Getting Things Done

For some time now I have thought that a wonderful name for a magazine column would be “The Wonderful Feeling Of…”. The continuation would be different for each column, things such as:

– Telling the Truth
– Saving Money
– Helping Another
– Meeting Old Friends
– Getting Things Done
– Saying a Prayer

These would be uplifting columns that explain how these things serve to enhance one’s life.

For this weekend, Getting Things Done is definitely the correct column. I did nothing on my own writing, but when I dropped into bed Sunday night I had the feeling that I had indeed accomplished much. Taking down the outside Christmas lights, undecorating and storing the Christmas tree, boxing minor Christmas decorations, sharing Sunday lunch with good friends, balancing the checkbook (done on Friday, I think), completing 2007 budget tracking (somewhat depressing) and setting up 2008 spreadsheet, taking 2-year old children’s church on Sunday–with 11 of the little darlings present and mostly accounted for, resting Sunday afternoon, and even getting to read a little. All of this was good stuff, and very fulfilling.

The main writing work I did was completing the critique of a chapter of another writer’s book. I met Jon at the HACWN conference in Kansas City in November, and we discovered our main works-in-progress were both in the same historical era, though in different parts of the Roman world. We have stayed in contact, and swapped chapters for reading, with the openess to critique. Well, I dug into the critique part. Saturday evening I pulled up the Word file, and using some handy macros I’ve written, did a lot of double strike-through and redlines, all with explanatory notes. Jon may not have bargained for this, but I did not cut down his story. I mainly showed him some places where a reader might have some problems with the setting, and where clarification was in order.

This was very fulfilling work. I think I learn more about my own writing when I critique others. I see things they do that I’m not looking for in my own work. The mere act of critiquing causes me to think about word use, grammar, clarity of descriptions, use of modifiers, consistency and immediacy of voice, etc. I find no better way to spend two or three hours improving my writing than to critique the work of another. I have one more critique to do, for another writer I met on line, then I’ll be ready to work on marketing Documenting America.

Took a Day Off

Yes, yesterday I took a day off from writing. Having finished this round of edits of Doctor Luke’s Assistant, and with the television coverage of the Iowa caucuses, I decided to spend the evening in a combination of relaxing, balancing the checkbook, and filing family financial papers. I’m not saying DLA is done, for I’m always open to improvement, but I will not re-read it or do any more edits except in response to comments from others, be they beta readers, editors, agents, whoever.

For the next few days, I will have about four writing-related tasks. First, file the mark-ups for DLA. I have a bunch of them, not just from this round, but from the previous as well. Second, print a copy for file and beta readers. Third, critique two different bits of writing from two authors I’ve met either on-line or at conferences. One of these I have already made extensive mark-ups for, and just need to type them in a Word file and mail them. I have found that critiquing the work of others is one of the best ways of improving my craft. Fourth, begin (again) marketing research for Documenting America. That will be the subject of my next post.

At last, Doctor Luke’s Assistant is…


That is, tonight I finished reading the last to chapters and marking tweak-like edits, typing the edits in the last four chapters, and merging all the files into one file, and formatting that. Thus my fourth round of edits is over, and the manuscript is ready to submit in full, should anyone be interested. I still have a few formatting issues, such as adjusting some paragraph indents, but it is presentable as it is now.

Of course, I don’t rule out another round of edits, should I feel led to do so or should it be needed to make it acceptable for publication, but now I can put this aside, and concentrate on other things while the agent is considering it. I don’t think I’ll do any research into other agents right now.

Father Daughter Day

My other work in progress that is actually finished and in search of a publisher is Father Daughter Day. This is the story of how a dad kept his promise–reluctantly at first–to spend a Saturday with his daughter. He struggles with this as they hike in a State park, eat fast food, drive in the car, and mow the lawn. He prays often during the day. The daughter seems unaware of his misgivings, and thoroughly enjoys herself. She even turns down a chance to play with some girlfriends who drop by, because she has promised to spend the day with her daddy and wants to help him mow the lawn. By the time evening comes, he is enjoying himself, and by nightfall is more blessed than his daughter.

The unique thing about this book is that the story is told in poetry. Thirty-seven poems, in a variety of styles and lengths, more formal than non-formal. Each poem is intended to both stand on its own and form a seemless part of the story. Included are three sonnets, one sonnet sequence, a villanelle, a long ballad, a long mixed-verse story, a number of cinquains, a number of haiku, and some free form poems (not to be confused with free verse).

