Today is the Big Day!


It’s time to release another book into the world, and this one feels like a long time coming.

Light from Distant Stars.

Can I be honest on here and tell you I’m just plain tuckered? I’m sitting in a motel room at a writer’s conference with five talks to give this week, plus I’m speaking at my church this weekend, and we’ve got a book launch party Friday night. I’ve done 10 podcast interviews in the last week or so. Oh, and I’ve just handed in a novel that’s slated to come out next summer. And I’m busier than ever with co-writing, my day job.


I need some sleep. But then there’s the small issue of this book.

This book means so much to me. The story is near and dear to my heart. The characters have become a world all their own, almost like memory to me. I am so eager for you to read it. Sooooo…can you help me get it out into the world?

Here are just a few of the places you can get it:

Aaron’s Books, Lititz, PA – call 717-627-1990
Baker Bookhouse
Barnes and Noble
Hearts and Minds Bookstore 

This is what some folks are saying about it:

“A tense novel exploring the breadth and limitations of loyalty, forgiveness, and faith, Light from Distant Stars is a memorable dive into the human psyche.” Foreword Reviews

“Light From Distant Stars expertly traverses the past and present of a man whom readers can’t help but root for and adore.” Interviews and Reviews

Here are a few of the ways you can help:

– Buy the book as a gift to yourself or a friend! Or both! It’s also a great book club read, so consider it for your book club.
– Share this post on social media by clicking the little buttons below!
– Call or email your local library and ask if they can carry it.
– Forward this email to friends who you think would be interested in reading the book.
– And, once you’ve read the book, please review it on Goodreads, Amazon, and any other online sites!

You guys are amazing. Thanks for all of your wonderful support. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you, my faithful friends and readers.

Have a wonderful week. Enjoy your summer! Now, I’m going to bed. (Which sounds weird because even though I’m writing this at night, you’re probably reading it in the morning…oh well.)

A Look Inside the Writing of a Novel

Photo by John Sanderson of Sanderson Images

It happens in long stretches of disciplined days, where much goes according to plan. It happens in late evenings when the children are finally asleep and Maile is writing in the bed beside me. It happens while I’m waiting at long athletic practices and on the front porch and sometimes in the early mornings when it’s only Leo and me sitting at the dining room table.

This is how a novel gets written: in the cracks and crevices of an ordinary life. In both scheduled and unexpected bursts, until 100 words pile up to 1,000 words, and chapters form and arcs are fulfilled and characters emerge while 80,000 or 90,000 or 100,000 words come together, like atoms gathering.

When I wrote Light from Distant Stars, I decided to keep a journal every day. I wrote a short entry each morning before my novel-writing time, sometimes about life, sometimes about writing. It was a warm-up for me, a time to stretch my mind before diving into that day’s work.

I would like to give this journal to you – all you have to do is preorder Light from Distant Stars from any of the following book sellers:

Aaron’s Books, Lititz, PA – call 717-627-1990
Baker Bookhouse
Barnes and Noble
Hearts and Minds Bookstore 

Then, enter your information here:

…and the PDF of my journal entries will magically appear in your inbox. It’s not available anywhere else. You can’t buy it. The only way you can get it right now is by preordering Light from Distant Stars.

Also, everyone who preorders will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card to the bookstore of their choice and a signed copy of four of my other books: The Day the Angels Fell, The Edge of Over There, Once We Were Strangers, and How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp!

I hope you enjoy the journal! Here’s a little excerpt:

Is there ever a perfect time to begin writing a novel?

For at least the last month or two, I had today, January 8th, earmarked as the day I would begin writing my next novel. Mondays and Fridays will always be difficult days for me to get my writing in – I’m in between co-writing jobs at the moment, which means I need to drive for Uber and Lyft on those two days to make some extra money. Making enough to feed six children is no joke. But I planned on getting up early, writing my at-least-1000-words for the day, and then moving on to ridesharing.

Is there ever a perfect day to begin writing a novel?

Our younger two took longer than usual to fall asleep last night, so I didn’t fall asleep early, as planned. Leo was up multiple times in the night. My (ambitious for me) plan to wake up at five o’clock faded quickly. I had imagined the perfect morning – me, sitting in a quiet living room, children asleep, radiators hot, my fingers gliding over the keys. Instead it was a chaotic morning, making breakfast, waking up the older kids, folding laundry, and trying to get out the door to an 8:30am meeting with a friend.

Is there ever a perfect day to begin writing a novel?

I’ve never run a marathon, but is there ever a perfect day to run a marathon? Do you ever wake up to perfect temperatures, zero mental and emotional qualms, a body that feels ready, all after a perfect night’s sleep? I suppose it happens. I suppose there will be days that go perfectly during the writing of this novel. I suppose.

