September 20, 2019

Broken Roads: Cover Me…

Category: News — Ira @ 4:08 pm


He saw now that you can’t go home again–not ever.
There was no road back.

—Thomas Wolfe

OK, then. The time has come, that thing I promised last time. The book cover. It’s here. I’ll get to it in good time. But first, a little tale about some things that have been going on. And where I am this week. I’m at Beach Week. I am writing by the sea. It’s hard to stay focused in such surroundings. It’s peaceful, don’t get me wrong. But it’s hard to stay focused for long when I can hear the dull roar of the ocean and see the waves when I glance up, a few hundred feet away.

And yes, I’m meandering. If I can’t write as I got a mind to when at the beach, well, I just figure I can. I’m at the beach. Why am I fussing about any of this at all? One might certainly be excused for wondering. And asking, even.

I saw it coming, my respite at the beach, way out there as the summer came and flowed on by. And I thought to myself. It’s sure been a different kind of year. A good year. Just different. We lost Dad right after Christmas, and my oldest brother Joseph left in March. Two final good-byes, right there. It wasn’t really a surprise, seeing them leave. We knew it was coming. We saw it approaching, slowly, relentlessly, and so, so final when it got here. You think you’re ready in a time like that, and you are, I guess, as ready as you can be. Still. A loss is a loss. A good-bye is a good-bye. And death brings a curtain between this life and the next. That’s how it went with Dad and Joseph. They are gone.

The thing was, after Dad’s passing, I finally got the closure to finish my book. The thread of it, I mean. It was a big deal. To me, it was. A big deal, just to be able to scratch up a real narrative. I was working on the manuscript, off and on, all this year. It was always a force in my awareness and my existence, the book was. I never got all freaked about it, but the journey was stressful enough, I will concede. You don’t realize how much stress you were under until you look back, sometimes. After it’s gone. Or at least in remission. It’s always gonna creep back into my life again, one way or the other. Right now, it’s receding. I like that.

It felt decently together, my story, after I sent in the last edit of the book. I was fairly calm. We were going to get it all worked out. The summer passed. I saw the date of Beach Week creeping up. It would be here soon. I sent a text to my friend Linford Berry. The man who owns Mountain Valley Motors. Hey, I said. I’d like you to look for a black Jeep, same as the one I got or newer. Only this time, I want four doors. More room. I just need more room. Linford allowed that he’d keep an eye out. I said, no hurry, but I hoped he’d round one up by early September. It was my turn to drive to Beach Week, this year. Me and my friend Wilma take turns. It sure would be nice not to have to bounce all the way down there in my small Jeep, I thought to myself. And sure enough, about three weeks ago, here came an email from Linford. He’d found a four door black Jeep, 2016, with just under 34000 miles on it. It seemed like a sign.

I told him I figured to take it, and we agreed on a trade-in price for the first Jeep I’d bought from him early last year. The man is fair to deal with, which is nice. And early last week, I took a day off and drove down to Harrisonburg, Virginia. Linford’s car lot is in nearby Dayton. It didn’t take us long to get the paperwork done. I wrote out a check for the difference and thanked my friend and proudly drove north with Amish Black II. The Jeep is about as loaded as a Jeep gets, I’d say. It’s even got heated leather seats. A real “Jeep man” would probably scoff. Not me. I’ll take what comforts I can along the cold and often lonely path of life. Even heated seats in a Jeep.

Then came the night before Beach Week. Time to pack up. Tomorrow morning, I thought to myself. Tomorrow morning, me and Amish Black II head for the Outer Banks. For a whole week, unless another hurricane chases us out. Looking back over all the years, I couldn’t recall a time when I was more ready for this break. The pressures of telling your story, those came pushing in hard. So much life had to be relived in the telling. Relived, refelt, and reseen. That gets tough.

I was tired. Exhausted. It never quite sank in, my state of mind as this Beach Week approached. It never quite sank in until the time got here. And then I realized. I need a break. I really do. And I was ready to vedge without guilt. I wanted to hear the roar of the sea and the crashing of the waves. I wanted to breathe the salty air. I wanted to wash my soul clean.

Meanwhile. Over on the other front, things were going on. The book cover. They came out with it a few months back. I immediately wrote back. It looks fantastic. It’s great. I’ve always thought, after the first book. That cover was one in a million. That kind of thing will likely not be seen again, at least not by me. And it was last spring, I think, when we discussed it, me and Virginia. My editor. I told her. I got one request. Maybe it’s a requirement, but we’ll call it a request for now. The title. I want the words, Broken Roads, in the title. The rest of it, the subtitle, the picture and layout for the cover, hey, I’m open to whatever. But I want those words, because my life has been one long journey of broken roads. It’s easy to see if you stop and think about it. Those words will make a fit title. I even asked you, my readers, for your suggestions. More comments came rolling in from that request than I had seen in a long time, maybe ever.

