Tag Archives: Caged Sparrow

Happy Birthday to Joe; Lessons Learned from a Sparrow’s Journey

5 Jul
Sparrow in prison book cover

Still a Good Summer Read!

This week we celebrate a birthday, of sorts, as my baby, “Caged Sparrow” is officially one year old. I suspect that’s about 20 in book years, judging by how much of my energy went into raising it.

Although completing one book hardly qualifies me as an expert in anything, I would like to share a few lessons I’ve learned over the past few years, because I know my dream was just one in a sea of dreams still to be fulfilled in the world.

It’s been two and a half years since I walked away from my “day job,” a job that paid quite well, where I loved my co-workers and needed to invest only three more years to qualify for retirement benefits.

But I couldn’t shake the pull to write full time.

I tried to ignore it, working 8-hour days during the week and spending my nights and weekends juggling responsibilities as wife and mother. Stories and characters filled my head until I thought I might burst. Every once in a while I’d have to steal away to a quiet corner and dash off a few pages of one project or another. Rarely did I finish anything. I did create a collection of short stories, but had no idea how to market them.

My one annual indulgence was to escape every May to attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference near Asheville, NC. Although I felt like a phony there, a pretend writer surrounded by real writers, I couldn’t stay away. Something about the creativity flowing through everyone I met wrapped around me like a lasso of possibility and just kept tugging.

This IS where I belong.

I drank in the writing seminars and workshops, basked in the warm writing talk at every meal, and left the conference on fire to keep writing, even though nobody wanted to read my short stories.

“Short stories just don’t sell,” said the experts.

Then “Caged Sparrow” fell into my lap in a most unconventional manner, during small talk in a lounge area at the writers’ conference with two women I’d never met. When I mentioned I liked to write people’s stories, the first, Linda Rondeau, became quite animated.

“I know someone with a story!” She then described this former undercover cop who had been framed and sent to prison among the very people he’d been putting in jail for nearly 20 years. As she finished telling me about Joe Tuttolomondo, the second woman, Diana Flegal, leaned over and said, “If you write it, I’ll take a look at it.”

She’s an agent! Who knew?

The rest is history. I started planning my departure from the typical work force almost immediately. Most of my co-workers expressed incredulous encouragement. I couldn’t blame them for the incredulous part, as I felt the same.

Am I really going to do this?
Why yes, I really am.

Today I’m barely making a living, editing documents and writing short stories to cover the cost of gas and groceries so I can write my own stories on the side. Both family cars will need to be replaced soon, the front porch is falling down, and there’s this barely perceptible drip, drip, drip coming from the pipes above the kitchen ceiling. But I’m not worried. As with everything else over the past two years, somehow, the Lord will ensure those issues are taken care of.

joe

Who could say no to someone filled with this much joy for the Lord?

I may go back to work at some point, but I haven’t regretted leaving for a minute, because Caged Sparrow is an actual book, available in book stores. And because Joe is so gosh darned tickled pink to have his story in print, it makes me giggle inside. And because I am a “real” writer and have been since I was 14. (To anyone who feels the same as I did during my early writers’ conference years, know that you’re a writer because you write, not because you sell.)

 

I will wrap up by telling you some of the advice I heard along my journey:

 

It’s irresponsible to quit your day job for a dream. To that I say, humbug. If it’s really your passion, you’ll find a way to make it work. I’d trade 12 “safe” years for two years of living on the edge while doing what I love. Oh, wait, that’s what I did.

Nobody reads memoirs. Humbug again. These are real stories about real people. Memoirs can inspire, uplift, encourage, and enable others to dream. Perhaps if we could get our young generations to read more memoirs, we’d need fewer animated cartoon heroes. Oh, and did I mention, at this year’s writing conference, it took first place in the 2016 Selah awards for best memoir, and overall director’s choice for best non-fiction book of the year! Not bad for something nobody wants to read.

Self-publishing is risky business. So is crossing the street. Sometimes, however, self-publishing is the only way to go. Although Ms Flegal did take on my book, she met up against a brick wall of “nobody reads memoirs” publishers, so I took it back. I’m glad I did, because Joe’s story needed to be told. Of course, if you’re planning to go this route, ensure your book is professionally edited, make sure you’re linking up with a reputable company, and get yourself a kick-butt cover designer, but then, by all means, go for it.

