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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Formatting Your Manuscript for Amazon Kindle

A special thank you to Jill Williamson.

Formatting a Manuscript for Submission

A special thank you to Jill Williamson.

Blumer Editorial: Celebrating Our Fifth Anniversary as a Full-time Business

Happy fifth anniversary, Blumer Editorial! This home-based business would never have happened without God's leading and grace, and to Him be all glory for what He has done.

That's right. I don't just write novels. I work from home as a freelance writer and editor.

But what did God do? you may wonder. How did this business come to be? Maybe you don't know the story behind this edit-from-home gig I've been doing for more than five years. Well, I'm happy to share the story because it reveals (better than I could ever describe in a novel) how our sovereign and all-wise God works and orchestrates in His time.

On January 13, 2006, I was an editor at Northland Baptist Bible College (now Northland International University [Dunbar, WI]), where I'd been serving for more than a decade, when I was given the pink slip. The college was going through cutbacks, and I had to say auf wiedersehen by the end of May (for more details about my layoff, see this article). I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that that last semester at the college was a very tumultuous time for me because I didn't know what I was going to do, but God was quietly working behind the scenes. Within a few months a few interested parties asked me to consider doing editing work for them from home. By the time May rolled around, I took the big step of working from home part time, but I also did some early-morning package handling for FedEx to help pay the bills.

Summer 2006 was one of the most difficult summers of my life. Gone were the years of receiving a steady paycheck every two weeks. I was on a true journey of faith. I had no idea if this business would work; I dreaded the thought of selling our house (which we love) and moving somewhere to work for strangers. Somehow I worked FedEx and edited projects from home, and God provided. Meanwhile, my parents and in-laws joined forces to help us build a literal office into the basement of our house. Thank you, Mom and Dad Blumer and Mom and Dad Melzer! I wouldn't have this awesome office to work in every day if it hadn't been for your hard work and support during that hot, crazy summer.

In January 2007, I had enough work to say good-bye to FedEx early-morning package handling (no offense to this elite group) and stay home to edit full time. So I've been doing this editing business full time for five years—that's what I'm celebrating today. As you can see, this change in vocation was no confident move on my part. It was a bona fide step of faith. God pushed me out of a stable job at the college because He had something else in mind. He even opened the door for me to publish novels (the fulfillment of a lifelong dream).When I weigh the pros and cons of working at home, I'd pick working at home in a heartbeat. I save lots of money on gas, and I get to see my wife and daughters throughout the day. The isolation can be difficult at times, I'll admit, but being home has so many benefits.

I'd be a liar if I said the last five years have been nothing but big paychecks and steady work. Ha! I rarely, if ever, get "big paychecks," and the work is often less than consistent. It's often "feast or famine" in this business. Some months are crazy busy, and I take on extra work to try to make up for the month when I have barely anything to do. In the headline, I wrote "our" because my wife, Kim, has played a major role in making this edit-from-home thing work, too. In addition to homeschooling our daughters, she works a part-time job from home to help relieve some of the financial pressure I carry. So I say, "Thank you, dear wife."

And thank You, God, for how You lead and provide.

Here's to five years of experiencing Your provision and faithfulness.

Will this business survive another five years? Who knows? Sometimes I frankly feel like chucking it. Finding steady clients can be difficult, and this economy makes getting adequate income to provide for the four of us even more of a challenge. But I'll trust God to lead day by day. And if I ever have to close the doors, then God has something better for me to do. Praise His name!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Stalking of the President - Charles Guiteau and James A. Garfield | Past Imperfect

Fascinating article about the Garfield assassin.

The Stalking of the President - Charles Guiteau and James A. Garfield | Past Imperfect

The Christian Author and Self-Promotion, Part 2

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Col. 3:23 ESV).
"Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man" (Eph. 6:7 ESV). 

In last week's post, I discussed promotion in general and made a few observations. 
  • Self-promotion is not the same thing as product promotion.    
  • The writer's life is not beyond biblical scrutiny.
  • The motive of everything we do should be to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31).
So where do we go from here?

