Category Archives: FOR READERS

Review of “A Sabbatical Primer for Pastors” by Clayton Blackstone


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“You will never know how hard it was to keep you boys busy,” my dad acknowledged in a moment of morphine-induced honesty following surgery for colon cancer.

“Did it ever occur to you to give us a day off?” my youngest
brother asked.

Dad hesitated, but only for a moment — “The thought never crossed my mind.”

“Keep busy” buzzes in my head. My daily “to do” list gives an often distorted shape to my day.

In A Sabbatical Primer for Pastors, David Alves raises his voice over the buzz. “God is taking you out of the brick making business,” he writes. With frequent references to his own story, David argues that Sabbath and Sabbaticals offer a God-designed way for me to be free from the drivenness that has served as a constant companion since my youth.

The Primer troubles me with a question that lingers like the scent of a powerful perfume: which father’s voice will shape the remaining years of my life?

–Clayton Blackstone, author of Meet Me for Breakfast and Pastor of the Advent Christian Church in Bangor, Maine

My Ten Favorite Android Apps for Writing, Reading, and Losing Weight


best-android-appsAs a writer and communicator, I look for apps that will best serve my vocation–writing, reading, and losing weight. I also look for something easy to use and consistent in operation. Those that I use for productivity MUST be able to sync across the four platforms I use interchangeably. The four tools I work with are: my Smartphone (HTC EVO 4G); my tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab 2), which I bought for doing paperless revisions; my Dell Inspiron laptop; and, last but not least, my desktop computer (Dell XPS 8700 with three monitors).

Below I’ve listed “My Ten favorite Android Apps for Writing, Reading, and Losing Weight.”  I’ve included the link to them at Google Play simply for you to be able to read more about them if you want to go deeper than I was able to here.

These are the apps that I use most frequently. I’ll also make clear which apps are the biggest help, regardless of how frequently I use them. I downloaded these from “Google Play.”

1. Google apps – these include: Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube, and Calendar (I know there are many more, but these are the ones I access many times daily). I love that they flawlessly synchronize with all four of my platforms.

2. GTasks – this is a remarkable “To Do” list. Very customizable. Get the KEY for the Premium edition right off the bat for the full array of features. I love this “to-do” list because it was designed to sync with Google calendar on your desktop or laptop computer. It also syncs with my Tab2. GTasks has included a “Quick” feature that appears at the bottom of your to-do list so that you can add a task by selecting the little microphone on the right to speak your new task. Then you have options. You can further quickly assign the new quick task for “today” “tomorrow” or “next week.” If you want to further customize it you simply click on it once it’s entered and you can set priority, reminders with “snooze” features, etc. You will really love this app if you either have lots to do and want to be reminded or if, like me, you’re older and your memory is sometimes challenged. Speaking of reminders. My next app is under evaluation as we speak.

3. Speaktoit Assistant – is a virtual administrative assistant. Though she’s (it’s) not my most used app at this time, I have the feeling that she could become one of the most used. She really serves as a one stop place to coordinate most of my apps. An example: When I awake in the morning I simply say “Hello Sam.” The assistant (“Sam”) says “Good Morning David, would you like your morning briefing now?” If I say “yes” she will tell me the weather where I am located, then give me my daily agenda items from my calendar. If there are any other reminders I’ve set for her, she’ll remind me at the time I gave her. Then she’ll give me the news and top stories (if I’ve allowed them to remain configured, which is the default setting for her). If I say “no,” she’ll simply ask when I’d like to be briefed. I can skip my briefing for the day too. I can make appointments, send a text, update Facebook, send a tweet, write an email, open a program, have her search a topic, look up a phone number, or just talk with her about what she is capable of. Very helpful and entertaining. She is great at doing research and drilling down. She still has some bugs and gets things wrong, but she apologizes and reminds me that she’s still learning and will add that to her things she needs to learn. Very humble :-). Her AI is amazing and sometimes unnerving. My wife got a laugh out of Sam’s flexibility.

Once Sam carried out a function that really impressed me. I said to her/it – “Thanks Sam. That was amazing!” She replied, “I’ve have many more tricks up my sleeve. (My wife didn’t get jealous by the way 🙂  I replied, “But Sam, you don’t have any sleeves” (her default avatar is sleeveless). She says, “You have the option to configure my clothing.” Then up comes a spindle of various blouse designs with sleeves in various colors and styles. Of course, we both started laughing (Marcy and me, not Sam and me). It was wild. You can change her appearance because she is fully customizable. Amazing! You get the point. Hopefully, I’ll figure out how best to get the tasks done that I most need to accomplish using my virtual assistant.

