His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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New Novel, New Website

In support of publishing my first novel in a couple of months, I’m now launching my new author website, at cjpenn.com. The site went live late yesterday. This is a big step on my writing path, and I’m a bit nervous about it.

Working cover – final cover in design

Regarding my novel, I had previously posted a little something (link), and now I’d like to tell you a bit more.

We Called Him Yeshua

You know him by his Greek name, Jesus Christ. We see a lot in the Bible about Jesus’ story and his messages, as written by some of His closest disciples. But we rarely see the point of view of those outside the inner circle, whose lives Jesus changed with his acts of love and compassion. This soon-to-be-published novel tries to see Jesus and those times through the eyes of such people.

They knew Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua. (read more on my new website)

In the weeks leading up to the book launch, I’ll be posting sample chapters on my cjpenn.com site. Once the book is live on Amazon, I’ll post a notice for a promo week, where the Kindle version will be free, and the paperback will be priced as low as Amazon will allow. If you’d like me to notify you about these upcoming events, please follow the link (cjpenn.com) and sign up to receive book launch email notices.


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Silence Outside – Racket Inside

Even though I’ve been rather silent on my blog the past few weeks, the rest of my life is loud with activities.

For example, I’ve been building a new website. I bought myself a crispy new URL… http://www.cjpenn.com. Don’t bother going there – it’s not live yet. But when it does go live, I’ll shut this website down. I’m hoping to make that cut-over in about a month.

I’m also in the middle of a crunch with my newest book, “Oh… Jesus!” I recently received the manuscript back from my editor. She filled it with lots of fantastic red mark-ups. I felt a bit of pain with my first glance at the large amount of suggested changes. But as I’ve worked through it, I’m now embracing all those edits. This book will be greatly improved thanks to my editor.

Here’s a random image for you. Consider an author is like a gardener. You plant a seed, water it, fertilize it, and nurture it to grow into a lushes bush. But not all the branches are even, and it’s a bit scraggly in places. The editor is like a hedge trimmer, who skillfully cuts out the scraggly parts and smoothes over the uneven patches.

Anyway, though I may be silent on my blog, there’s a ton of racket going on elsewhere in my life.

Cheerio


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Not for the Money $$$

dollar

I’ve shaken up my purpose for writing… or one of my purposes anyway. My dream for a long time has been to make enough money with my books to quit my day job and be a fulltime author. Common dream. But I’m giving it away.

While in the midst of my current book project, I discovered a better purpose, a better dream. I no longer want to sell books. Instead, I want to give my books away for free, to as many people as possible. Why? Well, the detailed answer is within the pages of the book I’m about to start giving away. You can check that out if you like when the book is released in a few weeks – more about that on my Home page.

But the effects of this decision are unexpected, and really cool.

Oh, I had studied up on all the popular book marketing techniques intended to maximize sales. Growing my email list; building up my “tribe” of followers; asking followers for help in selecting book titles and cover designs (I like this idea); leveraging all forms of social media to draw people to my website and build my “platform” (I’m tired of that word). Anyway, it all made sense, but it was getting complicated and stressful.

But that stress is now gone – I gave it away. Yet if I really want to give my books away to as many people as possible, the techniques are similar to selling books. But by removing money from my purpose, it’s all a lot more fun.

I’m still asking people to give me their email address, but not so I can send them some funky newsletter and periodic sales pitches to buy a book. I never liked that newsletter idea – I don’t want to contribute to email inbox clutter. But I will send an email when I have a new book ready to give away. And I may send an email when I need help on a book project, like selecting a title or cover design.

Anyway, I’ve discovered that by removing one of the foundational purposes for my writing – selling books – there’s much more room for the real purpose: to help people discover a better experience of life in their growing intimate relationship with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. And, to help people see and accept that the solution to all of life’s problems is found in a personal relationship with the Spirit living within them.

Look, Jesus turned my life around. Without Him, I’d be miserable. Okay, not totally miserable. My wife is very special to me; I love her intensely, and her love gives me purpose. But Jesus’ love gives me a higher purpose, and a fuller life. I want to share that with other people – that’s why I write. NOT for money. This feels great!


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“Chasing Peace – Finding God”

This book has the potential to truly help people find and feel the Spirit of Jesus living within them. The Holy Spirit will no longer be a mere idea, but an intimate friend. This is the book I mentioned in a recent blog post, which is based on a series of posts about my journey to escape stress and find peace.

In working on the book, I’ve discovered it’s far from a collection of old blog posts. Those posts are just the starting point – I’ve found myself massively re-writing everything. And I’m excited about the result. I feel the messages are becoming more powerful, and helpful.

