The Countdown Begins – Seven Days Until…

The hardback version of “The Day the Angels Fell” arrived last night, so I spent most of the evening signing books. Yay!

In seven days, on Thursday, December 18th, the paperback and digital versions of “The Day the Angels Fell” will be available, hopefully just in time for Christmas. My birthday is two days after that, so even if you hate books, consider buying one as a birthday gift to me. You can give it away! Everyone wins!

The Kickstarter campaign for the novel raised nearly $12,000, so we’ll also be creating an audiobook and then hitting the road for a book tour in the spring. You can find out more about where we plan on stopping HERE.

Anyway, I hope next Thursday you’ll purchase a copy for you, all the children you know, and your ten closest friends. I’ll post the links and locations where you can find it next Thursday.

(PS – If you’re willing to help me spread the word on launch day, either on your blog or Facebook, shoot me a message here or on FB and I’ll give you a few extra details.)

Two Covers For “The Day the Angels Fell”

I know I’ve already said this but I have to say it again: your response to my Kickstarter campaign over the last 29 days has been overwhelming. The way you have all come together to help The Day the Angels Fell become a reality is humbling. Then, when I put a call out for potential book tour stops in the spring…well, we have 20 cities scheduled so far covering 6600 miles. I can’t wait to start nailing down dates and letting you know as we add them.

In the mean time, I wanted to show you the two book covers I’ll be using for the book.

This is the limited edition hardback cover (designed by the ultra talented David McCarty at Hopping Frog Studios):

Book Mock 01C

And here’s the cover we’ll be using for the paperback version (designed by Scott Bennett with some illustration contributions by Jerry Mealey who will also be doing some illustrations for the inside of the book):

cover010I’m getting more and more excited for you to read the book. If you’d still like to get on the Kickstarter bandwagon, check it out HERE. I’m doing my absolute best to get books to the Kickstarter supporters before Christmas. And if you buy a hard cover copy it also comes with an invitation for two to the book launch party December 18th. Only 36 hours left to get in on that.

Have a great week.

This May Be the Cure For Your Fear

Believe it or not, this child may have a cure for your fear.

You would think that when the Kickstarter for my novel surged past its initial goal in just a few days, I would have been elated. You’d think that I would have been ecstatic at the thought of being able to publish my novel with all the expenses covered and over 100 pre-orders within the first 72 hours.

But you know, the first thing I felt was fear.

Uh-oh. What if people don’t like it?

What if people snicker about it behind my back?

What if one of my supporters reads it and thinks it was a waste of money?

Fear has a way of asking a lot of questions without letting you think long enough about the answers.

* * * * *

I’ve been thinking quite a lot these days about a conversation I had with the wise Kelly Chripczuk a few months ago, pretty soon after I got out of the hospital. I’m not sure what rabbit trail took us to this concept, but I remember Kelly saying something along the lines of this:

“It’s important to see your calling as fun. Because then it doesn’t matter what other people think.”

We can’t do the things we’re called to do in order to please others. We have to do these things because we can’t NOT do them. We have to do these things because, when we’re doing them, we feel like a child again, a child playing, having fun, being creative.

I am continually reminding myself of that these days. This novel was so much fun to create, to write, even to revise. It’s a story that I really hope you enjoy, but more than that it was a story I loved writing, a story I didn’t want to say good-bye to.

* * * * *

What are you afraid of doing? Would it help if you simply allowed yourself to do that thing out of a sense of fun and enjoyment without any care of what other people think?

Would it help if you could be a little kid again, at the back of the church, conducting the entire choir?

* * * * *

You can still support my Kickstarter campaign HERE. We’re trying to reach some pretty cool stretch goals. Check it out.

A Video Message From My Kids to You

While I’m extremely excited about how our Kickstarter is going (we crossed the $4,000 threshold on Sunday, which means we’re less than $500 from our first stretch goal), there are a few kids here in my house who are just as thrilled as I am. And they wanted to say thanks:

If you’d like to pre-order a copy of my novel, The Day the Angels Fell, or if you’d like to check out some of the stretch goals we’ve put in place, you can find the Kickstarter campaign HERE.

A Sneak Peek Into “The Day the Angels Fell”

Man sitting on the porch from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 simpleinsomnia, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

This is the first chapter of my upcoming novel, The Day the Angels Fell. We’re looking to hit some stretch goals over at the Kickstarter campaign, so click HERE to preorder a copy, sign up for a writing class, or choose from some of the other rewards.

