FREE Kindle Downloads This Weekend

Yeah, that was a bit clickbait-ish, but it’s still true. Starting midnight on August 29th, every one of my books will be FREE in the Kindle store. That’s a total of six books, all available for download on your Kindle, all for free.

So what’s the occasion?

Four years ago, my dad’s dad passed away. My family was able to stand at his bedside as he left this world behind. My first book, Blue Like the Sky, is a collection of the blog posts I wrote during his final months, and I felt it would be fitting to give the book away in honor of Pop Harold.

But why stop there?

My book, You’re Still Here, is a guide to help parents after the death of a child. Couldn’t people use it?

Both of my short story collections, Bulldawg (detective stories set in Athens, GA) and Warm & Weird (a collection of 20 stories) could help someone pass the time in a pleasant way this weekend.

And if someone is in need of a laugh, they could certainly benefit from my essay collection, Just Pretend You’re Dead, or my illustrated Christmas classic (for those with sick minds), A Stick-Boy Christmas.

All I ask is that you download them and enjoy. If you want to share the link to any of the books, or to my Amazon author page, that would be lovely, but if not, no big deal. I’m happy to share. Part of the legacy that Pop left behind is of generosity and an open hand. This is the least I can do to honor him.

Remember – this doesn’t start until midnight on the 29th, but after that you’ll have until midnight on September 1st to get your copies.

Hope you enjoy them.

Keep the Train Rolling

This week I’m participating in Seth Godin’s #YourTurnChallenge. My goal is to blog everyday this week (Mon-Sun) here on my site as well as on the challenge’s official Tumblr blog. Here’s my Day 4 submission.

Today is my 39th birthday. One year away from 40.

I wrestle most days with feeling like a failure. The definition of success I learned growing up (marriage, family, steady job, plenty of money) hasn’t played out in my life. I’m almost 40 and still starting over in so many ways.

But then I stop and think:

  • I am a husband to a wonderful wife, Rachel.
  • I am daddy to two beautiful children, Ella and Jon, and a third, Ruthanne, who waits for me in heaven.
  • We have a beautiful home.
  • We have nice cars.
  • I have a wide and wonderful assortment of friends.
  • I rock Twitter.
  • I get paid to do what I do best: communicate (both written and verbal).
  • I’ve recorded and released an album with two of my closest friends.
  • I’ve written over 365 radio programs that still air to this day on 1700 radio stations worldwide (not to mention podcast downloads).
  • I’ve written and directed three short films, and won a Telly award for one of them.
  • I’ve written and published 5 books.
  • I’ve started three blogs, two websites, and one company.
  • I’ve pastored a church that was dying, and helped it not only die with dignity but give over $300,000 away to deserving causes as a last act.
  • I’ve performed over 30 marriages, many of those being the marriages of students who sat under my teaching and mentoring.
  • I’ve been privileged to write for a Fortune 500 company, a multi-national leadership firm, one of the nation’s largest churches, one of my community’s finest charities, and countless other people whose vision deserved to be shared.
  • I’ve interviewed entrepreneurs, civic leaders, spiritual leaders, and other interesting people and been privileged to share their stories with the public via magazine articles.

All of that by 39. Sure there are folks who’ve achieved more–but there are those who’ve achieved less. It’s not a competition anyway.

But more than all I’ve achieved, I’ve come to realize what I’m proudest of is that we–my wife, my kids and myself–keep looking for the next thing. The next step. The next challenge. We may fail, but as my wife is fond of saying, “We’re going to keep the train rolling.”

We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know this: if we win today, tomorrow will take care of itself.

It’s taken me 39 years to understand just what that means. Here’s to another 39 (and more) to keep living it the best I can.

Free Chapter From My Next Book: You’re Still Here – Surviving the Death of a Child

holding handsI’ve mentioned on Twitter that I’m working on a new ebook for people who have lost a child, or know someone who has. I’ll also release the book through CreateSpace as a paperback. It’s not going to be terribly long, and I’m not a doctor or therapist or big name celebrity pastor/author, so it’s not going to be terribly popular. But what it will be is honest. Perhaps too honest.

But as I’m writing for hurting people, that’s not a bad thing.