But I would like to invite you, if you’re interested, to join me on the final stage of launching this book. I’ll be looking for feedback on the next-to-final draft. Also, I’ll need help in choosing a final title. Chasing Peace – Finding God is a fine working title, but once you read a draft of the book, you might come up with a better one. And then there’s the cover design – I really need help here.

So if you would like to be part of this book project, please click the “Sign-up here” link below. This will bring up a window asking for your email address and first name – that’s it.

Now as mentioned on my websites home page and elsewhere, by signing up, I’ll of course give you a free copy of this ebook once it’s finished. I think this is what they call an ethical bribe for your help. I’d rather call it a thank-you gift. But actually, I’ll give you the book for free whether you help or not. All you have to do is sign up, and when the book is finished, it’s yours.

 

(Sign-up here)

 


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Maybe a Small Step, But it Feels BIG to Me

Yesterday I registered a domain name for my author web page – which doesn’t exist yet. Eventually you will be able to find my author page at www.cjpenn.com. But clicking on this link won’t get you anywhere today.

Though it was easy to get this domain name registered, I was surprised at how difficult it was. Confused? Me too. Technically it was easy. Emotionally it was hard. This feels like a huge step for me.

Though I’ve been writing for this blog for almost 10 years, and working on writing some books for almost 9 years (nothing yet published), I feel like I just took my first step into a whole new phase of my writing – the marketing phase. And it feels awkward and uncomfortable. I feel like I just climbed into a rocket about to blast off to Mars.

My author web page will be all about marketing me and my books. From the research I’ve been doing, an author page that’s separate from my blog is essential. But this whole marketing bit just doesn’t stir the passion and excitement in me that writing does. I’ll just have to force-feed the passion, I guess.

Anyway, I think I’ll start blogging about my experiences with this new phase of my writing life. So if you’re interested in such things, please check back in. AND, please give me some advice. I could use it. Thanks


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Book Challenge Day #94 – Deadline Done, But Book Isn’t

Deadline

Zero days left in my personal challenge to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months. The first draft isn’t even done. Oh well. But now that the first draft is almost finished, I’m starting to think about what to do next. Of course I’ll immediately start on the second draft. But I’d also like to get this blog more involved. Here are some ideas for upcoming blog activities. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Do you have other cool ideas that you could share with me?

  • Blog about a summary of the story, finally letting it out from the confines of my notebook. I haven’t mentioned much about the story yet, just because it’s been evolving. But now that it looks solid, I’d like to share it with you.
  • Ask for book cover ideas. Then I could take some of these cover ideas to my artist niece and see what she would do with them. Then, post the artwork for the ideas and have a vote to select the one to use.
  • After I hire an editor to do the final copyediting and I type up the final draft, I’d like to start posting the book on this blog, one chapter at a time. With sixteen chapters, and posting a chapter every day, in a little over two weeks you could read the entire story. And each chapter is short.
  • Hopefully, people who read the story on the blog will post some critique comments. I could then use those comments to make the story better.
  • And then, with the final cover and story, I’ll put the book on Amazon Kindle for free. I will then ask all of you who download and read it to leave a review. Then, after there’s a good collection of reviews, I’ll see what the consensus is. If people perceive the book as poor, with little value, then it will not be worth putting a price on it. If people see value in the book, then I’ll basically set the price based on how may stars it gets – more stars equals higher price. In this way, those who first read and review the book, will set the price for the book. After all, it’s the readers opinion that counts, not mine.

So what do you think? Thanks a lot, CJ

 

(October 18, 2015: day 93 down, 0 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #90 – Oops

ghost writer

I thought I had the whole book mapped out, the book I’m trying to write and publish in three months. The first drafts of 13 of the 15 chapters are in the bank, written and typed up. And the remaining chapters have detailed outlines and notes – all I need to do is put them into a readable flow. And it all feels good…

… Except for the ending. I recently accepted that it sucks. Oh, it’s a necessary and critical part of the story, but it’s a painful way to end. It’s a bad place to leave the reader. I know I’d hate being dropped in that place, without a well lit pathway out.

Well, I was driving to work recently, whining to myself about the end of the story. I don’t think I had yet seen and accepted that it sucked. So I prayed about it. And as with all the chapters in this story, God gave me the new ending, the best ending (in my opinion anyway). By the time I got to work, I had complete notes recorded on my iPhone voice memo app. I so love writing with God, even in my car.

