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Author Interview: Paul Lawrence

Today’s blog post is an interview of author Paul Lawrence. I don’t remember exactly where I met Paul on-line. Probably at a blog for writers that we both read and post at from time to time. I checked out him and his writing. Time for you all to know about it.

DAT: Your website bio indicates you were a computer security analyst, and that you wrote articles in your professional field. How does someone make the jump from writing computer articles to writing creatively?

Paul in a casual pose, no doubt with the gray cells churning out a scene or some dialog.
Paul in a casual pose, no doubt with the gray cells churning out a scene or some dialog. And, while I’m at it, thank you, Paul, for your service to our country.

PL: For many years, I dreamt of writing fiction. In fact, my wife bought a wood name plaque with Paul Lawrence (my pen name) on it about fifteen years ago for my birthday. She said, “Maybe this will motivate you.” But I stayed so busy with my work and keeping up with the changes in my chosen field, that there was little time even for reading outside my profession. I was asked to write an article for, because another writer had declined to at the last minute. Once I had written the first one, they kept asking me to write more. That helped me believe in myself as a writer.

When I retired, I decided it was time to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a novelist. But the two fields are so dissimilar that it’s quite a leap. In nonfiction, you write about facts but try to do it in an entertaining way.  With fiction, you have to stir the readers’ emotions and make them feel like they are living the experience.

The first thing I started writing was a crime story with a Christian
detective. The first fifteen pages were what is known as “telling”. I was writing the story as if it was nonfiction, describing the detective and his accomplishments without any emotion or action. (I may go back to that one day, but it will be dramatically different than the way I started it.)

DAT: Your book is titled “Prayers Were No Help”. It’s a provocative title. Tell us something about it. And how did you come to write it?

A novella, "Prayers Were No Help" is available both as an e-book and a print book.
A novella, “Prayers Were No Help” is available both as an e-book and a print book.

PL: It’s a story about a guy who is flying high, enjoying life and success, and thinks the good times will never end. Then his wife is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and his world comes crashing down. Like many others in similar circumstances, he sinks into depression and begins drinking heavily.

Realizing that he has to either end it all or find a way out of the
darkness surrounding him, he travels to his family’s lake cabin to be alone with his thoughts and the bottle. But he meets a mysterious man named Toby, who’s persistence and patience lead to his healing and a positive outlook on life from a God-centered perspective.

One day, he decides to return to the lake and thank Toby and finds out Toby was not who he thought he was at all.

I was inspired to write the story, because I have been touched by cancer personally. I lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer, and five years ago my wife was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Then, while she was waiting for her surgery date, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Both of us believed she would beat cancer, and she has. She has been cancer-free for five years now. The experience, dealing with the doctors and learning about the treatment modalities, informed my writing.

The title was suggested by my editor. I had tried similar ones but liked her suggestion so much I decided to use it. I think it speaks to the questions we all have when we think our prayers aren’t being answered and we don’t understand why. I love the Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayers, by the way.

DAT: Why did you decide to self-publish this?

PL: Since I’m new to the business, I began by doing a lot of research. I knew it wasn’t easy to publish using the traditional route, but I tried. I was told that no one reads Christian fiction and no one wants to publish novellas.  (My book is only 23,000 words, less than half the length of some novels and less than a quarter the size of many sci-fi novels.) I knew the story was complete. Adding more to it would have made it worse. So, eventually I decided to self-publish. Even if only one person reads it, it is my prayer that that one person will be inspired.

What’s next for you? I assume you’re working on a second book, if not  even more than that.

Actually, I have three in the pipeline.  The first, which is nearing completion, is a story about a young man from Iowa who volunteers to go to Vietnam, to carry on the family tradition. His experience there, and upon returning, shapes his life and causes him to endure a great deal of emotional upheaval. In the end, God’s love will save him and heal his heart. The title is Some Wounds Never Heal.

The second and third are in the germ stage; a story about a woman who is abused by her husband and how she finds the strength to believe in herself and God to escape from that prison, and a story about a girl who is kidnapped by a serial killer and a female FBI profiler who desperately wants to catch him before he kills again. The two together will solve the case and bring closure to many grieving families.

DAT: So there you have it, folks. Check out Paul’s book at Amazon, as well as his website.