Without a publisher, you can probably hope to sell about 300 copies. To that I say, 1,300 copies later, wait, what?

If you’re going to autograph your books with a reference, make sure you memorize it. Okay, this I have to agree with. I chose the encouraging, hope-filled verse from Proverbs 16:9, which states, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps,” because it’s the story of my life. However, somewhere around the 30th copy I noticed I was referring people to Proverbs 19:6, which is NOT my life verse at all. In fact, it states, “Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.” No doubt, the recipients of those autographs are still confused. (NOTE: If you’re one of those lucky few, consider yours a special “error copy,” which will no doubt be worth something one day.)

So here I am, about to release my second book, “From the Remnants,” and still clutching my collection of short stories that some expert has told me won’t sell. Considering all the advice I’ve received recently, what do you think I’m going to do with these?

You are correct…which is why I’m now resuming work on “The Perfect Parent, Parables for the New Believer.”  Details coming soon.

——-

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God – Ecclesiastes 2:24

State of the Portrait Writer Report

31 Dec

How Did We Fare in 2015?

As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time for the now-annual State of the Portrait Writer report, in which I will examine my writing progress thus far. In re-reading my year-old journal entry of expectations for 2015, I’m amazed at how many of the events I planned or promised last year (to myself and others) never materialized. This is to be expected because, as I’ve learned and re-learned throughout the year, I’m not in charge. In fact, if everything had turned out as I planned, it would have been quite the boring year. Instead, it’s been a year of victory and surprises, and a wee bit of sadness. However, it’s also been a year of seeing first-hand what God can do in our lives if we step aside.

Many of you who have been with me from the start might be bored by this list, but in celebration of the 130 new readers I picked up in 2015 (yay, and thank you!), for today’s blog I will recap the highlights of the Portrait Writer’s year:

In January, the hubby and I celebrated 31 years of marriage, which translates into 30 years of him listening to me yammer about being a “real writer” and one year of watching me in action. By that time I’d been working from home for 11 months and still had nothing to show for my efforts. After a financially challenging and emotionally frustrating year, however, he was, and miraculously still is, my greatest supporter, without whom there would be no Portrait Writer…and no cheesecake.

February was a month of learning to listen, or to discern exactly what I should be listening to. I was fooled by imitation voices in I Got Screwed!, and later fooled by lovely noises, in Ask Not for Whom the Phone Rings, both of which brought much frustration, until I wizened up. I sure hope I’m smarter now, but it’s a daily battle.

Willa

Love

March brought sadness and a greater appreciation for love and family, when Willa, the Fitzsimmons’ matriarch, left us for a far better place. Although her four children are still reeling from the loss, and miss her more with every Bronco victory they wish she could be sharing with them this year, they are finding solace in knowing she’s no longer in pain. One beautiful ray of light that has emerged from this cloud, her children—the Fitzsimmons Four, who seemed to have been drifting apart, have created new, tighter bonds. Despite the California/Virginia divide, they spent more time together and kept in e-touch more in 2015 than they have in many years, and we’re all praying this trend will continue.

Food staring

Livin’ in the Fridge…

April started in a delightfully silly way with a foolish fridge, and then devolved into a month of contemplation. We examined the need for sports-fan-like loyalty for one’s spouse in Married for Life, and hubby tackled school lunches in No Fishy Business.

In May I shared with you my love/hate relationship with lists in My Ship Will Float, and I finished out the month on an overwhelming high with the cover reveal for my first book, “Caged Sparrow.” I also made promises I couldn’t keep for June, but that’s an entry for…

…in June, I realized I couldn’t make my self-appointed deadline for “Caged Sparrow,” and contemplated cutting corners, which gave me a new appreciation for my Best Boss Ever, in Deadlines and Rocket Surgery. I chose my next writing project in Who Says you Can’t Go Home Again?” That project quickly fell to the sidelines to make room for another and to show me that, once again, I’m not in charge. Rest assured, the project is still on the horizon.