Chapter 1

The Gift

I am old now. I still live on the same farm where I grew up, the same farm where my mother’s accident took place, the same farm that burned for days after the angels fell. My father rebuilt the farm after the fire, and it was foreign to me then, a new house trying to fill an old space. The trees he planted were all fragile and small, and the inside of the barns smelled like new wood and fresh paint.

But that was many years ago, and now the farm feels old again. The floorboards creak when I walk to the kitchen in the middle of the night for a warm glass of milk. The walls and the roof groan under the weight of summer storms. There is a large oak tree in the front yard again, and it reminds me of the lightning tree, the one that started it all. This house and I are two friends sitting together in our latter days.

I untie my tangled necktie and try again. I’ve never been good at ties, probably because I never wear them. But my last friend’s funeral is this week and I thought I should wear a tie. It seemed the right thing to do, but now that I’m standing in front of a mirror I’m having second thoughts, not just about the neck tie but even about going. She was my best friend, and although as children we would have done anything for each other, now I’m not sure I have the strength for one last funeral.

Someone knocks on the door so I untangle myself from the tie and ease my way down the stairs, leaning heavily on the handrail. Another knock, and I’m crossing the room to the door.

“Coming, coming,” I say. People are in such a hurry these days. Everyone wants everything to happen now, or yesterday. But when you’re my age, you get used to waiting, mostly because you’re always waiting on yourself.

“Hi there, Jerry,” I say through the screen, not making any move to open it.

“I won’t come in, Samuel, just wanted to apologize for my boy again.”

Jerry is a huge bear of a man with arms and hands and fingers so thick I sometimes wonder how he can use them for anything small like tying shoes or stirring his coffee. He’s always apologizing for his boy. I don’t know why – seems to me his boy just acts like a boy. And because Jerry is always calling him “boy,” I can’t remember the child’s name. I’m not sure anyone ever told me what “boy’s” name is.

“I heard he was throwing smoke bombs up on your porch this morning.”

“Oh, that. Well,” I began, but Jerry interrupts me.

“I won’t hear of it,” Jerry says. “In fact, when I find him he’ll be coming here in person to apologize.”

“That’s really not necessary,” I begin again, but Jerry interrupts me.

“No. That boy will apologize.”

I sigh.

“Anything else, Jerry? How are the fields this summer?”

“Green, Samuel. Mighty green.”

“Good, good,” I mumble, then turn and walk away because I’m too old to waste my time having conversations that don’t interest me.

“Oh, and I’m sorry about your friend,” Jerry calls to me as I begin the slow ascent up the stairs. His words hit me like a physical object, make me stop on the third step and lean against the wall. They bring a fresh wave of grief to the surface, and I’m glad he can’t see my face.

“Thank you,” I say, hoping he will leave now.

“The missus says she was a good, close friend of yours for many years. I’m very sorry.”

“Thank you,” I say again, then start climbing the stairs. One foot, then the other. I wish people would mind their own business. I have no interest, at my age, in collecting the sympathy of strangers. Or near strangers. In fact, I can do without sympathy at all, no matter the source.

I still imagine myself to be self-sufficient, and in order to maintain that illusion I keep a small garden at the end of the lane. Sometimes, while I’m weeding, I’ll stop and look across the street at where the old church used to be. After the fire they left the lot vacant and rebuilt the small brick building on a lot in town, but the old foundation is still there somewhere, under the dirt and the plants and the trees that came up over the years.

If I’m honest though, I have to admit that during some gradual phase in my life I became too old to work the farm myself. There was a period of time, not long ago, when my farm fell into disrepair, and I thought it would be the end of me as well, because I couldn’t bear to watch so many memories collapse in on themselves. Then the family that moved into Abra’s old farm, Jerry and his Missus and his “Boy,” asked if they could rent my fields and barns. I said yes because I had no good reason to say no. Now they take care of everything and I live quietly in the old farmhouse, puttering in my garden or sitting on the large front porch, trying to remember all the things that happened the summer my mother died.

Jerry’s son looks to be about eleven or twelve, my age when it happened. I wonder what he would do if his mother died. I think he is scared of me, and I don’t blame him. I don’t shave very often and my hair is usually unruly. My clothes are old and worn. I know that I smell of old age – I remember that scent from when my father started walking with a cane.

Sometimes Jerry’s son will hide among the fruit trees that line the long lane and spy on me, but I don’t mind. I pretend not to see him, and he seems to have fun with it, climbing up to the highest branch and peering through an old tube, as if it is a telescope. Sometimes though, when he gets to the top, I find myself holding my breath, waiting for him to fall. Everything falls in the end, you know. Everything that climbs high tumbles down to the ground.

