A split second can change a life. In archaeology, a brushstroke reveals the surface of an artifact. In writing, a keystroke completes a novel. In music, a downstroke starts an orchestra.
I’m habitual about posting on Tuesdays, but last Sunday, a houseguest made a split-second decision as he misjudged a landing at the local ski terrain park. Four shredded knee ligaments (that’s all of them, in case you don’t know) and five hours of surgery later, this excellent athlete and scholar now faces a formidable challenge just to fulfill his daily responsibilities. In a split second, his life changed.
Or at least that’s what I thought. Then I realized that the archaeological brushstroke that reveals the pottery shard or bas relief fragment is the culmination of arduous site surveys and sweat. The last keystroke on a novel almost always occurs after years of writing and observation. And before a symphonic downstroke, a composer labors to write a score, and musicians train to perform it.
Maybe those split-second disasters aren’t so split-second after all. Could they be reminders to recognize the urgency of life as we invest heavily in those around us? I don’t know what my young guest learned, or if he learned anything at all, from his superhero leap without a cape. But he’s reminded me to live each day intentionally, and the importance of sharing the love of Christ.
Three years ago, during the snowiest winter on record in this valley, I wrote a manuscript. I then ignored it for a year — until my adult children began to lecture about taking risks, and repeated encouraging advice I’d dished out for two-plus decades.
To shut them up, I took master classes and affiliated with organizations. Attended seminars and recruited beta readers. Researched professional editors. And in November of 2012, found myself staring at an e-mail from an acquisitions editor at one of America’s Big Six publishing houses. This just doesn’t happen to real people. At least not real people without a single contact in publishing, or in the media.
I was signed by a fine literary agency. And I produced a second manuscript while story lines for three more took form. My literary agent worked hard, promoting my manuscripts to every publisher she thought would appreciate fiction written with a Christian worldview that was a little left of center, although Biblically sound.
Editors at three of the Big Six publishers said exactly the same thing: “there’s something here.” (If I never hear those words again…) However, publishing is its own risk-averse world, so each house eventually signed authors whose work was similar to books profitable in the past. It’s business.
Undeterred, I decided that if I wasn’t signed by the end of 2013, I was going to self publish. With decades in marketing and advertising, and more than 50,000 individual followers spread across my social universe (thank you all), I was comfortable with this choice. I assembled a dream team of cover designers and launch-team members, and completed forms for Amazon’s White Glove Service. (If you’re good enough for a literary agent, Amazon provides perks to entice you to self publish with them.) My plan was to release the first manuscript, When Camels Fly, April 15.
Then my agent called. An acquisitions editor at a Big Six wanted to keep the document a little longer. I rocked back in my office chair, laughing, because God reminded me He has a sense of humor. And He is in control.
One way or another, we’ll share something wonderful in 2014, and have a great time with previews of covers and chapters, and videos shot throughout Israel, western Europe (setting of the second manuscript), and Greece and Turkey (location of the third).
But for the moment, please hold again. I appreciate your patience and company during my mid-life adventure.
As a generally risk-averse person, I am aware that my life is beginning to look alarmingly exciting, and a little…dangerous. And I live, therefore I write about it.
A year ago, I met with an Incan shaman as I prepared to float the Amazon (I caught a piranha) and explore Machu Picchu (awe-inspiring). The daytime skiff that carried us along tributaries was populated by a half-dozen explorers, one tarantula, one caiman, and two guides. I hid behind my blue hat when we discovered poison dart frogs and the anaconda.
Today, I’m finalizing my return to Israel in March.
On my last visit, heavy artillery fire in Syria, machine gun fire in Lebanon, and 118 degrees at the Sea of Galilee created my perfect storm. I gazed into Egypt near Eilat, stunned by the vast expanse of sand, aware the scene had changed little since the pharaohs’ time. We crisscrossed the West Bank—that lozenge of territory ceded to the Palestinian Authority in the Oslo Agreement of the 1990s—and learned to identify three types of machine guns. Five years ago, that West Bank crossing was tense, and I doubt it’s improved. (I’ll let you know.)
And Jerusalem. We had just checked in when Maghrib (the Islamic call to prayer at dusk) began. Broadcast from minarets five times a day, the chants became a soundtrack for exploration of Israel and Jordan; Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; the past and present. (I have no idea about the future in this part of the world.)
These experiences, and an even grander one in the fall, create a global perspective for which I’m thankful. Stay tuned—2014 is going to be incredible.
Be aware that we’re doing a quick redesign of the website as we move into 2014. I’m pausing blog posts for two weeks to get our visual house in order and will resume with exciting news before February. Facebook and twitter activity will continue undisturbed.
Happy New Year, and thanks for being here!