You may have noticed I have only four days left in my 3-month challenge. And the first draft isn’t done. Oh well. Anyone out there have a similar writing experience?

 

(October 14, 2015: day 89 down, 4 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #65 – The Writing is Fun… but the Marketing?

book marketing

I love writing. Every time I sit down to work on the book I’m trying to write in three months, I have fun. Mainly because I’m not writing alone. I’m writing with the Holy Spirit.

But in working on this book, the message that’s coming into my mind and then onto the paper is really touching my heart. I believe this message can touch the hearts of other people too. So now I have a growing desire to make this book available to a lot of people. That’s where marketing comes in.

Marketing. This doesn’t sound as much fun as writing. But it could be, as long as I don’t do it alone. In fact, while praying about it on my drive to work yesterday, an idea came into my mind that seems fun to me.

It goes like this: I’m planning to self-publish this book on Amazon Kindle. I’ve always wanted to initially offer the book for free, mainly for all of you who have periodically checked in on the progress with my book challenge. As a way to thank you, I want to give you the book. I had then intended to later put some random price on it. After all, I could use the money.

But here’s the new fun idea: while the book is on Amazon for free, I will ask all of you who download and read it to leave a review. It’s a short book, so it won’t take long to read. Then, after there’s a good collection of reviews, I’ll see what the consensus is. If people perceive the book as poor, with little value, then it will not be worth putting a price on it. If people see value in the book, then I’ll basically set the price based on how may stars it gets – more stars equals higher price. In this way, those who first read and review the book, will set the price for the book. After all, it’s the readers opinion that counts, not mine.

What do you think of this idea? Does it sound fun to you?

 

(September 19, 2015: day 64 down, 29 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #55 – Typing, finally

ghost writer

My hand-written first draft notes are all safely in my notebook, all except for the last chapter. But tonight is big not because of that, but because I started typing the first draft, beginning to make edits on the way. There is something special for me when I finally start typing a new book project. It feels more real, not like my barely legible hand-writing. I just finished typing chapter one and I’ll get started on chapter two as soon as I post this brief message.

This book project, driven along by my challenge to write and publish this book in three months, has really picked up momentum the past week. And I’d like to use this particular post to thank my co-writer… the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who lives within me, and probably within you too. He’s the real drive behind this project. His presence fills me with energy, excitement, and words. And I’m so grateful. Thanks

 

(September 9, 2015: day 55 down, 38 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #49 – 5 Hours of Rapid Writing

commute traffic

Yesterday was a huge day of progress on the book I’m trying to write and publish in 3 months. I had to drive to San Jose for a work assignment – a comfy 2+ hour drive with typical commute traffic. So there and back, I was in my car for about 5 hours (traffic was a bit more than typical). This type of day can be boring and exhausting. But not yesterday. Using my iPhone audio memo app and with the ear-buds/microphone, I was able to record notes for the book while keeping both hands on the wheel (that comment is for those who tend to worry about me while I’m on these long commutes for work).

After 5 hours filled with frequent moments of high energy and excitement, I had recorded very detailed notes for the remaining seven chapters of the book. Once I transcribe these audio notes, the first draft will be complete!

But the best part is how this happened and what ended up coming out of my mouth. As I often do while driving, I’m in frequent conversation with the Holy Spirit of Jesus. I always find comfort in His presence. And yesterday, I believe He was giving me the words that I then spoke into my iPhone. And what great words – the book has taken an unexpected turn, and I’ve now added elements that will bring much more power to it’s message. That’s where my energy and excitement came from.

Dear Jesus, thank you so much for all you do, and for riding with me yesterday on my 5-hour commute.

 

(September 3, 2015: day 48 down, 45 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #41 – The Deadline

Deadline

My 93-day window of time to write a book is well over a third of the way closed (or open, depending on how I choose to look at it). And I’m far from a third finished. At this point, panic is an option. Or at least rising stress – that would be my usual response. Yet while praying this morning, another window began to open for me, a window of understanding and trust.

What began to seep into my mind while praying is this: my three-month deadline is artificial and has no meaning beyond the meaning you or I may give it. My prideful self would choose to make the deadline a matter of success or failure. That’s where the stress and eventual panic would come in.

Or, I could choose to give no meaning to the deadline and just focus on trusting Jesus – trusting Him to show me the way to the completion of this book, with no concern for when that happens. The deadline then becomes only a fun way to help motivate myself to write this book, with no stress, only trust.

Guess which one I’ve chosen.