I stare at the mirror again after climbing the steps and I wonder where all the time has gone. I pick up the necktie and try again, and my old fingers just can’t quite get it right. I remember as a very young boy my mother would sometimes put a tie on me, her delicate hands weaving the smooth fabric in a magical way.

“There,” she would say, smiling, patting the knot of the tie, and looking rather pleased with herself. “Now you look like a young man.”

The boy reminds me of me when I was his age. He runs around the farm with sticks and pretends they are swords and magic staffs. Those days seem so long ago – now I move slowly, carrying only a cane that is nothing more than a cane. I don’t know if I have the power anymore to turn this cane into anything exciting, anything like a sword pulled from a stone or a gun that could kill an Amarok. Sometimes I feel like I have forgotten how to pretend.

I give up on the tie and sit with relief at the desk by the window that looks out over the front yard and the garden and the old oak tree. It’s rather eery how the farm has returned to almost the same condition that it was in the summer my mother died, the summer of the fire. Sometimes when I look down the lane I expect to see her walking back up from the mailbox, or for my dad to wander in from the barns, dirty and ready for dinner.

After many years of wondering if I could get the story of that summer exactly right, I have decided to simply write it as I remember it. There’s no one else left who was there when it happened, no one to compare stories with, no one to agree or disagree with my own version. As I think through the story, I wonder if it’s even possible that everything happened as my memory tells me it did. It all seems rather incredible.

But one thing I’m sure of: after everything that happened that summer, life seemed fragile, like an egg rolling toward the edge of the table. It seemed like anyone I knew could die at any moment, and that feeling frightened me. But now that I’m old, and everyone I know has died, my own life feels almost unbreakable, like it will never give up.

Which reminds me of something that Mr. Tennin told me, in his thin, wispy voice, right at the end.

“Samuel,” he whispered. “Always remember this.”

I leaned in closer as the fire roared and crackled on the far side of the river.

“Death,” he said, pausing, “is a gift.”

I stare at the obituary sitting at the corner of my desk, the one that I cut out of the paper yesterday: such a small amount of writing meant to tell the story of someone’s entire life. I lift it up and it’s light, almost see-through, and for a moment life seems fragile again, and temporary.

I know what Mr. Tennin said can be hard to believe, especially when staring Death in the face. Death seems so horrible and huge, and when it comes for someone early, the last thing it feels like is a gift. Death, a gift? I would have shouted at someone had they said that to me at my mother’s funeral. But I’ve been on this earth for many years now, and I’ve seen many things, and I finally believe that Mr. Tennin was right.

Death, like life, is a gift.

This is how I remember that summer.

You can click HERE to head over to the Kickstarter campaign and preorder a book, sign up for a writing class, or choose any of the other rewards listed. Thanks!

What’s Next? (or, On Reaching A Kickstarter Goal in Two Days)

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 10.35.17 PMWow.

Just wow.

In less than two days you guys helped me raise $3,500 on Kickstarter, and this story, The Day the Angels Fell, will be published. I am still kind of in shock at how fast it all happened, the level of support you all have shown, and that this is actually going to take place.

But here’s the deal – we still have 28 days in the Kickstarter campaign, and I’d love to keep this thing moving forward, get more books into more hands, and maybe do some really fun things along the way.

So I’m introducing some stretch goals. A stretch goal is basically an added incentive to raise more money, and all of the existing rewards you’ve donated money for stay intact. If we don’t reach any of the stretch goals, the project will still go forward. The stretch goals I’m introducing will be things that benefit everyone who has contributed, at whatever level, either by making the book even better or by adding something fun. The stretch goals I’m introducing as of today are as follows:

$4,500 – If we can hit this total for the project then I’ll add 8 – 12 illustrations in the book. I have someone in mind for this, but we haven’t talked about it yet so I’ll save that for later. But he’s super talented and kind of edgy and I think he’d put together some unforgettable images.

$6,000 – If we can hit this total for the project then I’ll record an audio version of the book and everyone who contributed will be able to download it for free.

$10,000 – If things go totally crazy and we can hit this level, then our family will go on a multi-city book tour, connecting with as many of you as possible and having a lot of fun telling more people about the book.

Anyway, I’d love it if you could help me hit some of these stretch goals. The book is going to look amazing, so stay tuned for cover images and some other fun stuff. If you haven’t yet contributed and you’d like to get involved, you can check out the Kickstarter campaign HERE.