November 19, 2010

Winding Down…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:57 pm


Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing,
of just going along, listening to all the things you
can’t hear, and not bothering.

—Pooh’s Little Instruction Book

I had every intention of posting last week. Had the time, and all, what with all that other writing completed, at least for awhile. But of an evening, as I settled in at my computer, ready to crank it up and crank it out, well, I just sat there. Stared blankly at the screen. Tinkered around. Checked Facebook. Checked it again. Putzed around on other sites. Drudge. Watched football. And so forth. I never did get anything started, writing wise.

I was simply exhausted. Mentally drained of words. Just flat out tired. Far more so than I had ever come close to realizing when in the thick of it all. Just flat out tired, from all the stress and strain, the mental tension of the last six months.

And winding down from it all was just a bit odd. So I didn’t write. At all, for two full weeks. Had no desire to.

I’m not sure how much energy there is this week, even. But hey, I gotta start back up sometime.

Thanks to all who took the time to read the last post. And to all who took the time to comment, both on the blog and privately. I’m proud of the feedback. Almost sixty individual posted comments. A record, all time, for my blog. Wow. You all are still out there, in case anyone had any doubts. I appreciate it a lot, your loyalty and your interest.

I was impressed with a number of the title suggestions. Although I don’t think the Tyndale people were impressed enough with any particular title to change their minds. So the prize money and free book won’t be awarded to anyone.

To me, “Look Back, Amish Son” spoke strongly, especially with that cover photo.

In the meantime, Carol Traver at Tyndale returned some very positive feedback on the completed manuscript. I now await their edited version, which should be returned to me by around Thanksgiving. We’ll see what they’ve done to my stuff. And then, it’s back to work again. I’m winding down now, just to wind right back up again before long. For the final stretch. It’ll all be over by Christmas. That’s what they tell me.

It’s been an interesting summer, in real life. Or would have been, in a normal summer. A lot of stuff flashed by, and I hardly noticed. The entire summer, mostly.

In late July, though, there came a day when my awareness was honed to its keenest edge. Because of events unfolding two thousand miles away, the old ghosts returned to the house. I knew that they would come, and did not stay to face them.

Instead, I shut down my writing and rented a car. Headed out on a quick road trip to Daviess. Not a short road trip, just a quick one. To attend a historical gathering, which happened to be scheduled at the most opportune time. Twelve hours on the road. In Daviess for about eighteen hours. Then twelve hours back.

It was a good trip, very productive. One of these days, when the muse strikes right, there will be a full length blog on what I learned about my great-grandmother. Detailed history on my mother’s side. Fascinating stuff, at least to me.

The trip did the trick too, of keeping my mind focused away from the ghosts back home. When I returned, some fragile essence of them remained, both in the house and in my head. A diminishing presence, however. Not that scary anymore, thankfully. Since that time, the ghosts have drifted off. They didn’t flee. Just floated out of my life.

They have not returned. I don’t expect them to.

Last week, an odd thing happened. Odd, and maddening. I got home from the gym, Tuesday night, I think it was. My message machine was blinking. So I listened. A cheery Amish-sounding voice. He’d heard I was writing a book. He was writing one too, and wouldn’t mind chatting.

Sounded innocent enough. So I called the guy back. Amos (not his real name, but solidly Amish) answered almost immediately. Must have a cell phone, I figured. We chatted a bit. Mostly he talked and I listened. He had self published a book some years back and was now working on another one.

“Who’s your publisher?” I asked.

He hedged. “I’m talking to Harvest House.” Sounded plausible. He continued. “Who’s your publisher?”

“Tyndale,” I said. “I think they might have a better distribution network than Harvest House.” In retrospect, a silly thing to say. The conversation lagged. It was time to hang up.

“It’s hard work, writing,” I ventured. Figured we’d have that much in common, at least. But no.

“Oh, it comes out right along for me,” Amos allowed confidently. Uh, all right, then. We hung up. And that was that. Or so I thought. A bit strange, but I thought nothing more of it.

Then, a day or so later, an email from Carol Traver, my Tyndale contact. The lady who made it all happen for me. She had some questions to discuss about my manuscript. But she opened with an odd paragraph. She had exchanged some nice emails with my friend Amos, she wrote cheerfully. He would be sending in some stuff for them to look at.

My friend Amos? I didn’t even know the guy. But I realized instantly what he had done. Checked out my blog, probably, and gotten Carol’s name there (I never mentioned her in our conversation). Then googled her email address. Then wrote her, claiming to be my friend. And couldn’t she just maybe check out his manuscript? Since he was my friend, and all.

She had told him to send it in; someone would check it out.

I was apoplectic. Absolutely outraged. I had worked long and hard to break through. And after years of labor, weary toil and setbacks, I had managed to land a deal with Tyndale. It was a long tough road of perseverence, interspersed with a few miracles. And some help, sure, from my friend Jerry Eicher, who used his contacts to get it all started. But he’d read my stuff, and liked it.

My relationship with Carol and her company is something I highly value. And deeply respect. I will never, never take it for granted. Never.

I will never send any Tom, Dick or Amos their way, with my blessing and my name. Not if I don’t know them, and especially not if I’ve never read a word they wrote. That would be sheer lunacy.

And here this guy was trying to leapfrog into the publishing world of Tyndale, by misusing my name to open a door that otherwise would be barred to him. What colossal nerve. Or colossal stupidity.

Amos is a cheap, freakin’ shyster. And even that term is too kind.

We got it all straightened out. One of my good friends, who knew Amos, managed to muscle him into sending an apology to Carol. And confess what he had done. I assured her that I would never sic anyone on her like that. She was most gracious, as always. I suppose there isn’t too much they haven’t seen, there at Tyndale.

I’m still outraged. And mortified by it all. But in a sense, I’m glad this happened early on. For me, it was eye-opening, a valuable lesson for the future.

The next “Amos” who calls will be cut off at the pass. This strategy will not work again (not that it worked this time). Not with Carol. And not with me.

It’s a bit hard to grasp, that Thanksgiving is almost here. Where has the year gone? I’m starting to sound like an old geezer, I know. But seriously, it seems like only a few weeks ago, it was spring. This year, on Thanksgiving Day, I’m looking forward to football, and a huge feast at my brother Steve’s house.

November, of course, means that the wedding season is in full swing here in Lancaster County. Every Tuesday and Thursday, they gather. Huge crowds, assembling on local farms in temporary buildings and tents. From the early hours, before daybreak, great hordes of buggies clog the roads. You have to dodge them incessantly on the way to work. Come flying over a little hill, and there’s two or three of them lined up, plugging along with their little blinking lights. It’s hard to pass a long line of buggies, what with opposing traffic and all. At such moments, I do grumble savagely upon occasion.

Why can’t Lancaster be like all other Amish settlements in the world, and hold weddings year round, instead of squashing them all into one long intense stretch in November? Blue blood Amish tradition, I guess. One doesn’t mess with such things.

Least they could do, for all the bother they cause, is bring me some of the wedding food. All that good old home cooked starchy stuff, topped off by the one concoction that reflects true genius.

Roasht. I drool, just thinking about it. I don’t know who invented it, but someone should be selling the stuff. I get to savor it about once or twice a year. And it seems like since there’s so much of it around right now, it would be a good time to nab some. From somewhere. But alas, my prospects remain bleak. Guess I just don’t know the right people.