Posts made in July, 2013

Promoting Another’s Book: A Case Study

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in Writer's Diary

I’ve had the great fortune of working on the launch team for Craig Gross’ new book OpenThe process has been incredibly educational, and my working with other readers as well as marketing personnel from the book’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, has been rewarding, particularly in considering the virtues of marketing another author’s work and getting beyond myself (for a change). 

As a burgeoning author, I become terribly self-involved, and when I say “terribly” I do not do so with any hyperbole. My tendencies toward self-involvement and self-aggrandizement during my own process have been horrible–if not in my word and deed certainly through my thoughts. Working for Craig’s team in this instance has been enormously valuable to me in that the process has forced me outside of myself. While I have my criticisms of his book, I am vested in its success as one who supports its purpose and message: that we all need accountability (not just those of this with this or that sin).  

Promoting the book has required setting aside specific, focused time for the benefit of another’s exposure rather than my own, which has been a considerable task given my limited time after beginning my new job last week. Giving up time is a hard thing for a writer to do. We have so many tasks already before us with our own marketing, generating content, and revising on our way towards publication. Working on another’s book pops that bubble if only for an hour or two on a regular basis, and that is very worthwhile. And rewarding. And empowering. Despite my own failures in Stronghold’s launch, I know that Open’s release will prove successful, for it is not the project of a lone writer but of a group of people coordinating their efforts that a message might be spread. Being a part of that is exciting for me. 

And frankly, it’s been immensely humbling to be part of a book launch that will likely have far more readership and benefit to the earth than mine ever will. I do not say this flippantly, working with the Open team and promoting it will likely bear far more fruit than Stronghold, and I am indeed humbled by that — to come alongside of projects so much larger than myself and be considered a participant in the success is a great privilege. 

Overall, it’s shown me the joy of serving other authors for both the benefit of their careers and, also, the readers who will experience their book. The practice of doing so has proven emotionally and psychologically healthy for me to get outside myself and my own world, and it has been a means to use my abilities, knowledge, and talent as a way of serving others with more than my original work. If you are a writer, I recommend you spend some time considering how you can help other writers’ work get exposure (and no, I am not begging for more help on Stronghold).

Frankly, I hope that my work with Open is just the beginning of my assisting other authors and creatives in their ongoing success. I do not know to what degree my work will result in tangible sales, but I feel an inherent joy simply by spreading the word from another author in whose work I believe. 

Open is available NOW on Amazon.com, but you can win a copy from this blog! 

Here’s how it works: Tweet/post with a link to the site Get Open site or the Open’s Amazon page and the message “Accountability = Being Open” before Saturday, August 3rdYou do not need to link to my site, just the book’s site, and then hit me back at [email protected] with a notice of your linking/post. Though you are encouraged to post about the book as much as you like, only one entry per person/twitter account will be accepted. 

That’s it. You will be entered into the running for a free copy, mailed to you, and two participants will be selected on Sunday, August 4 and notified by e-mail!


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Reflections On Accountability

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in Faith, Hope, and Love

Shame and our understanding of others’ perceptions of us play a great deal into our actions, motivations, and overall behavior. For Christians, this should be a far less powerful motivator given that we believe we are saved and already covered with righteousness and purity, able to live a life of love through the savior who redeemed us from death. This should enable us to be free of guilt, shame, and fear of others’ approval or lack thereof. Unfortunately, we are also far too human and religious to embrace this outlook as we should. 

Christian accountability can and should help us cultivate a better mindset. Perhaps a definition is appropriate. When I refer to accountability in the sense of the church, I am referring to the partnership of believers to disclose honestly with one another about life, with the understanding that one party–or each party–will exhort the other(s) toward righteousness. Note that I did not say that this was a transaction of simply avoiding sin. No, good accountable fellowship should carry with it a focus on our status as pure, righteous, and good, creating a place where honesty can occur without shame and guilt and fear. While no perfect church can exist in a fallen world, a good church should be one which practices the regular acknowledgment of sin, the constant reminder of our frailty before God and among other persons, and a deep rooted desire not to be “better than others” but to be “a blessing to others” by becoming more like Christ in character and action. Accountability can accomplish this in two very simple but obvious ways. 