Some of the poems are specific to what the dad and daughter are doing. Others are more generic about the activities they are engaged in: about rising for the day, about eating breakfast, about reading, about hiking, etc. If you pull these short, generic poems out, the remaining “story” poems still make sense, though perhaps with more gaps. Three of the poems are “children’s books” that the daughter brings along to read in the car.

I finished the last of these poems in June 2006. Actually, my original plan called for three other poems. Unfortunately the inspiration for these has not yet come, and, as I read the book as it is, it seems to read as a complete story. So if I never get those three written, I think I’ll be okay. Of course, even for completed poems, I’m always open to further tweaking and improvement.

I submitted this to two different Christian publishers, one unsolicited and one after a conference. Both said no. I’ve been slowly researching, hoping to find another publisher, but no viable candidates have surfaced. This may be one may have to be self-published.

Doctor Luke’s Assistant, Writing and Status

The idea for Doctor Luke’s Assistance came to me in the late 1990s, based on my study of the scriptures, and harmonizing the gospels. I thought through a plot for a couple of years, but hesitated writing it. To think I had the ability or stamina enough to write a novel seemed self-aggrandizing.

I began writing Doctor Luke’s Assistant in late fall 2000. I had a basic idea of what I wanted to accomplish, including major and sub-plot lines. I completed 15,000 words, then put it away as life got busy. I picked it up again in late 2001, and worked mostly steady through 2002, completing it on January 8, 2003.

I’ve since been through it three complete times. The first time through was for consistency of plot, and adding descriptions where needed. The second time through was for adding a plot line and to make the story consistent throughout. The third time through was for improvement in language: eliminating passive voice, making the dialog more natural, and the language more concise.

I am now in my fourth round of edits, reading each chapter slowly, looking for anything odd or out of place, for a wrong word, a missing quotation mark, an excess modifier. I have done this through chapter 32; only 33 through 36 remain. At that time, for the moment I will consider the book complete, and will cease editing.

I have submitted Doctor Luke’s Assistant to all the CBA publishers that don’t require agented submittals, and all turned it down. Now I’m submitting it to agents. Well, actually I met with an agent at a conference this past November, and he like the pitch enough to ask me for a partial submittal. I haven’t heard anything. My plan is to finish the edits, then wait and see what the agent says. At that point I will shift gears to Documenting America, or possibly to a second novel.

More about Doctor Luke’s Assistant

Augustus struggles with Christianity. Although not a religious Jew, he resisted giving Christianity an honest consideration, even though he found much attractive in Luke, the church, and Jesus. The resurrection was the main problem he could not accept.

A young woman in the church, Keziah, caught Augustus’ eye, and he fell in love with her. To improve his chances with her, he bribed a government official to obtain the release of her father from false imprisonment over a tax issue. This, when discovered by the government, almost brought the entire research and writing project to a stop when Luke is accused of planning the crime Augustus committed.

Claudius Aurelius has Luke confined to Jerusalem, until a new governor comes to Israel and Aurelius makes a trip to Rome. Luke and Augustus go to Galilee for an intensive seven months research before Aurelius returns.

As the work progresses, the political situation in Jerusalem grows worse. At the end of three years, the massive biography is done. The first events of the Jewish revolution causes Claudius Aurelius to make one last attempt to destroy Luke’s work. In the end, Luke must rely on God, with many praying for him, to not lose everything he worked for.

The next post will tell the status of the book.

Doctor Luke’s Assistant

For the next few posts, I’ll talk about my other works in progress. Documenting America will likely be my main focus for a month or so, but I want to get some thoughts down on these other things.

Doctor Luke’s Assistant is a novel about the writing of the gospel of Luke, told through the point of view of a Jewish scrivener he hires as a research assistant. Luke returns to Israel to write a massive biography of Jesus, intending for it to be multiple volumes. Knowing he, as a Gentile, can’t get in to certain places or talk with certain Jews, he hires a Jew for the job. Augustus comes from a Jewish family that was partial to Roman rule, and far away from the practice of Judaism. He works for Luke only because he has lost his job with the Roman government. So the expected circumstances are not there: Luke, the Gentile, follows the teaching of a Jewish rabbi, while Augustus, the Jew, prays to no God.