A Gettysburg Item Not Mentioned

As I mentioned in a couple of prior posts, I recently finished a book about General Robert E. Lee’s Gettysburg campaign. In that book, Last Chance For Victory, the authors speak much about the second day of the battle. The first day was also covered extensively, though the third somewhat less than the first two. On the first day, the Confederate army and the Union army met almost accidentally at Gettysburg. A major clash wasn’t expected quite that soon by Lee. So the ebb and flow of the battle had to do with standing orders for both sides, and with soldiery and generalship, and less to do with strategy.

Lee's gamble of marching north, to take the pressure off Virginia, and to force the North to end the war, didn't pay off. This book suggests it came very, very close.
Lee’s gamble of marching north, to take the pressure off Virginia, and to force the North to end the war, didn’t pay off. This book suggests it came very, very close.

But, on the second day, it was all about strategy and tactics. So say Bowden and Ward, the authors of LCFV. Lee spent much of the night of July 1-2 working on his strategy, even before he knew for sure what the Federal positions were and which of his own forces would be available for battle. He consulted with his corps commanders: Longstreet, Hill, and Ewell. They had ideas of what to do, especially Longstreet. Lee considered that, then set a plan for a frontal attack from the west against Cemetery Ridge, held by the Union. A “demonstration” in force by Ewell’s corps from the north was also part of it, which Lee meant to develop into a full attack, depending on how the Union reacted. These plans took most of the morning to prepare, and were to launch in the early afternoon.

But, when Lee and others made a final check of the front. It was discovered that General Sickles, a corps commander for the Union, had moved his corps down Cemetery Ridge into a forward position along the Emmitsburg Road, over a mile closer to the Confederates. And, his new line had a “kink” in it; it wasn’t a nice straight line as armies are used to forming. It also left the Union susceptible to flanking movements, either around Sickles to the south or between Sickles and the next corps, commanded by General Hancock.

Bowden and Ward say this was a stupid move on Sickles’ part. This is echoed in other accounts that I’ve read, limited as they are. Sickles was too exposed, his new line too hard to defend. Yes, it was a stupid. The results of the battle “prove” this true. Sickles’ corps was decimated by Lee’s attack. They fell back—the ones that weren’t killed, injured or captured. That stupid Sickles cost the Union a functioning corps.

Except, because of Sickles’ move, Lee changed his battle plan. Instead of a full, frontal attack simultaneously by two corps, he went with an en echelon attack, that is, an attack that progressed from one end of the line to the other, not simultaneously, but sequentially, division by division or brigade by brigade. This took an hour or so to put together and issue new orders. Thus, the Confederate attack didn’t kick off until about 4:00 in the afternoon. It went well, but fell apart as dark was approaching, giving Lee no time to take corrective action.

So Sickles’ move cost the South about an hour of battle daylight. Lee famously said that they needed another half hour to make the attack successful. Why didn’t he have the time he needed? Because of Sickles’ move. So, even though his corps took heavy, heavy casualties, wasn’t his move what saved the day for the Union?

Bowden and Ward didn’t discuss the time factor, the time Sickles’ took away from Lee by changing his position. Yes, his casualties were heavy, but it seems to me it was the key move by either army in the whole sequence of the three-day battle. While Lee was adjusting his strategy and orders, the Federal army was able to bring up more troops that were arriving, and make other adjustments. Also, troops badly beaten the previous day had an extra hour to get their act together. Many were still not battle-worthy, but with an extra hour of rest, and time for their officers to rally them, they had to be in better shape at 4:00 p.m. than they would have been at 2:00 p.m., when the battle might have kicked off according to Lee’s original plan.

So, was Sickles’ move folly, or genius? Everything I’ve read says it was folly. Is their no one among the battle’s historians who see this as a good move—a costly move, but a good one in that it bought time, time that the Union desperately needed. Who am I to question military historians, a novice such as I am?

I have much more reading to do on this to know for sure. And, I don’t know that that time will ever present itself for me to be able to do this. I hope, some year, I’ll get to read more on it, and maybe write something from more knowledge.

Book Review: Last Chance For Victory

For research purposes, I picked up a used copy of Last Chance For Victory. The subtitle is Robert E. Lee and the Gettysburg Campaign. The authors are Scott Bowden and Bill Ward. Bowden has written many books on military issues, especially the Napoleonic wars. I didn’t check into Ward’s credentials.