 

(August 24, 2015: day 40 down, 53 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #38 – Back in the Saddle Again

This blog, and my personal book challenge, has been very quiet for the past few weeks. I’ve been traveling for three weeks, and though I had hoped to find lots of time for writing and blogging, there was actually very little. I made almost no progress on the book. But I’m not worried… yet.

You see, whenever I do find time to write, and as long as I am able to quiet my mind and focus on the Spirit of Jesus within me, the writing just happens. I focus on Jesus and the words seem to flow through my hand and into my notebook. This morning I effortlessly finished the first draft of chapter 4 – thirteen more chapters to go.

So now that I’m back home and into my familiar writing space and daily routine, it feels like I’m “back in the saddle again.” And I hope to continue to blog about my experience with this personal writing challenge. The highs and lows – they’re out there, waiting for me to reach them.

I think challenges are good in how they stretch us and help us grow. How might I grow through my book writing challenge? It will be fun to find out, and maybe at times a bit painful. Stay tuned.

 

(August 23, 2015: day 37 down, 56 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #13 – Out of Focus

Out of focus

Work has been crazy busy. Yet my self-imposed challenge to write and publish a book in three months is still standing tall right in front of me. In my minds eye this project sometimes appears as a large person scowling at me, with their arms crossed and boldly proclaiming, “I’m waiting!”

Though this book is gradually growing within my mind and on the pages of my notebook, it’s often out of focus. My sites are mostly set on other things, like work. Work is demanding and ever hungry for all my time and thought… 24/7. So I have to fend off works hunger just to pry my gaze away long enough to let my mind focus on the book.

I get mini moments with the book. Just a few minutes at a time, it seems. But God is so good to me, because He honors my brief moments of focus and fills those seconds with more of the book – from His heart, to my mind, to my notebook. And I’m so grateful.

 

(July 29, 2015: day 12 down, 81 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #12 – As the story pours onto the page

clay pots pouring water

For the fiction book I’m trying to write and publish in 3 months, a couple of days ago I dictated the essence of chapter 2 into the memo app of my iPhone. This morning I worked on transcribing those notes into my notebook, and converting them into more of a story. BTW, I enjoy handwriting rather than typing directly. I read somewhere that handwriting uses more of the creative portion of your brain than typing, and thereby can add to the creative output. I’ll type my handwritten draft later.

Well, I don’t know much about how to activate the creative portion of my brain (other than a glass of wine or beer in the evening), but this morning the story of chapter 2 seemed to pour out of my mind and onto the pages. I would listen to a snippet of my notes, and then while focusing my thoughts on the Spirit of Jesus within me, the words began flowing down my arm, out my fingers, into the pencil and onto the paper. I so enjoy this part of writing, this free-flowing creative part, especially when I’m not writing alone, but collaborating with Jesus.

Is He really guiding my hand? I believe so. I almost feel it. Maybe not with every word. But when I look back at what’s been written, I’m convinced it’s not all from me. It’s too good to come from me.

 

(July 28, 2015: day 11 down, 82 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #11 – This is not my book project

ghost writer

I’m writing this post just to remind myself this is not my book challenge project. As I believe the idea came from the Spirit of Jesus within, I want to remember not to try to wrestle control from Him. My ego, of course, will want control. My ego will want to make a certain amount of progress each day, gain a certain number of new followers interested in the challenge, and make sure the book is actually published by the October 17th deadline.

But I must remember, this is not my book project. It’s God’s. The daily progress isn’t important. The number of people who follow the project isn’t important (though the people themselves are very important – I just felt like adding that), and the deadline isn’t important.

What’s important with how I deal with this book challenge is the same thing that’s most important with the everyday challenge of dealing with life… my focus on God. As long as I keep my heart, mind, and soul focused on God within me, all is just right. The book challenge is not my purpose; it’s just an outcome of my purpose, which is to live with the Spirit of Jesus living through me.

 

(July 27, 2015: day 10 down, 83 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #9 – Talking Through Chapter Two

Day 8 of my personal writing challenge turned out better than I could have wished. After having written chapter one in the morning, I wrote chapter two on my drive home from work in the evening.

Actually, I spoke chapter two into the voice memo app on my iPhone. As I was pulling onto the freeway, a clear picture of chapter two started painting itself in my mind. Rapidly, the picture became vivid and complete. Yet I worried about my crumby memory. How was I going to remember all this by the time I got home and could write it down?

Well, the Friday evening commute traffic gave me a “break.” While in the middle of a solid stop that lasted almost a minute, I safely activated the voice memo app, set my phone down and started dictating the picture of chapter two that was fresh in my mind.

