How to Win an Advanced Copy of The Edge of Over There (Plus Other Fun Prizes)

Six months and one week ago, one of my lifelong dreams came true – a novel with my name on it was released into the world by a publisher. The Day the Angels Fell. Sometimes, I still find it hard to believe.

In less than four months, the sequel will come out: The Edge of Over There. To celebrate all of these wonderful things that are happening, my fabulous publisher Revell is hosting a giveaway with all kinds of cool prizes, including multiple signed copies of The Day the Angels Fell, multiple advance copies of The Edge of Over There, a tree of life journal, a tree of life box, and more! Enter the drawing through the Rafflecopter  giveaway below.

I wouldn’t be here without you, my readers. Thanks for supporting my writing life by purchasing my books and spreading the word. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

A New Experiment (or, Follow Along as I Write My Next Novel)

Photo by Eli Francis via Unsplash
Photo by Eli Francis via Unsplash

From John Steinbeck’s journal entry on January 29th, 1951 [Monday] as recorded in the book, Journal of a Novel

“Dear Pat: How did the time pass and how did it grow so late. Have we learned anything from the passage of time? Are we more mature, wiser, more perceptive, kinder? We have known each other now for centuries and still I remember the first time and the last time.”

“We come now to the book.”

January 4th, 2018, Entry #0

I will begin this next novel in the dark days of a Pennsylvania winter. Hopefully, by the time the summer sun stretches the hours into the longest day of the year, the first draft will be finished. I am aiming for 80,000 to 100,000 words (because the lower number is what’s in my contract), but how can you ever know how long it will take to tell a story?

First, let me tell you why I’m journaling my way through writing this next novel.

Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel has always fascinated me. It is made up of his morning writing exercises, the ones he wrote every day before working on his masterpiece, East of Eden. He wrote by hand, and he would write one journal entry on the left-side page, and then he would write one page of the novel on the right-hand side. I found the journal entries compelling in their honesty, but I have also been intrigued by the premise because of how deliberate and important the journal entries seem to him. I have often wondered if I need to slow down my writing, think more clearly about it, explicitly talk about what I’m trying to accomplish in each day’s words. I wonder if this will help me work through various issues surrounding the story.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. Or at least begin to try to do – I can’t guarantee I will finish it. I can’t promise that, once I begin, it will not feel more like an obstacle to the writing of this novel than otherwise. I guess we’ll see.

I am writing this particular entry, dubbed #0, as an introduction of sorts, explaining what I want to accomplish and what I’ve done up to this point. To bring you up to speed: I started work on this unnamed novel – I’ll have to come up with something better than “Unnamed Novel” for the purposes of this journal – about nine months ago, stumbling my way through the first 23,850 words. I say stumbling because I am learning this about myself, that when I start a story it emerges first from a character, and then from a trouble this character has. From there it lurches forward of its own accord for quite some time, but I know now from experience that I must begin guiding the lurching beast at some point or it will meander off into some dark and unrecoverable place. At the 23,000-word mark, I could tell it needed guidance. But it was also at that point that another project took my attention. I had to set this story aside all these months, but now it is the next book in line, and I am eager to write it.

This is not to say the last nine months have been without work on this story. It has simply been interior work. It is kind of a weary metaphor, perhaps overused in the world of creativity, but here it is, nonetheless: pregnancy comes to mind. The last nine months have been full of mostly unseen work, interior work. I have spent many hours, mostly while driving for Uber, thinking about this book, getting to know the characters and places and problems in my mind. The story has changed and solidified during this last nine months. It begins to feel less like a story I am making up than a story someone once told me, or a family tale passed down. I am ready to write it.

To clarify, for those who have been following my writing up until this point:

– My first novel, a YA book of magical realism, came out in September, 2017, and was called The Day the Angels Fell.

– The sequel to that book, The Edge of Over There, is already written and comes out July 3rd, 2018.