First, when we create an environment of trust, forgiveness, and honesty–much like we have with God in prayer–we exemplify Christ to one another through mercy, exhortation, and encouragement. The admonition of Paul in Colossians to speak to one another in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, giving thanks in [our] hearts to God” should be real and vibrant in relationships of accountability more than any other. As we “confess [our] sins to one another”, we should acknowledge forgiveness from the Lord and, like Christ, encourage one another to “go and sin no more.” This is how depth in Christian relationships occurs.

Second, accountability truly benefits the body beyond those who are involved, for when individuals become accountable to one another, their lives improve and their interactions with others and relationships with others outside of the “small group ” also improve. Human beings do not live in a vacuum, nor are they islands. We are deeply communal, inherently relational beings, and when core relationships improve and our self improves as a result, the effect is felt by those around us. By becoming more open and honest with others and, of course, ourselves, we are better positioned to bless others through our own confessions, words of encouragement, and other, varied means of honest fellowship. 

And just so we’re clear: I do not believe that a Sunday school is a place of accountability other than for attendance to Sunday school; true accountability happens when individuals invest in one another’s lives and admonish each other toward a more Christlike heart, not religious trappings. Accountability has nothing to do with appearing more holy more virtuous or more self-aware; accountability is a process by which the heart actually becomes all of those things by being broken and mended through authentic interaction and connection.

As not to be entirely hypocritical, I will confess my own lack of forming a strong “accountability group” outside of college. During my time at a Christian university, small groups were a norm. The university provided their own models, but I found that four-to-six persons of the same gender who cared for one another could do this on their own, albeit with mixed results (one such small group in which I was involved should be the source of my writing somewhere down the line, I just have not figured out a place in which to describe it). Since that time my accountability has looked very different and more weblike tapestry of various persons sharpening one another than a regularly meeting group of like-minded individuals. For example, my present accountability system works as follows: I am accountable to one friend and one pastor on very specific issues, and two other friends are independently accountable to me for similar issues. As far as we are all concerned, certain topics are always on the table: they must be spoken about honestly, must be treated carefully, and must always be directed towards a more Christlike existence. This is good for all of us. As the one to whom individuals are accountable, I always need to ensure that my heart is in the right place, that my ears are willing to listen, and that my voice is willing to speak truth, albeit sometimes difficult truth. On the flipside, those to whom I am accountable must cultivate the same attributes in themselves, and I have to be more open and more honest and more vulnerable than I might be comfortable. I kind of feel like the best way to describe it is a win-win-win, even if the first win and the third win have nothing to do with one another, and each also having ripple effects in other directions. It’s not the ideal model, to be sure, but it is a working model until I can become more invested in a regular group dynamic. As I continue to find an anchored church here in Delaware, my hope is that my accountability becomes more vibrant and full (and localized). I hope that wherever you are in life, wherever you’re located, accountability is a reality in some form for you as well.

Many of these thoughts are the result of reflections after reading Open, by Craig Gross, which will be released tomorrow. I believe the book is useful for any individual seeking to deepen his or her walk through community and how that is manifested within small groups. Thomas Nelson, the book’s publisher, has been kind enough to offer me 2 free copies to give away on the blog this week.

Here’s how it works: Tweet/post with a link to the site Get Open site or the Open’s Amazon page and the message “Accountability = Being Open” before Saturday, August 3rdYou do not need to link to my site, just the book’s site, and then hit me back at [email protected] with a notice of your linking/post. Though you are encouraged to post about the book as much as you like, only one entry per person/twitter account will be accepted. 

That’s it. You will be entered into the running for a free copy, mailed to you! 
Two participants will be selected on Sunday, August 4 and notified by e-mail.

 
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JLA: A League of One: A Recommendation

Posted by on Jul 26, 2013 in Reviews & Recommendations

Wonder Woman is something of an interesting icon in American comic history. Oft referred to as one of three members of DC universe’s “trinity” (a gross misuse of the word, by the way), Wonder Woman has had one animated film, a short lived television program, and numerous supporting roles in cartoons such as the JLA. However, unlike the other members and the trinity, Batman and Superman, she has not been given a full treatment on the silver screen nor has she struck a chord with the American cultural vernacular in the same way. This is a great loss, for Wonder Woman is perhaps the most noble of three.