What do the above verses tell us? Everything we do should be done for the Lord and not for men. Wow. That's a toughie, isn't it? Don't we all tend to be people pleasers?

But if those verses are true, how do we Christian authors respond to the pressure to please our readers? To write for a certain audience? To want readers to like our books and buy them? To market our materials to expand our audience? To speak to groups and do radio interviews to further our influence? (And I'm not knocking these things—they are all important.)

I think the word influence may be helpful in our discussion here. Otherwise, we might reach the conclusion that we shouldn't do any of these things if we intend to obey these verses. Not so fast. Consider the words of John Piper:
Let's get rid of the word "self-promotion" and refuse to think that way. I don't ever want to be self-promoting. I don't like that language. I'm going to say, "If what I'm promoting here is myself, then I don't want to do it." . . . What I'm promoting is a truth that, by grace, I believe I have seen. . . .
That's what the Bible says to do: "Declare his glory among the nations!" Alright! You've got to open your mouth and say what you've seen with your eyes about his glory. You've got to say that! The Bible would never call that self-promotion. You're supposed to die in the process! That's not self-promotion. . . . 
The very process of true spreading is a process of self-denying. "He who would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me," meaning, "Follow me into proclamation, into gospel spreading, into serving people." Of course you're there, and you're using your hands, your mouth, your brain; but it's all death if you're doing it right.So the language I use that may bridges the gap is "influence." Is it right for a Christian to want to be influential? And the answer is—if what is influencing people is the truth, the beauty of Christ, the glory of God—"Yes, it's right and good." (
So based on what Piper is saying, I think we can conclude that if we're writing only to promote ourselves and be the next big-shot author, then we are shallow writers indeed. Because we have a higher calling. 

A calling to influence the world with God's truth. To proclaim God's glory.

In other words, our writing isn't/shouldn't be about us. In fact, based on Scripture, we are to die to ourselves. Deny ourselves. Take up our crosses. Be humble. That certainly doesn't sound like the rock star mentality the world tells us we should have, does it? In fact, it's quite the reverse.

So when we have a message or story to proclaim in book form (and yes, every book has a  message), we need to see ourselves not as promoting ourselves but as promoting God and His truth and His glory. After all, we are only his microphones for truth.

After all, we are/should be dead to self. But He is alive.

It's not about us. It's about something—about Someone—so much bigger.

If we keep that in mind, we'll forget about the whole fame/ego thing that can go along with being a published author. And we'll understand that marketing and building a platform and doing radio interviews—even writing books that are appealing to our readers—are things that aren't really about us.

They're about something—about Someone—so much bigger.

"It's all death if you're doing it right" (Piper). Something to ponder. Until next time.   

Monday, January 16, 2012

From Spurgeon's Morning and Evening

January 12, Evening

"I have yet to speak on God's behalf." --Job 36:2 

We ought not to court publicity for our virtue, or notoriety for our zeal; but, at the same time, it is a sin to be always seeking to hide that which God has bestowed upon us for the good of others. A Christian is not to be a village in a valley, but "a city set upon a hill;" he is not to be a candle under a bushel, but a candle in a candlestick, giving light to all. Retirement may be lovely in its season, and to hide one's self is doubtless modest, but the hiding of Christ in us can never be justified, and the keeping back of truth which is precious to ourselves is a sin against others and an offence against God. If you are of a nervous temperament and of retiring disposition, take care that you do not too much indulge this trembling propensity, lest you should be useless to the church. Seek in the name of Him who was not ashamed of you to do some little violence to your feelings, and tell to others what Christ has told to you. If thou canst not speak with trumpet tongue, use the still small voice. If the pulpit must not be thy tribune, if the press may not carry on its wings thy words, yet say with Peter and John, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee." By Sychar's well talk to the Samaritan woman, if thou canst not on the mountain preach a sermon; utter the praises of Jesus in the house, if not in the temple; in the field, if not upon the exchange; in the midst of thine own household, if thou canst not in the midst of the great family of man. From the hidden springs within let sweetly flowing rivulets of testimony flow forth, giving drink to every passer-by. Hide not thy talent; trade with it; and thou shalt bring in good interest to thy Lord and Master. To speak for God will be refreshing to ourselves, cheering to saints, useful to sinners, and honouring to the Saviour. Dumb children are an affliction to their parents. Lord, unloose all Thy children's tongue.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Christian Author and Self-Promotion, Part 1