Lee was a professional soldier, who fought for the honor of his state. But since the cause he fought for was so wrong, his legend will always be tained.
Lee was a professional soldier, who fought for the honor of his state. But since the cause he fought for was so wrong, his legend will always be tained.

I began reading this sometime in 2014, when I began writing my book Documenting America: Civil War Edition. As I said in a prior post, I knew I would be including a chapter on Gettysburg, so I thought this would be good research for me. The paperback copy I read is 529 pages long, not including one tabular appendix, but including the many, many pages of end notes for each chapter. I read the first five chapters (221 pages) back then, then put it aside when I put my book aside. But, this April, I went back to work on my book, so went back to reading LCFV, in early May. I think I remembered the gist of what I’d read three years ago.

This is a very good book. Bowden and Ward make a good case that Lee handled himself very well in the Gettysburg campaign, from recognizing the strategic need for it, to planning it, to executing it. Yes, the Confederacy lost this battle, but not because of Lee, they say. In their last chapter, they list 17 causes for the Confederate loss. A couple of them were things that the Union did, or their generals did. Except for that, the authors missed no opportunity to show their disdain of the Northern soldier and his generals. Concerning Lee, they listed only two faults:

  1. failure to keep a large enough headquarters staff to do all that a commanding general needed done; and
  2. failure to take tactical control on the third day of the battle, when it was obvious that two of his three corps commanders (and, they actually make a case for all three) failed to execute Lee’s orders, either to the level of incompetence or insubordination. Even the oft-praised General Longstreet came in for harsh criticism for his performance on the third day of the battle.

Everything else, Lee did flawlessly. That cavalry general Jeb Stuart misread Lee’s orders and went gallivanting in Pennsylvania, far enough from where Lee concentrated his army to be absent the first two days and ineffective the third day was Stuart’s fault, not Lee’s. They go into great lengths on this. Their arguments are fairly convincing. It appears Stuart didn’t follow orders, though I can see some ambiguity in the orders. That Ewell’s corps didn’t take Culp Hill on the first day was Ewell’s fault for over-emphasizing the words “if practicable” in the order. On this, I think Bowden and Ward have good grounds for criticism of General Ewell. Many military victories (so I’ve read) have happened when a field commander took the initiative and fought for and took the hill, then held it until reinforcements arrived.

But, they don’t find fault with Lee for failing to come to the front lines on the second day, when the en echelon attack was in progress, and kick his corps commanders in their sorry rear ends and get their divisions and brigades into the action as they’d been ordered to do. Instead, Lee stayed in his headquarters, watching or receiving reports on the action. If he had just taken one of General Hill’s divisions and shoved them to the front, the entire battle would have been different. Maybe.

I have a couple of criticisms of the book. The main one is that the authors fixate on a point and beat it to death. The en echelon attack is the main one, along with the failures of Ewell, Hill, Stuart, and to a lesser extent Longstreet. These were covered in the chapter of that part of the battle, then mentioned in the next chapter, the next chapter, and left beaten to death in the summary. They could have done with much less of this, either covering other things, or making the book shorter. I also found a few more typos than I would have liked. One map for the action on July 1 was labeled as for July 2. But, overall, I would say the typos didn’t bother me.

The comments on Amazon indicate this book is controversial, in that it gives too much credit to Lee, overlooks some of his shortcomings, and fails to say that the Union army and generals had something to do with the Confederacy losing. Since this is my first book to read on Gettysburg, I really can’t say much to that. For sure it is highly favorable to Lee. Whether he deserved those laurels for this battle, someone else will have to determine.

I bought this book for a whopping $0.50, probably at a thrift store. I don’t know that I’ll ever read it again. If I read more on Gettysburg it will be other books. But, for now, I’ll keep it as a reference book. I might have to refer to it again.

Back to Editing

Tuesday evening I went back to editing on my book Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I finished the first round of edits about ten days ago, and decided to let it sit awhile, to give me a fresh perspective. That time passed, and so I decided it was time to edit. I have the book out with a beta reader, who I told not to hurry on it, as I wouldn’t be publishing it till sometime in July.

This isn't the cover—just a temporary mock-up graphic for this post.
This isn’t the cover—just a temporary mock-up graphic for this post.

