Lessons God Teaches

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In one of the seasons we went through, my wife and I were seriously considering attending a larger church in order to “blend in” more, since we do not have children. I explore some of my thoughts on what it is like to not have children in the second part of Father to the Childless. It is great, too, that it is available in audiobook (iTunes, Amazon, Audible) as well as e-book, if that is your preference. The bottom line is that even if you do not have children, you can choose to be happy for others who are having them. You cannot escape babies, they are a part of life! Whether or not you have them…

What did Jesus end up teaching me through this past season in my life? He can use me (and my wife) right where we’re at. We don’t have to move to a different church. Everyone who goes through it feels infertility in a variety of ways. This is what I learned during the “All In” Conference on adoption, fostering and orphan care that I attended not too long ago. In short, for my wife and me, we were called to stay at church and minister to all of the people there – including many university-aged young people! I am thankful that the Lord has given me such a deep and lasting peace in the area of not having children. A peace and closure I did not have just a few short years ago. Sorrow and sadness can give way to a dawn of great joy!

It may not be struggling with infertility, but everyone has troubles (Jn. 16:33). If we have no biological children, we can enjoy the ones in our lives: either by teaching Sunday School, being involved with programs such as Scouts or Awana. There are upsides to being childless, too, such as greater flexibility and disposable income to pursue your hobbies. Adoption or fostering are options for infertile couples, and we know couples who have faithfully pursued these avenues.

Would you consider where God may be using you at present? It is no accident. You are where you are for a season, and there’s a reason for it! Pursue your God-given dreams and aspirations. Hold your faith tighter than you can imagine. Stay close to Jesus. He won’t let you go (2 Tim. 2:11-13).

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Ottawa Christian Writers Annual Conference

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What a blessing, after my book signing earlier today, to attend the Annual Conference of the Ottawa Christian Writers’ Fellowship. It isn’t just the National Capital Region: this association of writers is connected to the Word Guild, a group of Christian writers spanning the country, who meet together, collaborating and sharing ideas to better refine their craft of figuratively putting pen to paper.

A smattering of highlights during my time at the conference:

  • Catching the tail end of a fabulous session on self-publishing, presented by David Kitz, a well-known Ottawa author who has written such captivating reads as Psalms Alive! and The Soldier Who Killed a King. Interesting to be reminded of the pros / cons of self-publishing vs. the traditional route to writing a book. Also, cool to note that my wife and mother-and-law know Mr. Kitz!
  • Meeting Mr. Kitz’s son, Timothy Kitz, a local Ottawa editor, who has written for The Leveller.
  • Bartering a book with musician Cathy Goddard for her music – I traded The Factory Challenge and Energized for a copy of her CD!
  • Hearing about how an attendee, who resonated with my Father to the Childless devotional, and struggles with infertility, has found contentment with her husband in adopting a child.

Put this all together with a theologically-grounded, Christ-centred theme to the day, and what a life-giving, wholesome time spent with fellow believers! I love the notion of us believers being part of the diverse, intricate body of Jesus. It was a guiding tenet of our time together. The various denominational backgrounds of those in attendance made for a rich sense of togetherness in proclaiming the shared gospel of Jesus Christ to one another, as we celebrated our holy union with Him! Indeed, we are co-workers with God (1 Cor. 3:9). He is our lead, and we follow His every move, lockstep with Him as He gently reveals to us the safe, fruitful way home, full of abundant ministry work for His cause and renown…

Book Signing

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Today, I had the immense privilege of signing a number of my Factory Challenge and Energized books at the Coles Billings Bridge bookstore. They have a great store and their staff is so friendly and professional. Check out their Facebook page! Why not pop by there to pick up a book from your favourite author?

I had the honour of explaining my short stories to customers, and the upcoming novel that I am writing. I write about Canadian topics, entrepreneurialism and the energy industry, in a fictionalized, memoir-like way in The Factory Challenge and Energized.

Here are some of the highlights of the day:

  • One of my customers, from Sudbury, expressed how coal companies are major employers in her part of the country. Perhaps I could weave this into a gripping storyline for a future novel!
  • A repeat patterns in talking to customers was about how book clubs are formative in their experience of reading, enjoying books and having a shared time with of fellowship / kinship with others. I like how these gatherings can be centred around meals, and cooking, which is what my father does when he gets together with his Scouting buddies to study and critique the Harvard Classics.
  • One customer encouraged me in my upcoming suspense / thriller full-length novel that I am writing. In discussing current events and the media, she mentioned how readers are looking for the drama, the intrigue and the on-the-edge-of-your-seat excitement that all good authors help foster in the mind of the reader. What great advice!
  • Another customer, working in the tech sector, is part of my target audience. He understood and was interested in how my writing centres around fascinating, cutting-edge technological trends in the world in which we live. My upcoming novel takes place in both Ottawa and Toronto, and deals with corporate citizenship. It will be a fast-paced thriller.
  • Yet another customer appreciated my Father to the Childless book, and was encouraged when I told her that my endless source of strength comes from my faith. Jesus Christ is the Lord and Saviour of my life!

