Thursday, February 17, 2011

How Do You Do That?

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.
Proverbs 27:21 NIV
Like any other writer, my dream is to be published.  There is always the temptation to pull an Abraham and do it myself, but I've forced myself to wait on God's timing.  The business is tough to crack, but not too tough for God.  (He knows all the right people.)

My job is to write books that are publishable.

I must admit, I understand why publishers cringe when approached by a self-published author. I've gotten to the point where I can pick a book off the shelf, read the first chapter (or less), and identify it as self-published.  (This is not a compliment.)  Whenever someone says, "I published a book. Would you like to read it?" I have to paste a smile on my face, because I have a strong suspicion that my honest appraisal is not being sought.  I mean, can you really tell a friend that he may mean well, but it is still in poor taste to advertise one's illiteracy?

For this reason, I was hesitant to show people my work, especially since it has not been published.  And so, rather than present people with the above speech, I spent a few years going to a few close friends who were trustworthy and knowledgeable and asking them for some peer review and feedback on my drafts.  I took the time to listen to what they had to say, made some much-needed revisions, and then repeated the process with a few other readers.

Lately, however, the paradigm has changed, and I find myself caught between a rock and ... a bigger rock. (Trying to avoid a cliche here.)  The turning point?  My mother finally liked one of my books.

Now, one would expect that the least reliable critic would be an author's mother.  After all, what mom doesn't think her child is perfectly wonderful?  My mom, however, knows me.  She knows that I do NOT want to walk around with my slip showing and a piece of spinach between my teeth, if you take my meaning.  So when Mom sent me a postcard praising The Carpenter, I knew I had finally written something worth sharing.

Still, she is my mom, so I decided to get a second opinion.  I gave Beloved Disciple to my pastor.  I figured, if it's heresy, he'll be the first to tell me so!  He never read it.  Never.  (It's been three years but he never cracked one of my books.)

His wife, however, made a point of seeking me out to tell me how much she had enjoyed it, and asked if I had any others.  Now THIS made an impression on me, because she could easily have pretended she'd never seen it.  (Besides which, the lady is brilliant.)  I gave her The Voice, which she finished in half the time and told me it was even better.  Then she read The Carpenter.  Then she read Brothers. 

She must have spoken to a few people, because others in my church started to ask about the books, so I printed a few copies (well, photocopied) and gave them to some of my other friends.  And they told two friends.  And they told two friends...

At this point, I have to sit and think hard in order to remember who has read the books.  I've gained a following.  And along with the following, I've received some pretty heady compliments, which puts me in a tough spot.  I don't want to seem self-promoting; at the same time, I want the books to be promoted!  So I've asked my readers to put some of their comments in writing.  A few of these can be seen on facebook (DLMaynard Immanu'el Novels) but many others have not yet made it into the public forum.  The overall consensus, however, is that these books are impacting lives, drawing people into a deeper love-relationship with Christ, inspiring them to read their Bibles, and helping them understand what they are reading there in a way they never have before.

My readers want to see the books published, and they want MORE.  Several of them are even nagging me to quit my job so I can write full time.  There is a growing prayer group dedicated to seeing these novels published, and I have volunteers researching markets for query letters.  Three or four copies of each novel are circulating for reader feedback, and there is a constant waiting list. Last week I printed another run and all of the books were snatched up by the end of the day.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.  

Earlier this week I received a valentine that read, "To my favorite author."  I cried.  That card is going to be kept forever (right next to my mom's postcard) because the lady who sent it to me is a voracious reader.  Voracious.  I do not take her praise lightly.  As far as I'm concerned, that valentine was like winning a major award.

Today, another woman whom I deeply respect approached me and said, "I had to stop reading and ask God how you do that!"  How do I do it?  I don't know.  I think my friend was right to ask God, because He is the one who is making this happen.  I'm thrilled that He chose me to partner with Him in this work, because I get to see the books first.  When I read them, it's often hard to remember that I wrote them, and I like to think I would feel the same way about the books if someone else had written them.  (Like Tolkien and Lewis and the other Inklings, I couldn't find enough of the kind of books I like to read, so I wrote some.  It delights me when other people like them, too!) 

If this blog offends you because it seems that I am exalting myself, I am truly sorry.  That wasn't my intent.  I am not promoting myself...but I am promoting these novels.  I hope your curiosity has been piqued enough for you to check out the comments on facebook; if you've read the books, I hope you will be inspired to add some comments of your own.  If you are one of the people who has blessed and encouraged me, THANK YOU.  If you are praying for the success of these books, THANK YOU.  And if you ever see me getting a big head, please PLEASE stick a pin in me.

I love you all!

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