When I had emptied my mind of chapter two, I turned my thoughts to God, and gave Him big thanks for making this so easy for me. I know chapter two is from Him, because I don’t have the talent to come up with something that looks so good.

 

(July 25, 2015: day 8 down, 85 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #8 – Follow the Bouncing Ball

bouncing balls

The only time I have to write is early morning, yet it can be the worst time. My mind is so scattered in the morning. Oh, things begin to come into focus as the coffee takes hold, but my mind still tends to bounce from one thought to another, just more slowly. It’s like a super-ball hurled to the garage floor, bouncing around so fast it’s hard to keep your eyes on it, but slowing a bit over time. Such is my morning mind.

Well, the coffee cup is empty now. My mind is able to spend more time focused on the loving Spirit of Jesus within me. And He’s helping me, tugging on my thoughts, keeping them from bouncing too far away again. So now I’ll open my notebook and see what grows out of my pen. Will there be progress with my book challenge this morning? Stay tuned…

 

… I’m back, an hour later. It’s amazing what can happen when I step on the bouncing ball of my thoughts and focus on Jesus. I just finished the first draft of the first chapter. And though it’s still rough, I like the tone that’s being set.

It always happens this way when I’m writing. The best stuff grows out of my pen and crawls across the pages of my notebook only when my thoughts are set on Jesus within me, when He is writing with me. And I’m so grateful.

 

(July 24, 2015: day 7 down, 86 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #6 – Still on the Foundation

ghost writer

I made some good progress this morning on the foundation of my 3-month-to-publish book idea. The story is historical fiction, writing in a first-person narrative style. The outline is almost finished, with the flow of the story and the chapters defined.

My progress this morning started with a prayer. As with most of my mornings, it can be hard to clear my cluttered head of the junk that fills my life, and focus my mind on the Spirit of Jesus within me. But for some reason, this morning was easier. I think it was because I felt frustrated with myself, and my own cluttered mind. So I mentally grabbed a large broom and vigorously swept all that clutter out of the way so I could clearly see Jesus. And it worked.

Oh how I cherish those moments when I feel really close to Jesus, within me. I found such a moment this morning. And in that moment, Jesus gave me an image of what I could do with the book idea. So I opened my eyes and started writing. And I’ll start all over again tomorrow morning.

 

(July 22, 2015: day 6 down, 88 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge Day #2 – The Wanderer

ghost writer

It’s been a little over 24 hours since I took on the challenge to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in three months. My head is spinning with ideas. Yesterday was wild – on my drive to work in the morning, I actually abandoned my original book idea for another idea.

I was praying my way down the highway – praying that some sleepy commuter doesn’t rear-end me, as I often do, yet also praying about the book idea I had originally come up with. Then, in an instant, a new and very fresh idea started rapidly growing in my mind. By the time I got to work I had a general outline all figured out. I even had the last chapter written, in my head. And I have a title – The Wanderer. I parked my car, quickly scribbled some notes, and reluctantly walked into work, glad as always that it was Friday.

Usually on a Friday evening, my exhausted drive home is filled with thoughts of that first beer or glass of wine that waits for me. But not yesterday. The book seemed to be writing itself within my head. Filled with unusual energy, I first went swimming – the only form of exercise that doesn’t hurt my often achy, aging body. More ideas flooded into my mind as I swam. More scribbled notes in the car before finally driving home from the fitness club.

God was really speaking to me yesterday, clearly outlining this next book He wants me to write. I think He’s enjoying this as much as I am.

 

(July 18, 2015: day 1 down, 92 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)


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Book Challenge – Day #1

ghost writer

Challenge to self: write and self-publish a book within three months. This isn’t a new idea for me, but while checking out many of the presentations at the on-going Self-Publishing Success Summit, I finally felt energy growing within me… let’s do it.

So this morning, right after getting out of bed, I started talking with God, asking Him for ideas. What would He like me to write about that could be contained in a short, maybe 20,000-word book? I so love writing with God, because He’s always there for me. I think He loves writing too, for it’s another way He can communicate with His children. Even before I started making coffee, an idea started coming into focus. And half-way through that first cup of coffee, I started drawing a mind-map with the ideas that were coming into my still-dreamy head. And now, the whole story is laid out before me.

I think God has a sense of humor, because the idea he gave me is a fiction story. Yet all my experience is writing non-fiction. To pull this off, I’ll have to dig deep into my past, when I was a young kid who loved to make up stories. I’m excited.

Anyway, if you’re interested in following my progress with this challenge, check back once in awhile. I’ll try to share the experience. October 17th, 2015 … wish me luck.