As I looked at the book, I decided to take a slightly different approach to this round of edits. Each chapter is organized like this. It’s built around an historical document from the Civil War era. I write a lead-in paragraph, briefly setting the scene. The original document comes next, usually heavily edited down to a reasonable amount to read. After the document comes two pieces of my writing, which together are usually shorter than the document excerpt. In the first bit, I do a little explaining of the document or of the issues it is involved with. In the second bit I try to tie the document to an issue we are facing today. My purpose for that is to show that things may not have changed as much as we think they have.

During my first round of edits, I realized that the early chapters, which were written in 2014, and the later chapters, written in 2017, had significant differences between them. The 2014 chapters make reference to world events that were hot topics then, but which, to some extent, have faded from the front pages. The 2017 chapters make appropriate references to current world events.

But, does this not show a weakness in the book? If I refer to events that don’t seem as important now as they seemed in 2014, maybe they really aren’t worth mentioning at all. I need to think about this.

So, to bet back to my editing approach. I decided in this round of edits I would just read the words I wrote, not the documents I edited. That way I get through them a whole lot faster. In three days I read and edited my words in 17 chapters. Only 12 to go, so I should finish those by Sunday.

I’m hoping that reading these parts close together, and quickly, will give me greater insight into what changes I should make, if any. It may be that I’ll leave it about as is, and add some explanation in the Introduction about the times of writing.

Either way, I’ll finish it by Sunday, then do another read-through of the excerpted documents, and see if there’s anything else I can cut for readability while not destroying the integrity of what the document says.

Latest Book—First Round of Edits Complete

Not ten seconds before I pulled up my administration page here, I finished the first round of edits on my latest book, Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I’ve spoken about it before on this blog. I can’t remember how much I’ve spoken about the specifics.

Documenting America
I wouldn’t call it a smash hit, but I’ve had a few sales of “Documenting America”.

In 2011 I published Documenting America: Lessons From the United States’ Historical Documents. Then in 2012 I added a homeschool version of it. In that book I took documents from a variety of eras in

Mathew Brady did such a good job of capturing the Civil War in photos.
Mathew Brady did such a good job of capturing the Civil War in photos.

US history, excerpted them, commented on their historical significance, then tied them to an issue in our country at that time. My goal was to get people interested in reading original source documents, rather than just trust history books to give an accurate historical picture.


As I wrote that, I realized I could do that with a whole series of books. I had the whole of a four hundred year span to choose from for the next book. I decided to go with the Civil War. The format will be the same: choose a document; excerpt it; give historical context; tie it to a current issue. I found the writing more difficult, as writing about several military battles made differentiating those battles difficult. But I was able to persist, and completed the book about three weeks ago, having started it in 2014 but then laid it aside. This first round of edits left me pleased with it. At the risk of breaking my arm patting myself on the back, I think it does a good job of bringing historical documents to life. And, I think my historical context and issues comments are fine. I’ll do another round of edits, of course, but perhaps only one more. My guess is I’ll be publishing this in July.

Now, I’m going to paste in the Table Of Contents, so you can see what exactly is in the book.

1. A Merciless and Fearful Retribution: The firing on Fort Sumter, in the Charleston Mercury, April 13, 1861

2.  I Appeal to All Loyal Citizens: Executive orders and Proclamations issued by President Lincoln from April 15 to April 27, 1861

3. The Lamentable and Fundamental Error: Jefferson Davis address to the C.S.A. Congress, April 29, 1861

4. Interests of Transcendent Magnitude: Jefferson Davis address to the C.S.A. Congress, April 29, 1861

5. Exhaustion of All Peaceful Measures: Abraham Lincoln address to the USA Congress, July 4, 1861

6. Ballots the Rightful Successors to Bullets: Abraham Lincoln address to the USA Congress, July 4, 1861

7.  Shattered and Panic-Stricken: The Battle of Bull Run, in the New York World, July 21, 1861

8. The Wondrous Chain of Providence: Southern Presbyterian Church minutes, late 1861

9. His Virtues and His Merits: J.S. Rock Speech before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Jan 23, 1862

10. Not Hastily, But Deliberately: Abraham Lincoln on Compensated Emancipation, March 6, 1862

11. Show Yourselves Worthy: Various Orders and Reports about the Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862

12. Be It Enacted: The Homestead Act, May 20, 1862

13. Disappointed and Deeply Pained: Horace Greely, editorial in the New York Times, against the conduct of the war, Aug 19, 1862

