Four Types of People, and a Book You Need to Buy

If you’re in the publishing industry for any amount of time, you will start to recognize several types of people. Let me sum just a few of them up for you here:

1) There is the type of person who wants to know everyone so that they can impress everyone with the names of everyone that they know. They pull these names out of their pocket at strategic times, as if these names are $100 bills, and wave them around before stuffing them back in their wallet. You may find yourself wondering, what was the point of that?

2) There is the type of person who wants to sell you as many things/books/courses as they can sell you, so they make ridiculous promises and publish click-bait posts and generally succeed in selling things but often things of very little substance. Like the cute kid with the roadside stand who’s selling lemonade for $1 but after you buy it, you realize it’s actually just sugary water. And you’re like, eh, okay, whatever. Keep your dollar, kid.

3) There is the enthusiastic newcomer who asks a thousand questions because they believe there’s a secret that will help them circumvent the process of time and hard work. And you keep saying, “Just keep writing,” and they look at you with glazed-over eyes and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what else?” or “Can you get me an agent?”

4) There is the genuinely helpful person who actually cares about the people they interact with, encourages said people to not sell their soul, to take their time, to act with integrity, and to keep working. They are delightful to be around. You have no idea who their agent is because they rarely talk about it. You might not even realize when they have signed another book deal! They do not wear masks, or at least as few masks as is humanly possible. They seem to genuinely celebrate when something you do succeeds, which makes you feel a little rotten inside because you are secretly jealous of the things they have created.

I have been fortunate to meet quite a few in this last group, and one of them is Ed Cyzewski. We’ve been friends for who knows how long–I can’t even remember when or where we first met–and for all these years, Ed has proven time and time again to be a true friend, a good person, and someone who loves Jesus.

Today, Ed has a book coming out. It’s a book I love, a book that I think will be around for a long time, and a book you should definitely go out and buy. It’s called Flee, Be Silent, Pray. Here’s what it’s about:

What if prayer could be simple rather than strenuous? Anxious, results-driven Christians can never pray enough, serve enough, or study enough. 

What if God is calling us not to frenzied activity but to a simple spiritual encounter? What if we must merely receive what God has already given us? 

Order it online. Or from your local bookstore. Or, even better, from Byron Borger’s wonderful store, Hearts and Minds. Whatever you do, pick it up today.

My Great-Great-Grandfather Wrote on Barn Walls (or, Some Thoughts on Creativity, and the Cover of My Next Book)

I’m sitting at the small red table beside one of our large living room windows, looking out at James Street. There’s our porch, the wide sidewalk, the busy street. There is the sycamore tree, ancient and leaning, the leaves gently browning in this mid-autumn light. It is 50 degrees and the sun is shining, shining, shining, as if summer is still within its grasp.

My book, Once We Were Strangers, released only last week, but I am in the thick of editing my next novel, one that releases in July of 2019. I can tell you now that it’s called Light from Distant Stars, and it’s the most challenging story I’ve ever tried to write. It is a standalone novel for grownups, not connected with my YA novel The Day the Angels Fell. But I have lots of time to tell you more about that.

What I want to tell you today, or share with you I guess, is the fact that even in the writing of this current book, in working through the edits, I am assailed by voices of self-doubt and questions about my ability to write well. There has been no magic turning point, at least not for me, where I have woken up self-confident and swaggering, convinced that I am finally the writer I have always wanted to be. Not when I co-wrote my first book and saw it in Barnes and Noble in 2008. Not when I signed a contract with my first agent, or landed a book contract, or when The Day the Angels Fell won an award.

And yet. There has been something magical about the last few weeks, a kind of turning point. I have experienced a peace in who I am, in what I write, in the words that I share – no matter the sales numbers, no matter the Amazon rank, no matter the mentions or shares or high-profile praise (or lack thereof). I am determined to enjoy each of my writing days, to work hard at getting better, to read more widely, and to sink deep, deep, deep into the stories I am creating. God is there, somewhere, waiting for me.

I know now that there is no Promised Land in the distance where, once there, I will have arrived – this creative life is nothing but a journey, nothing but one more word, one more sentence, one more chapter, and one more story.

This is what I offer you today, in whatever creative pursuits you are digging into: give yourself the freedom to chase excellence, to go after whatever creative thing is calling your name. Don’t be afraid, and when you are, let it fill you with exhilaration at the risks you are taking. Keep going. Keep moving. Keep breathing. Be present, really present, wherever you are.

This isn’t just for writing – it’s for painting and photography and starting a business and running for office. It’s for when you become a parent or get married or take a trip or start a church. Keep going. Keep moving. Keep breathing.

Anyway, these are my thoughts today, looking out the window onto James Street, watching the traffic go by, pondering a sycamore tree that was probably planted when my great-great-grandfather was a boy – the same man who used to write on the walls of his barn, stories and news and thoughts about life. That is all I am really doing here. That is all any of us are doing.

And here is the cover of my next novel, in case you were interested.

Three Books You Should Know About

Friends, there are three amazing books coming out today that I have to tell you about.

