Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cat Got Your Tongue?

It sometimes amazes me how difficult it is to say much with so few words.  I once prided myself on the ability to be what I called "The Reader's Digest" of writers.  I still omit much more detail than most writers, but I am no longer short story driven.  I seem to enjoy the depth and intricacies of a novel.

Now I am faced with the challenge of taking that novel and summarizing it in a few words.  Knowing what I put into the various layers of the novel, I am finding it hard to shrink it to less than a hundred words and still capture the depth of the novel's meaning.

My second challenge is:  "About the Author."  What does one say about himself?  Too much and I am conceited...too little and I am seen as boring.  How do I balance humility with important detail?  Would love some advice.  I guess the cat's got my tongue.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Disclaimer:  This article has little to do with the A-Team, but I must give credit to the allusion in my title quote.  George Peppard's character would end each episode of the show with the line, "I love it when a plan comes together."  Of course the show began with an impossible task, but the team figured it out and achieved the impractical goal.

I allude to this because I recently completed my first assembly demonstration/talk on bullying since the publication of my book The Pact.  My book deals with bullying.  It shows the many ways children are bullied as well as various responses to the traumatic experience.  I am now speaking at schools with the dual purpose of plugging my novel and educating children on the proper way to deal with bullying.

As a former English teacher and coach, I wanted the talk to be as informative and enjoyable as possible.  As a pastor and father of seven children, I wanted it to be meaningful and helpful.  I included the children in my talk to help me identify and define the three basic types of bullying:  physical, verbal and social.  Then I used an activity to solidify the lesson.  I was hoping it would work.  It worked well in my head and practiced well with my own children at home.

The modified tug-o-war is designed to put the largest child on one end (roll-playing as the bully) opposite of the smallest student on the other (roll-playing the victim), so that's precisely what I did.  Obviously, the contest is rigged.  Then I pulled a second small child from the audience and had her pull alongside of the victim...then a third.  By now, the tug-o-war was balanced.  When I included a fourth and fifth child, the bully discovered he could hold his ground no longer.  Success!  "This is what happens when we choose to stand with victims" I said.  "After all, no one should ever have to stand alone."

Once that point was made, I educated the students in the power of spectating and laughing with the bully.  I pulled three of the children to the sides and had them stand with their tug leads taut.  Then I let the tug-o-war resume.  You got it; the bully was able to win again.  Then I put the same three children alongside of the bully and said this is what happens when you laugh at the bully's taunting.  They gave him even more power.  The kids got it...the exercise worked well.  The entire assembly of children volunteered to make a pact to stand against bullying.

I love it when a plan comes together.


Monday, January 13, 2014


I am currently teaching Cloud & Townsend's book Boundaries at my church on Wednesday nights.  This is my second season of sharing this with my congregation and it amazes me the various reasons people attend the class.  Some come for the obvious reason...they need help establishing and holding boundaries.  Others take the class because they know others who need the help.  But a few take the class to see why others are taking it.  I kid you not.

In discussions about boundaries, there are always one or two who seem baffled by the difficulty others have in setting limits.  These are the people I call "trespassers."  The reason they cannot understand the weaknesses of others is usually because they are the very people who tend to violate the boundary lines of others.  If this class holds true to our first group's sessions, and if these trespassers continue to the end, an epiphany will occur and the person will eventually be confronted by his/her aggressive behavior.

If everything I am saying to you is strange and confusing, I encourage you to buy a copy of the book Boundaries and read it for yourself.  We all need help discerning when it is time to say, "Yes," and when it is time to say, "No."  God created us and designed boundaries to be healthy lines where an individual can determine, "Where I end and someone else begins."  

It is the perfect guide to the establishment of healthy boundaries and a life of greater peace.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Conflicting Paths

As I look back upon my life-journey I see thousands and thousands of choices.  Have you ever wondered, "What if?"  I have.  It became one of my favorite episodic comic stories produced by Marvel...What if?  The writers would take a popular character and retell a story that featured a pivotal decision or event.  Only in this What if? episode, Marvel had the character making a different choice, thus altering his/her life.  It is the classic It's a Wonderful Life journey.  If you could go back and change one choice...alter the outcome of one event would you?

Choices I made as a child...a teenager...and an adult have helped make me who I am today.  Is that good or bad?  Could I have been better?  Could I have been worse?  Of course all we can do is ponder the question.  As of this moment there are no magical or technical devices that can take us back...give us the ultimate mulligan on life.  But we do have the future before us.  If we could go back and would, then how does that affect the decisions we are making right now?  How does this knowledge alter the journey ahead?

In my current book series which began with The Pact my characters will face those very questions...they may even get the opportunity to go back.  Would they?  Should they?  And, if they do, will their lives turn out better or worse?  Should we just leave "well enough alone"?  As of this moment, I plan to write four books in this series.  Book two, The Dragon's Pawn, is set to release on April 3, 2014.  I know what I want to do with the characters and their stories.  I have books three and four planned.  Will that change as I actually write the story?  Only time will tell.

Even the writing path upon which I now stand has its choices.  I have a detective series I am longing to write, but it is geared for adults and is quite a bit more graphic and edgy in its content.  I believe it has a worth while message, but does that justify a darker story?  Or should I just be content to stay with the young adult genre and crank out stories that are made for older children and younger teens?

It's a tough decision.  Both story-lines ebb and flow through my mind, my heart and my dreams.  If I had the time, I would write both...but I do not.  So, here I stand once again at the fork of two roads...two life-journeys...two conflicting paths.  Which way should I go?  I hope I don't look back many years from now and wonder, "What if?"


Friday, January 3, 2014

Survivor's Hidden Gem


I stopped watching Survivor after season 3.  Changes producers made in the show and the cast selection process lost me as a part of their audience, but those same alterations probably gained them thousands and thousands more.  What am I talking about?  Glad you asked.

Season 2 set the show on its ears.  From the beginning Survivor's motto was "Outwit, Outlast, Outplay."  That's what the producers expected from their cast of contestants.  They wanted to divide the contestants from one another and cause conflict.  They wanted the contestants to see each other as enemies.  They wanted to create bullies.  But in their second season, instead of scheming to outwit the others, many of the contestants actually helped one another.  Season 2 was considered "boring."

Well, I'm kind of getting ahead of myself. Back then each show began with the characters being stranded on the location.  They were also allowed one "survival item."  Most of the contestants brought something to help them in their survival...that would benefit them in the game.  One man, an older farmer from Kentucky by the name of Rodger, brought something entirely different...a Bible.  It threw the other for a loop, but at one point, when his team needed to start a fire, he tore pages from his Bible to use as starter.  When asked how he could do that, he said it was okay, he had it in his heart already.

At one point in the game of Survivor teams were challenged was issued to jump off of a bluff into a place where the river pooled and then swim to a specified point.  The older farmer, Rodger, couldn't swim.  Instead of getting angry with him or tormenting him, his team encouraged him.  Because of that, he jumped off and did his best.  He made it with the help of others...long after the other team's contestant, and was celebrated by his team for his courage.

He, Colby, Elizabeth and Tina helped each other...looked out for each other...were kind to each other.  They were four of the final five contestants.  And when it came down to the final three, only one selfish man remained.  In a move consistent with their unselfish behavior, Colby voted that man off...knowing full well that would lose him the game to Tina.  He did it anyway.  What an example of teamwork...of love...of hope.  Tina won the million and Colby came in second.

It just goes to prove the theme of my book The Pact:  No one should ever have to stand alone.  And it reinforces my theory:  if we stand together, bullies will not prevail.  It was Survivor's hidden gem and a lesson for us all.