But this morning was a good reminder to me. I must fit the writing into not-so-perfect days. I must find a way to write through the self-doubt and hesitations. If I am going to write this novel, there can be precious few things I put ahead of it. So, even on a morning that doesn’t go as planned, I push everything else back. Everything else must wait until I get my words written for this day. This is the cost of writing a novel. This is the price I must be willing to pay for the next three months. Four months. Six months.

Now, I begin. And beginning a novel is one of the most wondrous things in the world.

What Stories Have Done for Poppy (and What They Might Do For You)

Maile calls for Poppy, summons her from some other place within the house, and she doesn’t have good news.

“Poppy!” Maile says, trying to keep her voice light. “It’s time to brush your hair!”

Poppy is nearly three, with long, light-brown locks, and she doesn’t like keeping it up, so it’s almost always a snarly mess. Brushing it brings tears rushing to the surface. But recently, when Maile calls for Poppy to come have her hair brushed, Poppy has a new response.

“I want Daddy to brush it,” she says, pouting, her big brown eyes full as two moons.

And there is a reason for this. It’s not that I am able to brush her hair without inflicting pain, and it’s not that I’m particularly good at the brushing (though I did have three sisters to practice on). The reason Poppy calls for me is because, recently, I’ve started telling her stories while I brush.

* * * * *

“Where did you find the dragon this time?” I ask Poppy, taking a rope’s width of hair and running the brush through it.

“At Mimi and Papa’s,” she says, referring to her grandparents’ house.

“Oh, interesting,” I say, moving the brush through the tangles, taking another handful. “And where exactly did you see it at their house? Was it under the deck again?”

“Yes,” she says, and there is mischief in her voice, and curiosity.

“And was the dragon hungry, or did it already have food?”

“It was hungry,” she says, lifting her shoulder to ward off the brush when it sticks in a knot. But I pull it back and start in a different spot.

“What kind of food did you decide to give it?” We are halfway.

“Ice cream,” she says, and I can hear the grin in her voice.

“Oh, that’s yummy. Did the dragon share with Leo or keep it all to himself?”

“He shared,” she says, matter-of-fact, and now I’m brushing the area right behind her ears, where it always seems to hurt the most.

“After the dragon ate the ice cream, he came out, and he was feeling so much happier, because you shared with him, and then he shared with Leo. Isn’t that amazing? So he took you both on a flight around the neighborhood, and dropped you back at Mimi and Papa’s, and then he flew away.”

She turns to look at me, her eyes sparkling.

“All finished,” I say, holding up the brush, as if it was magic, and I had nothing to do with it.

* * * * *

I recently read an article about Neil Gaiman’s 96-year-old cousin who, during the Holocaust, hid a copy of Gone With the Wind behind a brick. She would stay up late every night reading it, and then the next morning she’d tell her friends what had happened. This way, the days passed, and they got through one of the most difficult times in history.

Neil Gamain went on to say, “Helen’s story – this story – made me realise that what I do is not trivial. If you make up stuff for a living, which is basically what I do, you can feel kind of trivial sometimes but this made me realise that fiction is not just escapism, it can actually be escape, and it’s worth dying for.”

Stories are good for us, for so many reasons. Sometimes they help us see the world differently. Sometimes they give us something to live for. And sometimes, every so often, they even help to make the hair-brushing a little less painful.

* * * * *

What have stories done for you?

* * * * *

Just a reminder that one of the kindest things you can do for the author you love is preorder their books! Check out this page for places where you can preorder Light from Distant Stars.

A Book You Need to Know About

Quite a few number of years ago, my wife and I and a few friends were standing up to leave an Over the Rhine concert in Philadelphia when I started talking with a kind young woman behind me. It turned out that this was none other than Christie Purifoy–the two of us both wrote for the same online blog (Deeper Story, how I miss you!), so we knew of each other but had never met. Serendipity!

Ever since then, we’ve crossed paths at various writers conferences, our families have gotten together a few times, and she helped me launch The Day the Angels Fell back in the fall of 2017 by having a carnival-themed book party, equipped with corn dogs and popcorn. She shared her friends with us, her husband Jonathan is one of the really good guys in the universe, and her kids are wonderful.

Can I tell you what I love about Christie? She is a writer. She is the real deal. She can string together words in an incredible way. Her first book, Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, reminded me so much of Madeline L’Engle’s nonfiction. Something along the lines of A Circle of Quiet or Walking on Water.

And today her second book is going out into the big wide world. It’s called Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace.

In Placemaker, Christie Purifoy invites us to notice our soul’s desire for beauty, our need to create and to be created again and again. As she reflects on the joys and sorrows of two decades as a placemaker and her recent years living in and restoring a Pennsylvania farmhouse, Christie shows us that we are all gardeners. No matter our vocation, we spend much of our lives tending, keeping, and caring. In each act of creation, we reflect the image of God. In each moment of making beauty, we realize that beauty is a mystery to receive.

