Out West, Day 2 — Grand Canyon

I know you’re going to ask, so: (1) No, we didn’t hike to the canyon floor and (2) We didn’t do that walk with the glass floor on the north rim. (I couldn’t even see it, in fact. Did you know the canyon is 16 miles across in some places?)

Desert View Watchtower (1932) on the east side of the South Rim


That little line at the bottom is the Colorado River. It’s 300 feet wide, believe it or not.


The canyon says goodnight.


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Out West, day 1

Montezuma Castle National Monument, north of Phoenix


En route to Sedona, Arizona


Grand Canyon at sunset


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Home again

Just got home from 10 fun days out west — Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Monument Valley. (Pictures coming this week.) Avoided sunburn, drank gallons and gallons of water, saw German tourists riding Harleys and South Korean tourists at all the national parks.

The first four chapters of the next Annie Grace adventure are plotted now (but not written). I have to spend the next two weekends polishing a TV pilot for someone but should get the paperback formatted for “Finding Grace.” Then in June I plan to start writing on #3, adhering to the schedule that worked well for me last winter and spring.


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Finding Grace cover


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Book marketing: What works, what doesn’t work

Let me save you time and anguish by sharing what has worked (and not worked) for me:

  • TRIBES: These are groups of writers who support and encourage each other. That’s fine and dandy and noble. If you need someone to push you to keep writing, then join one of these groups. But when it comes time to marketing each other’s books, the only author that usually benefits is the person who founded the group. F.
  • YOUR BOOK’S COVER: This is the single best investment you can make in your book. Period. If the cover looks amateurish, most readers will not buy the book. A
  • FACEBOOK: Readers want to engage with you and Facebook is a great way to do it. The time investment can be as little as a few minutes before bedtime. People will friend you and Facebook’s sponsored posts are a cheap way to remind them when a new book goes on sale. B.
  • TWITTER: Programs like TweetDeck can be set up to email you every time someone tweets that they have bought or finished your book. It will generate a few dozen leads for you. C+
  • BOOK TRAILERS: What was the last book you bought after watching a trailer on YouTube? That’s what I thought … If you’ve got the skills, then consider this as a way to build your brand. Otherwise, save your money. D
  • FACEBOOK ADVERTISING: I think it’s become more powerful over the past two years. Whether it’s cost effective, though, depends on the price of your book. It’s impossible to break even on a 99 cent novel, especially if you run ads on a cost-per-click basis. But if you’re selling at $2.99? Then it may be worth a dollar per click because each Kindle sale generates a royalty of $2.09. B.
  • OTHER ADVERTISING: It depends on the site. eReaderNewsToday (A) gives an excellent return on value but it may be a year before your ad runs. Pixel of Ink (C) depends on the genre of your book, although it’s sister site Inspired Readers (A) is free and very influential if you write religious fiction. Kindle Nation Daily (D) is very expensive for the results they tend to deliver.
  • GOODREADS: People will rate your book here so create an author page to let them know about your upcoming books. Free marketing. B
  • LIBRARY THING: An excellent way to give away free books, including e-books. Only downside is you are prohibited from using emails to build your mailing list. B
  • BACK OF BOOK: When you put Book #2 on sale, put the first chapter at the end of Book #1. It’s worth the cost to pay the e-book formatter a second time. B+
  • WATTPAD: Popular with those who like to read on their smartphones, it’s a good place to post a sample chapter. B
  • FREE BOOKS: Why do you want to give your book away? Because every new author needs to build a following. Free means there’s no risk to the reader. Amazon’s KDP select program makes promotional giveaways easy for you. I’ve given away 54,000 copies of “Signs and Wonders.” If just 10 percent of them read the book and opt to buy “Finding Grace,” that’s more sales than if every paid sale (3,200) chooses to buy the sequel. A.
  •  YOUR BLOG: Use your blog to remind people when your new book is coming out, like this:

Alex Adena’s “Finding Grace,” the sequel to “Signs and Wonders” will be published in late April. Sign up for a reminder at his Facebook page, Alex Adena Books.

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Getting closer

On the last page or two of Signs and Wonders I included a note that a sequel was coming in 2012.

It was August 2011 and that gave me 16 months to get a new book written. How hard could it be, right?

Very, it turned out.

Not because the new book is an entirely new story that I had to start from scratch. (Signs has its origin as a screenplay. It was like have a 100 page outline.)

No, what’s slow me down has been work. Lots of work.

I now run the wire desk for Gannett, which publishes about 80 daily newspapers across the country. We provide a package of stories that those papers use every day and we are open 14 hours a day, 365 days a year. There’s never a dull moment and I love my job. It is, however, very time consuming. And sometimes, very tiring … enough so that when I get home at 8:30 I have enough energy to pour a glass of white to sip while one of the cats sleeps on my lap.

Fortunately, February and March are looking better than the past few months.

That means more time to write and that you will be seeing Annie again soon!

The new book, Finding Grace, will probably be 175 pages or so. There’s 35 left to write, then comes a period where the editing and any rewriting is done.

How long will that take? Good question. The best case scenario is it’s ready for you during April, but more likely is May. I’m not making promises because that didn’t work so well the last time 🙂

I’m likely to stick with Kindle exclusively for the ebook format, but a paperback will again be available for those who don’t have a Kindle or an iPad. I’m also looking at making an edition available that combines both books for those of you who prefer that.