– A work of nonfiction that I wrote with the help of my Syrian refugee neighbor, called Once, We Were Strangers, releases just after that, in October of 2018.

Those three books are all written, so now I finally have time to work on this novel, which has no name and will come out in the summer of 2019.

Here are my goals – to write one, short journal entry and then to write at least 1,000 words in the story every weekday. Simple, right?

Come along on this journey, if you’d like, and I’ll send you the journal entries I write about writing. I won’t give too many details about the plot or the story itself (although I’m sure a few things will slip in). But I will talk about what I’m trying to accomplish with the development, pace, and all manner of other things having to do with writing this story. I’ll talk about where I’m writing and how it’s going. I’ll talk about how many times the children interrupt me and when I feel like the writing is no good and working past the voices in my head. I’ll probably talk about that last one a lot.

I’ll be emailing these out every morning as soon as I write them. Expect plenty of typos. And some entries that are boring or don’t make sense. And some that arrive first thing in the morning and others that hit your inbox at 10pm. If you’d like to receive the inside story behind the the writing of this novel, you can sign up here:

What the Woman Who Almost Died Said About My Book


“Have you read this book?” the woman asked as she picked up a copy of The Day the Angels Fell. The question was directed at my wife, Maile, while she worked at my mom’s market stand. Mai was taken aback – the woman’s question came out intense, pointed.

Have you read this book?

“Actually,” Maile said. “My husband wrote it.”

“Really,” the woman said, examining the back. “Could it be possible death is a gift?”

Maile waited.

“You know,” the woman said, “This was me. I almost died ten years ago – the doctors gave me a 10% chance of living. My son was eight years old at the time. He’s never really recovered from that. He’s very anxious about death.”

She turned the book over.

“What gave your husband the idea of writing about death like this?” she asked Maile, and Maile told her the story of me spending time in Turkey with a missionary who was dying of cancer.

“I need to read this,” the woman said quietly. “Maybe it’s a book I could work through with my son. Maybe it will help him be less afraid.”

She bought the book, and before she left she stared intently at Maile again.

“This is a God thing,” she said before she walked away. “I know it is. This is a God thing.”

* * * * *

There are few things that make me happier than when someone is caught up in the main question from The Day the Angels Fell: “Could it be possible that death is a gift?” I don’t know the answer to that, for sure. I have my suspicions. And I love it when you folks come along for the ride, enter into the questions with me.

Maybe you know someone who needs to read this book? Here are just a few places where you can grab a copy in time for Christmas:

Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA
Barnes and Noble
Baker Bookstore
Hearts and Minds Bookstore, Dallas, PA

Twelve Books (Besides Mine) You Should Be Reading

The Day Angels Fell
Today is the day. My novel, The Day the Angels Fell, officially releases to the world. You will probably find me in my study today, alternating between elated, anxious, happy, sick to my stomach, and hopeful. Or all at the same time.

In any case, I hope you’ll take the time today to purchase the book and tell your friends about it. Here are a few places you can find it:

Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA (preorder it from Aaron’s, come out to the store on September 8th, and I’ll sign it for you in person)

Amazon (in hardback, Audible, or Kindle)

Barnes and Noble (in hardback or Nook)




But, to be honest, I’ve grown a little weary of shouting the news of my book from the rooftops for the last few months. I am not a natural self-promoter – it’s all rather exhausting. So, I wanted to take a moment today and point you to some other wonderful books I’ve been reading. Please consider supporting these fine writers and treating yourself to another great read:

It’s always been my dream to write a Newberry Award-winning book, so it’s partially out of jealousy that I picked up The Girl Who Drank the Moon. It’s a beautifully-written, intriguing book that I can’t wait to finish.




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The writing pulls on your heart. The illustrations are breathtaking. I cannot recommend enough this children’s book by Matthew Paul Turner. (Also, a perfect baby-shower gift.)