14. Worthy of a Better Cause: Report on the Peninsula Campaign, Stonewall Jackson, Aug 25-27, 1862

15. Such a Gigantic Scale: Wartime Finances in the North, October 1862

16. Sore Tongued and Fatigued: Various correspondence and reports, Sep 7-Nov 5, 1862

17. What Defeats Our Best Plans?: General Sherman on the press and wartime security, Feb 18, 1863

18. Instruments of Despotism: Vallandigham’s address at Cooper Union, Mar 7, 1863

19. The Peril of his Government: Lincoln re: habeas corpus, June 12, 1863

20. Merited a Better Fortune: General John H. Forney, Siege of Vicksburg Battle Report, July 10, 1863

21. On That Blood-Soaked Field: General George Pickett, letter to his wife, July 6, 1863; General Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg Battle Report, July 31, 1863

22. Repugnant To My Feelings: Louis Agassiz, letter on the fate of the freed Negro, August 9, 1863

23. When The War Trumpet Sounded: James Gooding, letter to Lincoln on equal pay for Black soldiers, Oct 12, 1863

24. Steps to a Great Consummation: Abraham Lincoln address to Congress on reconstruction, Dec 8, 1863

25. Unwise, Impolitic, Unconstitutional: A.H. Stephens on Habeas Corpus in the Confederacy, March 16, 1864

26. A Windrow of Dead Men: On the Wilderness campaign, May 1864

27. A Full Load of Responsibility: Sherman’s March to the Sea, November 1864

28. Unsurpassed Courage & Fortitude: Horace Porter’s account on Appomattox, Apr 1865; General Robert E. Lee’s final order to his troops, Apr 10, 1865

29. This Cup of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln’s Last Public Address, Apr 11, 1865

On Confederate Civil War Monuments

After I published "Documenting America: Lessons From the United States' Historical Documents", I also published a home school edition of it.
After I published “Documenting America: Lessons From the United States’ Historical Documents”, I also published a home school edition of it.

The book I’m currently writing, Documenting America: Civil War Edition, is currently sitting on a chair in our kitchen, waiting for me to get back to it. I finished it about ten days ago, and I’m letting it sit a while, giving me space and perspective, before I start the editing process. I anticipate the editing will take two or three weeks. Then publishing tasks can begin.

Meanwhile, the Civil War is back in the news. Several Civil War monuments are being removed in the City of New Orleans. These are monuments to Confederate leaders, such as Robert E. Lee, Confederate General. This follows several other places where similar monuments have been removed.

I have mixed feelings about this. Since the reason the states that formed the CSA withdrew (i.e. seceded) from the USA was because they wanted to preserve slavery, those monuments are in essence to those who wanted to preserve slavery. Those descended from slaves naturally are appalled that, in the 21st Century, we are still honoring those who enslaved their ancestors. Those who weren’t descended from slaves, but who align with those who brought pressure for abolition, are also appalled. I think I understand their concerns.

On the other hand, some say those monuments don’t mean the same today as they did when they were first erected. Now, they are simply recognition of those who loved their country, even if their views of what that country did were misguided. They say: Would you also removed monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both slave owners from the south? They have a good point. Washington and Jefferson didn’t take part in rebellion. Oh, wait, they did: rebellion against England. But, that was a good rebellion, working for a government that would protect the natural rights of man, a.k.a. God-given rights. So that’s different.

It won't belong before I start work on the cover for this next "Documenting America" book. I hope to get a good photo from a nearby Civil War battle field.
It won’t belong before I start work on the cover for this next “Documenting America” book. I hope to get a good photo from a nearby Civil War battle field.

I have a different view of it. Those monuments have become history books in their own right. By destroying the monuments, we are destroying history books, and trying to expunge history. Is this a good thing?

At one time I thought, “History is history. It is what it is: just a bunch of facts, and dates, and actions by people that happened, and are passed down to those who didn’t experience them.” Then I started writing about history. And I read much by others, both history books and how-to-write-history books. And I learned that how a historical event is treated in a book depends on how the writer does his research and puts the book together. Facts are facts, but you can ignore some and over emphasize others. You can twist some into your opinion mold and make them say something different than what another writer will say about the same fact.