Sparrow in prison book cover

Caged Sparrow

In July, “Caged Sparrow” became a reality, bringing to fruition my life-long dream of becoming a PUBLISHED AUTHOR. I gave my first Totally Made-up Interview in Let the Caged Sparrow Fly! And, while the book is not exactly flying off the shelves—more like falling off—sales are progressing as expected. Reviews on Amazon are quite kind, and some aren’t even from friends and family. Joe and I wanted only to hear that people’s perspective changed upon reading his story, and we received many notes and comments that this, indeed, is happening. Also in July, Hubby and I hit the open road and all the open doughnut stores between San Francisco and Pittsburgh, in Down Home America. This saga turned out to be so great it rolled into…

Corn and bean field: Succotash

Succotash, get it? Corn and beans? Nevermind.

…August, with Salt, Bugs and Doughnuts, which lulled me into inertia, nearly bringing my writing career to a halt with its Dangerously Pleasant Anchor. I’d say the biggest revelation of August was that not everyone gets my sense of humor. The succotash field pic is a joke. Get with it folks!

In September we explored the undervalue of Teachers (If You Can Read This…) and canines (Treat Each Other like Dogs), both of whom improve our lives significantly.

October was just plain fun. After examining the light in the darkness in Storms May be Brewing, I took you on a somewhat scary journey through a typical ADD writer’s sleep-deprived night in Left Brain, Right Brain. Then I took you to Naples, Florida for a book signing and interview with the now famous Joe Tuttolomondo. What a blast that was, and I haven’t even shared about it yet…hmmm…could be a January blog…

In November and December, I let my blog wind down, paying tribute to my friend Michele in Five Years Strong and Counting, remembering my non-Norman Rockwell Thanksgivings of long ago, and ending the year contemplating the preposterousness of Peace on Earth.

Last year the Portrait Writer published one book, edited two others, wrote 20 short stories and about 30 blog posts—all fulfilling, fun work. The short stories provided enough income to keep me writing, and I’m excited about what’s around the corner. More on that in 2016.

Have a happy and blessed new year, everyone. And remember, you’re not in charge.

————–

In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. — Proverbs 16:9

Caged Sparrow Launches in Naples!

17 Oct

Who would have thought it possible? Here I am, two hours away from a moment I’ve been dreaming about since I was about 14 – my first official book signing!

And to make life even better, I’m in Naples, Florida, sitting with the no-longer Caged Sparrow himself, Joseph Tuttolomondo, without whom I’d still be sitting in a government cubicle and without whom this day would still only be a dream.

Caged Sparrow and his ghost writer

Caged Sparrow and his ghost writer

So, of course, for today’s blog, I will interview Joe, the former Buffalo undercover narcotics chief who had the decency to get himself framed and tossed into prison so I could write his story nearly 35 years later. We’re in the First Baptist Church Naples, so if you’re in the neighborhood, feel free to drop in. It’s the only way you’re going to get not one, but two signatures on your copy of “Caged Sparrow,” Tonight until 8 p.m. and tomorrow 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Me: Joe, let’s talk about your story, since that’s why where here. How long have you been thinking about making it into a book?

Joe: Since I was released from prison in 1979. Considering the circumstances and all the surprising things that did and didn’t happen, I just thought there were things that should be told.

Me: Why did it take you so long to write it?

Joe: I couldn’t find a Christian writer who would take it on. I tried a bit right after I got out of prison, but didn’t know how to go about it. One publisher who was referred to me listened to my story and said, “There’s already a lot of that Serpico kind of stuff.” I was discouraged, and over time, although I always wanted and prayed that it be written down, I figured if God wanted it, it would happen.

 

Me: With hindsight, is there anything you would change if you could re-live the whole trial and prison scene?

Joe: None what-so-ever. The results were the best thing that ever happened to me and I’m grateful to all involved.Even those who kicked it off.

Me: What went through your mind when your friend Linda told you someone you never met wanted to write your book?

Joe: I was overwhelmed with joy. It affirmed the fact that the Lord answers prayer. He may take His time, but He answers.

Me: What’s the best part of seeing your book in print?

Joe: First and foremost, I’m thrilled because it glorifies the Lord for who he is and what he did in my life and my children’s lives and for so many I met in prison. Secondly, I’m excited for what this book can accomplish, particularly for those who don’t know Jesus. You can’t stuff Jesus down someone’s throat. He’s a gift you have to offer and the recipient has to accept it voluntarily. This book is a gift to those who are wondering.