Did I mention that when I launch my new novel in the summer, Christie is coming to the party to do a little reading from Placemaker?!

Do yourself a favor and go order Christie’s beautiful new book, wherever books are sold.

The First Time I Read Charlotte’s Web to Leo, It Ended With Tears…So Naturally We’re Reading it Again

About six months ago, I read Charlotte’s Web to Leo for the first time. We read one chapter every night, and he fell in love with Charlotte immediately. When we got to the last page of the chapter when Charlotte dies, he demanded that I stop reading.

“Leo, we have to finish the chapter,” I said. “We’re almost there.”

He kept protesting. It was unlike him. I couldn’t tell if he was entirely serious or not, so I finished the chapter. As soon as I read the last sentence–“No one was with her when she died”–he burst into tears.

But, in the last few months, he has recovered, and he asked if we could read it again. As someone who appreciates good literature, loves Charlotte’s Web, and isn’t always completely enthralled with his bedtime stories, I readily agreed.

We’re about halfway through, and last night we reached the chapter where Mrs. Arable, Fern’s mother, becomes so concerned with Fern’s behavior that she goes to visit the doctor. They end up talking about the mysterious appearance of the messages in Charlotte’s web.

“…Still, I don’t understand how those words got into the web. I don’t understand it, and I don’t like what I can’t understand.”

“None of us do,” said Dr. Dorian, sighing. “I’m a doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything. But I don’t understand everything, and I don’t intend to let it worry me.”

Mrs. Arable fidgeted. “Fern says the animals talk to each other. Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?”

“I never heard one say anything,” he replied. “But that proves nothing. It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn’t catch the remark because I wasn’t paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the animals in Zuckerman’s barn talk, I’m quite ready to believe her. Perhaps if people talked less, animals would talk more. People are incessant talkers–I can give you my word on that.”

What a beautiful way to view the world. What are you having trouble understanding right now? Would talking less allow you to hear what’s really being said?

Some Thoughts on Bedtime (and a Book That Will Help You Get Through It)

After parenting for fifteen years, Maile and I still have two kids in the house who have a strict bedtime–that would be the youngest two. Cade and Lucy, our oldest, are mostly allowed to wander the house or read until later in the evening. Abra and Sam know there’s a general expectation of being in bed by 8:00pm, but they are sometimes out at various activities in the evening, so it’s flexible. Leo and Poppy, however, have a strict 7:00pm-be-in-bed-or-one-or-both-parents’-brains-will-explode bedtime. They are dear, adorable, lovely children, but by about 6pm something happens, and they transform into drooping forms that can only communicate in sirens and whines.

What does their bedtime consist of? We start with the brushing of the teeth. Poppy has a blinking toothbrush that is supposed to tell you how long to brush, but it turns out it just fills her with anxiety, knowing it will stop blinking at any moment. Leo has one of those electric toothbrushes, the kind that spin. He insists on applying his own toothpaste, even though he doesn’t yet have the manual dexterity to apply an appropriate amount. Sometimes he tries to apply it while it’s spinning. That’s fun.

After that, we change Poppy’s diaper while Leo uses the restroom, because if he doesn’t, there is a better-than-50% chance he’ll wet the bed. From there, we move into the getting-into-pajamas mode. Poppy has developed a slight phobia for pulling shirts over her head, but we’re almost through that phase. Leo likes to pick out his own pajamas.

After all conditions are perfect, and Poppy is holding her fistful of pacifiers, we move into the part of the evening with the highest stakes: the choosing of the books. Right now we’re in the middle of Charlotte’s Web, so the choice part is out of the equation. Which is kind of nice, because I’m not always satisfied with their choices.

When they do have a choice, things get interesting. During the childhoods of the first four children, we have amassed a rather impressive library of children’s books. Where the Wild Things Are, The Cat in the Hat, Guess How Much I Love You… The list goes on and on and on. Yet, these youngest two children continually choose the most boring, insidious books that we own. Such as the Cars 2 book, from the movie, that has something to search for and find on each mind-numbing page. Or the board book that has various trucks in it, where each page has a handful of flaps to pull open and read. They usually fight over who gets to open the flaps.

Can I tell you what brings me great joy as a parent? When my children come to their senses and come toddling over to me holding one of Matthew Paul Turner’s beautiful books. Seriously. His first two, When God Made You and When God Made Light, are beautifully written and illustrated. They are two of my absolute favorites.

And today my friend releases a third book, When I Pray For You. He somehow manages to write with a depth and a simplicity that attracts both children and adults. His verse is impeccable. The way he plays with words is a true delight.

If you’re looking for a book for a child, or a young friend, or a gift for a baby shower, these books, full of life-giving words, would be perfect. Check out his new release today.