So history isn’t really history. All history is interpretation of what happened in the past. Sometimes it comes with an agenda. Sometimes it comes with a preconceived notion that the historian has been able to make sure you see in the work, causing you to think “Oh, sure, it’s obvious that’s how it was.” However, if you read a book by Historian A instead of Historian B, you would get a completely different picture. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish history was history. But, alas, it’s not.

Back to the Confederate monuments. They represent a dark time in our history, a time when a few white people thought they had the right to enslave a bunch of black people, and to go fetch more black people through an illegal trade. The monuments were meant to honor that dark time. Now we know better. Why not use that to our advantage, keep the distasteful monuments, and use them for a different purpose?

Imagine this, with the monuments still standing. You’re in New Orleans, with your young children or grandchildren. You come across the monument of Robert E. Lee. Your child asks, “Who’s that man up on that horse?” What a great teaching moment that is. “He’s a man who thought it was okay to enslave people simply because they were of a different race. He might have been a good man at heart, but his actions were to perpetuate a way of life that had one race the masters and one race the slaves. This monument was once put up to honor him, but now we know it’s here to help us to never forget just how evil that practice was.”

Now THAT would be a great moment. That would be a great monument. Turn its purpose on its head and make it mean the exact opposite of what it was intended for 140 years ago, or whenever it was erected. How much better that would be than removing it.

The old cliché goes, those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it. Well, those who expunge history won’t learn from it. As a result, we may not learn the evils of slavery as we should. Slavery won’t return, I don’t think, but what other evil practice may happen as a result of us not having that history before us, right in our face, forcing us to confront that dark past?

It’s something to think about.

No Post Today

After a busy weekend, I don’t really have time to make a post today.

Friday night I was able to get another chapter done in Documenting America: Civil War Edition.

Saturday was full of yard work, filing of papers, updating of checkbooks, shopping for groceries, and so many tasks that tucker a 65-year-old fellow out.

Sunday was church, of course, followed by lunch at home (rather than take the wife and mother-in-law out into the restaurant chaos that comes every Mothers Day), followed by reading and a nap. Followed by writing time in The Dungeon.  I managed to get two more chapters done in the book. That leaves only one to go. I had hoped to complete all three this weekend, but that was a bit much with all I had going on.

By the time I completed the second chapter on Sunday, I had no time to write a blog post. My mind was mostly fried at having to somehow pull those three chapters together over three days. I couldn’t decide what to blog on next. So, instead of deep insight from me on some burning issue, you get this non-post post, a mere 214 words.

Happy Mothers Day, belated on Monday, for all moms reading this. I hope it was a great one.

Author Interview: Damon Gray

Damon GrayIn my continuing series of interviews of other authors, this post features Damon Gray. Damon and I “know” each other from our posts at the Between the Lines blog of the Books & Such literary agency. Truth is, I don’t know all that much about Damon. I’m finding out in his answers. So let’s get to them.

Q: You say you share your “own life-experiences, bringing them alongside biblical narratives in a manner that infuses the stories of our spiritual ancestors with life.” How about giving us a brief overview of those life experiences?

That’s a heavy opener, David, but there is no way you could know that. We all speak, write, and interact with others out of our own experiences. It is unavoidable. These experiences figure largely into our world-view, our character, our personality, our tolerances. 

Like many to whom I speak and write, I have dealt with numerous delightful and many painful events and issues over the years. I have endured sexual abuse, infidelity in a spouse, betrayal, six years of watching my mother die of Alzheimer’s disease. I was once incorrectly diagnosed with an ocular condition and told I was losing my eyesight. That was a shocker. I have endured severe church abuse as a pastor, been fired, and ultimately changed careers. At one point I traveled over the U.S. – Canadian border for a year to see a Christian counselor. During one of our sessions, about two months in, he leaned forward, looked me in the eye, and said, “With everything you have been through in just the last two years, I am amazed that you’re still sane,” and he wasn’t being sarcastic. He was quite serious. In 2012, I was hospitalized and faced death twice with the same medical condition just seven months apart, and was told that typically this is a condition that is diagnosed during the autopsy. 