Still. It was Virginia, or someone else there at Hachette who came up with the words to finish out the title. Returning to my Amish Father. It fit, perfectly, I thought. That’s exactly what the journey has been, both literally and figuratively. A return to my father on his death bed. I had fought for his blessing for many years. Decades. Now. I simply wanted closure. The book is about all that. And all the little bunny trails that flow naturally from such a story.

So they sent the cover, months ago. I looked at it and simply marveled. Broken Roads: Returning to my Amish Father. Right there. That’s it. The cover was about as professionally designed as you could imagine. It clearly feeds off the first book. The graphics people designed it with an eye to that. Make it compatible. A pair. They did good. Real good. Better by far than I had ever dared to hope.

I wanted to post the cover way back then. I was chomping at the bit in discontent. The Hachette people instructed me to hold off. Not now. I knew, though, that the Advance Review Copies were coming out in early September. Complete with a real cover. So from that, the world would know, anyway, what the cover was. I chomped at the bit some more. Come on. Let me post it. And around two weeks ago, I finally got the go ahead. OK. Post the cover. Post this pre-order link with it. That was the holdup, I guess. The pre-order link.

So I threw it out on Facebook. Provided the link, publicly. This is small potatoes to someone more astute, I’m sure. But last time I looked, the book cover and link were approaching 200 shares. I mean, people actually took the time to do that. I was awed. This is wild. This could be a new road rising, here. Social media such as I’ve not experienced before. I don’t know. I figure there’s gonna be some adventures, dead ahead, before long. We’ll see, I guess.

And back to my down time at the beach. The week had arrived. I loaded my new black steed with whatever might remotely be needed for the next seven days, then got my coffee at Sheetz and texted Wilma. I’m on my way. Soon after seven, we had her stuff loaded and were heading south. The new Jeep drove much better, more steady than the short one had. Smoother ride, too. I’m liking my Jeep, I think. By three, we had connected with much of the crowd in a seaside pub in Duck, NC. We sat around, just making lots of noise and catching up. The house would be ready at four. Soon after 3:30, Janice got the text. We’re good to go. And on up north we drove, almost to Corolla. Then a right turn into a development, to the same big beach house we had last year.

Beach Week Group
The group this year.

It’s simply impossible to describe the feelings of sweet freedom and relief that wash over you in such a moment as that. When you’re dragging your stuff into the huge mansion, up to the second floor, then a front corner bedroom. The years have taught me to seek out the spot that will be the least affected by loud late night noises the next floor up. I usually grump off to bed before anyone else. I mean, I’m relaxed and all. Just ready for bed. So I go.

And we all just walked into the weekend, then into the next week. The days flow by in some sort of mesmerized rhythm, each day building from the day that has passed, an easy, natural flow of many beautiful things that life can be. I brought along four copies of my new book, the ARCs. I figured if you share Beach Week with me, you got an early shot at reading my new stuff. Of course, Janice and my nephew John Wagler both claimed a signed copy. And my nephew, Steven Marner. He got a signed copy, too. The other one I gave away at random.

The days flowed by. The guys got some fishing done. I mostly just lazed around, reading and pecking away at this blog a little bit every day. We sang songs around the fire ring at night. And talked. The guys all admired my Jeep, although the consensus was that it needs a four-inch lift. And larger tires. Just the next size up. You want to stand out, they told me coaxingly. You want to make a little statement. Nothing too loud. Four inches higher isn’t loud. It’s confident. Oh, good grief, I said. I just spent a nice little chunk of change, buying this thing. I can’t just throw five more grand at it, just for anyhow. I mean, I have to plan my way around such things. I’ll think about it. Maybe, if the book does well. The boys seemed satisfied with that. Well, they had little choice.

Wednesday. We got a little storm early on. Or maybe the storm was out there, away from us. We caught the winds of it. That morning, the sea was angry and loud. The waves crashed high onto the foaming shores of sand. No fishing today, we figured, right off. We considered other options. And that day, a small adventure came. I’d often heard of the wild horses somewhere on the Outer Banks. I never saw them. They seemed mythical, like the unicorn. It would be cool to go hunt some down. See firsthand.