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Whole, a nonfiction book by Steve Wiens, came to me at just the right time, when I needed to slow down and breathe, seek the peace of God. This is quiet book, but it brings the quiet in a kind, firm way.




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Anne Bogel (you might know her as Modern Mrs. Darcy) is insightful and funny, and I can’t wait to read her new book! It just arrived on my doorstep a few days ago, but it’s quickly moved to the top of my TBR list.




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Seth’s book Coming Clean isn’t hot off the press, but it’s a poignant read, and September is recovery month, so what better time to sit back, take a look at your life, and think about how your own addictions are running the show? After all, we’re all addicted to something.




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Andi’s voice is a quiet, encouraging influence in a world – and I’m talking specifically writers’ self-help world – that includes far too many snake-oil salesmen and get-rich-quick classes. Never bossy or illusory, Andi offers a book that will guide you along your path of writerly self-discovery.




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Ed is a pastor and mentor to writers, and in Flee, Be Silent, Pray, he offers up what I think is his most compelling nonfiction work to date, in which he explores the importance of contemplative prayer. Christian or not, you will find this book a welcome challenge to our culture’s current devotion to busyness and noise.




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I haven’t yet read Kelly Nikondeha’s book Adopted, but I find the premise so compelling, and her online voice so important, that I had to include her book here. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.





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This one doesn’t come out for a little while, but I’ve enjoyed crossing paths with Jen Fulwiler, and her voice is so relevant and endearing. I’m looking forward to her book, releasing April, 2018. (In the mean time, I’ll be on her radio show on 9/5, so come listen to us chat on SiriusXM channel 129 at 2pm.)




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Deidra speaks with a calm, authoritative voice into a culture that seems to thrive on discord and disagreement. I respect her presence and way of being in the world, and this book is a beautiful reflection of her.




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This is one of the novels on my current to-be-read stack. I met Kelly at a writers’ conference a little over a year ago, and I’ve been anticipating this book for quite some time. “After a tragic Fourth of July weekend, one upper-crust American family learns that some secrets never stay hidden, no matter how deeply you bury them…”



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Last but certainly not least, Caleb Wilde’s long-anticipated memoir, Confessions of a Funeral Director, releases in about a month. Preorder it now! You won’t want to miss this one.

An Exciting Announcement and a New Season in my Writing Life

As Bob Dylan sang once upon a time, “The times, they are a changin’.”

Have you ever felt your life slowly going in a new direction, even a good direction, but you still felt hesitant about the change because of the unknown variables? Maybe you had the opportunity to take a new, better job in the same company. Maybe you were offered a raise that would require a little more responsibility. Maybe you felt compelled to step into a new volunteer position or start creating in new ways. These changes, sometimes they can percolate up into your awareness in a gradual way, almost unnoticed.

But then, suddenly, you see what’s happening. And you’re not sure what to do. Should you resist? Make the leap? Allow things to continue unfolding, or make some hard decisions?

This is how I have felt for most of the summer. My writing life has been changing, not due to any conscious choice on my part, but due to new circumstances. For most of the last seven years, I have blogged almost daily. I did take almost a year off at one point, and this year I only posted once a week or so, but for the most part, blogging has been a huge part of my writing life for almost a decade. Over a thousand posts. Over half a million words.

Then this summer happened, a whirl wind of new things. It has contained the lead up to the launch of my first novel, The Day the Angels Fell  (you can preorder it on Amazon, B&N,, or from your local bookstore – it’s even on audio!). I’ve been working on a co-written book that I love, one that included a trip to Iraq earlier this year. I’ve got a serious, in-depth revision coming up for the sequel of The Day the Angels Fell (coming out next summer, which you’re going to love). And (this is the fun announcement), I’ve signed on with Revell to do my fourth traditionally published book, a work of nonfiction, one that will come out at the end of 2018 (you’ll hear more about this one in the fall).