What is an investor? An entrepreneur?

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An investor is someone who sees the opportunity that others do not see

Who capitalizes on problems that others feel

Someone who is not out there to make money for its own sake

But to help people around them and give back to their community.

 

An entrepreneur foregoes current pleasure for future gain

Someone who realizes that tomorrow’s

solutions require foresight and

sustained leadership.

Vision: clarity: passion.

This is what drives an entrepreneur-investor!

Bold, forward thinking.

 

Order a copy only today of my book The Factory Challenge and Energized if you enjoy reading about this topic!

French vs. English Housing

As someone interested in architecture and real estate, I can’t help but notice two distinct housing styles in Ottawa. I live near Vanier, where many houses have either white bricks or vinyl siding. This is the French-Canadian style. The country homes of this background are also closer to the road. For example, along Highway 17, east of Rockland, the homes are not as set back as they would be along properties in a similar setting in English Canada.

Another contrasting element in housing compared to where I grew up in the Bloor West Village in Toronto is the building material. In this neighbourhood, the homes are fairly close together and are almost all made out of red bricks. Many of these houses date from the 1920’s. It is true that lots of modern homes have plastic siding, too.

A final note – I have noticed an increase in homelessness where I live. Today, I bought a sandwich and gave a New Testament to him. Let us be in prayer for folks in our cities and towns who are living through difficult circumstances. Let’s pray for those who may be trapped in difficult family situations, addictions and mired with other challenges.

Book Signing – Sat., Apr. 7th!

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Come join me for a book signing of my two short stories in one book, The Factory Challenge and Energized on Saturday, April 7th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Coles Billings Bridge in Ottawa. This event is less than a week away!

I have been very honoured to be invited to showcase my debut work, firstly about a man who opens a factory north of Toronto in the 1960’s. Bob McConnell faces challenges and opposition when he ventures out on his own after a career in investment banking. In the second part (short story) of my book, Bob’s grandson Josh ventures out on his own after a successful few years working in the oil fields. The year is 2015 and the plummeting prices of oil and gas cause Josh to lean toward renewable energy as his future choice of career. Patching his life together after a messy divorce, Bob has to pick himself up by his bootstraps as it were and slowly rebuild his life.

I look forward to meeting you and talking to you about this wonderful book. Copies will be sold, and I will be happy to sign yours. I would love to also discuss some of my other works, both published and in-the-works.

Six Tips for Becoming a Successful Author

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Rather than list some of the common suggestions for attaining success in your career as an author, I bring forward a few others not always discussed…

(1) Write for you! Yes, pick a genre and try to stick with it. But who’s to say you can’t invent a modification to a genre you enjoy writing? After all, the goal of composing a novel or some other creative piece is primarily to entertain readers, but also to bring satisfaction to you as the writer. The goal should not be to make a boatload of money. If this happens in the process, wonderful. If not, that’s alright too. You’ll always have some audience, even if it is a very small one. I think you can apply this to other careers as well. Would you rather make a ton of money or be stuck in a career that is unfulfilling?

(2) Take your time. Yes, you want to produce, and to write in a regular, consistent manner. Yet don’t neglect to take the time to carefully check your work, not just for spelling and punctuation, but also for factual errors. We live in a litigious society, so you want to do your best to avoid people suing you! Beware of copyright issues, too. Like patents, you work of writing is unique to you and you should ensure that you are not copying someone else’s ideas. Using the Internet is a great tool to double-check that you are not stealing content that is already out there in the public domain.

(3) Take a course! This piece of advice was given to me by my father, and I recommend it. Like any skill, education will further your ability to perform in a given area. You can learn a lot from folks who have already travelled ahead of you down your chosen career path. There are lots of courses in writing, for example from places like Winghill Writing School, where I took my novel-writing course. Since the Internet has taken off, it has made correspondence courses that much easier.

(4) Start small. I’ve found that like any endeavour in life, taking baby-steps is the best way to move forward. That is why I published The Factory Challenge and Energized, which is a book comprised of two short stories. This allowed me to break up my writing into two bite-sized chunks that were easier to bring to market than a longer work. Now that I have that experience under my belt, I have learned from my mistakes and published a couple of non-fiction books. I also have a novel in the works. Never be afraid of failure! It is only by making mistakes that you truly learn how to succeed the next time. You may want to consider submitting a short story or writing an opinion piece / article for your local newspaper. This will purchase credibility with your audience, get your name out and allow you to continually practice the skill of writing.

