My First Book is Out!

My first book is finally out!!! It’s taken about five years to write, revise, cleanup, format, edit, and publish, but Giraffe Tracks is available as of today! I’ll have it on its own webpage soon, but the webpage isn’t ready yet, so for now I’m linking to straight the store from my blog.

So far, it’s available in:

Softbound book

Hardbound book

PDF download

Kindle book

or you can Read a Sample

I was hoping to release the audio book at the same time as the book release, but couldn’t have it ready in time.

If there is a format that you would want to buy it in that is not listed above, let me know. I’d like people to be able to buy it in whatever format they want, even if it’s .doc, .jpg or even .mov (that would be interesting). If you’re willing to buy it in a certain format, I’ll make it in that format and sell it at the same price as any digital text format.

I’m publishing it through Willowrise Press, which is my family’s independent publishing company.

Anyway, please buy it!

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book, so you can get an idea what it’s about:

By the late 1990’s, South Africa was in the midst of heavy political and social turmoil. With the ending of Apartheid in 1994, which was a legalized system of racial segregation which heavily curtailed the rights of the black population, the country was left in a dangerously challenging situation. The white population, who had enjoyed relative wealth, government protection, and exclusive employment opportunities, were now forced to share those resources with the massive majority population of native black Africans.

Native Africans, who had been socially, economically, and physically oppressed for centuries, were now allowed to leave their reservation-like townships and come into the cities and suburbs. Having been held back for so long, black Africans continued to experience severe poverty. As new opportunities were thrown at them, poverty-driven crime rose to a frightening level, leaving sour feelings in the hearts of the country’s general population. It became a time of anger, reunion, bitter feelings, fear, and hope.

Giraffe Tracks is the true story of an LDS missionary serving in the Johannesburg, South Africa Mission only a few years after the ending of Apartheid. Using compelling stories, humor, and spiritual insight, the story demonstrates that even in a land overflowing with crime, poverty, and racial hatred, peace and joy can be found through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the powers of evil shake the foundations of human society, the truth and light carried in the testimonies of the Lord’s missionaries can change hearts, heal minds, and turn fear and hatred into faith and love.

You CAN Write Your Personal History!

If you are like me, you’ve spent a lot of time considering writing your life story. And, if you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time putting it off because either you don’t have time or you don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you can’t think of anything about your life that Is worth writing about. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a writer and don’t feel confident in your literary skills.

Have you ever considered that the biggest thing holding you back is you? I suspect that you really do want to write your life history, but you’ve just procrastinated it so long that you’ve collected a lifetime supply of excuses.

Here are a few thoughts that might help you get the motivation you need to just start writing!

“I’m not a good writer.”

One of the differences between an average writer and a great writer is that the great writer doesn’t try to make their writing great. While you are reading a great book, do you think to yourself, “Wow, what a great paragraph – this wording is amazing, and look how smoothly these sentences flow”? Probably not. Most likely you are mesmerized by the story or situation taking place in the book. How did the writer do that? Of course there are a few rules and tricks, but the main thing they did was this: the first time they wrote the words, they didn’t even think about making their writing great. They just concentrated on the story they were trying to tell.

What I’m really trying to say is don’t worry about your “style” or your grammatical correctness. Just tell your stories. If you really feel that you need to get your wording right, do it after you’ve written the whole thing – that’s what authors do all the time. They write a rough-draft, and then go through and clean it up over and over until they feel semi-comfortable with it. If you are just writing for children and posterity, you probably don’t need to do much redrafting, but just remember that the first time you write, you don’t have to worry about any of that. And if you are successful at ignoring everything in your writing except the story, it will come out pretty great.

“I don’t know where to start.”

The obvious place to start is the beginning, but the moment you try to start at the beginning, you may find yourself struggling to decide which beginning to start with. Your first memory? Your birth? You’re parents’ first date? Your ancestry?

If you don’t struggle with this excuse, don’t worry about it – start at the beginning, or wherever you want. But if you don’t know how to write a beginning, don’t. No, really, don’t bother writing a beginning. Start by writing something that will come later in the history, such as a favorite memory or some thoughts on an incident that you will fill in later. You will find that as you just start writing, the thoughts, ideas, and structure of your history will slowly come together. As soon as you feel comfortable writing the beginning, or start, of your history, do it. But it’s fine to write your whole history without a beginning. You can write that later.