See, there aren’t a lot of resources out there for people who’ve buried a child. Be it a stillbirth, a miscarriage, SIDS, an early childhood illness or just the injustice of a fallen universe, a lot of people are hurting without many resources to comfort them. I don’ t know if it’s because those resources have a limited audience and therefore remain unknown or if companies and writers are simply unwilling to publish on the topic. It also may be that there are tons of resources available and I just don’t know how to Google search them.

I doubt that last point, though, because every time someone I know experiences a child’s death – be it personally or via friends and family – one of the first questions I get is always, “I’ve looked online for resources on this, but there don’t seem to be that many. Can you recommend something?”

The thought of writing something for hurting parents and family and friends has been in the back of my head for a while. I’ve put it off because A- I don’t have the platform to effectively write and sell such a book, and B- I’m not an official expert in the matters of grief. But I got a message from my cousin the other day on Facebook asking about resources for someone who’d just lost a baby. I gave her a couple of books that Rachel and I had read that kind of helped, and gave her some advice on what not to say or do around the grieving parents. And I realized: I don’t have to write the definitive book on surviving the death of a child. I don’t have to be psychologist or counselor or mega-pastor to speak from a place of wisdom.

I’ve lived it. And if I keep it short and sweet, and tell my story as a way of offering advice and insight, then that would be enough.

Part of writing is offering help to the people who read what you write. Whether it’s escape or insight or just a momentary sense of camaraderie, giving something to your reader is an essential piece of being a good writer. I know that enough people come to this blog on a search for information on stillbirth and child death to know that even a short book on living through such a horrific life trauma might help someone else grieve better. So I’ve put my other projects on hold for the moment in order to get this book done.

If you know someone who might benefit from this book, please be on the lookout for it’s release. I’m hoping to get it done relatively soon, with sections for both the grieving parents and the friends and family of the aggrieved. It’s not going to be lengthy – maybe 30,000 words all told, but it will be sincere. If you work for a funeral service or maybe as a grief counselor or hospital chaplin, I’d love to send you a manuscript file before I publish and get some feedback and a review for the book. You can fill out the form below if you’re interested.

For everyone else, you can have a free chapter from the book by simply downloading the sample via this link: Sample Chapter_You’re Still Here. The chapter is titled The God Dilemma and it’s a quick look at how the question of God comes into play after the death of a child. The file is read-only.

If you know someone who’s coping with the death of a child, please share this post with them. I’d love for them to know that someone understands, and that a resource is being developed to offer some help in their time of need.

Bulldawg: How I Published a Book in a Day

ImageYesterday, I had a sudden burst of energy and a surplus of time. The end result? I now have a new book available on Amazon (both Kindle version and in paperback).

Before you get all impressed, let me clarify:

The book is a collection of short stories that I wrote a few years ago. I labored over them quite a long time, enjoying the act of creation, enjoying the chance to invent and inhabit a new (though familiar) world. They’re detective stories, inspired by the works of Raymond Chandler, creator of the famous P.I. Phillip Marlowe. Set in Athens, Georgia, they’re about a detective who comes back to the last place life made any sense – UGA – trying to start over again. Through five different, strange cases, he discovers that being a detective in a crazy college town is very interesting. They’re dark, gritty, punchy and, for better or worse, some of my most favorite things I’ve written.

Are the wholesome? No. They’re hard-boiled detective noir. They’re not for kids, people who dislike detective stories, or people who object to the use of ugly language and uglier portrayals of life.

Are they good? We’ll see. I wouldn’t have published them if I weren’t proud of them, and if a friend of mine didn’t convince me that they were worth putting out into the public sphere.

Are they cheap? As cheap as I could make them. Well, I suppose I could’ve given them away free, but they were the perfect set up for testing the digital marketplace as an independent author. If you don’t have to go through the gatekeepers, why should you?

Do I expect to make a lot of money? Not a bit. But I hope to be able to get some good feedback as a writer – I want to know what the people who read this blog might think of the experiment in fiction. I want to know if I have the kind of range necessary to tell bigger stories than just my own (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

I’ve already sold a few copies (thanks to my brother, my friend Ashton, and my friend Sarah) and that’s a nice feeling. It helps with the transition from my old life to my new one. God is sovereign, and He’s able to do more than I would’ve imagined.

Heck, He might even be pleased that I’m trying to stretch more than I’ve ever done before. Who knows?