(5) Try your hand at self-publishing. You will, in all likelihood, have to hire an editor to fine-tune your book. I did this, in addition to having my wife help proof-read my work and act as a sounding board. Hiring an editor should improve the style of your writing tremendously, as well as your storyline content. A professional second set of eyes is always a worthwhile investment! Try looking up on your local, provincial/state or national editing association’s website as a good place to start your search for a reputable editor who is interested in taking on your work. Once your writing piece is complete, there are many self-publishing venues for you to take advantage of these days, such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords and CreateSpace. These can be easy, straightforward ways to market your books. And did I mention social media? It goes without saying that learning how to effectively use this technology is a boon.

(6) Sell your book. Depending on your confidence-level as a person, or in the quality of your writing product, this can be one of the most challenging and exhilarating steps along the writing journey. Feel free to approach both independent and chain bookstores with your book. Know that the chain bookstores will often refer you to someone called a “Customer Experience Manager,” who is specialized in liaising with self-published authors such as yourself. When you contact these individuals, carefully explain to them your background and any detail that would set you apart from the crowd as it pertains to your writing. See if you can secure a book signing! Take advantage of publicizing and getting the word out about your book in as many ways as you can! Word of mouth is powerful. You should use your existing social networks to promote your writing, and try to get a review in your local paper or community / work newsletter if at all possible.

All In Conference

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Earlier today, I attended a full-day conference in the West end of Ottawa. The “All In” Conference focused on creating a culture in our city for orphan care, fostering and adoption. I attended, with my wife, and we went to a breakout session on “Infertility and the Gospel,” as well as a session on “Loving Well in a Broken World.”

The highlight for me was learning about James 1:27, about caring for widows and orphans in their distress, and keeping ourselves pure from the world. This is what it means to follow God! Another highlight was remembering how God calls us to suffer, but that we, as the body of Christ, can come alongside others in their suffering (2 Cor. 1:3-6).

I also had the opportunity to explain and pass along my book, Father to the Childless, which is an encouragement particularly to those dealing with infertility. The first part of the book was written before I got married, and contains general thoughts on Christian living.

The Amazon Tribe

So for those who follow the Forbes 400 list of the world’s wealthiest people, you may have realized that in the last several months Jeff Bezos of Amazon eclipsed the top position, for now. Bill Gates is often at the top or near the top of the list, along with Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathway and Jack Ma of Alibaba Group, as well as Brazilian telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim and media consortium giant Rupert Murdoch.

Why am I writing this post, might you ask? Simply the fascination that Bezos, in building his very successful Internet tech company, has now branched out into various endeavours like television production, a platform for a suite of products outside of books and even space exploration! In venturing off to that last category of pursuit, Bezos has put himself with the ilk the likes of Elon Musk and Richard Branson, electric car and battery entrepreneur as well as media businessman, respectively.

What drives any business to branch out into such seemingly diverse product offerings? Where’s the suggestion that these are profitable lines of business? The answer: customers. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Google are tech companies that have capitalized on the information age in such a way that they have positioned themselves as strong leaders, with very strong customer bases.

Companies like Google and Amazon are not afraid to invest the large amounts of cash necessary to explore bold frontiers for their customers. By their nature, tech companies are riskier endeavours than the oil and gas industry, for example. But so long as these tech titans listen and remain responsive to the customers that helped build their collective wealth, they will be able to stay ahead of the curve, so to speak.

 

The Giving Pledge

While billionaires Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have signed on to the Giving Pledge, Jeff Bezos has not (for now). And that’s okay.

Where are Amazon resources going? It is being invested in space exploration and this cash-heavy endeavour remains one of Bezos’ focuses. To be fair, Bezos and his company have given and do presently give away money to charitable causes.

Right now, however, Bezos remains committed to his core business activities. I imagine later on, in the same way that Buffett, Gates realized, Bezos will figure out what philanthropic causes energize him, and he will give away money to them.

My new books: Father to the Childless and Living in Our Times

It’s finally here in paperback! My devotional for couples struggling with infertility, entitled Father to the Childless. This non-fiction book is meant to encourage anyone who is facing life’s major trials. The first part of the book was written before I got married and includes various sections on Christian living, such as on self-denial and the fruit of the Spirit.

I am including the cover pages of Father to the Childless, as well as Living in Our Times. The latter is a treatise arguing that we need to prepare ourselves spiritually by living godly lives in Christ Jesus, given the times in which we live. With the turmoil in the Middle East, a growing Russian bear, an aggressive and dangerous North Korea, as well as a rapidly changing world technologically, we need to be vigilant in prayer. At the same time it is crucial to get the gospel out to all corners of the earth, making disciples “as we go” about our daily comings and goings …

Stay tuned – later in the year I will be having a book party at my house celebrating the release of these two works!

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