Me: What’s your favorite recipe from your Mom’s cookbook?

Joe: That’s easy. Pasta Fazola (macaroni and white kidney beans). You make a roux of caramelized onions and garlic (use chicken stock instead of water), then you marry the roux with some kidney beans and let it simmer. Then you par cook ditalini – a short stubby Italian macaroni. Add the pasta to the beans and cover it with grated parmesan cheese. The first time I fed it to the guys in prison, they turned their noses up at it, but once they tried it, I had them hooked. Even the guards liked it, and you know if the guards don’t like something it doesn’t get served. Pasta Fazola became a regular favorite.

Me: Do you still keep a live turkey tied up in your bathroom as Thanksgiving nears?

Joe: No, only because we no longer have a radiator to tie one to.

————————————–

So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:31

Deadlines & Rocket Surgery: Lessons Learned from a Lil’ Ball O’ Hate

16 Jun

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” — Douglas Adams

So, the big Caged Sparrow debut date came and went, and I’m still staring at a not-quite finished project. I tried so hard to make the promised deadline, but life had other plans. Good plans, mind you…purposeful and fruitful disruptions, but disruptions nonetheless.

I am reminded of something Carrie, my former boss and now great friend, used to say whenever someone would complain that we’d missed an arbitrary deadline because of changing priorities. Usually some self-appointed informant would storm into her office all purple and blustery and announce, “That document! It’s LATE!”

As if we didn’t know.

Carrie would calmly look him in the eyes and ask, “Late for what?”

Best boss ever.

Lil' Ball O' Hate

Tony-the-illustrator’s rendition of Ms Carrie in Mother Hen mode

Carrie has more common sense than anyone I know. She’s a tiny thing, who can tie a belt around an NFL jersey and still look ready for a Vogue cover shoot (not an exaggeration—I’ve seen her do it), yet she packs a lot of spitfire in that little frame, particularly if someone tries to strong-arm one of her Quality and Dissemination chicks. You’ve never seen a more effective mother hen. (Heheh,that’s why we lovingly nicknamed her Lil’ Ball O’ Hate.)

I loved working for Carrie for many reasons; she’s not only wise, but also funny, brilliant, calm in the face of (our) perceived calamity, and she can do some amazing things with chicken and a can of Cheez Whiz. Working with Carrie taught me to focus on the larger picture—what’s really important here? That may be why so many of her words of wisdom are echoing around my brain this week.

Carrie is full of…wisdom. (Missed opportunity, Q&D Gang, I know.) My favorite Carrie-ism, although least relevant to this post is, “It’s not rocket surgery, you know.” Logically, I should have omitted that for the sake of flow here, but I couldn’t NOT share. So there you go.

Carrie also taught me that one of the most important steps in a project is the final “quality control” check. I was so tempted to skip this step in Joe’s book, because I was THAT close to making the deadline, and I’d told so many people it would be ready. I didn’t want the book to be late.

Then I heard, “Late for what?”

…and I realized I’m only shooting for June 15th because I set a June 15th deadline.

Yes, I could actually hit the “go live” button right now if I really wanted to. All the parts are there. Joe has given his final thumbs up; Tony, the illustrator, has patiently tweaked the cover so often the words, “just one more time, I swear” no longer carry meaning (but it’s exactly the right cover now!); and I’ve received excellent feedback from my beta readers, Mary, Becky, and Michele, who noticed a few missing words, some awkward phrasing, and one extremely improbable juxtaposition in the space-time continuum.

Which brings me to another Carrie-ism. Having people find mistakes in my writing doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, particularly mistakes found before final print. I think of the beta readers as angels who, knowing what a klutz I am, walk ahead of me clearing tree branches and stones from path so I don’t fall on my face. At the office, on the rare occasion when a typo did slip through the cracks and make it to print, we could count on some arrogant know-it-all to toss a copy of the manuscript on her desk, offending typo circled thirty times in thick black marker.

“Sure, I see it,” she’d say, and then grin. “But did ya happen to notice the seven thousand words here that we got right?”

So, yes, I could have rushed through the last few steps and uploaded the final version, but as my hand hovered over that button, I thought of Carrie again.