I did not always believe this, but Christopher Moeller, with his graphic novel JLA: A League of One, has changed my mind. After reading this book I would certainly put Wonder Woman into my Top 10 Comic Book Heroes Of All Time, and I look forward to seeking out more of her adventures (though I think all will pale in comparison to this initial one that made me value her so).

I can wax poetic about many things in this book: the story itself, Moeller’s breathtaking art, the wondrous exploration of mythical creatures, and the beautiful theme of true heroism. All of these and more seem like good fodder for discussion. But perhaps the best way I can go about the recommendation of this graphic novel is very simply to say this: in a world of mundane and tired rehashes of the same old conflicts, JLA: A League of One is a masterful tale for the reader of all ages in all aspects of comic book composition.

Granted, I come to the book with a love of myth as well as a working knowledge of the DC universe and it’s many characters, but my knowledge of them is only skin deep. I recognize them by virtue of following various toy lines in which these characters recur. While I have read several DC books, I have not been steeped in the lore to any real degree (though the more DC comics I read the more I have an appreciation for that comic universe, something I cannot really say for Marvel given that the vast amount of books I read from that imprint are disappointing).

Luckily, the story of A League of One is not necessarily concerned with all of the DC characters involved, less Wonder Woman herself, and this is a wonderful exploration of her. Let us not forget that she is one of only two members in the female members of the JLA, and in a great many stories (at least that I have read), she is lessened in favor of bolstering the exploits of the male members. Given this gender specificity within not only a team of superpowered beings but also an industry full of men, Wonder Woman deserves a great deal of respect simply by virtue of her presence. This book gives her all the more reason to be cherished not only among her super peers, but among all contemporary heroes. She is noble, intensely conflicted over doing what is right, and she serves as a stark picture of strength, truth, and sacrifice.

With Wonder Woman at the heart of this book, Moeller creates a narrative that is constantly compelling and enhanced by his ever vibrant and beautiful art. For the comic reader, I cannot recommend JLA: A League of One highly enough. I consider it requisite reading for the DC Universe, and I challenge anyone to find the book anything less than excellent.

You can thank me for the recommendation later (and I’ll thank you for reading, right now),
C

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So Close to Surrender: Deadlines and Supporters

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in STRONGHOLD, Writer's Diary

So, 2-months ago This almost happened:

Title: “Self-Publishing Amateur Hour”
Date: Friday, May 24, 2013

My friends,

With a heavy heart I must announce a brief delay in the release of Stronghold. Much to my chagrin and shame, I will be unable to meet my expected deadline of May 28, 2013.

I must admit that this has been an altogether humbling experience for me, but I would rather accept a strike to my ego than release a product that was not fully ready. I am deeply sorry for disappointing you all. As a man who believes his “‘yes’ should be ‘yes'” and his “‘no’ should be ‘no'”, I recognize that this failure to deliver my product on time is a direct reflection on both my character and my competence. I truly hope that the extra time spent over the next few days allows for a final version better than the one that would have been available on Tuesday.

Once the text has gone live, I will update you accordingly. Thank you for your patience, and again, my sincere apologies,
C

Yes, this almost happened.

But it didn’t. This post never left the draft phase.

Why?

My wife stopped me from posting it, and I am so thankful that she did. In fact, after encouraging me to stay firm in my resolve to release the book as promised, she completed a five-hour marathon of reading the back half of the book in its entirety (a stunning achievement, to be sure), so that I would have time all day Saturday to make last minute edits and submit for pre-approval before going live Tuesday.

So why am I telling you this? Two reasons. First, to draw attention to how awesome my wife is and also encourage you to make sure your writing is not conducted in a vacuum. Share with others your goals, your dreams, and–with a select few (your blog readers, perhaps), your deadlines. Make them promises that you can keep, and invite them to hold you to them. You may be amazed at the response and support you receive. And perhaps, near the end of all things, when you have burned the candle at both ends and worked beneath the moon itself for some semblance of light in the wee evening hours reading the printed proof of your magnum opus, someone will come beside you and give you that last push you need to complete your project and stay awake until the dawn. That being said, bring others–a select few, trusted others–into your journey.