Thanks to all of you for your patience and understanding. More than 3,000 of you have purchased Signs and Wonders and more than 30,000 have taken advantage of the promotional days when the book was free. Your kind emails and reviews on Amazon have inspired me to keep making progress whenever I had some free time. There are so many stories ahead to tell and I can’t wait to share them all with you.


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That’s why it’s called faith

I’m old enough to have crossed the halfway point on the average lifespan and it’s a time when you spend more time thinking about fairness.

Twenty years ago, I was in that phase they call the Young Invincibles. Twenty years from now, I’ll be one of the Philosophers. But now, now is a time when life can be cruel to people who don’t deserve it.

That can be a tough thing to reconcile with faith.

* * *

Heather and I went to elementary school together, played in the trumpet section together in high school band. We were not close friends and we did not stay in touch after high school, only to become “Facebook friends” 20 years later. Even then, we didn’t become great friends — just people who went through childhood at the same place and time.

Heather became paralyzed five years ago during childbirth. That in itself is a cruel hand that no one deserves. Still, she started working toward a degree to become a counselor, all the time raising two children while confined to a wheelchair.

The degree was almost done and, best of all, she started to regain feeling in her legs. She might walk again, perhaps in time for her older child’s graduation from high school.

But now she’s gone. I don’t know the cause, but imagine it’s likely related to the initial paralysis.

Gone at 42. The first half of life was the only half. Two children — ages 5 and 13 — are without their mother.

Fairness? What on earth is possibly fair about a fate like that? We’re taught to never wish something so awful even on those we consider “bad” or even “evil.”

The anger inside us makes it easy to succumb to the urge to wonder: What kind of God allows such an unspeakably terrible fate to happen to someone?

* * *

We’ve wrestled with the question of bad things happening to good people since the beginning of time. Some of those bad things are small in scale — tragedy on an individual level. Others are so widespread — a genocide or holocaust — that they shake an entire society to its very core.

Some people cope with bad things by rationalizing that “God intended this to happen” for reasons we, as human beings, will never fully understand. We often explain tragedy to young people this way — “God needed Mommy in Heaven.”

If you choose to look at things that way, does that mean you also believe there’s a spiritual reason to every cause-and-effect in life?

There’s just too many “bad things” happening every day for me to accept that God intended them to happen: The three teenagers who die in a car crash on graduation day, the convenience store clerk murdered by a robber, the child who’s kidnapped and locked in a basement for 10 years.

Maybe God didn’t want bad things to happen, but rather the reason they happened is something that we just won’t understand in this life.

The other theory is that, perhaps, God created the universe and life and set things in motion. He gave us free will to make decisions. And he sends us reminders from time to time — signs and wonders, if you will — that there will always be things (and events) that we won’t be able to understand. But he’s not controlling (or approving) of the trillions of decisions and events that happen every day on this plant. He’s the ultimate laissez-faire Father Figure.

When tragedy happens, I lean on the second theory for comfort. The rest of the time, I probably drift towards the first. But let’s face it — the only time we ponder issues like this is when bad things happen to good people.

* * *

What are we left with after time passes and the anger subsides?

Life is unpredictable, so we need to remember that every little thing really does count. No matter how small the gesture, how brief the smile, it all adds to the good in the universe.

Good, pound for pound, weighs more than evil on a cosmic scale. I think that’s because, at our core, we all begin life as inherently good people. And it’s harder for evil to take root when it is being smothered by good.

So start today. Right now.

You don’t know, after all, what may happen tomorrow.

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Now, where were we …

I’m embarrassed how long I’ve been gone, but work has been all-consuming for a few months.

I work for Gannett newspapers, editing and monitoring the wire services for 40+ newspapers. The idea is that by having a group responsible for wire copy that everyone can use, that allows local copy editors to spend more time making sure the local stories are well-edited.

We were in startup mode during the spring and I’m in charge of the group, so I wanted to make sure we got off to a great start. That required a lot of extra hours and coming home too tired to think about writing.

But things are getting back to normal, which means I have weekends back — so, where were we?

The bad news: I havent had time to write since February.

The good news: 67 pages of “Finding Grace,” the sequel to Signs and Wonders, are done.

The other good news: I’m going to get back into a regular writing schedule.

What does that mean? Hard to say. I have no idea how long “Finding Grace” will be. Definitely not 400 pages, but probably not 120, either.

We’ll get there when we get there, as your parents used to say. But at least we’re moving again, right?

P.s. The book is FREE today at Amazon. Tell a friend who has a Kindle or an iPad?

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God and basketball



When faith and sports collide …


HOUSTON (AP) — An Orthodox Jewish school in Texas has been reinstated to its state basketball tournament after a judge ordered organizers to reschedule the team’s game so it doesn’t conflict with the Sabbath.

The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools had rejected appeals from Beren Academy to reschedule a semifinals game that was to be played at 9 p.m. Friday. Beren players observe the Sabbath between Friday night and Saturday night and won’t play basketball during those hours.

TAPPS director Edd Burleson said that the association will honor the restraining order and allow Beren to play Friday afternoon.


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The boundaries of religious freedom

I’ve been turning this topic over in my brain for a week now, putting it off because it has become so political.

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