I remembered her more than once staring down a petulant customer, usually someone who thought an editor can zip through a 75-page passive-voice nightmare between the two-hour staff meeting and the mandatory pot luck luncheon and have enough time left over to design a cover for it. After all, editing is just reading, right?

“Look, Bud,” Carrie would say, “you can have it right or you can have it right now, but not both.”

Page One edits

One day when I’m famous, I’ll tell the story of how I rewrote the first page of Caged Sparrow a gazillion times and it will be funny, somehow.

So I’m not going to rush this. I’m going to finish these last changes unhurried, and then get one more proof copy so I can see for myself that the cover looks exactly the same in hand as it does on the screen, and THEN, I’ll hit the button.

New arbitrary deadline: 27 June.

Carrie would be proud of me, I think. If she’s still talking to me, that is…

You see, Carrie is such a great boss, she once left a card on my desk that posed the question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

…at which time I decided to quit my editing job.

So, essentially, this book is pretty much her fault

Best boss ever.

—————————————————-

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. – Psalm 145:15

Story of a Story: Caged Sparrow Announcement

15 May

It’s hard to say when Caged Sparrow became a book.

The Event occurred in Buffalo, NY in the late ’70s, when Joseph Tuttolomondo was convicted and sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.

The idea to write about it began even earlier, when he and his wife started collecting newspaper accounts of his arrest and recording details of his story in case “one day” ever came.

He thought “one day” had arrived many times, but the timing was never right, so he got on with his life. Then he met someone named Linda at a dinner in Florida. Linda, a writer, showed an interest in his story, but biographies were not her genre.

A year later, Linda met me, by chance, some would say, at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in Asheville, NC. I had been trying to tell people about my writing projects, hoping to find some backing. The conference was nearly over. I’d given up telling people I write contemporary parables and sat moping in a lobby area of the hotel, thinking the entire week had been a bust. It didn’t make sense, considering how many people were praying for me to find my direction. I had a whole team of friends praying, because I’d honestly believed something was going to happen at the conference that would enable me to quit my “day job” and write for a living.

Linda sat down across from me and just started talking. “And what do you write?”

A harmless question. I’d answered it many times that week. I didn’t know her, and I didn’t particularly want to chat, but manners suggested I should at least be polite.

“Personality stories,” I answered. Where did that come from? I’d not written personalities since my Marine Corps days, when I wrote for the base paper. They’d always been my favorite assignments.

“Oh, you do?” She beamed. “I have a story for you!”

Next thing I know, I’m flying to Naples, FL to meet quite possibly the sweetest, most humble man I’ve ever known. He told me his fascinating story and I brought it to Virginia as a box of letters & documents, and about 12 hours of recorded interviews.

I quit my day job.

Since then the project has gone from data to text, to chapters, to completed story. It became a proposal a year ago, and was picked up by a wonderful agent. The agent tried for months to find a publisher for it, to no avail. Undeterred, I decided to publish it myself. After many revisions, this month I uploaded it into a template and received a proof copy of what it will look like. I will make one final revision, after I hear from Mary, a friend and editor who is reviewing it for grammar and flow.

So, is it technically a book? I think so. Although you can’t order it yet, the critical elements are all there: Story…check; ISBN…check; author bio…check; UPC code…check; and, to my absolute joy, an incredible cover…CHECK!!!  Here’s where I give a shout out to Anthony Cash, who can hear pictures and transform them to paper. He listened to Joe’s story and made the most remarkable cover anyone could hope for.

Next week will mark two years since that day in the lobby. I estimate it took about a year longer than necessary because of all I had to learn along the way. Then again, I think the timing is perfect. I hereby announce that Caged Sparrow will be available for purchase June 15, via a link on this website and as many other venues as I can find.

But for now, I’ll give you a sneak peek at the cover…

Sparrow in prison book cover

Coming soon!

Love Tosses Caged Sparrow Over Another Hurdle

27 Aug

I honestly believe it will never be this special again.

First, some great news…We have an agent! Her name is Diana; she read my proposal for Joe’s story and asked for the manuscript Friday. Over the weekend I went through it one last time and pronounced it finished Sunday night. I sent a hard copy to Joe and electrons to Diana; she is now working on finding the right publisher. I couldn’t say for sure whether Joe or I was more excited, but as I listened to Joe’s elation over the phone Friday, I was tickled to pieces to have witnessed it. (I do believe he did a little jig.)