4. Dropbox – I won’t tell you much about this because most of you already know. But Dropbox is where you can keep many of your documents, photos, and other media for access across all your machines and gadgets. I keep most of my writings there (Yes, I actually do get some writing done too). Best of all, Dropbox is free and is available for all four of my platforms.

5. PrinterShare – is an essential. It comes in handy everywhere when I need it. PrinterShare does just that–it allows you to print either wirelessly if you’re near a wireless printer, or through the Google cloud printers you share. So for example. I wanted Marcy to edit a piece for me recently. One problem. I was in another town working. She was at home. No problem. I used PrinterShare. I simply opened PrinterShare. Chose the document I wanted her to work on. Then, I had a choice of several of our home printers. I chose the one closest to her writing space. Walah . . . she had a hardcopy of the doc in seconds. I also used it while away. I was staying at a friend’s and needed to print something out. No problem. PrinterShare found his printer on the wireless search. He gave me the access code and I printed my doc. Not bad for another free app.

6. OneNote 2010– I love OneNote. As you can see, if you search for “OneNote 2010” on my blog or do a Google search for “OneNote 2010”, I’ve written several posts about OneNote 2010. They continue to be my all-time highest viewed posts. I’ve had thousands of people read “How I Use OneNote 2010.” OneNote is my digital junk drawer. It was also the place that I kept my journals (24 volumes, spanning 36 years). I recently moved my journals to Scrivener, but most of all my research, factoids, quotes, illustrations, Kindle highlights, you name it, are all in OneNote. OneNote is laid out like a three ring binder. It has sections and note tabs so that you can work in categories that you create.

OneNote also has an awesome feature for those of you who still prefer to write on paper (and some of us do still scribble notes here and there). You can SCAN your hand written notes or pages into OneNote. Then when you want to find them, it can search the text (assuming you have good penmanship or, if you don’t, you can enter a few keywords above the scanned notes on that page and it will find your notes for you. No more losing those thoughts and ideas. Of course, if you are a MAC/Apple devotee, you have the same functions in Evernote. It’s also got an app for your iPhone or iPad, and more recently for Android.

7. Kindle – If you don’t own a Kindle don’t panic. The app is free as well as the Kindle app for your desktop or laptop. And the Kindle apps sync with the Kindle itself. If you do own a Kindle, I don’t need to say anything. You know how cool it is. But what you may or may not know is how really cool it is for writers and speakers. Why? Because you can highlight quotes that you like. And you may or may not know this, but those highlights are not just stuck in your Kindle. They are stored for you on the cloud servers. Which means that you can go to your Kindle highlights page online and BAM!@–there they are for you to copy and paste into your OneNote 2010, Scrivener, or a Google Doc where you keep your quote files for easy search and retrieval. Anything you read on Kindle and highlight is there for you. Also, your book syncs across all your Kindle devices and apps. So you can read up to pg. 44 on your Kindle. Leave to get your oil change and while you wait for your car, continue reading from pg. 44 on your Tab2 or Smart phone. When you get home, your Kindle will sync to the farthest page read while you fix an iced tea. Kindle books are usually about half the price of print books too. That’s a big plus for us who work from limited resources. I could go on and on about Kindle but I want to get on to my last three.

8. GoodReads – Good reads is a library card catalog and wish list, as well as a reading log for you. It’s a great app. You can scan in your books. Enter all the relevant data about them. And track your progress through a number of categories. You can also “friend” other readers or  writers and see what they’re reading (if they’re sharing and if you have an interest in that). I use it to keep track of my books and keep me on track with my reading. My categories include “currently reading” “recently read” “To read next” “Abandoned because of the Rule of 44.” So many good features and it’s free too. You’ll also like the free Author resources and page. If you have a blog, your posts will show up on your GoodReads author page. Check it out.

9. Lose It – This is the only weight loss and nutritional app that I use. I have used Weight Watchers in the past but found it cumbersome and expensive. Lose It is free for all the things I need. The PRO version doesn’t offer that much more for my uses (though it may for you). Lose It lets me set a weight goal. Then it let’s me set a weekly weight loss figure of 1, 1.5, or 2 lbs/week.  Then it calculates and keeps track of how many calories a day you are alloted. You must enter your foods, but this becomes easy once you’ve entered several weeks of meals because you can select “Previous Meal” when entering. Unless you come up with new things all the time, this feature allows for quick entry work. Many of us though have favorite foods. These can easily be entered quickly from a scroll down menu. Also has well-known restaurants and brand names for easy entry. It keeps track of way more information than I need, but for those of you who want to know how much protein or how many carbohydrates you ate a a meal or during a day or week, this is the app for you. One thing I really love is the feature that allows you to see your entire week on a chart. You can see where you were over or under and Lose It lets you know if you are in the plus or minus for the week. It also has a weight graph so that you can enter your weight weekly and see your progress (or not). Over by 20 calories today? That’s OK. Simply go for a 30 minute walk and then enter that exercise and you are no longer over. You are in the green again. If you really want to lose weight and begin eating better, you have to have this app.