So, as any self-published author is required to do, I’m gonna remind you one more time that my new book, Bulldawg: Detective Tales from the Classic City, is now available for Kindle or in paperback at Amazon. If you’re a Bulldog fan and know anything about Athens, especially Athens circa 1994-2000, then you’re in for a treat.

Help a fellow Dawg out by getting your copy, will ya?

Thoughts On Jon Acuff’s “Quitter”

quitterI was finally able to track down a book I’ve been wanting to read for quite some time – Jon Acuff’s Quitter – and hunkered down to read it. If you don’t know Acuff, he came to prominence with his blog, Stuff Christians Like, and has turned his blog into a dream career of writing and speaking to people all over the country. Quitter is his second book as a member of Dave Ramsey’s Speakers Group, a collection of hand-picked communicators that work under the Dave Ramsey umbrella. Acuff is hysterical, thoughtful, and flat out good.

Acuff writes that his dream was to become an author and speaker who would share his insights with the world. He busted his butt putting in long hours to make SCL an immensely popular blog, and he continued busting his butt to make his dream come true. He wasn’t handed anything. He didn’t stumble upon dumb luck. He didn’t steal someone else’s idea and ride it fame. If you take five minutes you’ll see that everything he’s received has been a response to his hustle (a word he calls “a core element holding this entire book together”).

So, what does this praise mean? That he earned his dream. And upon reading his story, I realized he’d earned mine too.

Well, not exactly my dream. My dream is more about helping people understand that God is present in even the most mundane moments of everyday life (thus the title and focus of this blog). But in a broader sense, of being able to write and speaker and have your words motivate and inspire people, he got where I want to be. And reading his book, I felt like I could get there too.

Part of the book’s focus is encouraging dreamers to stick with their day jobs, especially since their day jobs can offer the stability needed when you want to launch a dream. Acuff does a great job of teaching his readers “how to fall in like with a job you don’t love” and seeing their present circumstances not as barriers to, but buttresses of, their dream job.

In practical terms, my job couldn’t be better for what I want to accomplish. I get to practice my content development, speaking, interpersonal relationship skills, writing, editing, and a host of other skills necessary to become a published author/speaker every week. I get to find my voice and develop my skill at reaching people with the message that beats within my heart.

So I’m 80% of the way there.

Where I get bogged down, and where Acuff’s book helped me tremendously, was the area of procrastinating perfectionism. I like things to be done as well as I can do them. And whenever I encounter situations that don’t allow for me to meet my dreamer standards, I tend to pull back and do nothing because it won’t be as good as it could be. Acuff challenges that notion with words that really cut me to the core: “90 percent perfect and shared with the world always changes more lives than 100 percent perfect and stuck in your head.” Stuff that’s better than average and shared beats stuff I’m endlessly trying to perfect and keeping on my laptop.

That moved me in such a deep way, because I’m often afraid that what I have to offer isn’t good enough, despite the fact that my career as of late tells me otherwise. I fall prey to the illusion that I’m not successful enough because I don’t have a book deal (or a book, for that matter), endless speaking engagements, and thousands of visitors to my blog everyday. Honestly, part of me read Jon Acuff’s story and thought, “That will never happen for me.”

But another part, a louder part, said, “Actually, it might. But you have to want it bad enough.”

I’ve flirted with the idea of writing for the longest time. I started this blog as a way to build my confidence, sharpen my skills and – let’s be honest – get vital feedback/confirmation that what I believed to be a talent really was something special. Did I expect people to flock to the blog? No. Did I hope like crazy that it would happen? Heck yes. Has it? No. But over the past few months, things have steadily progressed to the point that I need to commit myself to making my dream happen.

So, I’ve got the book part in mind (I’m not going to spill anything here, in order to keep the content separate in my mind) but I’m going to need some suggestions/help on how to go about getting speaking opportunities. I have no clue. In fact, I was so lost for ideas that I actually emailed Jon Acuff.

Dude – sorry for suddenly turning into your stalker. Seriously.

So if you have some ideas, or if your grandfather’s 3 person men’s group is in need of a speaker for their annual men’s conference in Neverheardofhere, Mississippi, feel free to comment below. I’m looking to dream big in 2013 – and act bigger.