Second, note the date; I was 4 days from my deadline, and I was ready to quit. Just 4 days. So close, and yet so overwhelmed with the last few nuggets of work. Deadlines do that to a person. They are psychologically powerful. They make you feel the weight of time like a burden strapped to your back, and each step, no matter how small, feels that much more difficult than it might without the stressor looming on you, taxing your faculties. Do not let the deadline win. You can meet it; you can beat it, and you can take satisfaction in the fact their drain on your mental energies did not break your spirits. You may be reading this in the midst of a project yourself, with a deadline you must meet–maybe you’ve only told one other person, but it’s out there, and you don’t want to let him, her, or yourself down. Don’t. You can do it. If I did it; you can do it. The feeling of meeting a deadline is rewarding, and it’s worth that exhausted final push to do so.

So that’s it. I want you to succeed, and I am showing you just how close I came to failure (at least in terms of my release schedule). The book received the proof-reading it needed. The necessary edits were made, and Stronghold was available as promised. Many of you even bought it that very day! Thanks for that.

And thanks for reading,
C
 
PS – I am still hoping for reviews of Stronghold on Amazon. If you have ten minutes and would be willing, any review would be wonderful. I am not looking for perfect marks here; just let the world know you read the book, and what you thought of it. Minimum length, 20 words. It’s that easy. 
 
 

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James, The Tongue, and Christian Speech

Posted by on Jul 22, 2013 in Faith, Hope, and Love

In mid-June I was involved in a very important meeting with some old buddies, during which I felt that I spoke far too often and for far too long (at one point, I even inadvertently spilled the beans on a secret). Though the meeting ended well, I awoke the following morning with a great sense of personal failure–as though my participation was not as valuable as it could have been had I said less.

Since that time, I have been trying to read through James’ epistle daily (and failing at least twice a week, I might add) given his admonitions about the tongue. This is perhaps the most well-known portion of James, and I have taken the liberty of posting the entire portion below:
 

 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

 
Where to begin, right?  Well, I am sure that many a lengthy commentary has already been provided on this passage, and I’m also relatively certain that the exegesis provided in them is better than any I could offer here; nonetheless, I want to point out 3 powerful aspects of Christian speech that strike me when reading this passage.

1. Given the power of speech, we should be mindful of its care and use. Bits in horses mouth, a ship’s rudder, a small fire: these are things that we would not assume have the power that they do, and yet, once we realize their importance, our perception of them changes and rightly so. Based on our knowing their use, we ensure they are in good order and used appropriately. If we are tracking the analogies, we should carry the same concern over our tongue (our speech).

2. Because of this power, speech left unchecked can do an immense amount of damage. The analogy of fire burning down the forest is appropriate. Consider a rumor. Started amongst a small party, it seems a small thing, but it spreads and tears reputations to pieces, leaving ruins in its wake. Or perhaps another useful comparison may be the Christian who speaks as the world does and uses the obscenities the world uses, whose language is no different than that of others. Is not his or her testimony tainted, not only in regard to initial hearers but also those to whom those hearers speak? According to James (as well as my personal experience), this is simply the nature of things: we talk too much and say much that can damage. This is why our mindfulness in regard to speech is so important: our default setting is toward sin, and a lack of vigilance will ultimately produce bad fruit.

3. The Christian’s speech should inherently bless, and be guarded so as not to destroy. James’ composition on this point is interesting. He first focuses on the damage of the tongue, then contrasts it with what he assumes is already taking place: blessing. He moves into saying that blessing and cursing cannot come from the same person, because he believes that we are blessing one another in our language already. The implication here is that the Christian tongue is one that inherently blesses and encourages others by virtue of the Spirit’s presence. I’ve read this passage dozens of time, but until recently I did not glean this insight, that the assumed language of the Christian is that of encouragement, admonition, and blessing, which is why poor speech is doubly dangerous (and convicting), not only does it do something poor (destroy others) but it also does the opposite of what it ought to do.

So there you have it. Bottom line: Know the inherent power of your words to build up and tear down; mind what you say, for your words can have extended collateral damage; and if you claim to follow Christ, your language should bless; this is an assumed attribute in the Christian life.

Things to consider as we enter a new week, encounter others throughout our day, and seek to be salt and light.

Thanks for reading,
C
 
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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