In other words, if you struggle with writing a beginning to your history, just start somewhere in the middle. That way you don’t have to worry about first impressions. Writing is one of the few places where first impressions can be the last thing you work on. Once you have most of your history written, the beginning will come much easier.

“My life is boring. Why should I write about the boring nothing that’s happened to me?”

Writing is an interesting activity. Most people consider nonfiction writing to be simply a laying down of ideas – basically a bunch of facts grouped together into a book or article. But that assumption overlooks all that takes place in the mind of the writer. Writing is an proactive, interactive, self-propelling activity that draws meaning out of nowhere. Just the act of sitting down and penciling down (or typing up) words opens a conduit into the subconscious creative mind. By simply writing down a memory, your mind begins formulating thoughts about that activity, which churn and mix until something unique is formed that wasn’t there before.

Let me put it in a different way: when you bake a cake, you take a bunch of seemingly random foods – none of which taste good alone, mix them together, and put them in the oven. Then, as if by magic, when you take the concoction out of the oven, it has become a delicious treat. All the random ingredients have blended so beautifully and completely that without knowing the process that made the finished product, you would guess that the cake was a single element straight out of nature. And the taste is far better than the combined flavors of all the ingredients.

Writing is the same way, especially with writing your own life history. Your school memories, your dating years, your fears and failures, are ingredients in your history. As you write them, your mind will reflect on the meaning behind each incident. You will find humor in the oddest places, you will find life lessons where they weren’t originally intended, and you will find that your ordinary experiences weave into a heartwarming life story. That process doesn’t take much conscious effort, either. As you write, it will just happen automatically, just like the stirring and baking turns ingredients into cake.

Besides, your boring life is more interesting than you think. Your only context is the society you live in, and all your experiences are common to everyone you meet. Being in that one-dimensional context, it’s easy to forget that your children, grandchildren, and all the posterity after them won’t have that context. Their experiences will be vastly different than yours, because the world will be a completely different place by the time they read your history. Those differences will make your history both unique and fascinating – whether it means anything to you, some in the future will be excited to read the experiences of those who were around during the rise of the Internet and the turn of the century. While they may have access to news and magazines from our era, most people will be more interested in the life of a common person living from this very uncommon period of world history.

The unique things they read will be both fascinating and fun to read. The things you mention that they can relate to (relationships, spirituality, hopes, fears, and dreams) will give them encouragement and strength.

“I don’t have time to write my history.”

Guess what? No one does. I have never known anyone who has time to write their life history. Even authors don’t have time to write their histories – especially if they are writing full-time. Why? Because all their writing time has to be devoted to their profession. Most publishers aren’t interested in life histories – unless you’re Ghandi or Nelson Mandela. But even Nelson Mandela didn’t have time to write his history, and he wrote his twice.

But if no one has time time to write their life history, then how do they do it? Well, basically, they just do it. They just do it! They don’t have time, they make time. Time isn’t something that you can create out of the air, and it’s not something you manage. Time is just… well, it’s just time. It passes. It’s always there, and it goes as fast as it comes.

Every person on earth, be it Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, or the homeless man on the street – every person has twenty-four hours in their day, and every person has a choice what they do with their twenty-four hours. You may feel tied to a schedule, but that is because you choose that schedule. You choose! The way to make time to write your history is to choose to use your time to write your history. And fortunately (or unfortunately), you have no deadline – but if you will make time, that is, choose to take the time to write your history, you’ll find that you can use time to your advantage. It doesn’t have to be your enemy. Time can be your friend, because it will help you write your history. You’ve just got to choose to use time for that purpose.

Reflections of a Mazda: Dealing with a Driver who is a Lemonhead

Guest blogger: Lilo, the 1993 Mazda 626

lemonhead
Don’t ask me what Chas is trying to accomplish in this photo, but I have noticed a funny taste in my wiper fluids lately…

So I finally got around to reading Chas’s entry on cars that are lemons. But the thing I find ironic is that there is little mention of his own problems – oh, he makes it clear that he knows a great deal about car personalities, but did he ever bring up his knowledge of car maintenance? Of course not. Why not? It is for the simple reason that he doesn’t have any.