Writing my own books (and selectively taking on co-writing projects) has been the writing life I have been eyeing up for at least the last seven or eight years. And while I’ve made a good living during that time by co-writing, this year and next will be the first years that I release my own traditionally published fiction. I’m thrilled about it, and it’s thanks to all of you and your support that it’s even happening.

But when good things start to happen, when these positive shifts start taking place, there are always things we have to set to the side. We simply can’t do everything. Blogging is one of the things, at least in the short term, that I have to put down. But you know what? I didn’t know it, not for sure, until I read this post by Tsh called “Changes.” Turns out, she’s going through a similar season in her writing, and reading her post helped me navigate my own thoughts about change.

I’ll still be floating around Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. I’ll still be sending out the occasional email newsletter (which you can sign up to receive HERE). I’ll still let you know when my books are coming out. But I won’t be blogging much, if at all, for the rest of this year – and yes, this means a pause on the ever-popular Rideshare Confessional series (but I’ll still be driving for Uber and collecting stories to share later).

Hitting pause on my blog-writing makes me a little sad, but I want these books to be the best possible books they can be, and I only have so many words.

You’ve probably heard the amazing quote by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I think my writing life is going down a similar path. Sometimes, we have to be willing to lay aside things we enjoy in order to go deeper into the things we’re called to do. I couldn’t be more excited about the books I’m writing for you. Now, it’s time for me to focus on them.

* * * * *

Is there an impending, necessary change in your life you’re hesitant to make? Leave a comment below – I love hearing from you.

27 Reasons to Buy Any Book, Some of Which Apply Even if You Hate the Author

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There are many reasons to buy a book. Here are 27 of them:

  1. You have high hopes that a particular book might be the book that will change your life.
  2. You like the other things the author has written.
  3. You read an excerpt from the book and liked it.
  4. You want to be an encouragement to the author.
  5. You heard a great review about the book and you’re convinced it will be a good read.
  6. You’re bored.
  7. There’s nothing good on TV anymore.
  8. You’re looking for an alternative to arguing with relatives on Facebook about the current administration, and reading seems like a nice distraction.
  9. You think the author might be crazy and you enjoy looking for clues of that in their writing.
  10. You simply love reading anything.

Or, maybe you hate reading, but:

  1. You need a good doorstop.
  2. You need a decent paperweight.
  3. You want to have thick books lying around so people think you’re smart.
  4. You need a booster seat for your toddler at the dining room table.
  5. You’re super-rich and $10 won’t break the bank.
  6. You enjoy getting packages delivered to your door in two days or less because it helps you believe your Amazon Prime membership was worth it.
  7. You need another book with a navy-colored spine to fill in a particular bookshelf.
  8. You like to give books as gifts to other people.
  9. You like to give books as gifts to yourself.
  10. You love the author and want to help support his or her creative life (and his or her family of 8).

Or, maybe you hate the author, and:

  1. You think that if you support the author’s writing, they’ll keep writing, which you think is hilarious because you think they’re terrible at writing and by supporting them, they’ll go on humiliating themselves by writing drivel, which will make you smile.
  2. You think that if you buy enough of their books, they might become popular enough to go on a book tour, which might bring them to your town, which might give you an opportunity to humiliate them in real life, in front of other people, with difficult personal questions.
  3. You think most wealthy people are secretly unhappy, and if you help the author sell enough books, they might someday become wealthy, and, therefore, unhappy.
  4. You believe writers live tortured lives and want to help this particular author continue in that vein of work.
  5. You believe most writers never live above the poverty level, so you want to give the author just enough hope to continue. Heaven forbid they fail and take up something financially rewarding, like banking. Or a multi-level-marketing scheme.
  6. You hate the writer’s blog most of all and hope that if they succeed in book writing they will, for the love, stop sharing their blog posts on social media
  7. You think that if you support their fiction, maybe they’ll stop writing their poetry, which is even worse.

Oh. By the way, I have a book coming out! If any of these reasons sound appealing to you, please head HERE to find out more about my upcoming novel and see the various places you can preorder it.