The heat in Carolina is the kind that the trees can lean against when they’re tired, which is most of the time, because the heat will do that to you. Thunderstorms bookend the sky every afternoon, sometimes sailing past to the north, sometimes rumbling in on us so that the neighborhood pool is emptied and the kids scatter back through the neighborhood like ants disturbed. Most mornings, we wake up to find it rained in the night, a rain that spends the rest of the day slowly evaporating, filling the air with heaviness.
In my mind I’m going to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine
Can’t you just feel the moonshine
Last summer, Maile was expecting Poppy any day, so we didn’t make the trip down. Two years ago Maile had a part-time job for the summer (that’s another long story). Three years ago it was Leo about to be born. It’s good to be here again, in the heat of the summer months, good to slow down and live life with family we don’t often see, good to enter a new rhythm of writing, good to go to the pool late in the afternoon, watch movies almost every night.
This is what summers should be, I think. I know I am fortunate to have this. I know this life we live in America is not normal.
* * * * *
This is the summer before the release of my first very-own-book, and it is turning out be one I have big thoughts about. In some ways, September 5th (the release date for The Day the Angels Fell) represents the culmination of an at-least-17-year journey. I’ve written about the difficult in-between times – they are long and often dull and usually feel like they’ll never end.
But I’ve left those in-between times behind me, at least for now, and this new phase of writing comes with its own challenges. There is the new concern for preorders. There is the building pressure of hope as the release date approaches. There is the swirling mixture of mind games (What if no one buys it? What if everyone buys it?)
There is, during the lead up to a book launch, the increasing temptation to see myself at the center of many things.
* * * * *
We are potty-training Leo here at my in-laws house. It’s become a strange kind of tradition, getting our children out of their diapers while we are in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Leo has been great through it all, quite the character. The first few days, if he started to pee, he’d shout, “It’s leaking!” and spring for the bathroom. But he’s doing great now.
Yesterday morning, I was using the restroom, and I heard someone walk up behind me. I looked over my shoulder. It was Leo.
“You’re doing a great job, Dad!” he said, enthusiastically.
I’m not sure why that story came to mind in this train of thought, but I’m sure a good reason will come to me later.
* * * * *
When I spend my time thinking about preorders for the book and book sales and advances and contracts, it is me at the center of this raging maelstrom, frantic and striving. Great concern pulls down around my shoulders. There is weight to those thoughts, and the rumblings of doom.
But when I let go of that, when I relegate promotion to its rightful place somewhere down the ladder (still on the ladder, mind you, but not at the top), my mind clears. I sit down with my next story or blog post and there is relief, a sense that this is what I’m meant to do, and there is, for the first time in a long while, a sense that I am free to do it. My friend Alison recently recalled this line from Chariots of Fire:
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
* * * * *
I was speaking with a good friend a few weeks ago about this book, how I could promote it, and he paused for a moment.
“Can I be honest with you for a second?” he said.
“Sure,” I said. Knowing this friend, I expected to get the equivalent of a 2×4 to the head.
“You have to stop being so damn humble. You worked hard on this book. You need to get out there and tell people about it.”
I know he’s right, not necessarily about the humility, but about my reticence to self-promote. So, I will do what I can do. I am sending out books to over 100 people, sharing the news far and wide that this book, this book I worked so hard on, this book I believe in, is being born into the world. I started a Facebook group to help me spread the word (you can join us HERE). I will do what I can do, and many of you have said you’ll help me.
But I also recognize this temptation to put myself at the center – it is the fruit from the tree, it is the Ring of Power, it is the promise of position offered to Edmund. It is an empty promise, a brilliant soap bubble that bursts the moment you touch it.
So I will write my books, and I will do what I can do, and if they sell, they sell, and if they don’t, well, I will keep writing them, because when I write, I feel the pleasure of God.
* * * * *