The first is one of my absolute favorite co-writing projects, Reload Love. I went to Iraq with author Lenya Heitzig almost 18 months ago to see the work her organization does helping children impacted by terror. It was an incredible, life-changing trip that I wrote about HERE. Here’s a summary of what the book is about:

This is the story of one woman who refused to look away from atrocities on her television screen. Lenya Heitzig allowed her heart to break at the plight of refugees and the deaths of innocent children, and then she begged God for a job to do.

In this gritty, passionate story, Lenya details the epic way God answered her prayers—how a spark came to life turning weapons of war into something beautiful. Experience the hope found in a children’s playground as you journey with her through the jungles of Burma and the war-torn streets of the Middle East.

* * * * *

The second is a book written by a writer friend who knows more about books than anyone else I know. Anne Bogel has an incredible podcast (What Should I Read Next), an amazing blog (Modern Mrs. Darcy), and now she’s gifted us reader-mortals with the best thoughts on books. It’s called, I’d Rather Be Reading. I received an advanced copy, and it’s such a fun, informative read. Here’s the skinny:

In this collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today.

* * * * *

Finally, Karen Swallow Prior’s highly anticipated On Reading Well also releases today! I haven’t read it yet, but it’s waiting for me on my bedside table.

Acclaimed author Karen Swallow Prior takes readers on a guided tour through works of great literature both ancient and modern, exploring twelve virtues that philosophers and theologians throughout history have identified as most essential for good character and the good life.

* * * * *

Pick up one or all of these amazing titles. It’s a great day for books! Oh, and by the way. The Day the Angels Fell, my first novel, is only $1.99 in digital format today! Get it here and tell your friends:


Today is the Day! #TheEdgeofOverThere

Today is the day, my friends. The Edge of Over There is releasing into the world. You have all been such loyal readers, so I hesitate to ask you for one more thing, but if you want to help, here are a few things you can do to help this book find its way:

– buy a copy of The Edge of Over There.

– call your local library and see if they carry The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There. If they don’t, ask them if they can!

– if you already have a copy, post a photo of the book beside your beautiful face on Instagram with the hashtag #TheEdgeofOverThere.

– Forward this post to a bunch of friends who love to read and suggest they check out The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There.

– Cut and paste this, or something more personalized, into the social media site of your choice:

Today is release day for Shawn Smucker’s novel #TheEdgeofOverThere! Check it out here:

* * * * *

Again, thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. I wouldn’t be here if you folks hadn’t been reading me for years, supporting my work, and encouraging me constantly.

It Took Almost Four Years to Get Here, But Here We Are!

Four years ago, after months of rejections and waffling back and forth, I made the decision to self-publish The Day the Angels Fell. I would lose two high school classmates within a year, something that brought to the forefront of my mind the central question of the book, “Could it be possible that death is a gift?” I knew I had to publish it, even if I had to do it on my own.

But I didn’t have to do it on my own, because you helped me. At the end of 2014, many of you supported my Kickstarter campaign, helping me cover the costs, and I mailed out hundreds of copies. I began writing the sequel the following year. And then life presented me with a different course, something entirely unexpected.

The Day the Angels Fell was picked up by a publisher, along with the sequel, a book in its infancy that I had already titled The Edge of Over There.

More time passed.

What can we do with all of these days, these seasons, these years? How can we measure their passing? A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. In those early days of 2016, July of 2018 felt impossibly far off.

Yet, here we are. The Edge of Over There is available, officially releasing on July 3rd, less than two months away.

And I need your help again!

When The Day the Angels Fell came out, I was a new author with no sales history, and online booksellers placed their initial order based on a very small number of preorders. When the book released, Amazon sold out within hours, as did other online retailers.

I’d like it to go a little differently this time around. This is where you come in.

I’d love if you would take the time today to preorder The Edge of Over There. I’ve listed various places you can do that at the bottom of this message. Preordering a book is one of the best ways you can support the writers you love because it helps that book gain valuable, early momentum and serves to highlight a book to retailers inundated with thousands of possible titles a month.

But I know it can be a stretch, ordering a book that you won’t be able to read right away. So, if you preorder The Edge of Over There, I’m offering you this:

My undying gratitude.


I’ll include you in an invitation to a book release party that will take place in Lancaster, PA, sometime in August, 2018 (once the exact date and location have been determined, I’ll let you know)


I’ll send you a chapter from The Edge of Over There!


On release day, July 3rd, I’ll email you a link to a video I’m making that describes the elements of writing and how to begin your own novel. Maybe this is something you would enjoy. Maybe this is something you want to have for your kids to watch and try out for themselves in the middle of the summer when everyone is losing their sanity and searching for something fun to do. Whoever it’s for, if you want this video, preorder The Edge of Over There today!

Once you’ve placed your order, head HERE to input your information and make sure you receive the invitation and the chapter and the video and oh yes the undying gratitude as well.

And if you haven’t read The Day the Angels Fell yet, you still have time before the sequel releases! What are you waiting for?

Here’s where you can preorder The Edge of Over There (along with the list-price as of 5/7):

Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA – call 717-627-1990
Amazon (currently $17.99)
Baker Bookhouse (currently $12.59)
Barnes and Noble (currently $17.99)
Books-a-Million (currently $17.99) (currently $11.99)
Hearts and Minds Bookstore (currently %20 off)

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

P.S. If you would like to join our FB book launch group, you can do that here. You’ll get a free digital version of the book prior to release in exchange for an online review and your help in spreading the word about the book!