Last year was tough for most of us, and so many continue to struggle through sickness, loss, economic instability, and other divisions and uncertainties. It’s been a painful opportunity for growth, and I’m hopeful about how God will use this chapter in our lives.
The story isn’t over.
As for us, we had our coast to coast book tour cancelled, which was a bummer because we wanted to see lots of you all in person. Instead, we released the conclusion to The Green Ember Series with Ember’s End from our worldwide headquarters in southern West Virginia—that center for literature and culture. We got the book out a little early in an effort to serve folks who were looking for hopeful, faithful stories during a scary period.
I’ve had the profound blessing of hearing from lots of folks who said that the book (and series broadly) was an inspiring and encouraging spot in a difficult (sometimes tragic) year. I thank God for that gift.
We planted a garden as a family, and the boys and I built a fence for it. That was a fun learning experience, and had some correspondence with the events of Ember’s End—if you know what I mean, jellybean. We played a lot of soccer and took lots of walks. We identified birds and raced stick-boats with elaborate names in a creek. We met neighbors on long walks and had fires and hot dog roasts and watched movies and read books. We hugged a million times. We laughed so often. We cried some too. I wrote some poems. We exercised. We went to church. We ate lots of cookies.
Gina and I celebrated TWENTY years of marriage in June. I’m so grateful for her.
I did hate to miss the tour, but I also loved being home. And our home was a good place to be. Our family grew closer together and we experienced a lot of grace and goodness from God, even through trials. Our little church got a new pastor (arrived here in March 2020), who is an incredible gift I continually give thanks for, and our church grew.
We worked pretty hard. So much effort had gone into planning the tour, that we had to make some significant pivots as a small, family business, to survive. My brother and partner, Josiah (not to be confused with my son, Josiah) was a super star. He helped guide us through this challenging year in so many ways. He’s been a crucial character in our story and I love him so much. What a fella!
We started working with a distributor for shipping and that has been a huge answer to prayer. We worked with a literary agent for the first time and that has been a good experience that really forced us to evaluate more seriously just what our priorities are and what value we place on our work. There have been other cool developments that we’ll be able to share more about later. But overall, we have so much to be thankful for.
I wrote more on my book for writers called Make. Believe. Then I realized I needed to go back to more basic ideas and I wrote a lot of introductory material for writers that I aim to make into a course.
I wrote a short novelette roughly based on some of my experiences as a kid visiting several predominantly black churches in Appalachia as we prepared to move to Africa. I hope that will get out to you someday in the not too-distant future.
I also wrote The Archer’s Cup, the third book in the Green Ember Archer Trilogy (and the ninth Green Ember book overall). I wrote it and we published it soon after, and it was in readers’ hands before Christmas. I loved this book. It was a pretty significant departure from the other Green Ember books. It’s a mystery and it deals centrally with love. It was a fun challenge and I’m grateful that the feedback has been so good.
I can’t tell you what an honor it is to be writing a book about a rabbit archer and to feel a kind of absurd confidence that, even though you’re writing something that’s pretty significantly different from what is being published by every publisher out there, you know there’s a home for it with other weird and wonderful people who will get it—people who love new stories with an old soul. I continue to be surprised and delighted by the way you all have welcomed me and my stories into your lives. It’s like meeting thousands of friends you never knew you had. Thank you!
So many of you have reviewed my books! Thank you so much. That means an awful lot to me. It helps so much. It also helps if you go to The Green Ember on Amazon and scroll down and mark the good reviews as “Helpful” and IGNORE the critical/political ones.
You know what else would help? If I would wrap this epistle up. I think we’ve all heard enough from Mr. Smith. I’m sure I missed important things, but there are worse things and besides, there’s a cookie in the other room I need to examine.
I’m so grateful for you. Thanks for reading this and for being such an encouragement to me and my family.
God bless you and keep you. May this year be a memorable one, full of adventure and woven through with grace.
Stay cool forever,