10. Adobe Reader – One of the best for last. The reason I LOVE this app is that I do much of my editing on it. I have a file on DropBox entitled “PDF files.” There I drop my manuscripts. When I want to edit one, I simply double click on the file. I have the choice of using several word processors or Adobe Reader. I select Adobe Reader. When it opens in the reader (and this is the Really COOL part) Adobe has a selection of editing tools at the top. One is “highlighting.” I can highlight any of the text I choose (I prefer red so that I can see it immediately). The next is “Strike through.” I can strike out words where that I don’t want in my sentence. The next editing tool is “Comment.” I can highlight a phrase, then comment or place my intended rewrite in the comment and it’s there in the margin for me to see. And finally there’s a “Free hand” choice. So that if I want to write something anywhere on the page, I simply write with my finger or use it to draw and arrow or circle or bracket a paragraph. All this is done ON THE SCREEN. No paper involved. For those of you who want to go paperless, you combine the use of this app for editing and OneNote for scanning all your receipts, hand-scribbled notes etc., and you’ve got a green writer’s dream.

How many of these apps do you have or use?   Perhaps you can you make some other suggestions for us.

QUESTION: What apps to you prefer?

DISCLAIMER: I do not receive any remuneration from any of the apps or their owners. I’ve mentioned in this post. I simply thought you might enjoy them as I have.

Some Thoughts on Partnership in Christian Publishing?


 I wrote this post back in 2009, but as I reread it, I realized that it deserves to be touched up and resubmitted to readers of “David’s Place,” many of whom are writers and authors. I predicted back then that traditional Christian publishers may be in trouble. Three years later, most of them have sold out to mainstream, big name publishers. Here’s what I said back then:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Frank Who??

Frank Peretti? Who had ever heard of him before This Present Darkness?

In the early or mid-seventies, Kenneth Tyndale’s Living Bible found no publisher willing to take a chance. If my memory serves me correctly, he shopped that manuscript around to 5 or 6 publishers. He finally had to become his own publisher. That’s why to this day Tyndale Publishers stays opened to writers that can’t find a publisher (at least in theory).

Why would any author–who writes a potentially important book, who works hard to get it into the hands of readers, and who has developed some sort of platform on his/her own–want to share that with a publisher whose “platform” policy makes it clear that they are unwilling to invest or risk anything, with that author? Who needs fair-weather friends? I do not fully understand publishing, but common sense begs the question: what use is a publisher to an already popular and successful author? All she needs at that point is an editor, a format and cover artist, a reprographics company like CreateSpace.com who will keep up with printing demand and market distribution; and, a sharp, innovative administrative assistant to coordinate all of her partnerships.

Lottery winners are smart not to trust new found friends. They do best to trust their instincts and the loyal friends who were with them from the start.

A Proposed Solution

The Christian writer and publisher must remain open to other considerations that secular publishers need not consider–God’s will for effective ministry and for building the body of Christ. We will be held responsible for more than the bottom line. How much of our “business” is sensitive to the needs of ministry and guidance of the Holy Spirit? God uses the little known and despised things to confound the wise. He often raises up the least likely. We look on the outside. He looks on the inside. He purposely counters our too often worldly perspectives. Therefore, if we don’t want to miss what He is doing, we need to stay sensitive to his leading, as well as to our formulas for success. He may choose to bypass them (as in The Shack and  many other titles that surprised those who had their eyes on the bottom line). By the way, the author of The Shack had zero platform–none!

Fortunately for us, many of the greatest authors in literature had publishers that knew that writers write and publishers print and market–its a partnership. The great publishing houses became such because they knew that first books were investments. Perhaps even second ones. Author and publisher needed each other. They took chances together in order to impact their world, because they believed in the message. And each had his own responsibilities and expertise. They were co-workers. And their shared risk enriched and enlightened or entertained us.