Don’t get me wrong, Chas is alright as a person, but I think Chas has about as much knowledge of car mechanics as a duck – a mentally challenged duck… a dead mentally challenged duck.

Why do I say this? Well, I’ve been driving Chas around for about two years, and all I can say is that I’m jealous of Ourtwo, who is now in lemon heaven. If his wife didn’t offer him five bucks for every time he did an oil change, I’d probably be there myself.

But my point here is not to rip on Chas. My point is to give advice to all you cars out there who have lemonheads for drivers. It only takes one to ruin a car, so if you are driving a lemonhead around, here are some tips for making the best of whatever time you have left.

  1. I know it’s standard to turn off your “Check Engine” light after you are repaired. Lemonheads don’t see that light, but their spouses do. If you keep that light on, their spouse will probably nag and bribe them to take you in to get you checked. When, after three months of pestering, they finally take you in, the mechanic will lecture them about keeping the fluids up and getting regular oil changes. They won’t do both, but they will either get you an oil change or get you fresh fluids. After they do, just turn your “Check Engine” light back on.

  2. Being low on oil can get tiring fast. To prevent your driver from spending more than the absolutely necessary time driving you, make sure your heater and air-conditioning never work. This is vital if you drive a lemonhead. The life of a lemonhead primarily consists of eating, sleeping, and puttering. The less puttering they do while driving, the better. You will get the recuperation time you need.

  3. Make lot’s of external noises. Rattle your muffler, squeal your pulleys – anything that will get the attention of passersby. Your lemonhead will just think you are talking to the other cars, but the common Joe will recognize that you are in need of help. They will recommend to your driver that they should tighten your pulleys or check the brake fluid. Of course he won’t do that, but if he hears this advice enough, he will start getting worried around inspections time. Be sure that when that time comes around that you play it up good – conk out a few times if you need to. He’ll get you into the shop – he won’t want to, but he’ll do it.

  4. Whatever you do, do NOT make the solutions to your problems too obvious! While it would be nice if your driver was savvy enough to fix the problem, don’t forget that he is a lemonhead.  His idea of obvious and yours are quite different, and if he feels confident he can fix it, he will try. And if he tries, you have a problem. In fact, you’ll have many problems. Anything that requires more than adding fluid ought to be done in the shop for you, or you’ll be in the junkyard before inspection day.

So if you are dealing with a driver who is a lemonhead, your prime directive is to get into the shop as OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. It’s your only chance for survival. This will also keep him from ever saving up enough money to buy a new vehicle, which is good for you, because as a lemonhead, your driver knows about as much about selling a car as he does about fixing one, so he’ll just junk you.

I’m proud of my adopted brother, Buzz, who has just conjured up enough problems to keep him in the driveway for several months while Chas saves up the money to get him fixed. That will keep us both around for awhile – I get to continue being the primary vehicle and Buzz gets a rest.

I’m not worried about Buzz, because he’ll be the only vehicle big enough to carry the whole family once Chas’s new baby comes along, and I’m not worried about myself because I get to be the primary vehicle for a while.

Besides, it’s almost inspection time.

Read More Funny Entries

Journals and Diaries: Ideas for Keeping it Fun!

I have been keeping a daily journal for about sixteen years now, and I love doing it.  One of the things that keeps me at it is using variety in my journal-keeping methods.  Here are some examples:

Traditional Methods

1. Keep a small pocket notebook with you wherever you go, and when an idea of something to mention in your journal comes to you, jot down a word or two that will remind you of the incident so you can write about it in your journal later.
2. Write a memory of something that happened long ago.  Remember that it probably won’t make a difference in the next generation if you wrote it the same day or years later.
3. Write about something funny that happened recently.
4. Write about something someone else did recently.

Creative Methods

1. Draw a cartoon, sketch, or simple painting of the event(s) of the day in your journal.  Write what the picture represents, and be sure to Continue reading Journals and Diaries: Ideas for Keeping it Fun!