Beginning in Bethlehem, Luke and Augustus research Christ’s life in a series of interviews, document searches, and a lot of luck–that is Augustus calls it luck, while Luke calls it answers to prayer. Over a three year time frame, the book is written. It is the size of the Bible we know now, or larger when the research notes are added. In a month Luke will sail to Rome with the finished product.

During the three years, the researchers are hounded by both the Roman government and the Jewish establishment, neither of whom want the book written. Augustus chances to run in to a school chum who works for Rome, and another one who works for the high priest. He doesn’t see that these two are bringing reports back to their employers, who can then harrass Luke and Augustus. The situation with Rome is not helped when Luke runs afoul of Cladius Aurelius, a scheming, corrupt assistant to the governor. Aurelius dogs Lukes steps and does much to hinder the work. Still, the book is written.

Later I’ll write more on this, about how Augustus nearly causes the work to cease.

Finding Inspiration in Old Documents

The next document I wrote on was a speech by Carl Schurz before the Massachusetts legislature in the pre-civil war years. The subject of the speech was True Americanism. Although Schurz was from Wisconsin at the time, he travelled to Massachusetts to address the legislature on an issue then before them. He contrasted America to the Roman Empire. I found the speech uplifting and inspiring. I immediately thought of how this could be worked into a Documenting America column, and wrote the piece. Once again it was deemed worthy by the local paper, and was published.

After this came two letters, one from James Madison to George Washington, then Washington’s reply, during the Articles of Confederation era (1783-1789). Madison was concerned that the colonies were going astray from the ideals upon which the Revolution was based, and were not living up to the Treaty of Paris. Washington concurred. I found these letters to have inspiring and informative information, so wrote a pair of articles and they were published.

The program for guest editorials allowed only one per quarter, appearing in the Sunday Op-ed section. About this time the editor who was a friend from church moved away, to Washington state, and continuance of the guest editorial program was in question. I decided to back off this for a while and concentrate on other areas of writing interest. I now wonder if I made a mistake, and should instead have continued to write the columns, and do the research for self-syndication. More on that in my next post.

The Premise Behind "Documenting America"

The people of the United States of America don’t know their history. This fact has been proved over and over by surveys, man-on-the-street interviews, and scientifically structured studies. Too many of our citizens are ignorant—and choose to remain ignorant—of the forces and people, the trends and the decisions, that built upon each other to forge this great nation.

If they would just read—read the documents that tell us about our past. I’m not talking about the well-known documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address. Our nation has been papered with an incredible number of documents, from diaries to letters to presidential proclamations to Supreme Court decisions to sermons to newspapers to pamphlets to editorials to too many to name.

My newspaper column, Documenting America, pulls documents from America’s past, analyses them, and ties them to some current event or issue. Using a mixture of document excepts, analysis, and interpretation, with each column readers will learn a little bit of American history they didn’t know (or long ago forgot), think about how what is in that document affected the building of our country, and consider whether and how those principles still apply. As much as possible, I try to end with an upbeat thought.

In this blog, I will discuss the process of how the column came together, what’s coming up in future columns, and possibly some additional analysis of a document featured in a past column.

I Blog, Therefore I Am

Herein I enter the Blogosphere, with my personal blog that will, hopefully, deal with my writing life as it develops, as well as other interests. With time, I may find that splitting this into different blogs is the better way to go. A separate blog for writing, for genealogy, for politics, for Christian interests. We’ll see how this goes.

At first, I will write some posts about my proposed newspaper column, Documenting America. This may be the first work I am able to get published. The Benton County Daily Record published four of these in 2003-2004 in the guest editorial program, which tells me it is probably a viable concept.

Later, I’ll talk about my fiction ideas, still later some non-fiction ideas, and of course poetry. Should anything I write appear to be nearing publication, I’ll talk about it more.

This blog will be the first piece of my web presence, later to be joined by a home page, specific, non-blog pages for specific items, and hopefully message boards for specific documents. Of course, at present all of this is pie-in-the-sky, but better to get the basics going now and build everything slowly as success demands. If nothing else, making frequent posts will be writing practice and discipline buildings. Having the blog to feed might just help me break the computer game habit. Possibly I’ll even add some engineering stuff.

Time to add a post I prepared a few weeks ago about Documenting America.

Author | Engineer