I don’t say any of that with bitterness, to sensationalize, or to elicit sympathy from your audience. But experiences like these give us tremendous insight not only into ourselves, but into the total human condition. So if we apply that to the way we approach Biblical texts and narratives, we are sometimes able to crawl inside the heads of those about whom we are reading, right? 

Let’s just take the example of Hagar. She is a servant, or a slave. I get the impression that Hagar did not have much say over what happened to her. Sari, Abram’s wife, seemingly cannot bear him children, so she has Abram conceive a child with her slave, Hagar. Hagar does indeed conceive, Sari is overcome with jealously and ends up convincing Abram to send Hagar away. It’s brutal!

So, here we have the first single mother in the Bible. What is going through her head? She did exactly what she was told to do.  Now she’s bounced out on her ear with no means of caring for herself and her young son.

I have not experienced that specific circumstance, but we all have to be able to draw on our own life-experiences to identify with what is happening inside these people. These are not just stories. These are real men, women, and children who are toiling their way through life just as you are and as I am.

Q: Your website says you are a dynamic speaker, a word-crafter, and I see a picture of a trombone player there. Would you say you are a man of the arts, despite your technology background?

I started playing the trombone in the fifth grade and played all the way through my university years. Then it sat in the closet for a couple of decades until I pulled it out again to play in the horn line with the worship band at church. I majored in music for the first three years in college, but decided I couldn’t easily make a living that way so I changed majors to Mass Communication with an emphasis in Radio Broadcasting and Newsprint. 

But you’re right, I’ve always had something of an affinity for the arts. I still do. I did a lot of drama in high school and college as well. In fact the Dean of the drama department, along with his wife, tried to persuade me to change majors from music to drama. I declined, because the same problem exists there as does with music. There are too many starving actors and musicians!
The technology thing is just a means of paying the bills. It is something I know how to do, but not something for which I have a great deal of passion. When I reached the end of my rope with the challenges of full-time ministry, I needed a new career path, and that one seemed reasonable, so I dove into it and have been doing software development and database programming now for 22 years.
Q: Summarize your speaking ministry for us.

For me, there are a couple of key components to being able to speak to a crowd. First off, I have to know what I’m talking about. If I don’t know my subject, then it is best to just sit down. Secondly, I have to believe in the subject. I cannot speak persuasively about something in which I do not believe. That is why I could never build a career in sales. I cannot sell you something I am not persuaded you really need to have. But it works great for public speaking, because you know that whatever I am addressing is something in which I truly believe.

If those two components are in place, I can speak and teach, and I very much enjoy doing so. I have spoken to groups numbering in the single digits to those numbering in the thousands. It is critical, however, to keep it in perspective. What I mean is that you have to keep it always before you that this is not about you! I keep a quote from Randy Alcorn above my desk that reads, “The greatest danger of notoriety is you start thinking about you. People then exist to serve you, exactly the opposite of what Christ modeled.” 

I have formulated a concept within the last couple of years around which I am building my ministry. I call it “Long-View Living in a Short-View World.” As believers, we must keep that eternal perspective in focus as we reach out to a world that can barely see beyond the end of its own nose. This has to be about Jesus and his eternal kingdom, and moving that kingdom forward.

“It’s not about you. It’s about your audience.”  I understand what that speaker was saying, but ultimately, I don’t agree. It is not about me, or the audience. It is about Jesus, and how we all work as a single unit – his body – to move his kingdom forward. Now, to do that, I have to be healthy and functioning, just as you have to be healthy and functioning, as does everyone in your listening or reading audience. So, in that sense, what the conference speaker was saying is accurate.
Available at Amazon
Available at Amazon

Q: Your first book is Finding Faith in Slow Motion. Tell us about it.

That was never really intended to be a book, but rather it was my own personal research project. My dearest friend had been diagnosed with leukemia, and has since passed on to be with Jesus. It was gut-wrenching watching this disease relentlessly attack his body. At the time we were wracking our brains trying to figure out why he wasn’t being healed of this disease. I mean James tells us, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”

Well, we did that – more the once. We prayed over my friend, anointing him with oil, pleading with God to eradicate this disease – and he didn’t – at least not in the sense that I wanted and expected. That’s where the research project began. I wanted to figure out why my friend wasn’t being healed of this cruel disease. And the more deeply I dug into it the more I realized I needed to wrap my mind around the most basic concept of faith. 