Completed manuscript

One step closer to the book rack!

It was a sobering moment, Sunday night when I hit the “send” button, and with one click, transmitted more than a year’s worth of work and dreams off to an unknown world in cyberspace. I sat there staring at the “message sent” notice for a long time, contemplating the true scope of this journey, which actually began in the early 70s, sitting with my Nana in her giant four-poster bed, listening to her read from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. I became so inspired by Laura’s storytelling gift that I knew, just knew, it was what I wanted to do for my life. I started writing with abandon, and when my English teacher, Mr. DeRobbio, said I had a gift, I positively soared. I was going to be a writer!

But I didn’t do it. Not really. I stifled the call to write, with a military career (during which I wrote as a journalist, but not for myself–yet even there I received encouragement from people I admired and still try to emulate, like Pat Gibbons, Tom Bartlett, and Ken Smith-Christmas…), and I put it aside for two wonderful children and years of busyness. All the while, I knew God was nudging me…“So, when are you going to start?”

Then He put friends in my life to nurture and encourage, each one sending me a little closer to the ledge—Susannah Johnson’s “The Artist’s Way” class pushed me to Sarah’s writing group, where she, Martha, Meredith, and Anne dared me to dream about “what if?”

One domino toppled the next. I found myself at a writers’ conference that fanned the spark into flame, and met inspiring people like Beth Pensinger and Erin Elizabeth Austin. Over the next year I was a fly on the FB wall, watching their struggles as Beth wrote and published a sweet read called, “Let Me Fall: The Love Story Between God and His Dimwitted Daughter,” and Erin inspired thousands by sharing her battles and victories over darkness and founded Broken but Priceless Ministries. I’ll never be able to express to these women how integral they’ve been in my journey, and yet we barely spoke to each other.

But I STILL didn’t listen, so God forced my hand. He sent Linda Rondeau, a fellow writer and perfect stranger. She just appeared outta’ nowhere, armed with a story about a man who went to prison for a crime he did not commit and looking for someone who might want to write it. Another domino. This led to Joe and his awesome story.

Desire, ability, a story that absolutely HAD to be told–I had no more excuses. I even had my husband’s wide-eyed, “I’m-a-bit-nervous-but-I-know-this-is-important-to-you” blessing, and two sons who were glad to see me doing what I loved. And then sweet, sweet Phanalphie, of RhueStill Inc., who didn’t even know me yet but read my writing and offered me a net to jump into, and she probably would have flown out here from Oklahoma and pushed me off if I’d asked her to.

And again, I didn’t leap off the cliff. I more or less attempted to inch my way over the rim, scraping my knees as I fumbled blindly for toeholds, and I found myself only a couple of feet down, clinging to a ledge by my fingernails, half in and half out of two vastly different worlds. It took more nudging, by many more friends. Carrie and Kevin, my best friends and confidantes from work, helped pry my fingers off the ledge by assuring me that “the gang” would be fine, and although they’d miss me, I had to leave or risk going through life not knowing. Since I left, both of them have sent me inspiring notes when I really needed them, and many others from work continue to check in. Chuck and Rebecca check in almost daily, and let me whine on their e-shoulders when things don’t quite work out the way I want them to.

I also received tremendous support from my prayer partners, Kathy, Dino, Linda, Chris, and Michele, from my neighbor Julie, and friends and family from all over like George, Heidi, Jo, and Willa.

And a book was born.

While I was writing this I thought, you probably wouldn’t want to read a bunch of names of people you don’t know, but then I realized, this isn’t about the names. You do know these people. They’re in your lives as well. You just call them something different.

The bottom line is, if there’s ANYTHING you want to do, you can do it, but not on your own. Dare to dream. Then surround yourself with positive, prayerful people, and listen to God’s nudging; remember that He put this desire in your heart in the first place.

I will write more books. Joe’s story is powerful, but it probably won’t make either of us famous. I will write better books, and more than likely a few flops. I may even receive recognition for some, although that is not my measurement of success.

But it will never be like this. This is special. This is the end of the beginning. And you helped.

Thank you.