So later that day we traveled in a small convoy over the 4-wheel-drive beach. The only way back to this area was to drive along the beach. Which means at high tide, the place is inaccessible. We roared along the soft sand in 4-wheel-drive, me in my new Jeep, loaded with riders. We let the air out of our tires, down to about 25 lbs. Driving on the beach felt a lot like driving in snow. You just kind of swooshed along in the previous tracks. I’d say a driver was maybe 90 percent in control. That’s how it felt to me, anyway. Mostly, the trip out went well.

Wild horse.

There are houses out there on that godforsaken stretch of sand. We cruised around, keeping a sharp eye out. And then the people in the lead vehicle saw them. We turned and drove slowly past, right close. I can tell you as of that day. The fabled wild horses of Corolla are for real. (I still don’t like horses much. I most likely never will.)

Thursday. The week was winding down, here at the beach. It was cold and windy and sunny. I lazed around most of the day, then opened my eating window with a snack at four o’clock. An hour earlier than I do at home, but hey, this was the beach. Live a little. Supper would be fresh seafood gumbo and jalapeno mac and cheese with scallops. It’s been nothing but a vast and plentiful feast all week. I reckon Saturday will feel like it’s about time for home.

That morning, I went on a coffee run a few miles down the road. It’s a shopping center with many stores, including a Dunkin Donuts and a grocery store. Across the lot, I saw the small bus parked there. Amish people were spilling out all around. Hmm. I thought. I haven’t seen Amish down here at OBX before. Check it out. I looked a little closer.

There were two families, looked like. Two youngish bearded men with straw hats like they wear in very plain communities. I didn’t think the women looked all that extra plain, though. A host of young children churned about, almost bursting with excitement. A young man walked from the group to the grocery store. Probably eighteenish. He puffed freely and openly on a cigarette. Which was totally fine and none of my business. But it told me he comes from a fairly plain place. An Amish teenager won’t smoke openly in front of his father unless he comes from a real plain place. Chances are his father smokes as well. That was my musing as I observed.

Anyway, the whole lot of them was down in the area, getting ready for a big day at the beach, looked like.

And now it’s Friday night. Post time. Also, the end of Beach Week, until next year. And now, as promised, the link to my new book. Get on there and pre-order. The release date is May, 2020. Help me out, here. And thanks to all in advance.

broken roads
The Book Cover. Perfection, right there. Click to enlarge, then click to enlarge again.



  1. Great cover! Happy for ya!

    Comment by Richard Miller — September 20, 2019 @ 4:23 pm

  2. The cover is beautiful. I noticed the book won’t be available until May 2020. Is that correct?

    Comment by Rosanna F. — September 20, 2019 @ 9:05 pm

  3. The cover is perfect! You may not be aware of it that your writing whether blogs or books often tell bits and pieces of what many others experienced that have left the Amish. I am looking forward to reading your book!

    Comment by Elsie A Peachey — September 21, 2019 @ 5:33 am

  4. I love the cover and will wait patiently for May ‘20. Amazing choice of words and thanks for sharing your life with us.

    Comment by Joe T. — September 21, 2019 @ 6:27 am

  5. You are gonna love those heated seats this winter – also heated steering wheel. Beautiful cover!

    Comment by Debra Rush — September 21, 2019 @ 11:15 am

  6. Congratulations on the new Jeep! I’ll bet many of your followers might describe their life as a “Broken Road”, but no one can write about it like you! I just ordered a book, will visit you to get it signed next May. Thank you!

    Comment by Matthew Block — September 21, 2019 @ 6:21 pm

  7. I see option for e book only how do I pre order a real book?

    Comment by Georgia Pearson — September 21, 2019 @ 6:42 pm

  8. Looks good, but I still think the horse should be at least partly visible!

    Comment by jon fisher — September 22, 2019 @ 11:27 am

  9. Just ordered your new book from Amazon and hope to bring it with the first one for signing in late Spring. Have enjoyed reading your blog for many years! I live in Lancaster County so it’s not a far trip at all.

    Comment by Linda — September 22, 2019 @ 7:05 pm

  10. Another enjoyable read, Ira! Really like the cover and just placed my pre-order.

    Comment by KEVIN V. JACOBS — September 23, 2019 @ 9:04 am

  11. Thanks for the shout out. Too bad we have to wait so long for that book. Tell em over at the publisher that you have a whole bunch of raving fans just chomping at the bit. See if they can’t get those presses in gear.

    Comment by Linford Berry — September 23, 2019 @ 5:41 pm

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