Those notes sat on my shelf for several years, and it is my wife who eventually persuaded me to publish it, saying, “Damon, you can’t keep this to yourself. You have to share this.” So, I self-published that 2013.

Q: Your upcoming book is The Christ Saturated Life. Tell us about it, and when it will be available.

The Christ Saturated Life is an idea I started toying with as I pondered Jesus’ parable in Matthew 12. He talks about an unclean spirit that left a man and traveled through waterless areas looking for a place to rest, but found no such resting place. So the spirit returned to the man it just left, referring to the man as a house. The house had been swept clean and it was in order, but it was left empty. So the spirit, called seven of its spirit comrades, spirits more evil than itself, and the eight of them took up residence within the man. That’s a nasty state to be in! 

The driving premise for me is that the man left a void within himself, and a void demands to be filled. We have to fill ourselves with something, but what?  So I began contemplating the idea of being completely filled with the mind of the living Christ. I were completely saturated with Christ, filled to the point of overflowing, so much so that he radiated through my pores, what would that look like? How would that change the man I am today? I assure you, David,  the Christ Saturated Life does not look like me, and that’s okay. With the ideal in front of me, at the very least, I know which way to walk. I know that toward which I am striving. I can see the target.

The manuscript is draft-complete, and I am in active discussions with a handful of agents who are considering representing it. I don’t know when it will be released. I am learning that the wheels of traditional publishing turn very slowly.

Q: I assume you have another book in the wings, or perhaps several. What do you have cooking up in the future?

I do have some ideas in the wings (there’s a drama reference for you), but in reality, you have more books actually published than I have ideas for manuscripts!

I’m chewing on one that I’m tentatively calling Swan Song of the Messiah.  There is this myth that a swan will sing a song just prior to its death, so this will be a look at the statements Jesus made from the cross.

Another one I’m contemplating is based on Acts 2:42 where the new disciples devoted themselves to four specific things – The apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. My thought is that there must be something significant about those four devotions if that is what they applied themselves to. 

I have been asked to consider writing a book on the believer’s response to sex trafficking in the U.S. One of the most heavily traveled corridors for young girls who have been enslaved in the sex trafficking business runs just a few miles from my home – between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s a horrifying reality that is far too easy to turn a blind eye toward. A friend of mine runs a refuge that rescues these young girls and helps them escape that nightmare.

“Preserve The Revelation” is Published

The final tweak to the cover changed the beasts' eyes to glowing red.
The final tweak to the cover changed the beasts’ eyes to glowing red.

Some time ago I posted about my church history series of novels. And in several places I’ve posted about the book in that series that I’ve been working on, Preserve The Revelation. As I wrote elsewhere, I finished the book January 14 this year, and set a goal to have it published by March 8.

It took longer to achieve than I expected. I made three rounds of edits, plus one extra edit of the first chapter. Each of these rounds took a week or two. I missed the deadline. Fortunately, when you self-publish there’s no real significance to a deadline. Can’t get your work done by one? Shrug it off and set a new one. So that’s what I did, sort of. I just decided I’ll get it done ASAP. That date turned out to be Thursday just passed, March 23, 2017. That’s when I got it up on Kindle.

This is my sixth novel (one of which is really a novella), and my 24th item published. That kind of perseverance feels good, though it hasn’t translated yet into sales, consistent sales. March will be a good month for sales, totaling maybe 14 to 16, depending on if I get any for PTR. So far I’ve sold one copy. Hopefully I’ll sell a couple more this month, and more the next month.

The print book cover.
The print book cover.

Since Wednesday, I completed the formatting for the print book, and finished uploading it today. Now waiting on CreateSpace to approve it. Print covers are significantly more complicated than e-book covers. I’ve done a couple of my print covers, but didn’t want to tackle this one. My internet friend Veronica Jones-Brown did both covers, the e-book first, then the print. I should hear in a day or two whether everything is okay with it. I’ll then order a proof copy. If all goes well, about a week from now I should have the print book for sale. Between now and then I’ll get the Smashwords formatting done. I think it is formatted correctly already, but need to run through it once or twice more.

So my work on PTR is almost done, probably less than two hours time total to go. What’s next? I’m already working on my next book, which will be a non-fiction title. You’ll be hearing about it in these pages before long.