Why I Changed My Blog Post Topic For Today

So, here’s the deal. I was going to write another post about The Day the Angels Fell, a different angle to try and get people’s attention. But I couldn’t write tonight because I was so blown away by your response. Thanks to all your generous contributions and the messages you shared all over the interwebs, you helped me raise almost $2,500.


In one day.

You guys are incredible. I’m writing this at 11:12pm on Monday night, and I’m feeling pretty emotional about the whole thing because it means so much to me that each of you would give so much to help me reach this dream of mine.

So that’s all I’ve got for right now. Just a huge thank you.

If you’re like, What is this guy talking about?, you can click HERE to check out the Kickstarter campaign for my novel, The Day the Angels Fell.

Today is a Very Big Day


(If you’d like to head straight over to my Kickstarter campaign, click HERE.)

Today’s the day. My Kickstarter campaign for The Day the Angels Fell begins. This means that if you’d like to help me publish my first novel (by preordering a copy, or by hosting a book party, or by taking a writing class that I’m offering, or in a number of other ways), all you have to do is head over to my Kickstarter page and make a donation in exchange for your preferred reward. If I raise the entire amount of $3,500 in 30 days, then I get the money and you get your reward. If I don’t raise the total amount, no money changes hands and no rewards are given.

It all feels rather adventurous, I have to admit, sort of like the day we packed up the Big Blue Bus and hit the road for four months. I’m hoping to avoid any sudden loss of brakes, any major pitfalls, and any wrong turns…but producing a Kickstarter campaign is probably like any other adventure, which means the unforeseen will definitely happen.

So, if you want to help me publish my first novel, head on over to my Kickstarter campaign. I’ve got more information over there about the book itself, including a video where I explain the origins of the story and how my kids helped me create it.

Some of you have asked me how you can help. One of the best things you can do is to help spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and to your friends via email or in real life. If I sell about 250 paperback copies of the book, I’ll hit my goal, and this is totally possible with your help. If you have a blog or a podcast and are willing to talk about this campaign there, do an interview with me, or post a guest post by me, just let me know.

Thanks, once again, for the ways you all support my writing life. I continue to be humbled and amazed at how many of you show up here every week to read my blog. I was blown away last week by the incredible support you all gave me when I shared the news about this upcoming novel – a few of you even reached out to me privately with donations and words of encouragement. Thank you.


Thank you.

So…here we go.

To check out the Kickstarter campaign, click HERE.

The Big Announcement

Concentration from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 John Morgan, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

So, the big announcement:

I’m doing it. I’m publishing a novel.

* * * * *

Thirty years ago, if you turned on to South New Holland Road off of 772 and drove for about a quarter mile, past the Amish schoolhouse, to a strange little intersection where Hershey Church Road bore off to the right, and if you followed Hershey Church Road for a few hundred yards until you came to the first lane on the left, and if you drove back that long lane to the farmhouse, and if you walked past the large vegetable garden and under the two large oak trees, you might have seen me sitting on the front porch, reading a book.

If it was thirty years ago, you probably would have found me reading The Hardy Boys or The Black Stallion. Twenty-seven years ago? I was probably knee-deep in The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings.

I wasn’t picky, though. I read anything my school librarian recommended. I devoured books.

Years passed. We moved away from the farmhouse. But I kept reading. Soon, I didn’t want to only read stories – I wanted to create them myself.

* * * * *

This first book that I’m releasing, The Day the Angels Fell, is a book I wrote for my children because it’s about a very difficult subject: death. As Madeleine L’Engle so aptly said,

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

But I’m hoping adults will pick it up and enjoy it, too. Even if it’s too difficult for them.

* * * * *

I’ll tell you more about the book when the Kickstarter releases on Monday. For those of you who don’t know how Kickstarter works, here’s a quick summary. People pledge an amount of money to help a project come to fruition. For this project, people will pledge money to help my novel get published (because it costs money to publish a book – $3500 in this case for editing and cover design and digital formatting).

There are various levels that you will be able to contribute: $15 gets you a signed, paperback copy of the book; $49 gets you a limited-edition hardback copy and an invite to the exciting book launch party. $169 gets you the hardback plus a spot in a writing class I’ll be running early next year. Some of the other rewards include personal writing coaching, me helping you self-publish your own book, and even me writing a small book for you about your family or yourself or your business or your charity.

And there are all kinds of other rewards as well, which you can check out next Monday when the project releases.

But the important thing to remember with Kickstarter is this: if I don’t raise the entire amount, I don’t get any of the money. And the rewards go unfulfilled.

How can you help? Donate to the project and help me spread the word next week. Mark your calendars for Monday, October 20th, and help me get off to a good start.

* * * * *

How do I feel about it? I’m still kind of terrified. What if I don’t raise the money? What if I do raise the money and then release a book no one likes?

But I’m also kind of over it. I’ve gotten to the point where I have written a story I really love and I want to share it. It’s time to tell fear to stop being a jerk. It’s time for me to move on, through the fear, and see what lies on the other side.

Stay tuned!

“Building a Life Out of Words” is FREE Today

I was looking through the ebook I published a few years back, Building a Life Out of Words, and I suddenly realized the things I wrote about happened exactly five years ago. It all started on September 4th, 2009.

So for today and tomorrow you can get the Kindle version of that book for free. It tells the story of how Maile and I lost everything we owned and moved into my parents’ basement. Oh, and we were $55,000 in debt…and I decided to try and make a living as a writer. It just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?

You can find it HERE.

(Also, if you’ve already read it, perhaps you could click HERE and review it for me on Amazon? Every review helps the book get more publicity over there.)

Help Me Decide: Should I Use a Pseudonym For My Fiction?

Red Masked Josh from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Bill Stilwell, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

So, what’s in a name?

When I write fiction, I feel like an entirely different person, certainly not the same individual who writes the projects that I write for other people. There’s a separation in my mind. Healthy? I don’t know, but there’s the fiction writing me, and there’s the writing books for other people me, and the two feel very separate.

Which is why I always imagined that when I finally wrote a novel, I’d write it under a different name, a pseudonym, something like Shawn Merrill (Merrill is actually my first name). Why?

1 – It feels like a different person writing, so a different name feels appropriate.

2 – I’d like to keep a soft line between the writing I do for other people and the writing I do for myself. What if I write something in my fiction that turns people off from using me to write their nonfiction?

3 – The novels I write are not “Christian.” Ugh. I hate using that term to describe writing, or books, or music, but it’s how people talk about these things. I think I’d feel more free to write the fiction I want to write if it wasn’t as closely tied to the writing I’ve already done, which has been mostly Christian memoirs.

4 – If someone loved my fiction and looked up my author page, I don’t think they’d be interested in reading the nonfiction that I’ve written. And probably vice versa.

On the other hand, someone I was talking to recently discouraged me from using a pen name. She said that the world needed more Christians writing “secular” fiction, and that I should embrace the tension.

What do you think?

I am a Christian Because of Owen Meany


“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

Sometimes I think I could say the same thing, that I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.

Today I’m over at SheLovesMagazine leading a discussion about what is perhaps my favorite book of all time, A Prayer For Owen Meany. You can read the rest of my post HERE.