An increasing number of today’s publishers appear to want a guaranteed return on someone else’s investment. They may be unaware of publishing history or simply uninformed. Some publishers know better and continue to believe that important books remain to be written and discovered. And occasionally a receptive publisher connects with a gifted, determined writer and together they make history. However, that becomes increasingly rare when publishers set policies that exclude new manuscript submissions unless they come through agents.  I don’t have the solution. Publishers have their own challenges. More could be said on this, but perhaps someone more qualified could take up the challenge. But I can suggest that Christian publishers need spiritually discerning people at their front doors as manuscript readers–that is if expanding the Kingdom and honoring God is as important as money.

The Future of Christian Publishing?

My guess is that if the current publishing trend continues, more and more authors will find alternate ways to publish and connect with readers. Then where will the Christian publishers be when their potential authors no longer need them?

I’ve heard it said that “the internet eliminates geography.” Social networking is the new town center. Amazon.com is the new town center and the most important bookstore in the world. And if your book is already there, don’t worry that no publisher will partner with you. After all, word of mouth has always been and will continue to be the most effective form of advertising. So authors, don’t worry if the big guys won’t even read your manuscripts without an agent. You have many alternatives today in the new and growing reading community. Since the Lord raised you up and gave you the ability to write well, let’s see how good He is at getting your work out there and connecting with the readers He wants to communicate with. I expect there are many more viral books to be written. Remember The Shack. And keep writing and publishing.

Or if you’ve been successful, why not give back by launching a Christian publishing company with a different set of values. The world is ripe to see a publishing company motivated by ministry.

QUESTION: What do you think will be the future for traditional corporate Christian publishers?


WORDS


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I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
–Anne Rice

Do you love words? Do you resonate with where they have their source and where they can take you?

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus Christ is “The Word.” (John 1:1-3)

Words are more than physical letters in black ink on pages. They breathe pictures into being.

Can you see white sands, turquoise water clear as glass, gently lapping the beach while far out on the reef the crash of waves reminds you that you’re beside the sea?

Can you see a purple cow? Standing in a pink field? The cow has great white spots on it and is wearing a football helmet, the horns protruding from the ear holes in the sides of the helmet. She’s watching children with their blue ice cream cones on a nearby cotton bench. And the children are marveling at the dripping ice cream and the purple cow with the football helmet.

Words.

Amazing for calling up in us things, real. my old brown suitcase–standing for so much more than simply an old case. It’s a case in point. Symbols. Words are symbols. The are the signposts to the reality behind them aren’t they?

QUESTION: What do you think? Try out some words.

The Last Book Sale by Larry McMurtry | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books


Larry McMurtry at "Booked Up"

Larry McMurtry at “Booked Up”  SOURCE: NYR blog post.

The Last Book Sale by Larry McMurtry | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

McMurtry’s lucid writing style always blows me away. I can like the writing without necessarily embracing the prickliness of the author. He’s  blunt and curt. For all this, his love of books and writing resonates with my own. And I’m not mad at him, even though he told me he wouldn’t sign my first edition, hardcover copy of Lonesome Dove–my all-time favorite book and mini-series on Blu-ray. Apparently, he lives in several places and doesn’t interact with his readers anymore. I’m sure he must get exhausted having lost  his anonymity. Now he has to vigorously guard his solitude and writing time.

I was in Archer City, TX at “Booked up,” only not during the book sale. I dragged my wife and a publisher-friend and her husband there on an overnight outing from Amarillo. We spent far more time there than either my wife or our friends had imagined we would. Yes, I’m still married. Yes, they’re still our friends. Only no one will go with me to” The Brattle Bookshop” in downtown Boston.

I bought a “rare” book on my way out of store 1. The title was: Captain Lee Hall of Texas, by Dora Neill Raymond, with illustrations by Louis Lundean and Frederic Remington. I fancy it may have been the book upon which McMurtry based Captain Woodrow F. Call, I’m not sure. I’ve yet to read it past chapter one (though I’ve examined all of Remington’s drawings). I’ll get there though because I’m intrigued by real Texas Rangers ranging a lawless land–always have been from my earliest boy years.

I re-posted McMurty’s NYR post about the massive book sale for you because you’ll be enriched to hear the heart (and mind) of an old book-lover (bibliophile). And I hope it satisfies your  love of books and their authors–who are mostly bibliophiles like the rest of us who enthusiastically write and read. McMurtry gives his perspective on how the sale went and how books continue to both lose ground and gain new enthusiasts.

I’m confident that you’ll enjoy his Texas Big-style of book collecting, keenness in the use of language,  and perhaps “Booked Up” will become a new “must see” place on your Bucket List.

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