in his list.

I have no idea what all this means in terms of overall book sales, but I'm thanking God for seeing this kind of progress in such a short time. It's far more than I expected. As I thank God, I also want to thank all of you who've bought a copy (and so many who've emailed me saying they're buying extra copies as gifts for friends and loves ones).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Unfinished Gift recommended by Charisma

My publisher sent me an email today with some exciting news. Charisma magazine selected The Unfinished Gift as one of 3 Christmas fiction books they recommended in their December Christmas issue. Charisma is a large evangelical publication that primarily reaches charismatic and pentecostal churches. It has over a half-million readers.

Beside a picture of the book's cover, here's what they said:

"The simplest gifts mean the most. Ian and Patrick Collins are grandfather and grandson struggling to cope with loss. Young Patrick wants only three things for Christmas: the Army to find his dad; to leave his granddad's house; the wooden soldier in Ian's attic. A boy's prayers, some letters and an unfinished carved soldier help bring forgiveness and reconciliation to a family desperately in need of both."

What a great surprise (if you get the magazine, it's on page 49).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Seeing "Better Days" as Christmas Gifts from God

It's the most wonderful time of the year, right? That message rings out every Christmas season from a number of directions. There's a sense we should pretty much be smiling from Thanksgiving all the way through Christmas day.

But in reality, Christmas isn't the same experience for everyone, not even the same experience for the same person year to year. Some may be having their best Christmas ever right now, while others...not so much. To be frank, my wife and I are having a weird year. Not a bad year, just different. In some ways, not as good as in years past. Some things are the same. The decorations and Christmas tree, the Christmas music, the egg nog. Cindi and I watching our favorite Christmas movies together.

But there was a time when both our families lived in the same town, back when our kids were little. Christmas back then was almost maddening (in a good way). Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day had to be carefully managed to keep all the calendar demands from crashing. And besides the extended family traditions, we had our little ones to share it with.

But now...most of my wife's family lives in Texas. Many on my side of the family either live out of state or out of town. Even our daughter lives in Texas. For the first time she wasn't here to decorate our tree and she won't be able to make it home for Christmas either. My son is engaged so we're splitting our time with him and his fiance's family.

On the upside, I still have Cindi, and we are the best of friends. There's been a ton of exciting things going on with my books. But still I find myself tempted to grumble, even to feel a little depressed as I think back to how full our holiday moments used to be. Recently, I spent some time looking at old pictures of Christmases past. Cindi and I started chatting about some of the wonderful things we remembered, stirred by the pictures.

In a matter of moments, I was happy. It lasted a good long while. But then I found myself remembering the present situation and started thinking about how it's not the same anymore (will it ever be again, etc.), and the sadness began to return. But before I slipped too far, I thought of this verse: "Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits" (Psalm 103:2).

I thought of Phil. 4:8 where Paul, stuck in a Roman prison (way worse than my lot) says this: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Paul is not depressed, the whole letter to the Philippians carries a tone of pronounced joy. And it dawned on me...that these past Christmases, and all the wonderful memories that go with them, may be in the past but they really did happen. God gave us those moments to cherish.

Like Christmas presents from Him.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with thinking back and deriving all sorts of joy and blessing as we recount His benefits from Christmases past. It's actually something God encourages us to do. It's more than the "power of positive thinking." It's thinking about things God has really done, moments in time God has given us that really deserve more than just a passing glance.

What I found in my heart as I yielded to this new way of thinking was mostly gratitude for all the times we've had. And it wasn't hard for me to move from there to start praying about the present. I want to begin looking forward to whatever new things God has for us in these new and different days ahead.

And as often as I please, I'm going to start taking out God's Christmas gifts from the past, spend some time thinking about them, and let the joy of the Lord stir in my heart once again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Blog Tour Ends

As the weekend wrapped up, the Christmas Blog Tour came to an end. Earlier last week, I was able to keep up, even posting a sampling of blog sites each day. But as the week ended, I got a little swamped. There were 77 bloggers who featured The Unfinished Gift on their blogs throughout the United States and Canada. Revell told me it was their most successful blog tour so far.

Some did interviews, most reviewed the book and posted excerpts of the early chapters, some even previewed the sequel. I tried to visit as many as I could. It was a humbling experience. So many positive responses, far stronger than I anticipated.

Here are a few of the more profound remarks:
  • "Powerful. Amazing. Fantastic. That's how I would describe this book!" - Buukluvr81
  • "I'm not in the habit of giving books 'stars' on my blog, but if I did, and 5 stars was the highest, then 5 stars it would get." - Thoughts of a Sojourner
  • "Wonderful, wonderful read...just make sure you have a box of tissues close while reading this inspiring novel! - Frugal Plus
  • "It is beautifully written, woven together with all the colors of human emotion. I cannot wait until the sequel comes out!" - Jocelyn at Faith Deployed
  • "This is a book to read yourself, and then buy copies for all your friends and family, a book that will go on your keeper shelf to read next year. And the year following. And the year following that." - Laura at Lighthouse Academy
I wish I could post a little piece from them all. My heartfelt thanks to all who participated and for Donna Hausler at Revell for all her hard work putting this together.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Wintry Word of Encouragement

A friend in Orlando, Virginia Knowles, knowing my love of the writings of Charles Spurgeon, emailed me this very timely and encouraging quote. I had to share it.

“Thou hast made summer and winter.” ~ Psalm 74:17

"My soul begin this wintry month with our God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind us that He keeps His covenant with day and night, and tend to assure us that He will also keep that glorious covenant which He has made with us in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.

"Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon you just now it will be very painful: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord
makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scatters the hard frost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casts forth His ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore we cannot murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a stop to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

“How we prize the fireplace just now! How pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to Him, and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises, and go forth to labors which befit the season, for it would be sad to be as the sluggard who will not plow by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.”

~ Charles H. Spurgeon

Thank you, Virginia. BTW, she writes a wonderful email newsletter to hundreds of families across the country, filled with insights, helpful tools, humor...even great ways to cut costs and save money. Check out her blog by clicking here.

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blog Tour Sites for Tues & Wed

For those who'd like to see some more of the bloggers writing about The Unfinished Gift, here's a few more (and it really is just a random sampling...there have been 24 in just the first few days):

Edgy Inspirational Author's Blog - Click here.

A Peek at My Bookshelf Blog - Click here.

A Mom After God's Heart Blog - Click here.

Faith Deployed Blog - Click here.

Word Vessel Blog - Click here.

Cara's Musings Blog - Click here.

There are so many others besides these. I'm really grateful for all this effort others are doing to get the word out about the book. Hard to fathom sometimes. I'll list a few more as the week unfolds.

If you like to read Christian fiction, you might want to bookmark some of these blogs or become a "follower." Most of them review books on a regular basis.