As you can tell by the title, I plan to tackle a topic sure to raise the blood pressure and perhaps even cause some discussion. The topic of self-promotion is one I've wrestled with for some time, especially as I constantly read posts in writing forums about how we authors must brand, market, build our platforms, etc. It's all self-promotion, isn't it? Or is it?

Is promotion itself wrong? Of course not.

Naturally, as authors, we want customers to buy our books. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily (unless we're nagging everyone within five miles to buy our book). In a sense, we are Christian businessmen and women. We work hard, produce a product, and hope others see its value enough to buy it. The same could be true of a Christian car salesman. We work hard. We support our families. In that sense, no, I don't believe selling a product is wrong, nor do I believe it's wrong to promote a product.

But is that the same thing as self-promotion? I see a subtle but important difference between promoting a product and promoting ourselves.

So what about promoting ourselves? Is that so evil? I think the answer to that question points to the heart of our motives, and we'll explore that in later installments.

So what does the Bible say about this topic? As I see it, some of this issue boils down to whether we seek to please men or please God, and the Bible is certainly not silent on that issue.

A foundational truth, as I see it, is that if we are writers who believe the Bible and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then our writing cannot exist in a compartment that is separate from that. In fact, Scripture is clear that every part of our lives must be dedicated to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). God's glory. Not our glory. I think most believers and Christian authors would agree with me on that point.

So we have established two foundational truths:

First, the writer's life is not beyond biblical scrutiny.
Second, the motive of everything we do should be to glorify God.

So where do we go from here? Until next time . . .

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Barnes-Hecker Tragedy

Very cool! I was able to speak on the phone today with the author of "No Tears in Heaven," the basis for this video. This true story factors into my next novel, but that's all I'm saying for now.

Fifty-one men went to work one cold November day, never to return home. In 1926, Michigan’s worst iron ore mining disaster occurred in western Marquette County. The men were working in the Barnes-Hecker Mine when it caved in. They were fathers, brothers and sons. Now hear their stories through their descendants. You’ll also hear stories of the widows who went on to raise their families and an account of how one man managed to make it out alive.

Based on the book "No Tears in Heaven" by Thomas G. Friggens, director of the Michigan Iron Ore Industry Museum in Negaunee, Michigan.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Captive Heart
Bethany House (January 1, 2012)
Dale Cramer


Dale Cramer spent his formative years traveling the world as an Army brat, then settled in Georgia at the age of fifteen when his father retired.

After high school he became an electrician, a job that took him to places as diverse as power plants, stadia, airports, high-rise office buildings and a hard-rock mining operation.

Twenty-five years of experiences in the trades provided him with the wealth of characters, stories and insights that populate his novels.

When he married his childhood friend, Pam, in 1975 he had no way of knowing they would not have children until fifteen years later.

In his early forties, when Dale left his job to become a stay-at-home dad, he suddenly found himself with time on his hands, so he pursued a lifelong dream and taught himself to write.

Using an online writer’s forum as a training ground, he wrote his first short stories in 1996. As his writing skills improved he turned to novels, publishing his first book, Sutter’s Cross, in 2003.

Since then, Dale has published four more novels and garnered a measure of critical acclaim with two Christy Awards, a listing among Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2004 and numerous other Best lists. Dale and his wife Pam live in Georgia with their two sons.


Bandit troubles intensify as Caleb Bender's family tries to settle into their new life in 1920s Paradise Valley. When El Pantera kidnaps Rachel and leaves her brother, Aaron, for dead, Jake Weaver and the Mexican native Domingo pursue the bandit leader to his mountain stronghold in a hopeless rescue attempt. Jake and Domingo manage to escape with Rachel, with the bandits hot on their trail. In a desperate attempt to avoid recapture, Domingo puts himself squarely in harm's way, giving Jake and Rachel time to get away. This is not the quiet life Caleb Bender envisioned when he led his family out of Ohio. What is a father to make of his daughter's obvious affection for a man outside the fold? And how will a pacifist Amishman like Caleb respond to the events that threaten his family and their way of life?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Captive Heart, go HERE

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

Why Do We Pursue a Certain Life's Direction?

While so many others are writing about new year's resolutions, I've chosen not to. Instead, today's question is this: why do I write? Or—here's a broader question that includes everyone—why do we do what we do, or why do we pursue a certain life's direction?

Because of some rare gene? Early childhood exposure? Ancestry?

Why was my father an engineer for GM? And why didn't I become an engineer like him?

The truth is, from a human perspective, none of us can explain why we go after certain pursuits other than what we heard as children: "Your mommy is really musical, so you'll probably be musical too." The Bible sheds some light on this question when it says that we're "fearfully and wonderfully made" and that this careful planning occurred long before our first breath—in fact, before anybody had any idea what time even was.

The bottom line is that God decides the type of interest we'll pursue. The Bible says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." God gives us both interest and aptitude for what He wants us to do in life. It's silly of me to think I could be the next big recording artist if I can't carry a tune. If I faint at the sight of blood, I probably won't be a renowned surgeon either.

But there is something God wants me to do. Remember what the New Testament says about the church. We can't all be hands and feet or eyes or noses.

But we are some part, and that part is valuable to God.

I believe God leads us into certain interests, and usually (but not always) we gravitate toward a life's pursuit because of those interests. (Interest+aptitude=direction, right?) It is true, however, that many work a job they don't like because they have a family to support and know no other way to put food on the table. But they still have dreams, don't they? Sometimes dreams stay only dreams, but sometimes God allows those dreams to come true.

And I think those dreams—note, when they match God's dreams—are what give us a worthwhile direction in life.

For me the interest to work with words began at an early age. I had no idea why other than that perhaps my mom read a lot of books and, because of her influence, I became a lover of words and stories too. Later, being a published novelist was something I dreamed about but didn't take too seriously.

Therefore, God leads us to become the people He means us to be, whether a teacher or mechanic or banker. But does that mean we are robots? Does that mean we have no say in the matter? I don't think so. Without getting into a big discussion of Calvinism, I believe Scripture is clear that God won't drag us kicking and screaming to do something we loathe. (If we're robots, then there is no personal responsibility, but the Bible is clear that we are responsible for our actions.)

But God will give us interests that harmonize with His purposes, and somehow (in a way I don't believe anyone can fully understand this side of heaven) our free will meshes with His will. And because He created us and knows us better than anyone else ever could, He guides us along the path we're meant to take. Consider these words from Charles Spurgeon (whom I've been reading a lot lately):

It is but little that we know of Jesus compared with what he knows of us. We have but begun to study him, but he knoweth us altogether. It is a blessed circumstance that the ignorance is not on his side, for then it would be a hopeless case for us. 

But our case isn't hopeless because God knows us well enough to lead us along the right path based on the unique DNA He implanted deep within.


Nothing overly eloquent here, but this is a topic I've been mulling over lately.

What about you? What do you think about your path in life?

Do you think we follow certain interests because God decrees them? Or because they're in our genes? Do we have any say in the matter?

Do you ever feel like a robot with the control in God's hands? (I confess that I do sometimes.) Or do you think there's another way to look at it? Go ahead and chime in.

Building Hooks in Your Story | ACFW Blog

Building Hooks in Your Story | ACFW Blog